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A Rich, Full Portrait Of Italy’s Most Fascinating Asshole

Outwardly so exquisite, the picture of composed contemplation, inwardly lusting for war, power, and slaughter.

Outwardly so exquisite, the picture of composed contemplation, inwardly lusting for war, power, and slaughter.

Gabriele D’Annunzio: Poet, Seducer, And Preacher Of War. Lucy Hughes-Hallett. 543 pp., Anchor Books.

I reluctantly confess that during my late teens I underwent a decadent period. Please don’t think I lolled on a chaise lounge in a cork lined room, smoking opium while dressed in red satin. Those resources weren’t available to me at sixteen. No, I just read books by and about people like Beardsley, Wilde, and Max Beerbohm. One of the most intriguing figures I learned about was the Italian poet, playwright, and novelist D’Annunzio. Cursory accounts made him out as an extravagant, strutting peacock of a literary figure, even by 19th Century standards. Sadly, like a literary weakling, I never read his stuff, one, because his works weren’t readily available in that distant, pre-Internet age, and two, it sounded daunting.

The Internet and renewed interest led me to this thoroughly entertaining, but still comprehensive biography of the Vate, Italy’s self styled Bard. Many literary bios can be slow going, since authors must spend long hours alone at work. That certainly can’t be said for D’Annunzio. An Italian Everready Bunny, Gabe had energy to burn all through his life (although considerably aided toward the end by heavy doses of cocaine). While most writers would be content to generate a decent body of work while somehow keeping body and soul together, D’Annunzio churned out poetry and prose at an astonishing rate while living in sybaritic luxury that would have put the Borgias to shame, and always on somebody else’s dime too.

A half baked runt, bald by age 23, D’Annunzio nonetheless cruised through life with the secure self-assurance of a pampered, favorite son. His first book of poetry was a vanity affair, published at his father’s expense, but cunningly advanced by D’Annunzio’s contacts and, most prominently, a rumor deliberately spread by the author of his death while out riding, a young poet’s life tragically cut short. This demonstrated D’Annunzio’s flair for public relations, a gift he never lost throughout his long career. He was one of the first writers to be just as notorious for his antics (in and out of bed) as for his work.

On the positive side, D’Annunzio has to be given credit for work ethic. He wrote like his ass was on fire, an almost continuous stream of prose and poetry with rare, intermittent interruptions. D’Annunzio was also a true devotee of the poet’s creed, someone who studied and worked continuously to learn his craft. He showed physical courage, a fearless horseman to the point of recklessness, and most notably, in his hair brained, near suicidal military stunts during WWI.

On the negative side, D’Annunzio was an absurd spendthrift, determined to live at the height of opulence even though up to his bald scalp in debt. At one point, little D had to flee his creditors in Italy and live in France where he racked up even more debt. His works made money, but he always lived far beyond his means. One mansion after another was acquired and then rebuilt and furnished to suit the poet’s ornate fancies, a voluptuary’s paradise often interrupted by bailiffs come to repossess the furniture or angry scenes by the latest of D’Annunzio’s paramours.

This raises his other notorious character flaw, his incessant womanizing. Even for a stereotypical hot-blooded Latin lover, D’Annunzio sure didn’t bother to keep it in his pants. One woman after another was taken for a ride by the heel, loved and lavished with attention and then kicked to the curb at some point (often after years of his abuse) without a word of explanation (the sensitive poet hated having to say goodbye). The most famous of these quite unpleasant sounding relationships was with the Italian actress Eleonara Duse, as famous in her day as Sarah Bernhardt, now largely forgotten. BDSM fans will enjoy the author’s account of their tortured relationship with La Duse in tears, begging D’Annunzio for forgiveness through a locked door while he savored her misery and wrote down his impressions.

D’Annunzio’s worst trait was his love of war and violence. He wasn’t alone. Late 19th-Century Western European culture was rife with aggressive tendencies as reflected in Nietzsche’s thought and the general glorification of war as a cleansing, renewing phenomenon. D’Annunzio got his chance to put his principles into practice with WWI, a conflict D’Annunzio helped drag Italy into (with many others, including Mussolini), leading to a disastrous war with half a million Italian dead and literally almost nothing gained at the end. Heedless of consequences to others as always, D’Annunzio threw himself into the war. He endlessly orated at the front, glorifying death in battle. He put himself at risk too, participating in daring air and sea raids. In one bombing mission, he was hit by a machine gun so badly, D’Annunzio was blinded in one eye.

War ended for Italy in a Pyrrhic victory. Discontented, angry veterans raged against the politicians who had betrayed them. Still lusting for adventure, D’Annunzio embarked on his greatest exploit. At the head of a ragtag group of fanatics, he seized control of the port of Fiume, now Rijeka in Croatia. What followed was a bizarre, sinister episode in political history, the strange pseudo-state that D’Annunzio briefly ruled over. The book is worth reading alone for Hughes-Hallett’s account of this unmitigated nut festival. While D’Annunzio’s quixotic venture ended in predictable fiasco, as Hughes-Hallett notes, the experience provided a template for Mussolini’s subsequent seizure of power and creation of a Fascist state. This leads to my chief score against D’Annunzio, his role in devising a noxious, antidemocratic doctrine.

Once Mussolini came to power, D’Annunzio retreated to his last sanctuary, the Vittoriale, a still existing estate that sounds like the Italian equivalent of the Winchester Mansion. Kept by the suspicious Mussolini in a state of undeclared house arrest, D’Annunzio continued to write and indulge his senses through sex, music, drugs, and whatever else struck his fancy. Pictures of him in old age show a tiny figure with a completely shaven head in a comic opera uniform, complete to ridiculous dagger. A tough old bird, D’Annunzio even lived through a serious fall where he landed on his head, and died at 73, pen in hand, at his desk.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in European history, European literature, Italian history, WWI, fascism, and anyone who wants to read about a really entertaining jerk.

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/84061/gabriele-dannunzio-by-lucy-hughes-hallett/

This is a link to the Vittoriale’s foundation, in English:

https://www.vittoriale.it/en/

 

Dachshund With Illegible Signature

I'm just a little girl!

I’m just a little girl!

 

 

Wuxia Landscape

Wuxia088

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought it would be a nice change of pace to break away from the Greco-Roman mold and be a little more culturally diverse. For those of you who find this rather static and boring, don’t worry, it won’t last. This being wuxia, at any second, kung fu asskicking and deadly swordplay will erupt.

One of my earliest film memories is the time my family was stationed in Hawaii and my mother took me to see a Japanese feature length cartoon. I was about six years old. The film was about a boy from a fishing village whose parents were murdered along with the rest of the village by a witch who rose from the sea. The boy goes inland, apprentices himself to a magician who teaches him magic by making him carry water up a mountain, and then takes his revenge on the witch.  The movie filled me with fear and awe and left a lifelong impression. I find the same sense of mystery and entertainment in a lot of wuxia and kung fu movies, which explains why I’m such a fan.

 

 

Namesake Portrait

Iskanderos086

The original that’s been defaced this time is a copy of a mosaic discovered at a villa in Pompeii. The subject is the Battle of the Issus, one of several where Alexander destroyed Persian forces in detail. The Scourge of the Persians advances from the left, lance raised to strike the enemy down, while the Shahinshah, Darius, cowers in his chariot. Among other traits, Alexander had the distinctly autistic feature of being unable to look people straight in the eye. This is why he’s traditionally (although not always) depicted gazing to one side.        Alexander the Great copy

 

I’ve drawn him looking straight ahead because I’m still a really cruddy artist and can’t do a three-quarter profile.

Alexander is my middle name, for those of you who are curious. It means “defender of men,” which is pretty ironic, considering the body count he racked up.

Oh No! Not Another Beer Ad (Abbreviated)!

I guess I'll just have to get a bigger scanner.

I guess I’ll just have to get a bigger scanner.

Antiquity and beer. The kind of combo that delighted Henry Fielding’s heart.  Too bad you can’t see the whole thing. In some ways, I hate the modern age even though I’m aware that to do the same gag 2,000 years ago, I’d have to cut it into a piece of stone and then carry it around from city to city so you could all see it (Hercules! Hercules! Hercules!). The painting that I defaced was done by a Victorian artist named Lawrence Alma-Tadema who was also a successful novelist. His highly idealized paintings are my favorite depictions of the Hellenistic Age. I’ll see about getting the whole image scanned soon and online. Salve et vos benedico, amici!

Generic Tuscan Pastoral Sunset Copy

Tuscany084

My artistic output increases in direct ratio to the number of meetings I must sit through. A recent chinwag session took place in a windowless conference room decorated with generic Federal agency art. This is my crude reproduction of one example, an apparent effort to portray a Northern Italian vista. No, I still can’t really draw, but I do believe that this is recognizable as a depiction of a landscape of sorts. Let’s hope someone else out there thinks so too.

“Isle Of The White Worm Spice” Now Out In Infernal Ink

Infernal Ink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot damn! The new issue of Infernal Ink is out and it’s boffo! Also sexy and terrifying.

Infernal Ink Magazine is a literary magazine with a focus on publishing extremely dark and violent adult fiction and poetry.

This issue features an interview with the sexy, talented, and one of a kind Heidee Nytes. “The Author Bordello” this month spotlights the passions of author Bob Freville. Moreover, and not least, this issue has my grisly tale of high misadventure, Isle Of The White Worm Spice.

My thanks again to Hydra M. Star for accepting the story. Like I noted previously, this publishing credit is a big feather in my cap.  Sensitive souls, please note that Infernal Ink contains adult content and themes and is not meant for readers under eighteen years of age.

You don’t think I write stuff for little kids, do you?

 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BPGZP32

http://www.facebook.com/infernalinkmagazine

Silvery Syphilitic Solace For Shipwrecked Sailors!

Pictures like this really are proof that I probably need to go get a second job to take up my time.

Pictures like this really are proof that I probably need to go get a second job to take up my time.  Actually, I think I’ll make my own home brewed cider and market it on the Internet as Silver Syphilis Cider (A spirochete in every bottle!).

 

 

 

 

 

Good Old Fashioned Apple Cider!

They asked for some art and, boy, did I ever give them some.

They asked for some art and, boy, did I ever give them some. Honestly, there’s absolutely nothing that I like better on a hot summer day than a tall, cold glass filled with Silver Syphilis! You should try the stuff some time. To sum up, one of these days Lagunitas IPA will learn their lesson. Until that day, I stand ready, pen in hand!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad News: “The Track” Withdrawn From Dark Passages Publishing

It turns out that the guy at the end of the tunnel has been giving me the finger the whole time.

It turns out that the guy at the end of the tunnel was giving me the finger the whole time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Longtime readers of the blog may recall way back when (specifically July 24, 2016), I announced my neo-noir novella, The Track, had been accepted by Dark Passages Publishing:

http://mellonwritesagain.com/?p=769

And, if you go to the Dark Passages website, lo and behold, you’ll still find a listing for The Track:

https://darkpassagespublishing.com/catalogue/

Only the release date given is October 2017, over four months ago. That’s the third release date the website has listed. The Track was originally supposed to come out in spring of 2017 then summer. Finally October was announced with no further action after that. Three novellas on the website by other writers appear to be in the same situation with listings, but no actual releases and no active links to allow people to purchase the stories either virtually or in hard copy.

The Dark Passages website appears to  be moribund with nothing new having been added or done to it in months. The Track is the last work in the catalog. The same holds true for the publisher’s magazine, The J. J. Outre Review. I know small press ventures have tiny staffs, but Dark Passages appears to have been a one man show, run by P. A. M. Jensen:

https://darkpassagespublishing.com/masthead/

On January 17, 2018, I sent an e-mail to Mr. Jensen that discussed The Track‘s history, asked whether he had any intention of publishing the story in the near future, and gave him one month from that date to respond with the stipulation that if he failed to answer within that time frame, I would consider any agreement between us to publish The Track to be null and void. That deadline has expired with the result that the agreement between myself and Dark Passages to publish The Track no longer exists. I’ve sent word to that effect to Mr. Jensen in a follow up e-mail.

The purpose of this blog post is to make the fact public that neither Dark Passages Publishing nor Mr. Jensen have any legal interest in or right to publish The Track, despite anything stated by Dark Passages on its website or any other medium. The Track is an unpublished, original work and I’m the sole proprietor. No other entity or person has any interest in it. It is available for publication. Any representation otherwise by anyone else is a false statement.

I’m sorry to go on like this, making a noise like an attorney (my least favorite thing to do), but I’m afraid circumstances leave me no choice.  I’m dead serious about everything written above and have every confidence the law backs me entirely on this matter.