Monday, April 26, 2010


[Roma Daily News] American student discovering "Gypsies in France."

I hope I am not the only one upset about this tale, of an American
student coming across her first live Gypsies in Paris/France. Her
perception vacillates between the Disney depiction of the Gypsy girl
Esmeralda of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and upon meeting desperate
Gypsies trying to survive by begging and/or stealing in the streets,
snapping to the conclusion that the latter had to be part of their DNA.

Should you blame the girl? We all know racial prejudice starts in the
home. But this is no child, this is a student studying global studies
and history. Her brain should be trained to question before jumping to

What she saw had very little to do with Gypsies. It had everything to do
with poverty. When I was a young girl, living in Italy in the 50's, the
same behavior, theft, pick-pocketing and much worse was common in the
streets of Italy. Then the perpetrators were part of Italy's vast
poverty in a society that to me, a child of war, seemed feudal: The very
rich, little in between, and a vast incredibly poor underclass. They
had the advantage of at least being in the country of their own. The
poor Gypsies the student came across often are refugees of a war in
Yugoslavia, where many were used as human shields. Most of the ones in
the street are homeless, hungry, desperate in a world that doesn't seem
to care.

Friday, April 23, 2010


It's the yearly migration from South to North. A generous fellow 'snow
bird' friend sends me off with "Solar" - 9 CD's, 11.1/2 hours. I try to
protest. Since the written word is the altar at which I worship, I am
very finicky about what I read. I will glance at many a new book, but
refuse to read for the sake of keeping up, or because I have nothing
else to do, which is never. My friend leaves the Audio on my porch.

First day of my 22 hour drive: I insert the first CD of "Solar." It's
the story of a Nobel-price-winning physicist. I grew up among such
persons, there were times when they shared my living space, but their
minds were forever far away. So, listening to tale of such a one, of
course I'm hooked. I am fascinated by the ease with which Ian McEwan's
creates mental labyrinths that lure his reader to explore the hardest
theoretical argument for a lay person to follow; translating complex
science for the consumption of the non-scientific mind. His protagonist,
Michael Beard, goes so far as to get funding for the creation of a
fictional power station, complete with switch, for him to throw, that
would alter energy consumption from polluting to clean.

However, it is during explorations of the personal inner world of
Michael Beard - his agile, problem-solving, work-obsessed mind with the
underlying character of a louse - that I feel most acutely the happy
play of the writer behind the tale. Here his male fantasy reaches
unprecedented heights, as his protagonist - a fat, bald, stingy guy not
only has sex aplenty, but is loved by every female, young and riper,
with whom he crawls into bed, marital or long-term affair. I furthermore
did not come across any dead zones, tempting me to switch to local news.
I cursed the Jersey Turnpike where my mind had to turn to survival in
bumper-to-bumper traffic instead of listening and savoring the exploits,
both mental and physical, of the horny Nobel-prize winning physicist.

I did feel something was missing. But then, in almost every novel,
something is missing. I was curious how other readers felt. Upon my
arrival on the weekend there it was: Front-page - The New York Times
Book Review: Human Orbits, by Walter Kirn:

"According to the perverse aesthetic of artistic guilty pleasure,
certain books and movies are so bad – so crudely conceived, despicably
motivated and atrociously executed – that they're actually rather good.
'Solar,' the new novel by Ian McEwan, is just the opposite: a book so
good – so ingeniously designed, irreproachably high-minded and
skillfully brought off – that it's actually quite bad. Instead of being
awful yet absorbing, it's impeccable yet numbing, achieving the sort of
superbly wrought inertia of a Romanesque cathedral. There's so little
wrong with it that there's nothing particularly right about it, either.
It's impressive to behold but something of a virtuous pain to read."

In other words the reviewer, Walter Kim, pans it. And, once again, I am
struck at how personal the enjoyment and identification with any art
form has been and still is. Of course a review is always someone's
personal opinion, no more. I personally have been often disappointed
when, after reading good reviews, I bought the book, only to find it
painfully mediocre. So reader – beware!

Monday, April 12, 2010


[Roma Virtual Network]: Interview with Adriatik Hasantari by Ariadna.

"I came to work on Roma issues at the end of 2002, so it's been more or
less seven years. I was working in a settlement in Tirana, when
habitants from the north were coming south for housing. We were trying
to use games to work with children, to give them some social life. At
that moment, I began to work with Roma children. The point is, when I
was working with Albanian children, I couldn't get their attention. I
had to give them a banana to get their attention. But Roma children
didn't need fruit. They needed attention and they needed to learn. In
one month in a very poor area, the Roma children were able to write
their names and calculate numbers, and these children were never in
school before."

Bravo! For years now I have been reading nothing but European reports of
how Roma children have to be sent to school for the mentally retarded,
or classrooms set aside specifically for them. I myself, who have been
involved with Roma since childhood, came to the conclusion that whoever
came to these findings needed special education, or maybe some classes
in understanding Roma. Personally, what always struck me when getting to
know Roma, was their eagerness to learn, men and women alike. How
devoted they were to their children, whom they consider their most
valuable assets. How they wanted, like most parents, a better life for them.

I personally found Roma children to be quick and intelligent. They
otherwise could not survive in a world surrounded by hostility and
persecution as is theirs. Of course, Roma parents in many European
countries are hesitant to sending their children to the sorts of school
that treats them as retards or persons to be scorn. Most non-Roma would
refuse to send their children to school under those circumstances.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

WRITERS/READERS ---- Beware of Hype over Substance!

I don't know about you, but as I collapse after a long day's work,
searching for something interesting or funny on TV for relaxation, I
switch through . . . what? Hundreds of channels at my paid-for disposal,
to find mostly reruns of crime shows, sitcoms: rarely do I find a new or
original program.

I was really looking forward to the movie "Avatar". Something different,
I thought, from the typical blockbuster movie. And the technical effects
were indeed extraordinary, poetic at times. But something was missing,
an underlying structure that would have made it great. What was the
missing link?

I had been a great admirer of the first "Star Wars" movie. The technical
effects were superb, the characters original and new. Most of all there
was the storyline that took us on a magic carpet into a world of fantasy
made believable. The alien as well as the human creatures portrayed the
heights and depths of ourselves. The fight between good versus evil, was
one we could and wanted to identify with.

It had precisely what "Avatar" was missing, a great storyline. Writers
create plays and story lines, for movies, for TV shows. Great writers
create work that truly impacts, scenarios that expose our deeper selves.

The U.S. used to have an abundance of such talent. Where has it gone?
Without meaningful literature our culture will have a dark hole at its
core. It will decline and, ultimately, collapse.

We have to recreate an environment where our writers are able to
perform. We have to shrink the hype and allow substance once again to
blossom. Let readers (I know they're out there, waiting), not big
corporations decide what will make it to the top.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

WRITERS UNITE – Before it’s too late.

The New York Review of Books – March 10, 2010
Jason Epstein: PUBLISHING: The Revolutionary Future

"Traditional territorial rights will become superfluous and a worldwide,
uniform copyright convention will be essential. Protecting content from
unauthorized file sharers will remain a vexing problem that raises
serious questions about the viability of authorship, for without
protection authors will starve and civilization will decline....

"The difficult, solitary work of literary creation, however, demands
rare individual talent and in fiction is almost never collaborative.
Social networking may expose readers to this or that book but violates
the solitude required to create artificial worlds with real people in them."

Brilliant article in my favorite literary magazine. Thank you Jason Epstein.

More to follow……………

Leave comments, let's find a way to unite and find a system not only to
work together, but to reach out for our readers and their support.