Monday, 28 November 2011

Bread and Circuses

There is more to Rome, and Romans, than bread and circuses; Juvenal knew that. He was merely commenting that giving bread and circuses to the populace diverted them from, perhaps, more pressing issues. I am trying to cram the history of Rome, and not just its glory days as the centre of a powerful empire, but the whole kit and caboodle, from being to 2006, into a few pages of text. I am writing a travel book; it needs to have interest in the form of fact, but it does not want to be crushed beneath its weight. Enough happened in the five days I was in Rome without thousands of years prior to be included as well. What is worthy of detailed mention? What should only be given a fleeting mention? What, and this is the really hard bit, should be omitted? Do I create the highlights of Rome’s history around the obvious elements of archaeology remaining or, because they are given so much publicity, skim around those times and give more to the lesser known times?

Whichever way I twist I am going to upset somebody. The classicists and lovers of Imperial Rome would be disappointed if I glossed over the events and outputs of their period. Those interested in the Middle Ages would argue that Rome did not just disappear into a black hole, far from it, and the Renaissance in the early Modern period was indeed a time of rebirth. Enthusiasts of later modern and contemporary history would be baying for my blood if I omitted the years of Berlusconi, Mussolini, Vittorio Emmanuelle II and the French influence. And all of this intertwined with the church; the church, the state within a state, and all its influences – good and bad.

I am tempted to sate the tastes of the reading populace with bread and circuses. I would be steering them from some equally tasty treats but it may divert them from noticing the things I have little interest in. What I have to do is base the book primarily around my experiences – visual, aural, oral, touching and tasty – it is after all a telling of MY story.

There will be complaints, no doubt, that is the price I willingly accept for putting my version of the truth out there... but it is difficult to understand someone when they have a mouth full of bread and the party is in full swing.

City Chronicles: A Little Bit of Italy.   Due for release in Spring 2012

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

What is Staunching the Flow?

I have been struggling a little to get into the groove of this book and many a nightly hour has been spent considering the whys and wherefores. I know that A Little Bit of Italy does not contain the overnight train journeys, numerous countries and cultures and desperate hurtles across countries to make a connection that were evident in A Tale of Nine Cities, but still I visited some magnificent places.
Reading through my journal, looking at the photographs and carrying out the research to make sure I’ve got my facts straight, I remember just how wonderful these cities were. Venice, a floating enigma; Milan with its beautiful Duomo; Siena, an almost perfect medieval town set in the beautiful Tuscan countryside and Rome. Rome, where there is almost too much to see. Rome, the complete and utter assault on all your senses. It was an incredible journey, so why am I finding it so hard to write about it?
The answer came to me last night. The reason I find it so troublesome – I was not happy. Whereas with Nine Cities I had been travelling with a friend that I could not be more found of (despite some rather violent outbursts), A Little Bit of Italy was taken in the company of someone with whom I was in the last throes of a relationship. Throes? The last choking, bilious vomits of our relationship were strewn across this trip. So I need to address these issues. I need to make light of them, turn the murderous look and desire to dash him from the height of the Duomo roof onto the piazza below into a moment of humour (though there is the concern it might descend into bathos).
So that is my intent today - lighten my heart. I found a quote from Ernest Hemingway, “Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.” Very good advice. I am going to put it as the ending quote to my book, it is the perfect summation.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Little Bit of Italy

That is the title of the second in the City Chronicles trilogy and I am busy putting pen to paper. I hope to have the book ready for publication by Easter (I hope it is late next year - must check). I've just spent the last five days in Italy, and though the only place I visited on this trip that is the same as the trip I am writing about is the airport at Fiumicino, I have the flavour of the country tingling on my memory's tastebuds. Everything helps in bringing the memories flooding back. Yes, I have my notebooks and photographs and other paraphenalia but there is nothing like setting foot in the country again to aid the synapses.

And so with my trusty Parker pen loaded with ink (from cartridges purchased at an old fashioned toy and stationery shop in Spoleto, Umbria) and virgin paper waiting to be penetrated with said ink, I set forth on my tour of A Little Bit of Italy once again.

Soaking up the Italian atmosphere - Grottammare, Abruzzo.

P.S. I am a slow learner when it comes to Twitter et al but today I managed to find three #tags that had not, until now, been used and can be said to relate to my books! I am now using #ninecities for the first of the City Chronicles trilogy, #bitofitaly for the second and #cctrilogy for the set. Look out for them, and use them, on twitter.

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