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Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Writer's Life 9/22 - The Old Old Neighborhood

Most writers work in obscurity. For every best selling author, there are thousands whose victories are merely moral. Rising from the bottom rung to a blip on the radar is an achievement I would love to attain. I'm not sure how high Gilda Ciani Sferra ever climbed. Recently, Papa Was a Poet, published in 1964, came into my possession, I immediately noted the name of Italian origin and was surprised I'd never heard it. She had only one other book published, Virgilia in 1989, which is described at as: "... Vantage Press, 1989. [An autobiographical novel based on the life of an Italian immigrant woman.]" I wish I'd found that one. The oddest aspect about Papa Was a Poet is that there is not a single Italian-American character in it. It involves a loving family of six, presumably WASPs - or Waspehseh, as Frankie "Five Angels" Pentangeli so memorably dubs them in The Godfather Part II (1974). They live in a Greenwich Village building bequeathed to them by an uncle, and struggle to make ends meet as the father tries to produce poems for publication and pay. The year is 1911. They are invited to spend the summer in a part of Brooklyn that was a resort, Bath Beach, until the Belt Parkway was constructed. It's my old neighborhood. That was the other factor that drew me to the book. To be fair, there were probably no, or very few, Italians there at that time. The story is told from the point of view of an eleven-year-old girl, the eldest child. It never rises above pleasant. It is a tad overwritten, even at a mere 111 pages. The adult version of the character, whom I assume is reminiscing, should have brought more polish to the narrative. In the end, everything falls into place nicely. The last chapter is titled All's Well That Ends Well. The copy I have, which is in fair-to-good condition, was signed by the author "To Tina, Bobbie and Louis - Love." The asking price for the one, also signed, at the the aforementioned site is $145. I'd guess that only a collector of books by Italian-Americans would pay such a sum. Here's a picture of the place where the family stayed, The Bay Plaza Hotel, which stood at Bay 22nd Street and Cropsey Avenue, less than a mile from our old house, where my sister still lives. There's a copyright on the photo. As we said in Brooklyn back in the day - Don't rat me out:

Here's another gem from the NY Post's Weird But True Column, in my own words: An employee of the Royal Canadian Mint smuggled out $140,000 worth of gold nuggets by hiding them in his rectum. Although they set off the metal detector, a thorough search failed to find the pieces. He wasn't busted until he sold large amounts and wired the proceeds overseas. Authorities found Vaseline in his locker. No word about Ex-Lax.

My thanks to the kind folks who bought books on this glorious day. I had a visit from Political Man, who immediately tore into Donald Trump, dubbing him a Nazi. There was also an appearance by Al the Mensch, whom I hadn't seen in months. True to form, he purchased a paperback of Thucydides History of the Pelopponesean War.
Vic's Short Works:
Vic's 5th Novel:'s 4th novel:
Vic's 3rd Novel:
Vic's Short Story on Kindle:
Vic's Short Story Collection:
Vic's 2nd Novel: Kindle:
Vic's 1st Novel:

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