Swans Commentary: Letters to the Editor - letter178



Letters to the Editor

(November 16, 2009)


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Reviewing parts of the November 2, 2009, issue

To the Editor:

I was thrilled to see how well you corrected my spelling of Amboseli, and used my pictures of Charlie, the one-tusk elephant, at first eluding our TV film truck, and then, alas, serving as a meal for hyenas, jackals, maribou storks etc. Pridefully, I read my son Steve Shay's hilarious take on Seattle, especially the seemingly related names, etc.

But then I became a bit downcast that you assigned to seed-dispenser me alone Steve's provenance in this naughty world. I couldn't do it alone. But I cheered up a lot when Raju Peddada gave full credit to Steve's mother, my wife, progenitoress of Steve's smart genes, the "brilliant Florence Shay." My renowned resident rare book dealer and proprietress of the famous "Titles Inc." establishment in Highland Park, IL, for handing over Boccaccio's Decamaron to the redoubtable and remarkable Indian whose tepee happens to be lodged in the Chicago area. And whose work tightens and improves from month to month.

It brought back to me one of my favorite Decameron stories: "The Merry Nuns of Poissy" -- unless I'm misremembering a dirty story Maugham told about a work by Rabelais. Dirty 15th century tales were all a blur to me in my 15th year anyway. In any case, the nuns of Poissy built an outdoor four-wall handball court to hide their pool and their nakedness in it, from the prying eyes of God. Either nonagenarian Maugham or an equivalent very old and naughty party scolded the nuns' lack of faith: That a God capable of vision and miracles from the distance of his infinite heaven, would be frustrated at four mere walls and a few shards of cloth covering the largely unused sexual organs of the Nuns of Poissy. But it took Raju to evoke the sanctimonious sisters for me, mutatis mutandis, whatever the provenance of their tale and tails.

Of course Peddada tells me more about the plague than I wanted to read over my ragout, but it's good to have him point out that there are diseases other than Conservatismus Rampantis capable of swift-as-a boat bringing down our society by dint of a few ignorant lousy louses. Hurrah for Marowitz's bleak picture of the once possible, God forbid, McCain-Palin hegemony.

I have accordingly put some coins in your tin cup, perhaps to help fix your roof, which, unlike most "health" insurance companies, covers all in this room.

Art Shay
Deerfield, Illinois, USA - November 2, 2009


Aztecs, not Incas; Cortés, not Cortéz: Isidor Saslav's The Great Meyerbeer-Mendelssohn Mystery

To the Editor:

Dealing with Cortez's conquest of the Incas some 300 years previously in Peru, Spontini's opera was actually meant as a piece... It should be The Aztecs (in Mexico).

Furthermore, the real name of Cortéz was Hernán Cortés (written with "s"). There was a longer name composed by many family names, of which one is Pizarro, hence the confusion with Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of the Inca Empire in Peru-Bolivia.

The article is very good.


Mansur E. Azzam
Buenos Aires, Argentina - November 2, 2009


A Movie about Tiziano Terzani

To the Editor:

Tiziano Terzani is a name familiar to the readers of Swans Commentary. Gilles d'Aymery introduced and made available his Letters Against the War on September 8, 2008, and again on June 1, 2009. Martin Murie reflected on the Letters in releases from July to September 2009 (check them out here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). The Italian daily La Repubblica of October 9 now informs us that a movie is being made about Terzani. It's set where the writer spent his last days, at Orsigna in the Apennines between Tuscany and Emilia.

The movie is based on a book by Tiziano's son Folco, La fine é il mio inizio ("The End is My Beginning"). The book records the conversations Folco had with his father during the last three months of his life. The great German actor Bruno Ganz will play Tiziano. He's pleased that the film would not rely on flashbacks: "It's a challenge, but I prefer actors in movies to tell stories rather than to be in stories." Ganz says he liked the sincerity, passion, and courage that can be felt in the book. He personally is wary of the mixture of "Zen Buddhism-yoga-guru" but insists that the spirituality of Terzani had nothing to do with new-age fashion.

Tiziano has always been very popular in Germany, and it's not surprising that a German production company, in collaboration with the Italian RAI, chose to make the movie. Let's hope that evoking this admirable Italian goes some way to restoring Italy's reputation in the world. The present prime minister, a septuagenarian billionaire playboy in elevator shoes, and his coalition of village xenophobes have done everything to create the image of a vulgar, populist regime.

Peter Byrne
Lecce, Italy - November 10, 2009


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Published November 16, 2009
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