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Because, apparently, it’s been too long since I’ve read a good book

March 4, 2008

How can you not love a book that begins this way?

Chapter One

I wish Giovanni would kiss me.

Oh, but there are so many reasons why this would be a terrible idea. To begin with, Giovanni is ten years younger than I am, and — like most Italian guys in their twenties — he still lives with his mother. These facts alone make him an unlikely romantic partner for me, given that I am a professional American woman in my mid-thirties, who has just come through a failed marriage and a devastating, interminable divorce, followed immediately by a passionate love affair that ended in sickening heartbreak. This loss upon loss has left me feeling sad and brittle and about seven thousand years old. Purely as a matter of principle I wouldn’t inflict my sorry, busted-up old self on the lovely, unsullied Giovanni. Not to mention that I have finally arrived at that age where a woman starts to question whether the wisest way to get over the loss of one beautiful brown-eyed young man is indeed to promptly invite another one into her bed. This is why I have been alone for many months now. This is why, in fact, I have decided to spend this entire year in celibacy.

To which the savvy observer might inquire: “Then why did you come to Italy?”

To which I can only reply — especially when looking across the table at handsome Giovanni — “Excellent question.”

I was immediately smitten, nearly as smitten as she was with Giovanni’s eyes, “giant brown liquid-center Italian eyes that just unstitch me,” she writes.

And so it was that Elizabeth Gilbert and I connected — at 4 a.m. when I was unable to sleep, a blind date arranged by the woman who does my nails.

“You have to get this book!” she nearly yelled into the phone. “TODAY!”

To put this in perspective, she rarely calls, and when she does, it’s to ask if I can change appointments or remind me of when mine is. Okay, so there was that one time that we drank margaritas and ate chips and salsa after her dog died, but that’s because her DOG DIED, for god’s sake.

So I read for an hour or so, found myself laughing far too louding for 5 a.m., and decided I should try to get more sleep. But I will be picking this book up again today, the first time a book has called to me in ages, perhaps since The Picture of Dorian Gray, which I sneaked chapters of at every opportunity and then some when I was supposed to be watching junior high campers one summer just after college. It’s been too long. Thank you, Elizabeth, wherever you are.

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post script: After 30 more pages, I am bored. Bored enough to not want to pick it up again. I had my dear aunt read a few pages last night to see what she thought and whether or not the book was worth reading. “I wish she would stop whining already,” she told me. I like Sandy. She tells it like she feels it. So, reader, be warned. You may or may not like this book. Let me know!

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9 comments

  1. I have had far too many people recommend this book to me for “inspiration.” (Sigh.) And someone finally bought it for me. It’s waiting on my bedside table…
    After reading your post, I’m looking forward to the Giovanni part – but not to the “whining.”


  2. Hi Beth ~ I’m interested to hear what you think of it if you end up reading it. She sucked me in with her words about Giovanni, but I ended up never picking the book up again and moving on to D.H. Lawrence. I just can’t seem to like much of what was written after 1930, which is why I was excited to read her intially. Alas, it was not to be. 😉


  3. oh my stars. that paragraph could have been me writing about two years ago.


  4. I have had it recommended by a client and it is on my ‘to read, list, but I gotta say, that passage sounds way too much like a romance novel. Yuck!


  5. Guess how recently recommended this book to me? My ex. He said he was just finishing it and thought I’d really like it. I asked if I could borrow it. Uh, no….it was loaned to him by his girlfirned. Life gets weirder by the day.


  6. Reese ~ Isn’t that a great paragraph? I’m still waiting for someone to tell me that the rest of the book is worth reading, but I think I lived for several months on that chapter alone. Italy. I am most definitely going to Italy. When? No idea. But I’m going, dammit.

    Seventh ~ I wonder if it’s like the Danielle Steele craze a decade or two ago? Give me Hesse! With so much literature out there that I *haven’t* read, I find myself returning to my “100 Best Books of All Time” list instead of continuing to trudge through something that doesn’t keep my interest. (Unless it’s a family member who has given it to me as a gift and I feel obligated. Ah, obligation.)

    Citizen ~ Talk about serendipity! Definitely scratch it off your list, then. Let’s read Castanada together, shall we? I haven’t finished his “A Separate Reality,” though I’ve been meaning to. Swept away by D.H. Lawrence. Wow. Why didn’t I read *him* sooner? Oh, I know — the swear words knocked him right off the reading lists. We’ll have our own book club. And go to Costa Rica and drink wine and talk about books. With Reese (and whomever else would like to come). What do you think?


  7. Ah, D H Lawrence. Classic smutty trash. Gotta love it, until you get frustrated with all the charcters. It cann be almost as depressing as Hemmingway. As for Castanada, there are much better books on shamanism. I recommend all the Lewis Mehl-Medrona Coyote books and if it is the alternate reality stuff you are into, try the Seth books. At least you won’t read about catching lizards and sewing their eyes shut. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the Castanada books concerning whether or not the shaman character really existed or was just made up. It seems that his ‘voice’ changes from the early books to the later ones. I am not saying the books are not valuable. Just read them with your eyes open,so to speak.


  8. Seventh ~ literature meets smut. Ah, heaven. This is my first Lawrence book, and it sounds like it may be my last. I instantly connected with your Hemingway reference as Hemingway was always drudgery for me. Fitzgerald — better. And thank you so much for taking the time to make these recommendations. I hadn’t been able to finish the Castanada book yet, and perhaps that’s why. I will definitely add those to my list. And if I pick Castanada up again, you can be sure that your advice will ring in my ears. Thank you for it!


  9. Don’t take my ‘advice’ too seriously. But if you want to read a really good tale, go here: http://mistrelboy.blogspot.com/search?q=superstition+ride+day+1

    Be sure to start with day 1. There are four days in all. You will be drawn in.



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