I’d like to get to Elena Ferrante’s books if possible too.
The busier you get, the harder it can be to find time to read. We bet no one knows this more than Hillary Clinton, which is why we were thrilled when Clinton listed all the books she’s been reading since November.
Though we’re positive Hillary would rather be running the country right now, the former democratic presidential nominee has enjoyed herself the last few months. “After this election, one of the things that helped me most, aside from long walks in the woods and the occasional glass of chardonnay, was once again going back to the familiar experience of losing myself in books,” she said during her speech at the American Library Association.
That’s a beautiful feeling, and one we should take more time to experience ourselves. Even post-election, we’re no doubt less busy than Hillary Clinton.
“I finished Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, I devoured mysteries by Louise Penny, Donna Leon, Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd,” she said, adding, “I reread old favorites like Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, the poetry of Maya Angelou and Mary Oliver. I was riveted by The Jersey Brothers and a new book of essays called The View From Flyover Country, which turned out to be especially relevant in the midst of our current health-care debate.”
We should all aspire to read as she reads, so here’s your Hillary Clinton-approved summer reading list:
1. Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels
The wonderful thing about being a reader is that even when you’re familiar with the classics of English literature, there are still bookshelves all over the world to explore. These writers, featured in Radio 4’s Reading Europe series, are some of the most famous novelists in their own countries – but the rest of the world has yet to discover them.
Here’s why you should read them.
Italy: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Ferrante fever has been sweeping Europe for the past few years, and reached a fever pitch when journalist Claudio Gatti claimed to have “unmasked” the reclusive author. However, fans remain more interested in her novels than her life stories. In My Brilliant Friend, we’re introduced to Elena and Lila, whose friendship is one of the most believable in fiction – they’re not braiding each other’s hair at sleepovers, they’re jealously competing to escape the neighbourhood of Naples and trying to avoid the attentions of local gangsters.
Look out for: Lila’s wedding – it’s so tense and troubling that it makes the wedding sequence in The Godfather look like it was guest directed by Richard Curtis.
by Britt Julious
(…) “It’s kind of just instinct,” Cardoza says about her songwriting process. “I take inspiration from a lot of things like my personal life for sure. It’s definitely a release.” Cardoza writes the lyrics after the music has been composed by her bandmates. On recent tracks she’s drawn inspiration from politics, current events, even Elena Ferrante novels.
Rumpus: In Lucky You, there are tidbits of information about the characters’ pasts. There are time gaps between sections. There is a lot that goes unspoken. This seems to require you, as the author, to have a lot of trust in the reader. Can you talk a bit about this relationship of trust between author and reader?
Carter: When I was writing this, I had no agent or publisher, and was far from even thinking about having readers. So, that was freeing, because I wasn’t trying to please anyone. It’s interesting now, though, because I’m writing my second book, and I’m still not trying to please anyone—I feel like I’m just writing what has to be said, in the best way I know how to say it.
Lucky You is definitely not for everyone, but I would never want to write a book for everyone. I’d like to quote Elena Ferrante here, from her interview with the Paris Review, on this subject:
I employ all the strategies I know to capture the reader’s attention, stimulate curiosity, make the page as dense as possible and as easy as possible to turn. But once I have the reader’s attention I feel it is my right to pull it in whichever direction I choose. I don’t think the reader should be indulged as a consumer, because he isn’t one. Literature that indulges the tastes of the reader is a degraded literature. My goal is to disappoint the usual expectations and inspire new ones.
The second season of Younger, the TV Land sitcom that follows Liza (Sutton Foster), a 40-year-old recently divorced mother who pretends to be a 26-year-old in order to land a job in publishing, has been … mostly pretty good. But five episodes into the season, there’s been less publishing stuff and more “Liza getting existential about the whole pretending-to-be-a-millennial thing while also being clearly set up for a love triangle (which is also a metaphor for her existential crisis) with her super-hot tattoo-artist boyfriend and her slightly less hot but still pretty hot in a Sears-model-kind-of-way boss.”
Anyway, this season’s publishing storyline is decidedly less delicious than last season’s, which featured Thorbjørn Harr as a more corporate Karl Ove Knausgaard. Instead, the Younger writers have introduced a Cat Marnell stand-in and an imprint run by Hilary Duff’s character aimed at millennials. (It’s called Millennial Press.) This plotline is fine, but not filled with enough publishing world in-jokes.
Season 2 of Younger should drink from the same well as Season 1 and bring in a pseudonymous, Elena Ferrante-like foreign author who lands a deal with Empirical Press, and Liza is entrusted with protecting her identity. Liza should be great at this, since she’s a pro at hiding her identity—only Liza screws it up due to [millennial stuff]. Younger has given us Knausgaard, and now it must give us Ferrante.
Yesterday, the Cut reported that during a speech at the American Library Association conference, Hillary Clinton listed all of the books she’s been reading with her unexpected time off since November, saying that besides for going on hikes and drinking white wine (relatable), she’s been consoling herself by “going back to the familiar experience of losing myself in books.” As such, there are lots of novels and mystery stories and some uplifting poetry, all of which we’ve gathered below.
My Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels, Book One by Elena Ferrante
A complete breakdown of the whodunits, sagas & poetry volumes helping the former Secretary of State through this difficult time
There are many admirable qualities about former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and her penchant for reading (not just the news and briefings) is one of them. Now that she a bit more free time on her hands, without having to run an entire campaign and all that, she’s seized the opportunity by revisiting old favorites and and discovering a few new books, too. Yesterday, at the American Library Association conference, Clinton indulged the audience with how she likes to spend her free time these days, giving a very relatable answer of drinking wine, hiking, and reading. Sounds about right. She also listed a number of books that have made their way across her nightstand of late, so keep adding to your summer reading lists because she’s named some good ones, and let’s be honest, you want to form a book club with Hillary Clinton. Two glasses of wine in, think of the stories.
1. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
Clinton said that she finished all four of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, which revolve around two female friends who grow up in post-war Italy, and which detail the coming-of-age of not only a strong relationship but of a city and a country. Also focusing on themes such as class and power, these books definitely sound right up our former Secretary of State’s alley. And everyone’s, frankly. There’s a reason why they’re an international sensation.
June 27, 2017
Hillary Clinton has some unexpected free time on her hands these days, and as she told the audience at the American Library Association conference on Tuesday, she’s been filling it with things like hikes, white wine, and reading.The former presidential candidate said that after her election loss, one of the ways she found solace was by “going back to the familiar experience of losing myself in books.”
Then she ticked off what she’s read since November: “I finished Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, I devoured mysteries by Louise Penny, Donna Leon, Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd,” she said. She continued, “I reread old favorites like Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, the poetry of Maya Angelou and Mary Oliver. I was riveted by The Jersey Brothers and a new book of essays called The View From Flyover Country, which turned out to be especially relevant in the midst of our current health-care debate.” (The last is a self-published book of essays by Missouri-based journalist Sarah Kendzior.)
Congratulations to Hillary, who now has more time to read than a person who lives in Washington Heights and commutes to Ditmas Park.
She deserves a break after…well, her entire career.
ROME – France Televisions and Italy’s RAI have joined forces to co-produce a wide range of high-end English-language content for global distribution – including TV dramas, documentaries, animation series and entertainment formats – in a strategic pact meant to counter the growing force of U.S. streaming services in Europe.
Top executives from the two state broadcasters said at a Rome press conference Wednesday that the growth of Netflix and Amazon brought them together in this wide-ranging co-production partnership. France Televisions managing director Xavier Couture even suggested that the pact could be a possible first step of a broader alliance of European pubcasters to counter SVOD juggernauts from the U.S. and elsewhere.
“These players from the U.S., such as Netflix and Amazon, are very powerful, and they all have stories to tell that are not our own,” Couture said in his prepared remarks.
“But Europe is the most powerful cultural region in the world. We can counter them together,” he added.
The France Televisions exec went on to note that “we are the first [members] of a big family that must be the European family of cultural television,” which could include other pubcasters as partners in the future.
In a similar vein, RAI managing director Mario Orfeo noted that “the world of media and television is coming under very strong competition, especially by global players that have more resources.”
“It’s therefore important that RAI, after its agreements with [Franco-German publicly funded network] Arte and [Swiss pubcaster] RSI, forges this alliance,” he said.
Projects in the pipeline are being rigorously kept under wraps, but Variety understands that they include a drama on the origins and expansion of the Mafia, a high-profile documentary on Pompeii, and an animation series set in France.
The agreement between France Televisions and RAI is unusual if not unprecedented because the two prominent pubcasters will develop content together through an ongoing active collaboration between their respective production departments and also single networks. Details about how much each broadcaster will be investing were not disclosed.
Rai accounts for around 70% of Italian TV drama funding. France Televisions also spends hundreds of millions of euros a year on original drama. But both need to make more high-end product as local audiences become more sophisticated thanks to pay-TV and streaming offerings and international sales become crucial to recoup costs.
Couture said that the high-end content that France and Italy would be producing would be English-language “in order to be able to compete on the global market.”
RAI recently made a foray in the international TV arena as a major co-financer of “Medici” and also has crime show “Suburra” in the works, in an unusual partnership with Netflix, as well as a series based on Elena Ferrante’s bestselling novel “My Brilliant Friend” co-financed with HBO. France Televisions is especially strong in documentaries and animation for the international market.
Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend
(HBO; Airdate TBD)
The first of pseudonymous author Ferrante’s four Neapolitan novels is in development as a limited series from HBO and Italy’s RAI, directed by Saverio Costanzo (Hungry Hearts), with Jennifer Schuur (Big Love) as EP. Thus far, the book’s authenticity is intact: Casting started with Naples locals.
Sometimes we saw him climbing up the scaffolding of new buildings that were rising floor by floor, or in a hat made of newspaper, in the sun, eating bread with sausage and greens during his lunch break…”
Even though it is the first of four Neapolitan Novels, finishing My Brilliant Friendby Elena Ferrante left me bereft – or, as my nine-year-old self once said, “end-of-book lonely”. Also it left me feeling guilty: I galloped through the last 60 pages in much the same way I often eat food – greedily and not really chewing properly. What happened between Fernando and Silvio Solara? Why was Marcello wearing the shoes Stefano bought? Answers – and no doubt more questions – would come with book two, which could be bought from the English bookshop near the Spanish steps… It was only 4:30pm: I had more than enough time to get there. Or was that hasty? I would read the last 40 pages again. On the train to Naples.
It is not just Ferrante. Journalist Rachel Donadio is also responsible for my Sunday whim. A few years ago, she wrote an article in the New York Times called Seduced By Naples in which she describes her enduring love for the city, and how, when living in Rome, she would often escape to Naples – “a surefire adrenaline rush, a slap in the face, a semi-failed state only an hour south by train”. Naples had slapped me some years before I read the article – it was the city I arrived in when I first came to Italy – but her words persist, as good writing can, and tempt me. It takes an hour and six minutes to get from Roma Termini to Napoli Central if you catch the Frecciarossa, which I did, leaving a recuperating five-year-old and patient partner watching The Incredibles, beside them a floor fan with a death rattle. “The last train back is at 9:37pm,” Vincenzo reminded me as I closed the front door. “The one after that is 1am,” echoed down the lift shaft with me.
There is nothing like a train journey with a good book, your eyes on the page, but also aware of the world flashing past. The 60 pages reread, and mind now on a Napoli-style charity dinner I was going to help cook in London the next day, I flipped back through the book. References to food punctuate My Brilliant Friend, but in a restrained way – lean details such as the “yellow peach” given to Elena by her dad – which turns out to be a revealing part of Ferrante’s lucid and compelling storytelling. As I walked around the ancient heart of the city on Sunday, all the details were there: a woman washing vegetables, the yellow peach, the scent of frying pizza and so much fruit on a hot day. All this mingled with the the kids on the hot steps, washing; almost violent beauty, breeze blowing in from the sea. “What a sea… the waves rolled in like blue metal tubes carrying an egg white foam on their peaks, then broke in a thousand glittering splinters”.
Then we have Pasquale, the son of a carpenter, in a hat made of newspaper, in the sun, eating greens and sausages during his lunch break. The greens Ferrante mentions are no doubt friarielli. Known as broccoletti in Rome, cime di rapa in Puglia and rapini in Tuscany, friarielli are a slightly bitter cooking green related to both broccoli and turnip tops, with softly spiky leaves and scattered clusters of broccoli-like buds. Opinions and thoughts about how best to prepare these greens are strongly held, and nowhere more than Napoli, where they are often cooked with sausages.
As we prepare the dinner in east London a day later, Paolo, the Neapolitan chef at Campania & Jones just off London’s Columbia Road, warns me never to boil friarielli. Trim rigorously to get rid of tough bits, he continues, then cook them in lots of oil, with chilli, garlic and white wine until tender, then add the sausages.
Not that we have friarielli. It is not the season. But with Ferrante in mind we are cooking greens with sausages. Tenderstem broccoli can tolerate a par boil. We re-cook the florets with olive oil, garlic and chilli until tender – a good bed for meaty sausages. Paolo also prepares tortelli stuffed with aubergine, sartus of rice that seem like little red sandcastles in a puddle of tomato sea, fried dough balls called zeppole, and marinated vegetables. A good cook is a curious one and never too proud to learn something new, he reminds me, then laughs.
The small kitchen and back room are overflowing with goodness: crates of date-shaped tomatoes, cherries, bulbous onions the colour of a bishop’s cassock. Two caprese (chocolate torte) balance on a window ledge, sloshing tubs of putty-coloured batter and wet dough. Containers are brimming with grilled aubergine slices in olive oil. The stove seems alive, sputtering: “Passing by you caught a whiff of spices, of olives and salami, of fresh bread, of pork fat and crackling that made you hungry.” And not just for food.
Sausages and greens
6-8 tbsp olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves
A small red chilli, finely chopped
White wine (optional)
4–8 pork sausages
1 If you are using broccoli, romanesco, sprouting broccoli or tenderstem, trim and cut into florets, then parboil. If you are using broccoletti, friarielli or rapini, just trim away all the tough parts.
2 Warm the oil in a large frying pan. Peel and crush the garlic for a milder flavour; chop it for a fiercer one – then add to the pan with the broccoli, chilli and a pinch of salt. The par-boiled broccoli will need a few minutes until is is ready. Uncooked greens will need longer – and possibly some wine and time under a lid. It should be tender and tangled in the end.
3 Keep an eye on the greens and taste now and then. Cook the sausages in another frying pan or under the grill, then unite them with the greens and leave to mingle for a bit. Serve hot or at room temperature, with bread … possibly wearing a paper hat.
- Rachel Roddy is an award-winning food writer based in Rome and the author of Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome (Saltyard); @racheleats
JEANNE BONNER VISITS THE SALONE DEL LIBRO TO LOOK BEYOND FERRANTE
June 7, 2017 By Jeanne Bonner
Long before arriving this month at the Salone del Libro, an annual book fair in Turin that’s Italy’s largest, I was asking myself this question: where are the great Italian women writers?
I’ve been reading Italian fiction for two decades but this particular question has motivated much of my reading since I discovered Elena Ferrante, the author of The Days of Abandonment and the Neapolitan series of books, beginning with My Brilliant Friend. Her emergence, for me, was like a wakeup call, particularly since she’s created female characters who seethe with ambition, anger and longing. Women with wandering, industrious minds who choose their sexual partners with abandon. Yes!
I want to find more of these female characters, which are particularly well-wrought when created by a woman. So where are the great Italian female writers, doing justice to this topic and genre, and countless others?
Well, in fact, there are many fine Italian women writing fiction and nonfiction today. But other than la Ferrante, few of them appeared on Italian best-of lists at the end of last year or roundups of up-and-coming authors. I know—I scoured the year-end best-of lists, the mid-year versions and a few other lists, too. I also thumbed through suggestions on services like Audible.
Italian women writers, of course, do emerge from these searches—but they never constitute the majority of the writers suggested, or even simply half. Perhaps it sounds like a pedestrian observation or a problem well-known to everyone. But I’m reminded of political protest signs I’ve seen this year: We’re still dealing with this?
It bears mentioning that best-of lists often have currency only within a clubby world of type-A literary folks who keep score on everything.
Yet such lists are a mirror for any society (they also constitute a handy guide for readers and serve as primers for book fairs—more about this shortly). And it is telling that a few of the lists of top Italian books of the year, or recommended reading for the summer, include no women at all!
To wit, the cultural magazine Panorama, one of Italy’s largest weeklies, published a list earlier this year of the ten best Italian novels of the 21st century so far, and included a single woman: Michela Murgia’s Accabadora.
While women are mentioned prominently in places like the magazine Il Libraio and the blog Sul Romanzo, in most roundups, best on best, you’ll find three out of ten spots going to Italian women authors (and sometimes the lists are mixed with foreign authors—notably, foreign women authors at times fare better than Italian women). On its website, the giant publisher Italian Mondadori, for example, includes Simonetta Agnello Hornby and Margaret Mazzantini on a list of top contemporary Italian authors, in addition to Ferrante.
(The same math is at work in this year’s Strega competition, in which three individual women have cracked the list of twelve finalists, including author Wanda Marasco; a fourth woman, who is a co-author, has also been nominated).
This phenomenon is unsettling because the question behind these lists wasn’t how many copies of the books were sold, but which were the best? After all, even prominent male authors of literary fiction and nonfiction sell poorly, reflecting the market’s taste.
By Ella Alexander, 1 June 2017
Until now, author Elena Ferrante has remained quiet about her hugely popular Neapolitan series moving to television screens via HBO. However, as casting begins in Naples for the adaptation of My Brilliant Friend, the famously private author – who works under a pseudonym – has opened up about her involvement in the project.
“For now, my contribution to the set design is limited to a few notes on whether they look right,” she told The New York Times in a rare interview. “As far as the collaboration on the script, I don’t write, I don’t have the technical skills to do it, but I am reading the texts and send detailed notes. I still don’t know if they will take them into account. It is very likely that my notes will be used later on, in the writing of the final draft.”
However, she does want the young characters – including leads Lila and Elena – to be played by newcomers rather than established child actors or actresses. All four books show an unparalleled, compelling look at the complicated friendship of two women who were both born in poverty-stricken 1950s Naples.
“Child actors portray children as adults imagine children to be,” she explained. “Children who are not actors have some chance to break free of the stereotype, especially if the director is able to find the right balance between truth and fiction.”
That said, she appreciates that ultimately casting is not her decision.
“I don’t have this skill set. Sure, I’d very much like to weigh in, but I would do it cautiously and knowing that it is useless to say, ‘Lila has little or nothing to do with that body, that face, that gaze, that way of moving,’ etc,” she said. “No real person will ever match the image that I or a reader have in our minds. This is because the written word, of course, defines but by nature leaves much to reader’s imagination. The visual image instead shrinks those margins.”
Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels have sold two million copies in 39 countries worldwide. Her final book in the series, The Story of the Lost Child, was nominated for the Man Booker Prize. HBO announced news of the show – which will comprise eight episodes – in March this year, although a release date is not yet known. The series will be filmed in Italian with English subtitles.