Stuck in Italy—Really?

[Post by Eugenia Clarke, the fictional heroine of the Eugenia Clarke mysteries by Victoria Weisfeld]

I glimpsed a magazine story headline the other day: “Stuck in Italy for Thanksgiving,” and it started me thinking. In my opinion, the only place to be on Thanksgiving Day is at my brother’s house, eating turkey, enjoying the vegetables from his organic farm, trying to decide, pumpkin or pecan?, and watching the Redskins on TV. But if you don’t have a family cornucopia like ours and if Grandma has taken off with her boyfriend to St. John . . . Italy will do! Like everyone else who travels, I’ve been stuck at airports more times than I can count. And I’ve sure been stuck in D.C.’s Beltway traffic. (Pause for lengthy string of obscenities.) But “stuck” in Italy? How is that even possible?

I say this even though my most recent Italian adventure had some pretty dark moments. Last month I was in Rome researching an article and was mugged. My fault, wasn’t thinking. I didn’t follow the mounds of advice I’ve dished out to my readers like mashed potatoes on Turkey Day. I ended up with broken ribs and stuff (don’t ask!), which meant I couldn’t fly for a while, so technically I was stuck, but I made new friends, met a man (do ask!), and spent a couple of weeks staying out of sight and out of the reach of the mafia freaks who wanted to finish the job—something I accomplished only imperfectly, I’m sorry to say.

Safe home in Virginia now and back to the gym, my yoga class, and starting some intensive lessons in Arabic. Enough to get me past the stage where my brain just shrieks “foreign language!” and pops out a word at random. Could be Greek, German, whatever. It’s a language stew up in there sometimes.

Even under the incredibly trying circumstances–recovering from my injuries, looking like hell, my nerves a wreck, the meds–Italy was a fabulous place to be, and I did finish my article on deadline. Do you see me patting myself on the back? The piece is about “everything new” Rome has to offer. You can read it in the March issue of My Mapps, and you’ll find The Eternal City still has awesome surprises up her fashionable sleeve.

Happy—and safe—travels.

P.S. I hope to tell you more about my Rome adventure—someday!

[Note to readers—My Mapps exists only in Eugenia’s world, where deadlines are reasonable, the copy-editing actually helpful, and payments are prompt.–vw]



Endings and the Reader’s Imagination

“I wished it would never end.” How many times have readers said that as they closed their book with a sigh. I’ve caught myself reading slower and slower over the last few pages of a book I’ve loved, just to delay the inevitable!

For a class on Dickens I’m taking this fall, I just reread A Tale of Two Cities. At the end, the travelling coach carrying Lucie and her daughter, Doctor Manette, Mr. Lorry, and the unconscious Sidney Carton speeds away from Paris in its desperate escape. We know that the unconscious man is really Lucie’s husband Charles and that Carton has taken his place in the tumbrils headed for the guillotine. I waited in vain for identity of the slumbering man to be recognized, for Charles to wake up and realize he had been “recalled to life.”

But Dickens doesn’t give us that scene. He leaves us to imagine it. I can see amazement and joy mixing with horror and guilt when the realization finally comes to them, and they understand what Carton has done. What, in fact, he told Lucie he would do, some 200 pages earlier: “For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything.” I see Lucie’s misery, as she recognizes the implications of Carton’s vow and feel the unbearable weight of her promise to keep it secret.

My vision of that scene—and yours—is beyond the covers. Our own ending to solve and resolve.

Sunday we saw the new movie Argo. A lot in that movie takes place by inference. As in the real world, the participants don’t have complete information and neither does the viewer, though we have the benefit of some multiple perspectives. Glimpses of the treatment of the main body of hostages let us imagine the rest. Likewise, details of the escape of the Canadian ambassador and his wife, also in deadly peril, must be mostly created by the viewer.

Have you imagined final scenes involving the characters of stories you read, see, or listen to? Share!