The Italian Lover

The Italian Lover

Robert Hellenga

Fiction / Cultural / Italy

An exhilarating novel of romance, art, and food in Florence , featuring the beloved Margot Harrington, who graced Robert Hellenga's The Sixteen Pleasures. Margot Harrington's memoir about her discovery in Florence of a priceless masterwork of Renaissance erotica - and the misguided love affair it inspired - is now, 25 years later, being made into a movie. Margot, with the help of her lover, Woody, writes a script that she thinks will validate her life. Of course their script is not used, but never mind - happy endings are the best endings for movies, as Margot eventually comes to see. At the former convent in Florence where "The Sixteen Pleasures" - now called "The Italian Lover," - is being filmed, Margot enters into a drama she never imagined, where her ideas of home, love, art, and aging collide with the imperatives of commerce and the unknowability of other cultures and other...
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The Truth About Death

The Truth About Death

Robert Hellenga

Fiction / Cultural / Italy

The Truth About Death," the title novella of this virtuosic collection, is a masterpiece of sardonic humor that confronts Death head on and emerges bloody but unbowed. Simon, an undertaker, embalms his own father and faces his own death. Louisa, Simon's mother, makes peace with her husband over his dead body in a cooler in the basement of the funeral home. Simon contemplates the mystery of death over a plate of spaghetti cacio e pepe in Rome with an Italian undertaker. The dog, Maya—who works as a greeter at the funeral home where she comforts those who are grieving hardest—eventually makes the truth about death known to Elizabeth, Simon's wife. New Yorker cartoons keep the family laughing during the most difficult months, Elizabeth decides to show her own cartoons (included here), to the New Yorker cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff, at his office in New York. The serious issues cleverly addressed in The Truth About Death are touched...
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The Confessions of Frances Godwin

The Confessions of Frances Godwin

Robert Hellenga

Fiction / Cultural / Italy

The Confessions of Frances Godwin is the fictional memoir of a retired high school Latin teacher looking back on a life of trying to do her best amidst transgressions—starting with her affair with Paul, whom she later marries. Now that Paul is dead and she's retired, Frances Godwin thinks her story is over—but of course the rest of her life is full of surprises, including the truly shocking turn of events that occurs when she takes matters into her own hands after her daughter Stella's husband grows increasingly abusive. And though she is not a particularly pious person, in the aftermath of her actions, God begins speaking to her. Theirs is a deliciously antagonistic relationship that will compel both believers and nonbelievers alike.From a small town in the Midwest to the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome, The Confessions of Frances Godwin touches on the great questions of human existence: Is there something "out there" that takes an interest in us? Or...
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Philosophy Made Simple

Philosophy Made Simple

Robert Hellenga

Fiction / Cultural / Italy

Rudy Harrington is ready for a new life. His daughters are grown, his wife has died, and the idea of running an avocado grove in Texas suddenly seems infinitely more appealing than staying in his rambling Midwestern house.So a new life it is. Rudy heads off for a part of the world where he knows scarcely a soul. But he has a guide: a slender book called Philosophy Made Simple, each chapter highlighting the ideas of a different philosopher. No amount of Plato, Schopenhauer, or Sartre, however, can prepare Rudy for the surprises that emerge as he arranges for his daughter's Hindu wedding and gets to know Norma Jean - an elephant with a talent for painting - who is abandoned to Rudy's care and who leads him, ultimately, toward the prospect of a new love.
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