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524458_closed sign. jpgIn Italy it was Ferragosto, yesterday…

A bleaker Ferragosto, this year – because of what happened in Genoa the other day, with the motorway bridge collapsing – but still, Ferragosto.

Feriae Augusti, back in the day (and the day was 18 b.C.) when Augustus thought it both nice and expedient to have a public festival right after the harvest season, and named it after himself.

It used to be a mixed affair of rest and play for men and beasts, a holiday of eating and drinking toasts to the Emperor, horse races, a day of rest even for oxen and donkeys… Continue reading


Before and After


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HensloweBWThere is no doubt that, when it comes to researching historical novels, there is a Before the Internet and an After the Internet.

I daresay the same applies to a lot of fields – but let me stick to mine: I’m old enough to remember a time when, if you were Italian and wanted, say, to read Henslowe’s Diary, your best option was a trip of several hundred kilometers – to read the book in Bologna or Venice, supposing someone had told you that Nineteenth Century copies of JP Collier’s edited version were to be found there at all*… Continue reading

The Lazy Month of August


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Yes, yes – what with the heat, and so many people going on vacation, and work slowing down*, August is a lazy month: time thickens and slackens, and one wants to slow down as well.

It’s that time of the year when I begin to toy with notions of a reading week: Henry Treece, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Sabatini, and a few more are singing like paper sirens – or digital sirens in a few cases. Continue reading

The road not written – another writing prompt


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Do you remember last Saturday’s post, and the prompt with the anthropomorphised cities?

Well, a couple of interesting things happened because of that post. The first is Davide Mana‘s take on the game – which, it seems, has produced not only four lovely sketches, but also the resurrection of an old and intriguing project of his.

And then, in the comments, Davide Tessitore wrote this… Continue reading

London is a Teenager (Writing Promtps)


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There are heaps of writing prompt sites, out there. Really: the Net is a-swarm with them – and, under other circumstances, I might have missed Writing Prompts

And it would have been a shame – because, you see, I came across it via this prompt…

…And, while I don’t particularly think that London is a teenager, I was definitely hooked. I followed the link, and found the site’s page of prompts for history and social studies, filled with other equally interesting and unusual prompts.

The site’s author, you see, is a teacher, and uses these prompts in the class, but they are perfect for grown-ups too, I find – all the more because it’s not so often that one finds history-geared prompts. I’m most definitely giving a few of them a try – either for my own freewriting, or with my Scribblers group…

What about you, o Readers? What is, for instance, your city? And why?



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Some historical characters seem so very, very perfect for fictional treatments, don’t they? Whether they have lived enormously interesting lives, full of drama and colour, or we know tantalizingly little about them – just enough to make us want to fill the gaps – they practically beg to be written. Continue reading

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times


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Oh yes, July 14th and all that… And since we were discussing Dickens, and mentioned A Tale of Two Cities, I thought I’d put here a very, very old and very compressed silent version of Sydney Carton’s story:

Yes – the whole tale in little more than twenty minutes… Well, it was thirty minutes, originally – because this 1911 ATotC was released as a three-reeler*, but only this two-reel version survives. Still, who knows, maybe the complete one will turn up someday… These things keep happening, don’t they?

Meanwhile, it is always fascinating to see how screenwriters worked back then, with the need to cram several hundred pages of plot and characters into a handful of minutes. True, sometimes they relied on a reasonable certainty that their audiences already knew the story – and this might well be one such case – but we can’t tell for sure, because we still miss one third of the adaptation as it was originally conceived by Eugene Mullin.

For one thing, who knows whether the half-hour version would still have one little title card informing us that it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…?


* Three weekly one-reel installments, actually – and wouldn’t Dickens have loved that!

Dickens for (Italian) Children


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A few days ago I was talking books with a reasonably educated and definitely adult acquaintance – and, on saying that I’ve read a good deal of Dickens through the years, I earned a raised eyebrow and this question: but isn’t Dickens a children’s author?

Right then I raised an eyebrow in turn – but I have to admit that my acquaintance had reasons to think so. Very Italian reasons that have little to do with the audience Dickens wrote for… Continue reading