Sunday Sampler: from newspapers to Naples – again…

June 15, 2009 at 2:17 am (books, Italian journey, Italy, Magazines and newspapers, Travel) ()

Every Sunday morning, I am greeted with one of my favorite sights: The Washington Post and The New York Times lying on my driveway. Now speaking of driveways, ours is about fifty feet long. Over the (more than twenty) years that we’ve lived here, we’ve noted an increasing propensity on the part of delivery people to leave not only newspapers but telephone books (such quaint anachronistic objects) and various other things at the very end of the driveway. (In our house, this is known as the DDS, or Driveway Delivery System.) At the very least, in the case of the newspapers, this means every morning trudging out to the street in my jammies for the purpose of obtaining the paper. (Don’t worry – I usually throw a robe or a raincoat over my rumpled nightclothes.) I have nothing against a good brisk walk, weather permitting. But when it’s pouring down rain, newspaper retrieval becomes a real adventure. The experience is especially exasperating when the paper has taken on water, usually through the process of wicking. (Is “wicking” the result of some law of physics, and if so, can it be repealed?)

This scenario is rendered even more interesting if it is snowing. At such times, Yours Truly, the early riser in the family, can be seen in a housecoat, wool cap, and clunky winter boots, schlepping out to the end of the driveway, in hope of finding the paper, which may be buried in a snow drift. One feels a bit like an archaeologist, unearthing an artifact artfully concealed by Nature…

Yes, I know, in the scheme of things, these are but minor annoyances. But at the very least, you’d think that in this time of hysteria over the possible disappearance of hard copy newspapers , it would occur to circulation departments that people may be canceling because they’re tired of dealing with this recurrent inconvenience. In fact, some papers may finally be seeing the light. For the past several months, the Sunday Times has been landing about two thirds of the way down the driveway. Alas, the Post is still poised at the lip, so not too much joy there after all.

But wait! The good people at the Post have handed  us book lovers an unexpected treat today:

WP - Summer Reading2No, your eyes do not deceive you: it’s a separate Book World Section! It is twelve pages in length; in addition, there are two pages of book reviews in the Outlook section. So this is a banner day for the Sunday paper after all.

Now I want to spotlight two recent articles from the Times. First, last Sunday’s Week in Review had a feature piece on Italian politics entitled “In Italy, Questions Are From Enemies, and That’s That.”  Above the text is a picture of Silvio Berlusconi looking for all the world like – well, like someone you would not want to cross:

Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi

This article was of interest, naturally, because of my recent sojourn in Italy. But it was also timely because I saw Il Divo at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring with my erstwhile traveling companions Linda and Jean.

divo Il Divo is a film about the life and times of Giulio Andreotti, who, in the words of the synopsis on the film’s website, “…has been Italy’s most powerful, feared and enigmatic politician.” All three of us felt that because we lacked a background in contemporary Italian politics, and because of the language barrier, a problem even though there were subtitles, we had trouble at times understanding what was happening on screen. Nevertheless, we got the general drift of this powerful and frightening, if somewhat over long film.

In La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind, author Beppe Severgnini observes that “Italy is the only workshop in the world that can turn out both Botticellis and Berlusconis.”

Finally, “Deep in the Heart of Historic Naples” appeared in yesterday’s Times. After I read this article, I fired off an impassioned letter to the paper, saying how fascinating I found Naples and how much we missed seeing because we had so little time there. I concluded with by saying, “I’d go back in a heartbeat.” Until the moment I wrote that sentence, I hadn’t admitted to myself that I felt that way.

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Here  Jordan Lancaster, in her book In the Shadow of Vesuvius, describes the communal worship of the Greek gods in Neapolis. This would have taken place around the fifth century BC:

“Everyone participated enthusiastically and with exuberant gusto in the celebrations. First and foremost wass undoubtedly the cult of the siren, Parthenope. The cult of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was also strong in Neapolis, as maritime traders and seafarers were particularly devoted to her. Dionysus, the god of wine, and Demeter, the protectress of the harvest, governed the most important local crops in the predominantly agrarian economy. The earth mother and the god of ecstatic liberation embody a seductive, pagan quality that the area has always enjoyed, an alluring combination of beauty and fertility.

Lancaster goes on to quote the Roman historian Livy, who gets even more specific:

“‘To the religious content were added the pleasures of wine and feasting, to attract a greater number. When they were heated with wine and all sense of modesty had  been extinguished by the darkness of night and the mingling of men with women and young with old, then debaucheries of every kind began and all had pleasures at hand to satisfy the lust to which they were most inclined.’

An old, old city, with an amazing history…

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Here are some more of my photos of Naples:

naples1

A campaign poster, taken from the bus as we were leaving the airport and first entering the city

naples2

naples3

naples6

naples8

The Maschio Angioino (Angevin Fortress), more commonly known as the Castel Nuovo. You have to love a place that refers to a castle built in the 13th century as "new." This was taken from a 15th floor window of our hotel.

The Maschio Angioino (Angevin Fortress), more commonly known as the Castel Nuovo. You have to love a place that refers to a castle built in the 13th century as "new." This photo was taken from a 15th floor window of our hotel.

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