Tuesday, 23 August 2016

My summer with Natalia

It started by chance, while looking for alternative and solutions for the shelves crisis.
I found the podcast of an Italian radio program, "Ad Alta Voce" ( Out aloud); it broadcasts 5 days a week and it's all in the title: novels are read out aloud. When I subscribed to the podcast, they were halfway through Carlo Cassola's "La ragazza di Bube" (Bube's girl), read by Alessandro Benvenuti.

"La ragazza di Bube" is one of those novels you read at school. No, let me rephrase that: "La ragazza di Bube" is one of those novel you're made to read and write a paper about it.
And that's what I did: I read it and dutifully wrote a paper highlighting the main topics, the style of the writer, the historical background, etc. etc. I also dutifully avoided voicing my own opinion, because that wasn't requested, so my teacher could only suspect (if she ever cared) that I found this novel a terrible bore and the 2 main characters, Mara and Bube, quite insufferable.

So, no big surprise that, when I subscribed to the podcast, I assumed I was going to drop out of it very soon. Oddly though I didn't. I believe it's all because of Benvenuti: he's an amazing actor and his voice brought the story alive. I quickly caught up with the previous episode and every day I'd scroll the episode list to see if any update on the podcast was coming up.

Oh no, time didn't change me that much: the novel is still a terrible bore and I still find Mara and Bube insufferable.
But the podcast stuck with me. I retrieved old episodes, I kept up with new novels being broadcasted.
And then on the evening of my birthday I had some catch up to do, having been away for a small concert marathon, between Ferrara and Milano.

The kitchen window was open, kids were screaming in the street, I had just started chopping aubergines for dinner when Sandra Toffolatti started reading of "Voices of the evening" by Natalia Ginzburg.

None of my teachers at school deemed Natalia Ginzburg worth more than reading some bits and pieces contained in the Italian literature manual. I didn't have to memorize date and place of birth and death and I wasn't even asked to write a report about her. I knew about her life and her writing of course, but she just skirted on the edges of my reading, never too close to take a honest look at. And I wonder why: from the first few sentences I was hooked to the novel.

It's so well written, minimalist, many things left unwritten, many other described to the smallest details. The name, the prose, everything reminded me of my grandparents village. I enjoyed it so so much, I was sad when it finished. But the bittersweetness lasted the time of the weekend, as on Monday "The Little Virtues" started. Too much of a coincidence, right? A small research and it turns out Natalia Ginzburg was born one century ago and there was going to be a special series of "Ad Alta Voce" in her honor. 
After "Valentino", it's now the turn of "Family sayings".
It's become a sort of habit for me. I listen to it in the late afternoon, early evening: I might be lazying on the armchair, knitting, sitting on the small balcony of my bedroom, or doing some chores around the flat. I just know, I just feel it's time to listen to my daily dose of Ginzburg's prose and I happily tune in.
At that point, whatever I was doing falls into the background, most of the time I end up sitting on the floor, hugging my knees and staring at a vague spot on the floor, next to the mobile.
When the music of the piano signals the end of the episode, I regret it's over already, wishing it could have lasted 10 more minutes. Why do they have to make episode so short anyway?
But then I also wish episode could be 10 minutes shorter too, so that the reading would span for a longer number of days.
But "Family sayings" will wrap up next week and I haven't checked if some other works of Natalia will be read. Yet I know the moment they stop and Natalia will be gone, so will be my summer and I'm not ready to let go any of them.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

One in, one out

When I moved back to Torino, one of the things I was most looking forward was the notion of my own library being finally reunited. No more books scattered around, no more digging through the shelves for a volume that is in the other city. No. Just one single and hopefully organized collection.

My dreams of shelves glory crashed almost immediately, due to a sudden and sad realization: space is not something one can ignore.
What happened is that I brought all my books back from Milano to Torino and added them to the one I already had in the flat.
Then I went down to the basement and got out the boxes of book I put there. Ok, shelves are starting to look a bit packed.
Then I went to my parents flat and brought back from there the ones I left there at different stages of my like. My mum also managed to sneak in some extra books for good measure. Ok, shelves do look way too packed, can I stack layers of book one on top of the other?
Then I discovered also my sister had books of mine in her flat and she was very keen to give them back to me, as she's running out of space too.
At that point there was only one thing to do: I went to Ikea and bought extra shelves to add on top of my book case.

Now got one shelf and half of free space, but I can't feel relaxed. It's obvious to me that, by my reading and shopping standard, it's a very tiny space. It can't last forever, but I need it to last as long as possible.
I decided to patch things up: I am trying to listen to audiobooks, reading more e-books (audiobooks are a bit more successful than e-books at the moment), going to the library.
I'm also trying to do something I've never been very good at: selling books.

As a Austen-esque Miyagi-san, I embraced a new mantra: "one in, one out". For every book I buy, one book has to be sold. For every new book I put on the shelves, an old one has to be taken off them. And possibly not be put on the bedside table or somewhere else in the flat.

So far it's going pretty well, I've got a certain number of books that, to be honest, I haven't reopened once since I finished reading them the first time. Also I've found out that I'm becoming slightly less attached to things. I'm less worried than in the past of the risk of becoming that kind of hoarder you see in TV shows, even though there are still some exceptions. For example, I still haven't decided whether the books I got for my birthday should count. And I decided that the volume of "Harry Potter and the cursed child" I somehow bought last week while waiting for the train is not really going to count. How come? Magic!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Here, there and return

Almost 3 months have passed and well, apparently there is still some soul reading the lines I wrote  on the blog.
What happened in the meantime?
Well, first and foremost I'm still alive, which should never be taken for granted, especially considering how shitty 2016 is turning out to be.
I let May pass anonymously, doing pretty much the same things I did in April. Then I went on holiday.
Now that my blood pressure is 2 floors below, seeking solace in the basement, and the fan is helping but only just about, it seems weird to remember that just few weeks ago people were complaining about the crappy weather at the beginning of June, and how rainy and cold it was.
When this was happening, I was enjoying the nice and warm weather of Ireland.

Somewhere, in the Burren

I dropped in what was probably the longest spell of good weather of the past years. It rained only one morning and I didn't care much about it because I spent it lazing on the sofa and reading. But for the rest of the time the sun was shining on me as I walked up and down in the Burren and when I put my feet in the ocean... just to retreat quickly, because it doesn't matter how lovely the weather can be: the ocean is still the ocean, i.e. very cold.

The time flew quickly but gently: many cups of tea, lots of poetry, chatting, music, cloud-tree-rock-spotting. Around the Burren you can find shapes of about everything: dogs, rabbits, scary people, thinking people, noses and hands, ships and planes. 
I noted down lots of name, titles, quotes that are still waiting to be organized and will probably remain so for another 6 months.

I stocked up on books at Charley Byrne's and stumbled by pure chance on a knitting meet up. It feels like a lifetime ago. I guess this bad feeling has to do with the fact that, after 10 days of blissful, fruitful laziness, I went back to work.

From Ireland I went to California without stopping in Torino first: 2 weeks away from home, with nice weather, lots of music shopping I didn't really taken into account, so that when it was time to head back to Italy, in between books, CDs and vinyls I looked (again) as I was moving my whole house content on the red casket on wheel, otherwise known as my suitcase.

What else? Oh yeah, I turned blue. Well my hair did turn blue, more or less the shade of this Hawaiian punch: