30/04/2011

NOT AT HOME, SORRY. FLOWN TO TASMANIA TODAY... OR FLY HIGH AT MESMERED'S BLOG

"Not at home, sorry, flown to Tasmania today". Ah! If  only!  I'd love to visit Australia sooner or later.  I dream of going. What has actually happened so far is that...  I'm visiting at Mesmered's Blog today, chatting with my dear friend  and talented writer, Prue Batten, about teaching, literature, blogging and, of course,  Richard Armitage. She lives in Tasmania, Australia.

It's not my first time there at Mesmered's. I took part in Lady Mesmered's Masked Ball just one year ago (my Gaia De Blanche went to the party with Lord Armitage ... HERE or HERE) . It's such a pleasant corner of the blogosphere...why don't you join us?

Just click HERE. I'll see you there! 


29/04/2011

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD FROM THIS DAY FORWARD ...

Since I love everything British, I recognize and I admit, I am totally biased. I want to be  completely honest. But please, grumpy criticizers all over the world, anarchists and anti-royalists out there, let me be excited and proud of this very special, romantic, exceptional event. You've got enough for today? Just don't go on reading, click and go! Escapism? Yes, please! Mindless entertainment? Can't do without, lately. Remember: I live in Italy. Do you remember who represent my country in the eyes of the rest of the world? Yes, you do! Do you remember why he is so often in the news ? You do, of course. 
So, please, let  me rejoice for this sunbeam of happiness and enthusiasm, between a war and a bomb attack. Let me dream about this new colourful, tender, royal tale. Cinderella Middleton, or better, commoner Kate - since she's not as poor as lovely Cindy- has just married her prince. Prince William.  And everything was perfect! London, the crowded streets and merry cheer, the flags, Westminster Abbey, the choir and the music, the flowers, the horses, the bride and her royal groom, the illustrious pompous guests. So British, so far from our everyday reality. Allow me this suspension of disbelief, this harmless (but very expensive to the British finances, I know) way of blocking out the real world, of seeing other people's lives achieve the happiness we all dream about. 

27/04/2011

THE ITALIAN JOB - WRITING, TRANSLATING AND READING CRIME FICTION



A new wave of Italian crime fiction is hitting the UK. What is there about Italian contemporary crime fiction which makes it so popular in the UK and the English-speaking world?  I am reading this interesting article about how popular Italian crime fiction writers are in the English-speaking market. It is an interview with English translator Howard Curtis, who specialises in translating Italian crime writers into English (from Speak Up Magazine)
Italians like this genre because crime writers tell the truth and readers are looking at the truth of their society. Maybe they look for the truth in these books because they get a lot of lies or misconceptions from their media or from their press and you can't always know exactly what's true and what's false. Crime writers usually dig deep into society to search for the truth.

24/04/2011

THE SONG OF LUNCH - POETRY ON TV WITH ALAN RICKMAN AND EMMA THOMPSON

As time passes by, I'm more and more astonished at how daring British TV is.  TV shows about literature at prime time (Faulks on Fiction) and contemporary poetry dramatized by great, talented,  world-famous actors on one of the main state channels. I'm amazed. 
A dramatised narrative poem might sound a bit dull but this one with Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson is wonderful.
The production is 50 minutes long, and is a co-production between the BBC and Masterpiece.
Screened on 9 October 2010 during National Poetry Month, now released in DVD, the production is unusual in featuring little spoken dialogue, the action instead being an enactment of incidents described by poetic monologue of the male character.
The Song of Lunch is a television adaptation of Christopher Reid's poem of the same name. It was directed by Niall MacCormick and stars Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson. Executive producer, her handsome husband, Greg Wise who peeps out from a bookcover two or three times in the 50 minutes. 

21/04/2011

RA-NDOM THOUGHTS: THE FLIRTY GIRTY BLOKE AND OUR PATIENCE ( A VIDEO )


These days,  I've been working on a video collage (see video at the end of this post) for my very special friend K/V. My task? To re-watch the various episodes of Cold Feet 2003, cut all the scenes with Richard Armitage and put them all together, one after another with no interruption nor distraction, in one video. Richard's whole work in the six episodes lasts 16 minutes and 26 seconds! If you, like me and K/V,  haven't got the patience to watch and wait for the bits with RA, this video is for you too!
Richard looks younger, you'll notice that his charm and acting skills  have pretty much grown in time,  but his Lee Richards is worth - really worth - watching if you haven't done it so far.


19/04/2011

THE NOVEL, A BRITISH PASSION. WATCHING FAULKS ON FICTION - PART I THE HERO



This is quite an interesting programme for one who's fond of  English classic literature like me.  In it,  Sebastian Faulks reflects on  the fact that millions of novels are read every year. And also on the fact that very often we return to the old ones again and again. Why? Is it the prose? Is it the plot? Or is it the writer? In recent years, he says, people talking about novels have focused on authors. In his opinion, instead, the only people who matter are the characters: the heroes, lovers, snobs and villains. People whose inner life we get to know so well that they are more familiar to us than our family and friends. So much so,  that it  is in the power of their experiences that we see our all lives in a new light. These characters live beyond their time and beyond the page. The lives of these characters help to understand ourselves. 

Here are some of the classic heroes he introduced: 
Robinson Crusoe, Tom Jones, Becky Sharp, Sherlock Holmes.

15/04/2011

WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING - THE GLORIOUS '39 (2009)

As some of you might remember, I'm fond of WWII movies as well as of films set in older times. I had this 2009 DVD, THE GLORIOUS '39,  there waiting in my TBW list for quite a while. This is not "Schindler's List" nor "La Vita √® Bella" nor "Agnes Gray" either. But it was quite an interesting discovery.
It seems this film  bears all the traditional hallmarks of Stephen Poliakoff obsessions: the evocative power of the past, the magic of memory, the mystical bonds of extended family connections, the hidden energies of secrets kept buried for too long, and the shattering consequences of the revelation of truth which has been suppressed. It is weird but original and well acted and, of course, with stunning locations, picturesque castles, hunting grounds, elegant gatherings. 

14/04/2011

LUCINDA BRANT'S DEADLY ENGAGEMENT - GIVEAWAY WINNERS


As promised, here I am to announce the name of the winners of the 2 e-book copies of Lucinda Brant's DEADLY ENGAGEMENT. The two kind readers who are going to make acquaintances with Alec Halsey very soon are
1. Stella (Ex Libris)
2. Becky

Congratulations! I hope you'll enjoy reading Lucinda's historical "crimance" at least as much as I did!
Thanks again to Lucinda Brant who was my kind guest and to all of you who took part in this giveaway contest.



11/04/2011

MEMORIES & NOSTALGIA: I'VE BEEN REWATCHING "THE THORN BIRDS" (1983)

Long ago, there was a bird who sang just once in its life. From the moment it left its nest, it  searched for a thorn tree. And it never rested until it found one. Then it began to sing more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. And singing, it impaled its breast on the longest, sharpest thorn. But as it was dying, it rose above its own agony to out-sing the lark and the nightingale. The thorn bird pays its life for that one song and the whole world stills to listen and God, in His heaven ~smiles. As its best was bought only at the cost of great pain. Driven to the thorn, with no knowledge of the dying to come. But when we press the thorn to our breast, 
We know........
We understand.....
And still......we do it.

This story is so bittersweet!  But ... isn't that the way of life?
I was only 15 or 16 when I read it first, one of my best favourites of all time.  I was the perfect victim,  since like all teenagers in the history of humankind,  I was  experiencing the "sling and arrows" of unrequited love. So that became for me one of those books you’ll never forget and always compare to others.  The Thorn Birds, (1977) by Australian writer Coleen McCullough , was a miracle to my teenage thirst for passionate stories. Maybe , I was too young for explicit sex scenes or for that  terribly sad , unattainable love, but looking back, I'm happy I was that  free to read how much and what I chose. My parents worked long hours and I was brought up by  my lovely grandparents . I read so many books at the time, always longing for new  words , feelings, stories and knowledge.
I read it in Italian, of course, Uccelli di rovo.  The Thorn Birds. I was so touched and impressed by the title image, so tragic and lyrical at the same time (see the opening quotation above) and that is just what has remained in my heart and mind all this time: the thorn birds' story , all the suffering which passionate love can bring with itself. 

Meggie Cleary (Rachel Ward)
Love between mothers and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters,  a man and  a woman ... all these relationships are doomed, haunted by suffering , as if a person ought to pay with pain and sorrow as a compensation for love and happiness. At least,  in this novel, that is what happens.
I've received The Thorn Birds DVD,  in the original English version,  last Christmas as a gift from a nice friend,  who loves period drama and movies as much as I do.  However,  only this last weekend I made up my mind and felt  ready to rewatch this gripping family saga dating back to the 1980s and based on a book from the 70s. Nostalgia, melancholic mood, tissues at hand. I didn't remember how beautiful this story was. Actually, I had forgot much! 
I saw all the episodes back to back: afternoon, evening, part of the night. I couldn't stop. All those thrilling memories! 

By the way, I fell in love with Australia , more than with Father Ralph , while reading or watching. And I dreamed of moving there ( since I already wanted to learn English at the time). I used to ask  my granny (yes, my granny, not my mother) "Will you come with me? Would you like to live in a farm with me?" I was serious, mind. Not joking at all. And I went on dreaming  of going to Australia for years. 
Still dreaming though. Never been to the South of the world.
Father Ralph de Bricassart (Richard Chamberlain)

07/04/2011

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: MEET LUCINDA BRANT + DEADLY ENGAGEMENT GIVEAWAY


Lucinda Brant is my guest today. She  kindly accepted to answer some questions about her DEADLY ENGAGEMENT,  first novel in the Alec Halsey Mystery Series, which I read and reviewed (HERE) not long ago. Join me and welcome Lucinda on Fly High!

When not bumping about Georgian London in her sedan chair or exchanging gossip with perfumed and patched courtiers in the gilded drawing rooms of Versailles, Lucinda Brant teaches history and geography at an exclusive boarding school for young ladies in Australia.
She writes historical romances and crimances (crime with lashings of romance). They are all set in the 18th Century, spanning 1740 to early 1780's Georgian England, with occasional crossings to the France of Louis XV. She pulls up the reins at the French Revolution - where she lost a previous life at the guillotine for her unpardonably hedonistic lifestyle as a layabout aristo.

Let’s start from your writing historical novels. Where does your fascination with the 18th century come from?
It all began as an eleven year old with Alfred Cobban’s History of Modern France Vol. 1 1715-1799. I had an “Aha! Moment” and knew the 1700s were for me. It is the time of the enlightenment, lots of free-thinking discussion on so many topics that in previous centuries had been taken for granted or not thought about – slavery, physics, botany, religious tolerance, dictionaries, exploration, freedom of speech, the American war of independence, gender equality. And I just adore Palladian architecture, Chippendale furniture, teacups with handles and of course those gorgeous embroidered frockcoats and diamond-buckled shoes.
I am sure that in a previous life I was a layabout aristo and that I died at the guillotine – I absolutely loathe the French Revolution - not the ideals it stands for or the eventual outcome of a republic- but the frenzy of the terror and the senseless waste of lives – and beautiful furniture!

05/04/2011

TOGLIAMO IL DISTURBO - ESSAY ON THE FREEDOM NOT TO STUDY BY PAOLA MASTROCOLA


Paola Mastrocola is first of all a teacher, then a successful writer. Like me, she teaches in a Liceo Scientifico - though she teaches Italian and Latin, not English. Like me, she loves and has always loved her job. Just like me, she is more and more disappointed with what teaching teenagers has become. She says: "Do you remember that poor Japanese soldier remained shooting the air because he had not been warned that WWII had finished? Here I am. I am the last one who goes on teaching our own language, Italian. Why didn't they tell me they've decided it is useless"? This is just the beginning of her long, heartfelt, well-written  essay about school nowadays. School is useless, we teachers are useless, hence we'd better be off. Provoking title, "Togliamo il disturbo" ( we'd better go and stop bothering), "saggio sulla libert√† di non studiare", an essay on the freedom not to study.

02/04/2011

INTERVIEW WITH SARAH PAWLEY PRESENTING HER NEWLY RELEASED FINDING GRACE

Finding Grace – A Novel by Sarah Pawley
Available in paperback and Kindle format since April 1st. Coming soon to Barnes and Noble and other online retailers.

 Description from Amazon:
Grace is seventeen and still unmarried, and for a girl from the country, that's socially unacceptable. When her parents try to force her hand, she flees and rejoins her brother and his wife. She finds a new life and a first real love. But the past will catch up with her...

Today Sarah Pawley is here on Fly High to answer some questions about her latest release. Join me and welcome her here then,  have a look at her site ( HERE ) or on goodreads (HERE) to have the chance to win one of 5 signed  copies of her Finding Grace! 

Let's meet Sarah, now!


Hello and welcome back on Fly High, Sarah! Tell us a little about your heroine, Gracie. How did she come about? Was there anyone in particular that you modeled her after?
The heroine is Gracie Langdon, a young woman living in Virginia in the 1920’s. Gracie is an amalgam of several people, particularly my aunt. She was the only girl among five, was a big part of the creation. She had it pretty rough growing up. It was a great source of inspiration to hear some of her stories.

This is not the first edition of this story. It was first released in 2008. What made you decide to release a new edition?
This was the first novel I ever had published. When I first wrote it, I was very raw as a writer. I had a lot to learn, and I still do, but I think this edition has evolved tremendously from that first printing. It’s a story that’s 
close to my heart, and I want to share it with others.

Is there any of you in Gracie?
I think there’s a little bit of every writer in their hero or heroine. Gracie and I have a lot in common, especially our love for Jane Eyre. We both identify with the struggle of being ourselves in a world that wants to mold us into an ideal form.

01/04/2011

WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING - AN AWFULLY BIG ADVENTURE (1995)

An Awfully Big Adventure is a coming-of-age 1995 drama film about a teenaged girl's experiences with a theatre company in Liverpool. Set in 1947, the film is based on the 1989 novel of the same namel by Beryl Bainbridge.
The reason why I wanted to see this film was its cast: Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Peter Firth, Alun Armstrong among others. Only, I thought it was a comedy and didn't expect all the sadness which overwhelmed me in the end. Original and well-acted, I can't deny it, but so extremely sad. More than that... as tragic as an ancient Greek tragedy.

The story  (major spoilers!!!)
In post-WWII Liverpool, England, 16-year-old aspiring actress Stella (Georgina Cates) lives with her uncle (Alun Armstrong) and aunt (Rita Tushingham), after her mother left her with them and disappeared. Something of a dreamer, Stella longs for adventure, which materializes when she becomes an apprentice for a theatre company of aging actors run by eccentric, self-absorbed director Meredith Potter (Hugh Grant). Stella develops a crush on Potter, unaware that he is a homosexual whose flirts include another teenage apprentice, Jeffrey (Alan Cox). Potter does not return Stella's attentions, but something in her  attracts O'Hara (Alan Rickman), a brilliant actor who joins the company to play Captain Hook in  the production of "Peter Pan".