Oct 2009

Read All About It

(from L’Azione, June 2009)

I was taught in journalism it is essential to include the five “w”s: who, when, where, why, and what in every article. I always felt we were missing the “how”, but obviously that would mess up the nice symmetry. The concept that journalism, in addition to being thorough, should be truthful has always been a forgone conclusion. So when I picked up a newspaper and read that George Clooney is soon to marry to a former Italian “actress”-I use the word loosely here-two thoughts went through my mind. First, that I had not seen any reports on this in any of my American news sources, although this might be seen as big news. Secondly, this was a big backward step for all the young women in Italy. You see, George Clooney is betrothed to a former
velina or, for lack of a better description, one of the scantily clad dancing girls that enter stage at the top of a television show, at a natural break, or to close out the broadcast. Imagine a row of impossibly beautiful young women in underwear kicking up their stilettos as Alec Trebeck strolls out at the top of Jeopardy. Now one of them is marrying the most desirable man in Italy. I can hear the national IQ halve as a new generation of young women shifts career tracts.

Never mind that this report is not true. There seems to be no qualms whatsoever on unabashedly reporting complete falsehoods, loudly and frequently.

Recently the news broke that David Letterman, a much-watched personality here, was being blackmailed and it was reported on the evening news that it was his former mistress who was the culprit.

“But Luciano, that is not true…it was some producer at CBS.”

“I know, but what can I do?’

“It is not true. Why do they report it as true?”

“They are sloppy.”

“Will they correct it later?”

“No, but there is a guy who writes a weekly column about the news that was not really news.”

“He must have a lot of material”

“Yeah, he has a full column every week.”


Being a man of habit, Luciano and I, happily the wife of a man of habit, always have breakfast at our favorite bar, in our favorite corner every Saturday morning. The owners, knowing exactly what we want, deliver our coffee, brioches and newspaper as we sit down. It is my moment to look over the newspaper and, at best, find something to write about; at the very least, practice my Italian. Knowing that it will be full of scandals, biased journalism, Berlusconi’s latest gaffes (in an “isn’t he charming?” tone) all presented as the hard news, it is always with some trepidation when I open the Gazzettino. I have discovered that stories about dog bites, car accidents and sensational murders are the easiest to understand…and there seems to be a lot of them.

Imagine my surprise when, looking at the local page for the Mareno news, I see this article:

Sabato 10 Ottobre 2009,
(t.b.) Avreste mai pensato che la vita quotidiana di una famigliola di Soffratta di Mareno potesse fornire spunti a sufficienza per scriverci sopra un libro? Vi dimostra che è possibile, ed anzi gustoso, la marenese Serena Richardson, insegnante di inglese alla Oxford School di Conegliano. Ha appena pubblicato “Stories from Italy. News from Mareno”. Cioè la raccolta di due anni di racconti, accompagnati qua e là da qualche ricetta veneta.

Saturday, October 10, 2009
(tb)You might have never thought that the daily life in a family of Soffratta of Mareno di Piave could provide inspiration enough to be the subject of a book? The Marenese Serena Richardson, English teacher at the Oxford School of Conegliano will show you that it is possible and enjoyable. She has just published “Stories from Italy, News from Mareno”. It is a collection of two years of stories, accompanied by a few recipes of the Veneto.

I blinked, flushed and looked up at Luciano, for a moment speechless. My name and the title of my book were in the paper. Suddenly the Italian press was a pillar of journalistic integrity, the very fountainhead of erudite literature. The journalist, an admirer of my work, wrote me later to bemoan the chop job of his article, written as a scrupulously researched and complete news story which in fact it had appeared in the much smaller newspaper,
L’Azione in June (picture above). This more recent truncated form can only be expected from the Gazzettino. But it really did not matter anymore; my name was in the paper.


Unlike the gradual extinction going on in the US, the daily newspaper here is a vigorous part of everyday life here. People buy them, read them, and make the contents a part of over-the-garden-fence conversations. Later that morning the neighbor from up the street stopped at Anna Maris’s door. She was delivering radicchio from her garden and I could overhear the exchange from the window.

“Is that your Serena who wrote a book about Mareno?”

Anna Maria, not yet having read the paper, was momentarily confused. “Yes, she wrote a book, but what are you talking about? What was the last name?”

“Reeechardson. Where can I find this book?”

“Yes, that is her. I don’t know, but I will find out. Ciao!”

The conversation ended abruptly with her disappearing into the house. Anna Maria does not like to be out of the loop. She is the loop. When I heard her go back inside I counted…
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2- the door burst open and she came scurrying out to our front door, newspaper in hand. I came to the window smiling, for once I knew a bit more than Anna Maria. And this newspaper article was true…

“Where can we find the book?”


“Oh. Is it in Italian?”

“No, English.”


I could see her interest in the book waning, but not in the article which had appeared in a publication that Anna Maria scours every day, partly to clip out articles of interest for me. Writing a book was secondary; my name has appeared in the
Gazzettino. I am famous enough already.

Giancarlo sauntered out to the front yard.

“So if you are becoming a writer, I want to let you know that I like thrillers. Anna Maria, romance novels.”

“Ok, got it. But I only write in English---for now.”

“Well, that might be a problem since I could only read your signature.”

That is enough for me for now…I need to adjust to my celebrity status.