Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Tag: Francesca

let’s talk about sex.

“You never talk about what you want. You never talk about what turns you on, your fantasies.”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“But maybe I want to hear you say it.”
“And you think this is the right time?”
“There shouldn’t be a wrong time. I’m not saying you have to act it out. I just want to hear you talk about it.”
She wanted to know what he would say. And, after today, if violence was a part of it. She imagined it must be. A person couldn’t just dole out that kind of beating if he didn’t somehow like the feeling of flesh under his fists.
“For a long time, everything sexual was in a way idealized for me. I imagine you know that. I didn’t have any experience.” He paused to swallow and she studied his face, its striking clarity. He was unashamed. She couldn’t imagine telling him the same story about what had happened to her, in New Jersey, in a bathroom with an American boy named Todd.
“I’d read too many books, maybe. I thought sex was always going to be on a four-posted bed with a woman in a white nightdress who protested then succumbed. I didn’t want to believe it was as simple and carnal as it is.”
“Simple and carnal,” she repeated.
“Wouldn’t you agree? That’s what it is when you’re in a shared dorm room and you’re rushing to finish before your roommate comes back and everything you obsessed about for such a long time is, in the end, so instinctual. There’s never really any question where you put what. A degree of finesse, perhaps, but it’s not at all as confusing as you imagined.”
“That’s not a fantasy,” she said quietly. “It’s just history.”

courting investors.

Il Deserto Rosso, dir. Michelangelo Antonioni

“Do you have samples of your work?”

She pulled another folder out.  “These are just a couple things I’ve done recently.  My CV lists all of the stuff from before—the magazine covers and global ad campaigns and that kind of thing.  But I’ve been working with a new perspective now, so these shots are examples of what to expect going forward.”

He studied each in turn.  “This is Giulietta,” he said when he’d come to the one where she stood by the frozen canal, Leo at the edge of the frame.

“She was gracious enough to model for me.”

“It’s beautiful.  She’s so—I don’t know, you’ve captured something in her.”

“There’s an old Antonioni film—Il Deserto Rosso—with Monica Vitti, and it’s about the environment, and there’s a still from that that I had in mind, let me see if I can find it—“

“Don’t bother.  I know what you’re talking about.  She’s with her child, walking on the road.”

“Yes, that’s the one.  Something like that.  But instead of the focus being on the environment, I wanted it to be on her internal conflict.  Which is a lot to expect from a picture, particularly when it’s primarily for commercial purposes, but I think it’s important for you to know the thought process I had.”

“You speak very well about your work.”

“Thank you.”  She paused and sipped her wine.  “It’s important to me.”

“But this one—“ he held up her Christmas Day self-portrait, the nude in the mirror.

She blushed.  “I wasn’t going to include that.  I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.  But I think it’s important—that was when I decided to do this whole thing, and that one is representative of my new perspective.”  She squinted at the picture.  “You can’t really see anything, anyway.  And it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.”

“I think you’re exploiting my weaknesses to get me to invest.”

“I would do nothing of the sort.  Give it back to me, you don’t have to see it any more if you don’t want to.”

“That’s not what I said.”  He took off his glasses and cleaned them with a handkerchief.  “But take it anyway, that way it won’t distract me from our serious business conversation.”

tour of the Standard Hotel.

it pays to have connections.  today I had the pleasure of touring two of the most fabulous suites in the city of New York, the Hudson Studio and the Liberty Suite at the Standard Hotel.  when Francesca and Selim visit New York, they stay at the Standard in the Liberty Suite.

Liberty Suite Bed

gentle readers, the bed is round.

Liberty Suite bar

Francesca would approve of the photography books; Selim would approve of the Patron.

Liberty Suite dining

succulents, fruit, and a view.

Liberty Suite bath

the bathtub looks downtown toward One World Trade and the Statue of Liberty.

Christmas is coming.

and so, most likely, is Francesca.

the “Tree of Pleasure” in Milan.

next week you’ll get a taste of what Christmas looks like in Parallax, but in the meantime, enjoy these holiday flashbacks and last year’s Christmas morning.

life imitates art : Juventus match today

(photo via La Vecchia Signora)

in Rule of Thirds, Francesca goes to Istanbul a second time to watch boyfriend Paolo Romaldo’s Champions League soccer match against Turkish side Fenerbahce.  today, Juventus (Paolo’s team) visit Istanbul to play Galatasaray for a spot in the group stage of Champions League play.  FORZA JUVE!

KEEP and SELL.

Manolo

Francesca Garancini sat on the hardwood floor of her apartment surrounded by colorful designer shoeboxes.  Their names rang out like beautiful music—Giuseppe Zanotti, Manolo Blahnik, Roger Vivier, Jimmy Choo—but their love songs were no longer meant for her.  She opened each box and wistfully removed the shoes from their dust covers, stroking the python skin or the smooth kid leather, trying them on her feet and looking at them from several angles, even in her full length mirror.  And then she boxed them up again and sent them to one of two piles demarcated with sharpie-written notes: KEEP  and SELL.

The “sell” pile was disturbingly small, both in comparison to the “keep” pile and the stack of boxes she had yet to assess.  So far she’d managed to eliminate a pair of MiuMiu red and black checkerboard watersnake heels and a pair of Alexander McQueen black velvet smoking slippers with gold skulls embroidered over the toes.  She was ready to get rid of those; the shoes she’d worn to Moscow with Selim.  The shoes she’d worn to her abortion.

She paused after saving, for now, her favorite pair of neon yellow Jimmy Choos (would it ever be possible to find that color again?  It was so bright it was practically a neutral!) and lit a cigarette from the half-empty pack of Marlboros on the floor next to her.  As she inhaled she kept from pursing her lips too tightly; she could barely afford wrinkles now.  No money for Botox, plus she had to keep her skin looking youthful if she was going to find another rich man.  Twenty-nine was the upper limit, even for someone in her circles.

Her former circles.  Since summer she’d been slowly jettisoned from the social life she once knew.  Opening night at La Scala last night and she had to read about it in the newspaper: her Uncle Marco, a grand patron, squiring her sister-in-law Giulietta to box seats; her ex-boyfriend Paolo Romaldo with a leggy blonde (another leggy blonde) on his arm where just a short year ago Francesca had been.  Giulietta’s gown was overwrought with ruffles; the blonde looked like a hooker in a Topshop mini-dress; Francesca closed the Corriere della Sera in disgust.

She finished her cigarette, stubbing it out in a white china saucer overflowing with the detritus of the only vice she could afford to maintain.  Selim had said she was a beautiful smoker.  He’d probably told his wife the same thing.

PARALLAX.

I just spent the month of November (National Novel-Writing Month) working on the third and final book in the Francesca Trilogy, Parallax.

Fifty thousand words later, here’s a taste of what’s to come…

“So we’re both artists, then.”  He had finished his drink, and signalled to the bartender for another.  “Will you have one?”

“What is it?”

“Pastis.”

“Please,” she replied.  “And thank you.”  She touched his arm, lingering.  It was a tricky balance, this: she didn’t want too much conversation, she didn’t want to know his life story or his favorite television show or what he eats for breakfast.  She wanted to go to his hotel room, fuck for a few hours, and go home.  But getting from here to there took finesse.

She’d always liked pastis, its bewildering transition from clear to milky as she stirred in one, then two ice cubes, its heady licorice flavor tasting like disobedience and danger.  The first sip was arresting, she almost coughed, but the next went down smoothly.

“Where are you staying?”  She leaned in and whispered into his ear, her green fairy breath sweet and delirious.

“Finish your drink and I’ll show you.”

That was the thing about the French, she thought.  They knew how to play.  She felt the pastis numbing her tongue, the back of her throat.  She gave him half a smile.

She swirled the ice cubes in her glass, listening to the pretty sound they made.

“What note is that?” she asked.

“What?”

“The sound of the ice against the glass.  What’s the note?  That’s your thing, isn’t it?”

“Do it again.”

She rattled her ice again.

“Now drink some of it,” he directed.  She complied.

“Does that change the tone?” she asked.

“No.  But it gets you closer to finishing.”  He had his hand on her knee, teasing under the hem of her skirt.

“Guillaume,” she said.

“Quoi?”

“Rien.  I just like the way it feels on my tongue.  Guillaume.”

red pencil Thursday!

the first 500 words of Dodge and Burn get the red pencil treatment today at romance writer Mia Marlowe’s blog.  Mia and I met at RWA in Atlanta and I am thrilled that she gave such thoughtful attention to my work.  read the original below and then check out Mia’s critique!

Francesca Garancini blinked twice, then clawed frantically through her Bottega Veneta hobo trying to find her sunglasses. The late winter sun was bright in Istanbul, but she had the added complication of having to contend with a growing swarm of photographers advancing towards her. She donned her big black Tom Ford sunglasses just as she saw, out of the corner of her eye, a red Porsche parked in the lot. With the paparazzi hot on her heels, she started running towards the car.

“Francesca! Francesca!” Some of the photographers were Italian, it seemed, camped outside the hospital waiting for news of Paolo Romaldo. Francesca was terrified that they recognized her so easily. Romaldo, meanwhile, was still inside the hospital, in traction, his left leg broken in two places during the previous day’s match with Galatasaray. He was most recently a Juventus midfielder, and, as Francesca dolefully acknowledged, her now-ex boyfriend.

She was running at a steady clip towards the Porsche but even so, the photographers were able to keep pace with her. Thankfully, she saw the man behind the wheel start the car and peel out of his parking spot, hanging a tight u-turn in her direction. She gripped the handle of the passenger door and propelled herself inside.

“I can’t believe you waited for me,” she said breathlessly to the man beside her.

He gripped her shoulder encouragingly. “I’d wait as long as I had to,” he replied. He took his hand from her shoulder and shifted gears, speeding out of the hospital parking lot, leaving a trail of photographers in his exhaust.

“I imagine they were here for Paolo,” she said, turning back to look out the rear windshield at the receding pool of paparazzi.

“But they got something even better,” the man commented grimly.

“What do you mean?”

“They got you getting into my car. They may be bottom-feeders, but don’t think for a moment they aren’t clever enough to put two-and-two together. The Italians know who you are. The Turks know who I am. Between both sides they’ll have a hell of a story tomorrow.”

She stared out the window. The view was bleak: bare branches like dark fingers in stark relief against a cold white sky, dingy grey buildings with dirty windows. She felt slightly sick, and pressed her cold fingers against her temples. “I don’t know what to do, Selim,” she said to him, never turning from the window.

He laughed, and it shocked her; his laugh was hearty and genuine, and her entire body tensed against it. She turned to him sharply.

“Why are you laughing?”

“Because you’re so serious,” he said, still chuckling, though more softly. “Don’t you understand? There’s nothing you can do. This is the way life is.”

“It’s over with Paolo.”

“And I’m sorry for him,” Selim said, “but I’m happy for myself.” He reached across for her hand. “And you’ll be happy, too. I promise you that.”

“You think it’s that easy? I can just walk away from Paolo Romaldo and take up with you like nothing happened?”

inspiration #32 : L’Avventura

I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to talk about L’Avventura, considering it’s one of my favorite movies OF ALL TIME and it’s such a direct influence on this book.  The Criterion Collection blurb reads as follows:

A girl mysteriously disappears on a yachting trip. While her lover and her best friend search for her across Italy, they begin an affair. Antonioni’s penetrating study of the idle upper class offers stinging observations on spiritual isolation and the many meanings of love.

That is basically the book I wish I had written.  I’m obsessed with the portrayal of detachment in the film, that relationships are so fleeting, that we so infrequently make meaningful connections (L’Avventura is the first of Antonioni’s so-called “alienation trilogy”).  But further, I love that the characters have everything they could ever want and at the same time are ceaselessly searching for more.  That’s the lens that I’ve used to look at Francesca and her family–Marco, Anna, Ricci, and Giulietta.  They’re direct descendents of the characters in this film.

Maybe it’s the post-modernist in me, but I also love that L’Avventura is not at all driven by plot.  Halfway through the movie, you forget that we’re supposed to be looking for the missing girl, and everything that happens is entirely character-driven.  That’s how compelling these people are, rich, idle, and vapid though they may be.  And of course, Italy is itself a character–its craggy Mediterranean outcroppings, its fertile inland plains, its frenzied cities.  

[Other film inspirations: Blow-Up, Layer Cake, Belle de Jour]

Francesca’s Milano.

Milano

in case you wanted to explore Milan like Francesca…I’ve made a map of her hometown haunts and posted it here.  I’ll update occasionally.