The Writing Life,
Annie Dillard wrote,
I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
On the first of each month, a guest writer shares how he or she spends the day.
May 1, 2013: Christopher Castellani
Frankie Grasso and his mother watch the same soap, but they root for different women. He likes the deranged ones: the pregnancy fakers, the poisoners, the tramps.
These two sentences open Chris Castellani’s third novel, All This Talk of Love, reviewed last Sunday in The New York Times Book Review. But if you want the whole story of la famiglia Grasso, start with A Kiss from Maddalena, then move to The Saint of Lost Things, and finish up with All This Talk of Love, published this year by Algonquin Books.
“In life,” [his mother] says … “you have truth or you have nothing.” [A]nd what he wants to tell her is, by that formulation, not a single member of the Grasso family, not to mention anyone he knows, has a blessed thing.
In one of the most endearing character traits I’ve ever read, Frankie calls his mother every night at 11:01 no matter where he is. When his friends ask him why, he answers, “Because she’s alive.” Still, he’s not her favorite son.
This is a book about family, and as Prima, Frankie’s grown sister with boys of her own, says, “You have to tend family like you tend to a garden.” Antonio, Frankie’s father, tells the same stories over and over to his kids not to teach his kids anything but “to keep the stories alive for himself.”
All This Talk of Love is one of those novels that you can’t wait to get back to–you carry it to work to read while you eat a sandwich at your desk and you hold in one hand while you stir the soup with the other. It’s the characters who make this novel. You can hear them and see them. Again from Antonio, who owns the restaurant–the Al Di La:
For dinner, Antonio brings something home from the restaurant, or he just fixes it himself for the two of them. Little by little over the years, Maddalena stopped cooking. She’s in the kitchen one day out of 365: Christmas Eve, to fry the fish. No other husband in America has cooked as many meals or washed as many dishes as he has, but he doesn’t mind. He just wants a little credit once in a while.
The book slips easily and without confusion from one point of view to another, which allows the flavor of the individual family members to create a rich novel.
In one of my favorite moments of the book (if not my favorite), Frankie has just arrived home by train for the Christmas holidays. As he collects his backpack, he sees his mother and father on the platform waiting for him. Five minutes later, as they walk through the parking lot together on the first of a five-day visit, he already misses them.
Frankie imagines the day when the train will pull into Wilmington and no one will be waiting for him on the platform. It’s always with him, that day.
All This Talk of Love is sharply written and does what a novel is supposed to do–it creates another world and takes you directly there. And as you read, you will already miss it.
Come back on MAY 1st to read how Christopher Castellani spends his days.
The next writer in the series is announced on the 8th of each month so you can read ahead!