The Story of the Lost Child – Elena Ferrante

It took me more than a year (possibly two) but I finished all four of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. Normally I can’t do that but each one of these books is compelling on its own and it leaves you wondering…what ever happens to the complicated friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo. And off I would go to get the next book…until finally at last I finished it with the last book in the series The Story of the Lost Child which still leaves you wondering.

By way of background the novels are set in Naples, Italy and they span the lifetime of two young girls who grow up together in the rough and tumble Naples of the 50s. Both are bright young girls but only Elena is able to continue her education through university. The beautiful, street smart and equally intelligent Lila stops going to school by grade 5 and survives by building a business for herself.

The novel is about friendship of course, and all the difficulties and the beauty that come with it. But the sprawling novels are also about social change, politics, violence, domestic violence and how staying ahead, even of those we love, is an act of survival. The competitive nature of the friendship between Elena and Lila is also about poverty and what happens when you have to fight for every scrap of recognition in a world that is hard for everyone. And yet it is friendship that binds.

In the end the novel(s) don’t offer any answers… what happened to Lila, what happened to her daughter, what was she writing, why did she disappear? Here is a woman who devoted herself to fighting gangsters in her unruly neighbourhood, who devoted herself in the end to learning everything about Naples…understanding her city inside and out and then leaving.

These books are less linear narrative then they are impressionistic art…paint thrown on a canvas of love, hatred, political structures, friendship, family…and the result is an ode to Naples. Lila Cerullo represents beauty, intelligence, history, politics, rough and tumble love, and a deep sense of right and wrong in a hard world.

I loved these books. You’ start with one not be able to stop until you’ve finished all four!

 

 

 

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Poem of the Week: In the Middle of This Century, by Yehuda Amichai via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

This poem hurts, its so beautiful.

 

In the Middle of This Century, by Yehuda Amichai (translated by Assia Gutmann)

In the middle of this century we turned to each other
with half faces and full eyes
like an ancient Egyptian picture
and for a short while.

I stroked your hair
in the opposite direction to your journey,
we called to each other,
like calling out the names of towns
where nobody stops
along the route.

Lovely is the world rising early to evil,
lovely is the world falling asleep to sin and pity,
in the mingling of ourselves, you and I,
lovely is the world.

The earth drinks men and their loves
like wine,
to forget.
It can’t.
And like the contours of the Judean hills,
we shall never find peace.

In the middle of this century we turned to each other,
I saw your body, throwing shade, waiting for me,

the leather straps for a long journey
already tightening across my chest.
I spoke in praise of your mortal hips,
you spoke in praise of my passing face,
I stroked your hair in the direction of your journey,
I touched your flesh, prophet of your end,
I touched your hand which has never slept,
I touched your mouth which may yet sing.

Dust from the desert covered the table
at which we did not eat
but with my finger I wrote on it
the letters of your name

 Thanks to Alison McGhee for sharing these beautiful poems.

*Transliterated Mandarin is not pronounced the way it looks in English. Phonetically, Liu’s name is pronounced more like this: Lee-yu Shee-yow Baw. His wife’s name is pronounced more like Lee-yu Shee-yah.

​For more information on Yehuda Amichai, please click here.​
For more information on Liu Xiaobo, please click here.

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New York City Flash Fiction Contest

 

 

 

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Yikes, people. I’ve been submitting 150 word flash fiction stories to the Ad Hoc flash fiction contest in Bath, England (and I’m proud to say two flash stories have been published) BUT NOW I just registered for the NYC Flash Fiction contest which takes place this weekend and I’m officially scared. What if I can’t write one single word. I’m a serious muller. Generally I need days, weeks, hours, YEARS to mull a story. And I have no idea what genre I’ll have to write it. Wish me luck fellow writers! 1000 words here I come!

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Poem of the Week, by Marie Howe

What a wonderful, beautiful post and a fitting tribute to an old friend.

Alison McGhee

See that old photo to the right? I found it yesterday in a scrapbook filled with random high school mementoes. The girl with the beautiful smile playing the violin used to be one of my closest friendsIMG_7430. She lived in a small bright green ranch house right across the street from the middle school, which meant that all she had to do was walk out her front door, cross Route 365 –the main street of the town– and there she was, at school. Unlike me, sitting on that accursed bus, groaning and lurching its way around endless curve after endless curve, down from the foothills, 45 minutes or more to school.

In my memory she is always smiling. She had silky dark brown hair, parted in the middle, falling over her shoulders. Her nose was sharp and red and a bit hooked, and her eyes, in my memory, are blue…

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Poem of the Week: Bargain by Alison McGhee

Bargain
     – Alison McGhee

The newspaper reports that at twilight tonight
Venus and Jupiter will conjoin
in the southwestern sky,
a fist and a half above the horizon.
They won’t come together again for seventeen years.
What the article does not say is that Mercury, the
dark planet, will also be on hand.
He’ll hover low, nearly invisible in a darkened sky.
I stare out the kitchen window toward the sunset.

Seventeen years from now, where
will I be?
Mercury, Roman god of commerce and luck,
let me propose a trade:
Auburn hair, muscles that don’t ache, and a seven-minute mile.
Here’s what I’ll give you in return:
My recipe for Brazilian seafood stew, a talent for
French-braiding, an excellent sense of smell and
the memory of having once kissed Sam W.

Then I see my girl across the room.
She stands on a stool at the sink,
washing her toy dishes and
swaying to a whispered song,
her dark curls a nimbus in the lamplight.
The planets are coming together now.
Minute by minute the time draws nigh for me to watch.
Minute by minute my child wipes dry her red
plastic knife, her miniature blue bowls.

Mercury, here’s another offer, a real one this time:
Let her be.
You can have it all in return,
the salty stew, the braids, the excellent sense of smell
and the softness of Sam’s mouth on mine.
And my life. That too.
All of it I give for this child, that seventeen years hence
she will stand in a distant kitchen, washing dishes
I cannot see, humming a tune I cannot hear.

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Ad Hoc Fiction: A Bath Flash Fiction Award Project

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Hello Writers,

I discovered Ad Hoc through my writing group. While I’m not necessarily a fan of having  inviting people to vote on my piece in order to win, I find the weekly prompts and deadlines a fantastic way to keep writing. Winning Ad Hoc fiction earns you a free entry to Bath Flash (sounds exciting!) giving  you a shot at writing a 300 word piece to win a 1,000 pound prize (even more exciting)! My first piece “The Woman in the Cream Wool Coat” was accepted and published on the site. It might sound ridiculous but it was very exciting to have my tiny tiny piece published on the site and seeing my name on the list of published authors!

Interested? Check them out and get writing!

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Poem of the Week: The Mower by Philip Larkin via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

The Mower, by Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
a hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
is always the same; we should be careful

of each other, we should be kind
while there is still time.

For more information about Philip Larkin, please click here.

Thanks to Alison for finding and sharing these beautiful poems.

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@alisonmcghee

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