June 2006


With all this talk of immigration…


…we cannot help but reflect on our own roots so firmly tied to the immigrant experience.

It is the source of inspiration for the naming of our small company, Domenica Press (discussed elsewhere on this website), and as the current issue of the magazine primo: A Taste of Italy in America ( reminds us, it wasn’t always all peaches and cannolis for Italian immigrants either.


“Cristogianni Borsella has recently written a book that probes the issue of Italian persecution throughout American history. He says a similar debate on immigration happened during the early 1900’s but the focus was on Italian immigrants back then, instead of Hispanics.”

“Italians went through the same treatment that Hispanics are experiencing today, Borsella says.”

Mr. Borsella goes on to add:


“The racism and criticism of Hispanics are more subtle now than they were back then for Italians, who were publicly derided and often brutalized. You had Ku Klux Klan rallies directed against Italian immigrants…newspaper editorials proclaiming Italians an inferior race…mass expulsions…many Americans were outraged that Italian Americans were ‘stealing’ their jobs and working for cheap wages.”

We remember one such immigrant in particular, whom we eulogized and followed up with a poem, some 15 years ago.



Elegy for an Old Immigrant Man


Who will speak for this man?

I will.

And I will tell of untold heroics.
And anointed with the rush of his spirit—
a baptism of transference—
put him in armor
and send him back in time;

a free fall through history and imagination:

a triumphant Garibaldi marching through…
Customs at Ellis Island.

Who will speak for this man?

I will.

And I will mourn with words well chosen,
in a voice bent but unbroken
placing his passing in a far greater context,
         (in the Anglo-Saxon manner?)
forsaking the demonic shrieks of bereavement,
and abandonment of self
to open caskets and open graves,
flailing at Lucifer
grief by ukase…
         (our way?).

Who will speak for this man?

I will.

And filled with the indulgence
of a moment behind the pulpit
         and a latent contempt for the cloth,
I will raise my voice to the empty choir
evoking Genesis—
         the forbidden fruit,

and the startling parallels
of the family folktale,
several times retold:

of the peasant from Calabria
who once put an apple
on the table before his children
and forbade them to eat it.
And unlike Eve,
they abstained.

And the apple stood there
in perpetuity,
then disposed of
by him—
The Father—

a parabolic lesson in respect!

Who will speak for this man?

I will. I must.

—Ron Vazzano

*                                 *                                 *


Marilyn at 80

On June 1st of this year, Marilyn Monroe would have been 80 years old; an image as unimaginable as the death of any legend in the prime of their lives. Although granted, it is not easy to picture a frail JFK at his 89th birthday party this past May 29th, with Martin Luther King (age 77) in attendance, either. Or how about James Dean at 76? Lennon at 66?

But of all these and the many others, Marilyn is arguably, one of the most enduring and beloved American icons of the 20th Century.

Forty-four years following her death— one that has been the source of renewed speculation these last couple of years— her legacy continues to grow. It is beyond us to try to fully understand why that is so; why a 12 year old female “altar server” (“altar boys” are an anachronism) we saw last Sunday after mass, was wearing a Marilyn T-shirt under her cassock.

In lieu of that, we offer a piece we wrote last year on the 50th anniversary of The Seven Year Itch, and never got to post on this site. It is our favorite Marilyn movie (with Some Like It Hot right behind…so to speak).


*                                 *                                 *


The Da Vinci Comb?

You started to sense in the pre-release “buzz” that this was ultimately going to be much ado about nothing, when discussion turned to the “do” itself. As in the lament: “What’s up with Tom Hanks’ hair?”

We must admit a couple of things at the outset:


1) That we anticipated a far greater fuss over this film. (Though certainly no acts of terrorism)

2) That we felt the critics would not like it, even had there been a “better ‘Hank’ of hair.”

Having now seen the film and gotten a sense of movie goer and critic response, we put our own two cents in:


1) Christians need not worry. Christ comes out of this smelling like a rose.

KEY QUESTION: If you really want to center a mystery around the issue of disproving Christ’s divinity, shouldn’t the focus be on finding HIS tomb? HIS remains? Finding out what happened with HIM following HIS death? Not that of HER…er, well, we had better not say more, for the 12 people who still don’t know the plot by now.

2) We were right that critics wouldn’t like it…but for the wrong reasons.

Most of the criticism is grounded in the fact that, in and of itself, it is not a bad movie, but that it follows so closely, what was a bad book. Or at least a bad piece of literature.

.But can you knock a film that sticks closely to a book that sold 40 million copies?

The critics’ irritations with this film, is best captured in A.O. Scott’s review in The New York Times. He is clearly predisposed to not liking this film—finding many nits to pick— while yet grudgingly acknowledging some of its accomplishments. A few his excerpts with our italicized comments:


"The Da Vinci Code" …is one of the few screen versions of a book that may take longer to watch than to read. …

And yet he does note that: “the director (Ron Howard) and Goldsman have streamlined Mr. Brown's story and refrained from trying to capture his, um, prose style."


“But thank the deity of your choice for Ian McKellen, who shows up just in time to give "The Da Vinci Code" a jolt of mischievous life. He plays a wealthy and eccentric British scholar named Leigh Teabing.”

As this is a major character, this “jolt” is no small contribution.


“In spite of some talk (a good deal less than in the book) about the divine feminine, chalices and blades, and the spiritual power of sexual connection, not even a glimmer of eroticism flickers between the two stars.”

Maybe Mr. Scott, because it wasn’t in the book? And that to do so would have then been fodder for critics to carp, that here was Hollywood once again adding gratuitous sex to an otherwise PG. story, that truly had no romantic angle between the Robert Langdon and Sophie Nevue characters.

“Theology aside…"The Da Vinci Code" is above all a murder mystery. And as such, once it gets going, Mr. Howard's movie has its pleasures.”


If it sounds as if we liked this movie…we did. And as a bonus, we had no problem with Tom Hanks’ hair. Especially since we are trying desperately to hang on to our own and tend to favor of content over style, on this issue.

*                                 *                                 *


The answer is: Another terrific novel!

What hath Roth got?


Philip Roth has done it, still once again.

Following up on his last book in 2004, the critically acclaimed best seller, The Plot Against America— a 1984-ish tale—he has now switched gears with a beautifully written short novel Everyman, which dares to look mortality in the eye. And mortality blinks.

How’s this for an opening sentence:


AROUND THE GRAVE in the rundown cemetery were a few of his former advertising colleagues from New York, who recalled his energy and originality and told his daughter, Nancy, what a pleasure it had been to work with him.

And it concludes with one of the most poignant scenes involving the business of gravediggers, since Act V, Scene I of Hamlet.

In between, it’s about life. The distance covered. The triumphs and mistakes that get made along the way.

As a note of interest, “Everyman takes its title from an anonymous fifteenth-century allegorical play, a classic of early English drama, whose theme is the summoning of the living to death.”

Philip Roth continues to be at the absolute top of his game as a novelist, even after the almost 50 years since the publication of his first book, Goodbye Columbus, in 1959.

A few weeks ago in the Book Review section of the New York Times, an esteemed panel of 125 prominent writers, critics and editors, listed their picks for the best work of American fiction of the last 25 years. No, Roth didn’t come out on top. Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987) was “the winner.” But of the 22 novels that got multiple votes, Philip Roth had five books represented, including one of the four “runners-up.” It is truly amazing for a writer to be that prolific and simultaneously, that good.


*                                 *                                 *


Word-of-the-Month Club

As taken from The Superior Person’s Second Book of Weird & Wondrous Words by Peter Bowler; a gift from our daughter in 2003:

GYNOTIKOLOBOMASSOPHILE n. Someone who likes to nibble on a woman’s earlobe.

“This one is reported in the amazing dictionary of verbal exotica compiled by Mrs. Josefa Heifetz Byrne (the daughter of Jascha Heifetz, incidentally).

“One for the Personals:

Gynotikolobomassophile wishes to meet a woman with large ears.’”


*                                 *                                 *



Web Design by Computaid
Copyright © 2004-2007