May 20, 2017

Why books no longer sell

Many a literati complain that their books no longer sell. Many a theory circulate why this is so (the disappearance of gay book stores, the disappearance of attention spans, competition from other media, Trump, and so on). But yesterday---yesterday we discovered the definitive answer. Here it is:

Ceci n'est pas une pipe, mais un camp de concentration Trumpien.

No, wrong, this is the airport of Cannes, the main hub of the Cannes Film Festival for anything that moves about by general aviation. Ten years ago, during the Festival, this place was loaded with private jets---Learjets, Falcons, Netjets, Gulfstreams---all patiently waiting for the "talent" to be beautiful, blow insouciant kisses, sign contracts, fuck, collect awards, and then return to Hollywood. And now what? The place is practically empty---emptier, we'd say, than on a normal day of the week when we drive past to go to our discount Lidl supermarket which is just around the corner.

You get it? Nothing sells. Almost. This is not only about books, this is about media in general.

And the underlying reason? Well, a shift in the parameter values of the Power Distribution of course.

Huh? Stay tuned.

May 18, 2017

Pompeii (5) The Year of the Spritz --- History of the world

Yes, we're back in Positano, or we are still in Positano because Julia, our hostess, has an uncle who runs this restaurant, and they would pick us up and deliver us back safely despite the fact that the road is barely fit for mules. And this is what we get as the welcome drink: THE SPRITZ. (Henry James also used capitalisation extensively).

When we arrived in Venice in 1988 on a research assignment, our host Massimo picked us up at the airport and delivered us almost directly---we had a brief look at a Tintoretto in a nearby church first---to a small café and ordered something we surely had never heard of. "The Spritz." It's a German word introduced by the Austrians when they ruled Venice from 1815 to 1866, meaning a "dash" of something stronger into a small glass of white wine. It was great and we ordered a few more. Then. 

I returned to Venice repeatedly, but it was only in 2013 that I was confronted with the NEW SPRITZ as you see it on the picture. This Spritz is made from Prosecco and a dashy new version of strong water unfortunately dubbed Aperol. The color is great, the taste is mild, and chunks of lemon and orange are added for effect. There's a Hitchcock movie where the poisonous drink is served to the unsuspecting suspect in a glass illuminated by a little light bulb hidden in a translucent olive. Along those lines. 

Okay, and now, this year, THIS IS THE YEAR OF THE SPRITZ. Everywhere you go, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and today, St. Raphael, FRANCE (not shown)---the Aperol Spritz is everywhere. We ordered white wine in St. Raphael.

May 15, 2017

This morning

(Yes, we're back in France, but we're not quite done with Pompeii, stay tuned)

May 14, 2017

Pompeii (4) --- Hotel del Sole --- "We will post a review!"

The view from the restaurant

We booked Hotel del Sole (half-board) because of its location opposite to the Pompeii ruins. We are given the worst room---but somebody has to get the worst room, even in a hotel packed with junior travel groups.

So the sun sets and we proceed to be seated for dinner. We are NOT led to the fourth floor restaurant with a spectacular view of the excavation site but to a sort of green house where piping protrudes from dirty corners and a children's party is in loutish progress. We return to the reception desk and alert the assistant manager to the pictures of this beautiful restaurant with its view of the ruins on Booking-dot-com. Sure, no problem, there's the elevator. Arriving upstairs we're informed that---yes---they serve dinner, but not to guests on half-board. Such guest have to dine in the Green House, regrettably. We descend, informing the reception that we'd like to cancel the half-board arrangement. That's not possible---the reply is---because we've booked through Booking-dot-com and patati patata. We alert them to the fact that the nice fourth floor restaurant is shown on Booking-dot-com. Yes, they answers, because that's where breakfast is served. There's nothing on Booking-dot-com, we reply, that would alert guests to the fact that the half-board dinner is served in a greenhouse not shown anywhere (for good reasons). You can call Booking-dot-com, they say. We won't call Booking-dot-com, we say, WE WILL POST A REVIEW. "Oh...oh...oh...okay. Yes, well, if you insist"...and while we are back in the elevator accompanied by an assistant manager, she tells us that they would have to open the kitchen for us, for us alone, "but if you want...". She cites a few more reasons why life is so difficult. We inform her that there are always "reasons," and that a GOOD HOTEL---if the sad moment arrives that "reasons" have to be invoked---that a good hotel should be able to isolate its guests from said reasons. She goes on. She obviously does not understand what it means to be a GOOD HOTEL.

The dinner with a view up there was very good, by the way.

May 11, 2017

Pompeii (2)

Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993) 

We're still held back in Positano, and this morning we learned that this island, yes, this one (picture taken from our hotel room)...

...was once owned by Rudolf Nureyev, the Russian ballet dancer, who lived there...and we suddenly remember, having read Gore Vidal's memoir...Vidal mentions that he could see the island from his villa, and that Nureyev used to come over for dinner to tell tall, yet true stories about gay saunas...

Gore Vidal  (1925-2012)

May 9, 2017

Pompeii (1)

It's a bit complicated, but we're basically travelling to Pompeii at the moment, having had dinner tonight in some restaurant on the beach of  Positano just below the Hotel Miramare where Patricia Highsmith conceived of the idea of Mr. Ripley while staying there in 1952.

The view of Positano  and the Amalfi coast in 2017 from our hotel, Villa Sofia.

May 5, 2017

The cloud bank --- This Is Heaven --- teaser (26)

A few more weeks, and This Is Heaven is available on pre-order. At that point, we're going to consolidate all teasers into a separate page, so enjoy this one---one of the last teasers we're posting. John, forsaken John, has spent the night stumbling through the lonely streets of  his hometown, and now he's returning home.

Dunno what happened to my house keys. I’ll have to ring and hope somebody will buzz me in. Maurice will buzz me in and say nothing and plop down on a kitchen chair and refocus on his cornflakes and a cup of tea.
This is Day Four of the festival but the first without palaver on my bed. “Where’s everybody?” I ask. “What happened to Alex?”
“What happened to you?” Maurice replies. He arches his eyebrows.
I arch mine.
He raises the teapot. “Tea?” he asks.
I shake my head and proceed to make coffee. Somebody has operated the dish washer and there’s a clean mug inside. “What time is it?” I ask. His eyes travel to the clock above the kitchen cabinet that shows the correct time twice per day. “You’re up early,” I say.

"Why did you run away? Can't you handle a little neighborhood orgy?"

I sip my coffee and peer at the water tower outside. I’ve been fairly downbeat on the thing throughout this soap, but it keeps you busy in its quiet way—-like trees keep you busy, or nervous flies, or the thought of an afterlife.
“Day Four,” I say, “day four.”
Maurice tries his campy laugh: “Why did you run away? Can’t you handle a little neighborhood orgy?
“I’m less experienced than you are,” I say.
“Taylor will have brought you up to speed, shouldn’t he?”
“Taylor, Taylor,” I say.
“Not to speak of Ben. Or the master himself.”
“Alex. Yes.”
Maurice beholds me with a mix of annoyance and reticence: “Are we jealous?”
“Alex ditched me.” I say (croak). "Sort-of."
“Yes, his remark yesterday. I thought he was joking.”
“No, he wasn’t.”
“We shan’t blame him, or shall we?”
“And you, whom did you ditch? Sort-of? You look tired.”
“I didn’t sleep.”
“You didn’t sleep, darling. Alone, or with somebody else?”

I close the door. I close it softly.

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