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On My Nightstand

July 18th, 2010

 

I’m just going to apologize right off the bat for this post. My book situation is out of control. Pure chaos. Overflowing with library books, books I’ve bought and books I’ve borrowed. For some bizarre reason, all of the books on my waiting lists at the library all decided to come in at once. Several are in the exact same genre of the novel I am writing: girl crime reporter, so they are really considered research.

I have included pictures of them all (see the second to last picture for an idea of the chaos), but I will briefly give a summary of those that I have already read. I  read and loved Foreign Tongue by Vanina Marsot. I recommend it to all Francophiles.

Am currently reading Villa Mirabella from one of my favorite authors in the Italian-American fiction genre, Peter Pezzelli. For some reason, possibly that the main character is a man in his 30s, I keep losing interest in this one.

The one that has me completely caught up in the character’s world is Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. One of my bookclubs chose this and I borrowed it, so I am making it priority one so I can return it and let someone else in bookclub borrow it. (My second bookclub meets this week and I will have a new book from them, as well, just to add to the madness!)

I also finished “Which Brings Me to You” By Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott. I must say the whole concept of a book based entirely on correspondence was intially a complete turnoff, but the writing is so wonderful I ended up completely engrossed and loved the book. I can’t wait to read more by Baggott.

I also read Becoming A Writer (Dorothea Brande) and On Becoming a Novelist (John Gardner). Both were so-so, I guess. I also read Mark Bittman’s Quick & Easy Recipes and copied down a few of them. Behind that book in the picture you can see some photocopies I made of recipes from the French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. I think I copied about 5 of them for future reference before turning the book back into the library.

The other books on my nightstand (Cheri and The Things They Carried and the New Yorker anthology) are all books I bought, so I may not get to them for quite some time since I have to read the library books which have due dates first!

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  1. July 18th, 2010 at 18:43 | #1

    I enjoyed Foreign Tongue as well. That is an ambitious reading list!

  2. July 19th, 2010 at 08:26 | #2

    Have you read Stephen King’s book On Writing? It is one of my favorite writing books and it also includes some of his biography.

  3. Aurora
    July 21st, 2010 at 09:57 | #3

    I read The Things They Carried in college and hated it, but I think that was partly because I knew so little about Vietnam. Loved Cheri and The Last of Cheri, though. Lea is such a vivid character, I wish I could meet her in real life!

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What is it about those Italian women? You know the ones I’m talking about: beautiful, sexy, dressed to the nines just to take the kids to the park. They have a certain something that is indefinable. It is in the way they dress, the way they prepare their meals, the way they spend their leisure time.

It is because they know the importance of la bella figura. Roughly translated from Italian, it means putting you best foot forward in everything you do. It means cutting a beautiful figura. The opposite of la bella figura is la brutta figura, which is what someone might say about the falling down drunken guy at the party or the super tackily dressed woman at church. It means ugly figure.

La bella figura is much more than your appearance. It goes much deeper than that. It is about how you act. It is about how you treat others. It is about how you care for yourself, your home and your family. Living a life in line with la bella figura doesn’t take money. In fact, it is more about how to have class without a lot of money.

Someone who exudes la bella figura will have clean, pressed clothes and be well groomed. They will not be rude or sloppy. Their fingernails will be impeccably groomed. Their hair shiny and clean and their shoes will be polished. They will not have stray threads hanging from their suit hems. They will not be driving a car in need of the car wash.

La bella figura means driving that 15 year old car and meticulously cleaning it and caring for it. It means keeping your belongings in good repair. It means taking time to clean your house and not cluttering it up with meaningless objects.

When you focus all your spare energy, time and money on the things that bring you the most amount of pleasure, then you are truly living a life in line with la bella figura. The best part about it is that you don’t have to be Italian to do so. You just have to think like an Italian.

Italian children are raised to present la bella figura in whatever they do. From the time they are small and are groomed perfectly to attend church or school, they know that appearances count. They count because it is the first thing people judge about you. That first impression does matter. Appearances are also important because when you take the time to look nice, you are showing that you care about yourself. When you care enough to look good, it shows you have good healthy self esteem. Nothing is more attractive than self confidence.

In addition, dressing nice also shows respect for others. If you invite people over for dinner and greet them in flip flops, baggy sweats and a stained shirt, it is really disrespectful to them. The same if you dress sloppy to go to church or even to the market. By dressing nicely and being well groomed, you show respect for everyone in your world.

Having la bella figura means presenting yourself in the best light possible in all your interactions.