Carolyn Turgeon’s Heart Belongs to Nanni

carolyn-turgeon.jpgCarolyn Turgeon is different from the authors who usually make guest appearances here, in that she and I have a long-running rivalry at Scrabble (at which she currently, damn her, has the advantage). Tomorrow night, she’ll be reading from her debut novel, Rain Village, at the Astor Place Barnes & Noble, and then heading out to a nearby tiki bar for a party that, I’ve been led to believe, will include “fire eaters, sword swallowers, burlesque girls, an old-time vaudeville band, and pink cupcakes.” So that sounds like it’ll be fun. In the meantime, she’s here to tell us about one of her favorite stories.

It was in an Italian literature class in college that I first read “La Lupa” (“The She-Wolf”) by the late nineteenth-century Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga, and lost my heart.

How could you not love Verga? He was famous for verismo, naturalist writing rooted to the harsh realities of peasant life in Sicily, but to my mind there is no bigger drama queen than this man, and this is pure diva fiction: mothers crying over their dead sons; men losing their mind and crawling on their bellies in front of churches as penance; women stalking through the countryside in the burning afternoon, ravenous with lust; hot ax-wielding men covered in the grease of fermenting olives.

I don’t know a more lusty, ravenous woman in literature than Pina, the title character of “La Lupa.” I mean, just look at the story’s first lines: “She was dark-haired, tall and lean, with firm, well-rounded breasts, though she was no longer young, and she had a pale complexion, like someone forever in the grip of malaria. The pallor was relieved by a pair of huge eyes and fresh red lips that looked as though they would eat you.”

I love her the way I love Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. Imagine Marlene Dietrich setting her formidable gaze on a poor olive farmer with the unfortunate name of Nanni. No one would be able to match her, or resist her. For Pina, it doesn’t matter that she has a grown daughter and spends her days working in the fields. She’s hot! She’s even made a priest lose his soul. As often as I myself pass in front of churches swinging my hips, I have yet to even come close to this. And she always has bright red lips, no matter how many hours she slaves in the fields, while I have to reapply “Wine with Everything” on the hour. And Pina wastes no time on small talk or stolen glances: instead, “she would gobble up their sons and their husbands in the twinkling of an eye with those red lips of hers.”

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13 November 2006 | guest authors |

Read This: Ron Hogan’s SF Debut: Free!

Subterranean Press has just created a free PDF download of John Scalzi’s special cliché-driven issue of Subterranean, the science fiction magazine that includes the short story “In Search of…Eileen Siriosa,” an untold tale from my research for The Stewardess Is Flying the Plane!. As Scalzi says:

“Just about every writer out there has a story they would dearly love to do but could never justify actually writing, because its very beating heart is a cliché so old and worn out that there would be no chance of actually selling it—clichés so advanced in years that even Hugo Gernsback would send back the story with a handwritten note: ‘Look, kid. It’s been done.’ And now, finally, an excuse to bang that story out! It’s like Christmas!”

13 November 2006 | read this |

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