My Cousin Rachel, Ch. IV

The callow young nephew is off to Florence (his first trip to Italy) and this sentence perfectly captures his confusion:

  • Used to the silence of a well-nigh empty house — for the servants slept away in their own quarters beneath the clock tower — where I heard no sound at night but the wind in the trees and the lash of rain when it blew from the southwest, the ceaseless clatter and turmoil of foreign cities came near to stupefying me.

Beautiful sentence, where it starts and where it ends is a complete arc. It is so balanced.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

New Books for the Reading List

Stanford professors, the editors of Stanford University Press and Bing Overseas Study Program staff were asked to recommend books for summer reading and they came up with some interesting titles:

Books To Shift Your Perspective

  • An Act of Terror, by André Brink
  • Sometimes a Great Notion, by Ken Kesey
  • The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
  • Hadji Murad, by Leo Tolstoy
  • Stoner, by John Williams
  • The Removes, by Tatjana Soli
  • Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta, by Michael Copperman
  • Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, by Bruce Handy

Books on Globality and Migration

  • Brother, I’m Dying, by Edwidge Danticat
  • Signs Preceding the End of the World, by Yuri Herrera

Books for Travelers to:

Australia

  • In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson and Ellen Titlebaum

China

  • Age of Ambitions: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos

Germany

  • Memories of a Nation, by Neil MacGregor
  • The Reluctant Meister: How Germany’s Past is Shaping Its European Future, by Stephen Green

Italy

  • The Italians, by John Hooper

Japan

  • A Geek in Japan: Discovering the Land of Manga, Animé, Zen and the Tea Ceremony, by Hector Garcia

Cape Town, South Africa

  • Keeper of the Kumm, by Sylvia Vollenhoven

Spain

  • The New Spaniards, by John Hooper

Tom Holland’s RUBICON, p. 90 – 91

Italy’s “Warlord” period:  A general named Sulla vs. the son of a defeated general, Marius. Marius’s son is 26. Upon hearing that the temple of Jupiter in the Rome’s Capitol has been set ablaze, the 26-year-old rushes to the scene, ignores the statue of Jupiter and the recorded predictions of the Sibyls, but hauls away “temple treasures” that he uses to pay to raise “more legions” to fight for him.

The tide of battle favors Sulla. He is joined by an army led by a boy — Pompey, “barely twenty-three.” But what a boy. He was referred to as the “teenage butcher.” He killed not with the passion of youth, but with cold ruthlessness.

Sulla knew how to destroy his enemies: if he suspected them of disloyalty, he would provoke them into rebellion, then massacre them, all the while assuming the mantle of the defender of law. This was how he wiped out a mountain people called the Samnites, who wore “gorgeous armour and high-crested helmets.” While Sulla was battling his way across Italy, the Samnites headed for an unprotected Rome. And there, “before the Collins Gate,” Sulla caught up with them and engaged in the “late afternoon” — the battle lasted into dawn. Sulla’s ferociousness had everything to do with the fact that no conqueror had ever entered Rome, and he threw everything he had against the Samnites.

Then Holland breaks from the battle to discuss the seven classes of citizen, and how voting was determined by voting blocs. The rich had the most voting blocs, the poor practically none: “Disproportionate voting power” is how Holland describes it. OMG, so many parallels.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Transmogrify 4: Florence, London, San Francisco

McDonald’s is everywhere, even in Florence. Such a pity:

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McDonald’s in Florence

Whitechapel, London

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Street Art, Whitechapel, London

Tattoo Parlor: Moth and Dagger, San Francisco

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Photo in the Front Window of Tattoo Parlor MOTH AND DAGGER. The words on the man’s chest are the words to the Lord’s Prayer.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Transmogrify 3: Picasso, Prada, Botero

To transmogrify is to “change in appearance or form, especially strangely or grotesquely; transform.” (Michelle W., The Daily Post)

Self has three different examples of transmogrification: sculpture by Pablo Picasso and Fernando Botero, and shoes by Prada.

From the Picasso sculpture exhibit last year at the NY MOMA: A harlequin.

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For something a little different:  A (really on fleek!) pair of shoes, seen in the Prada store in Venice, November 2015

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Final picture: A Fernando Botero sculpture can be glimpsed through an open door. Botero’s sculptures were on exhibit in Palo, Italy, November 2015.

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More Nostalgia for Venice

More from the watershed trip self took with Margarita Donnelly (founder and managing editor of Calyx Press) in April/May 2013, less than two years before she succumbed to cancer. We rented a small two-bedroom apartment in Ca’ San Toma, Venice. Margarita’s adventurous spirit far exceeded self’s.

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The Bridge of Sighs, April 2013: View From the Doge’s Palace

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San Marco Square on a Rainy April Day

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Self on the Rialto Bridge, April 2013: Margarita must have taken the picture. Even though self’s face isn’t visible, she really likes this picture for the mysterious red umbrella.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Nostalgia For Venice

  • For this challenge, show us what nostalgia means to you — perhaps a moment or scene that makes you feel wistful, happy, sad, or somehow longing for the past.

— Jeff Golenski, The Daily Post

Self went with Margarita Donnelly to Venice in April 2013. Margarita was battling breast cancer. She passed away in December 2014.

What self remembers of that trip was that she was always getting lost. The streets of Venice are labyrinthine.

These pictures have a melancholy feel. Her Venice is more the Don’t Look Now Venice instead of the hectic, tourist-packed place it really is.

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This was self’s second trip. The first time was when she was 11:

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Moments, Florence

Self is still looking for pictures to accord with the Daily Post Photo Challenge this week, RARE.

Back in November 2015, she got a surprise invitation from her niece Irene to go on a trip to Florence.

But of course! Self has decided that she will never say NO when it comes to travel. And she’d never been to Florence.  All the pictures below are from that trip.

First, a picture taken in the Piazza Signoria. Self had spent the day at the Palazzo Vecchio, her niece had gone to the Uffizi. We met up at the square to have dinner. Self took the picture from one of the sidewalk cafés:

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Piazza Signoria, Florence’s Iconic Square: November 2015

On our first morning in Florence, self and Irene were wending our way from our hotel to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore when we passed a library. And though the library was not in any of our guidebooks, self never passed a library she didn’t wish to explore.

So here’s what was inside:

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Self’s ever-curious soul led her to this library, on a street close to the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral.

It turned out to be a library made up entirely of opera librettos. And self thought that was the most fabulous thing.

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The most rare and fabulous thing.

Stay tuned.

Narrow 2: Memories of Tuscany

When I think of a beautiful landscape, the image that usually comes to mind involves an open expanse: a mountain range, a windy meadow, the beach on a sunny (or stormy) afternoon. Every so often, though, I’m reminded of the magic of narrowness: how it forces the eye to focus on details and textures that would’ve been lost in a wide-open panorama.

— Ben Huberman, The Daily Post

Self accompanied her niece Irene on a short trip to Florence last November. Just eight days. Amazing how much you can see in eight days, especially when you’re traveling with someone as organized as Irene.

Irene found a one-day tour of Tuscan hill towns. San Gimignano, Pisa, Siena — self can’t remember the names of all the towns included in the tour.

It was great fun sorting through her picures from the trip, looking for the ones that matched this week’s photo challenge:  NARROW

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MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, pp. 256 – 257

I traced lines between moments and events distant from one another, I established convergences and divergences. In that period it became a daily exercise: the better off I had been in Ischia, the worse off Lila had been in the desolation of the neighborhood; the more I had suffered upon leaving the island, the happier she had become.

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

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