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Old 10-29-2007, 02:48 PM   #21
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Well! You sound really with her. I take it you've never met her?
Sometimes a book gives a different picture of an author than who they are in real life. Maybe that's the way it is on the forum too...
Turns out another boy in the group is her nephew, they were invited up for a day trip...She and her husband were very nice to them. Son had a wonderful time.

Don't worry I'll not mention to him what you wrote.

MinnesotaEats -
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Old 10-29-2007, 08:42 PM   #22
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Being European myself, I understand the concept of siesta. My grand parents practiced it religiously. In the small town where they lived everything was closed between noon and 2:00 p.m. It was 30 years ago and things have changed a lot since. Nobody naps anymore. Personally napping messes me up. If I take a nap, I have a hard time waking up again and I feel tired for the rest of the afternoon. I used to get in trouble in kindergarten because I would refuse to nap in the afternoon.

Anyways, I can confirm that in most of Europe the concept of FIRE is very foreign. Except for those born with money, most people work the 35-40 years required to get a decent social security check or government pension.

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Old 10-29-2007, 09:48 PM   #23
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No, I haven't.. can't say that I want to.. which doesn't mean she's a bad person or anything necessarily. Nephew or no nephew there's still the Huck Finn factor!!! That's not to say Huck may not have a blast -- win/win, yeh?

There's a complicated dynamic when one's an expatriate, since different "co-ex-pats" have different motives as well as different means. Someone --like Ms. Mayes when she wrote her book-- who has 1.) oodles of cash, 2.) hadn't bothered to have learned the language, and 3.) is only creating a vacation home and not trying to live a life 24/7 in a new country ... is leaving themselves open to criticism whether jealousy-tinged or not. "Buying" one's self a Tuscan backdrop has been, for a period, a road to riches or at least to some level of interest/cachet for an American.. and none has been more prominent than Mayes in our generation.. whether she deserves the lion's share of the credit/blame or not. I actually feel embarassed when US folks ask me where I am at in Italy; I want to say ANYwhere but Tuscany.. and people like her are the reason why. Sting lives 'around the corner' but, to his credit, he doesn't have a furniture line.

Yes, it strikes a nerve. Because the people who actually live here are so much better/worse than the quick, short-term impressions she has managed to cash in on. Forget the Tuscan sun.. what about the Tuscan rain we experience Oct.-May? What about the unemployment, esp. among the young? What about the absence of free speech? The endemic corruption? What about the average take-home salary of $1200-$1500/mo. - barely enough to tile one of Frances' bathroom floors sans labor? What about the extreme and deep-rooted racism and parochialism? (when we left our rented house to move about 15 km away the old post office guy said: "From town X comes no good, not even the wind..").. Quaint grande-dame frustrations with picturesque laborers barely scratch the surface.

God.. I just went to her website and am like to vomit:
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes - Reader's Guide - Books - Random House
16. As the book draws to a close, Mayes asks rhetorically, "Doesn't everything reduce in the end to a poetic image--one that encapsulates an entire experience in one stroke?" (p. 256). In your opinion, which image or scene best "encapsulates the entire experience" of Mayes's time in Italy?
My answer: the publisher's check she cashed. The 'stroke' is her signing the back.

I'm thrilled (really!) that your son had a great time!! Better to leave stones unturned on occasion..

Like I said, there are other worthwhile memoirs of Italy without the overbearing Martha-style treatment; check out also "The Dark Heart of Italy". If you KNEW Martha Stewart, I'm sure you'd have a fine time at her place.. that doesn't make her any more tolerable to mere mortals. Or to her gardeners.

Look, this likely seems just sour grapes.. not exactly. Mayes' swooning is part of the picture-postcard of Italy, that's all.. and her 'tribulations' are ones few, if any, Italians have -- they only wish they could! They don't have her problems because they can't afford them. More than I resent her cashing in, I just want people to see the reality.

The Italians are very fascinated with San Francisco. When they ask where I'm from, they say, "Oh! The most beautiful city." So they're very attracted to these new, beautiful cities. And it's interesting knowing people there. Knowing they grew up in these little stone towns. And you think about what it would be like to be with them in a fast-paced contemporary city. It's quite mind-blowing for them. The Italians I've talked to who have been to America have really hated the food. They loathe the food. But I think often they're on some awful tour and they get taken to the places where the food isn't that great.
1.) (fascinated with San Francisco) No, they are not.

2.) (very attracted to these new, beautiful cities) No, (in general) they are not. Most are appalled at a.) lack of health care, which they view as barbaric; b.) violence and crime and facility of obtaining weapons; c.) too much 'openness'.. they can't understand yards that are not fenced, or, often, 2nd, 4th, 10th-story windows without grilles; d.) the lack of 'culture' and history. What they (primarily the young) are attracted to is: more money, more space, and more social freedom, in roughly that order.

I was just watching the right-wing ex-finance minister on TV talking about "precarious employment' (basically any kind of either part-time or non-100%-lifetime-guaranteed labor arrangement) and he was saying.. "in America it's ok.. in Italy we need our goal to be fixed jobs; that's just the way we are." He's unfortunately right.

3.) It is not "mind-blowing" for them (like they are some kind of Amerindian/African Pygmy 'savages' brought to meet the Queen).. Rome, Milan and Naples are fast-paced cities far more "mind-blowing" than SF, dear. Italians now have all of Europe at their doorstep for €19 one-way on RyanAir. Amsterdam, London, and Barcelona are contemporary points of reference. I have never heard any Italian say Word One about San Francisco. Mayes here suffers from the syndrome of not understanding that: Italians tell you what they think you want to hear. This is not 'lying' per se.. it is just considered polite. Like when the workman tells you he'll be back 'tomorrow', right, Frances? - He just doesn't want to risk an unpleasant moment.

4.) My DH loves American food, esp. TGIF and ethnic stuff as long as there is NO CILANTRO.. but most Italians hew to their tradition with no respect for any objective measure of "quality". A majority of people I have met here would turn up their noses equally at a $$$ dinner at Nobu and at a roast beef sandwich at Arby's. Their patrimony is exquisite truffle dishes as much as it is stale crustless mayonnaise and hotdog (ingredients listed in order of descending weight) sandwiches at the local bar, and they'll vigourously defend both against any food perceived as "foreign".

In general, Italians "hate" all food that is not made by their mother or grandmother OR, secondarily, does not come from their town. In Rome, I knew of ONE Neapolitan restaurant. Neapolitan cuisine is, to Romans, a foreign cuisine. Naples is 1 1/2 hours away from Rome by car/train. Italians have a lot of food hangups. I can't find bread with salt in it.. though if I traveled 45 min. that exotic delicacy would be conceded me. My BIL's mother makes a big stink about eating anything at our house, no matter how traditionally it is prepared. She makes a big stink about eating ANYone's cooking but her own. She has given especial torment to her DIL over 40+ years. You can shut her up, I have heard, by giving her a roasted lamb's head (which she loves). I have yet to try that tack.

Italy is only "poetic", in Mayes' effluvient positive sense, about 5% of the time.. And this is coming from someone who WANTED to be here. I don't deny someone the right to package the fake fumes of a dying museum culture for US consumption and make a buck off it. Just don't expect me to be cheering on the sidelines. I have 5 years of backdated TV tax to pay (over $900) despite living in the house for only 3 years (not worth contesting), the hotshot bigtime plumber I called to replace a leaky radiator valve a.) put the replacement adjustable thermostatic valve in upside down so I can't read the numbers, and b.) made the bottom connnector, which wasn't leaking, now leak WORSE than the original leak. Try to solve one problem and get two.. how utterly.. CHARMING!

I could go on for another few pages.. the town administration stealing all the town's paving stones, the 'poison meatballs' regularly left out for pets and stray and wild animals to eat, the bribes you have to pay to get work.. oh yeah, boy.. it's a dream alright! And we are in the "good" zone!

more if you can stand it:
The renovation and interior decoration of Bramasole have lead to a new furniture line, At Home in Tuscany, featuring 85 pieces, now available at Drexel Heritage stores nationwide. (866-450-3434; Drexel Heritage: Fine Furniture for the Living Room, Dining Room, Bedroom and Home Office )

DOI: I've heard rumors that you no longer live at now legendary Bramasole. Do you still live in the vicinity of Cortona?

FM: We live at Bramasole over half the year. The other property we bought is a 12th century house built by the followers of St. Francis. We have done an historical restoration of the hermitage, which we will use as a retreat and as a place for our many guests.
... A lunch with a fine bottle of Brunello in Montalcino, ..., and a weekend at Il Falconiere (39-0575-612679; Il Falconiere, Relais e Chateaux in Tuscany), a divine country inn outside Cortona.
The Dream Interview: Frances Mayes (Under the Tuscan Sun)

She needs to retreat from the retreat! The Brunello will set you back rock-bottom $40/bottle for the cheapest vintage in a shop; likely double in a restaurant. We stopped by the Falconiere and toured it when we were planning our wedding and kept on going when we found the room prices to be MINIMUM $400/night (the grounds were not even all that nice).

We can find quite decent wine for $1.50 (not a typo) per bottle. Dan, I wish I still had my copy of UTTS (which I gave away). I could quote you some beauts. The woman is a riot.

Ed (the dogsbody) is a writer as well?

Yes. He's a poet. He has a new book of poems called Works and Days, it's published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. It won a major poetry award. He's written five books of poetry.

Do you have the same last name?

Yes. Mayes. His name was Kleinschmidt. And when we got married we wanted to have the same name and I said: Honey, I'm not going there. I am not going to be Kleinschmidt in this lifetime. I just didn't like that name at all: it was so heavy. And he was tired of spelling it. His parents were dead, so they wouldn't get upset. So he took Mayes. He's an enlightened man. Very enlightened.

What year was this?

We just got married two years ago.
Interview | Frances Mayes

I think it's swell she her kept her name. In fact, in Italy it's the norm that the husband and wife keep their last names (and it's actually far more difficult to change one's name than in the US). The funny part is him giving up HIS.. because it's "too tiring"! Guys wanna psycho-analyze this please? Am I out of line?

Sometimes a book gives a different picture of an author than who they are in real life. Maybe that's the way it is on the forum too..
hee hee.. Dan, I guarantee I can rant equally well in person! Sorry this is so long but it's hard not to comment on someone pretending to "intimately portray" your neck of the woods.

FIREdreamer, even those born with money here seem incapable of stepping off the social and career treadmill. We know a very rich lawyer couple whose parents and grandparents were (of course) lawyers, and they will never stop no matter how much they make. Our doctor is a "nobleman" in the same boat. Downsizing is never a strategic option, but an assumed admission of failure. Even the rich politicians and nobility and playboys/girls have to "work" at their leisure, it seems!
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Old 10-30-2007, 12:44 AM   #24
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Doctors, Lawyers, Notaries and Politicians have represented the local Elite in European society for centuries (the notables as they are usually referred to). They draw their particular status from their profession and not from their wealth (which most people keep secret in Europe as you know). Therefore a lot of them continue practicing even when they already are wealthy so that they can keep enjoying their particular status. The title, more than the money, is what matters.

I have to admit I liked the movie "under the Tuscan sun". Yes it may not be an exact representation of what Tuscony really is, but I think this is what Tuscany looks like through her eyes. She is selling a dream, a vision of Italy both beautiful and romantic which many Americans seem to buy into, her included. You say that Italy is poetic only about 5% of the time. But I think that when Americans and others travel to Tuscany, those are the 5% they are looking for and finding: the old towns, the rolling hills, the olive trees, the old villas sprinkled all over the countryside... Nobody wants to see unemployment lines...

When I first arrived in the US about 10 years ago, my vision of the US was much different from what it is today. At first, I saw the US I imagined I would find: the big cars, the skyscrapers, the McMansions, money everywhere... Now that I have been here for a while, I realize that my vision of America was terribly superficial. Driving through the countryside of the midwest and the south, I found an America you rarely see in the movies. One that's not "advertised", yet one that exists. As a tourist you might marvel at the beauty of Manhattan and its skyscrapers, the symbolism of the statue of liberty, or the power of Wall street, but would you drive around the immigrant neighborhoods where the taxi drivers, shoe shiners and sweat shop workers live? Probably not, yet those people are the blood running through the city's veins.

Unless you spend a significant amount of time immersed in an other culture, it's easy to get caught up in cliches and miss the real picture...
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Old 10-30-2007, 01:28 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by FIREdreamer View Post
Unless you spend a significant amount of time immersed in an other culture, it's easy to get caught up in cliches and miss the real picture...
Not only is it easy to miss reality, many travelers want to miss reality. What they seek is cliches; their perceptions are too gross to register anything more subtle. Just like when in the mood for a movie, most would rather go see Ratatouille than Wild Strawberries.

"As a general rule, the more dangerous or inappropriate a conversation, the more interesting it is."-Scott Adams
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Old 10-30-2007, 05:22 AM   #26
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FIREDreamer + ha, I agree 100%!!!

I haven't seen the movie, but have heard many say that it's much better than the book. The book, which I read, is shot through with condescension and superiority. You get the sense the author is a highly-acquisitive person and is buying (and now re-selling) a package dream just like so many others catering to tourists. Which is fine as far as it goes...that's the biggest industry we have in this area.. just be aware that her "dream" (of getting back to basics with all the poetry, etc.) is actually particularly co$tly and in no way basic. I give her props like I give Martha Stewart, for cashing in on people's need for fantasy.

It's just that she, out of all the similar authors (and there are dozens), just gets up my nose with her tone, and when I heard about the volunteer fence-painting olive-picking I admit I blew a gasket!

Anyone wanna come and fix my stone wall for free? It's in TUSCANY!!! The mason we talked to about it IN MARCH has been taking a six-month siesta!

[Funny comment by my visiting Mom in Montalcino (we were drinking the cheaper Rosso, not the Brunello, n.b.).. looking around at the shades of ochre and the ancient walls, and the peeling wooden shutters and the Roman statue in its alcove: "It looks POOR.. they should buy some paint and fix it up!!!!" I almost died laughing and told her people spend a ton to come and be surrounded by picturesque cruftyness.]

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