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Wednesday, March 7, 2018
5:03 pm est
and the Sicilian Lions
Some, if not all of the better fiction
is based upon true life. My own characters, for example, stem from close friends and family or are composites of larger-than-life
personalities. “They” say: Write what you know. Or, in the case of Mario Giordano, write whom you know.
Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, released yesterday by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is actually an homage to the author’s aunt who, like the eponymic
title character, really did retire and moved from Germany to Sicily. She is, Giordano claims, is just as “outrageous”
as his mystery-solving protagonist. But, alas, in real life, has not – yet – solved any murders. Which is exactly
what the fictitious Auntie Poldi did in the first novel of her very own series.
Auntie Poldi – Isolde – was a dressmaker before retiring to the Isle of Sicily where she sought to quietly
live out the rest of her days soaking in the local wine, sunshine, and the view of the sea. With only a few visitors. Ah,
blissful peace and tranquility. Until the young, handsome handyman that she hired to tend to her small villa in Via Baronessa
goes missing. Nowhere to be found, it seems he has fallen off the face of the earth. So, like the real-life gregarious Auntie
Poldi, the intrepid fictional Auntie Poldi starts asking questions, discovers his body – obviously he was murdered
– and then, despite the objections of her sisters and the chagrin of the ever so handsome detective
Vito Montana, jumps head-long into a full-fledged investigation of her own.
Add a few shady
characters, the disappearance of one of a pair of a lion sculptures, several false leads, a romantic entanglement or two,
a roof-top show-down, and a roman à clef nephew who occasionally carries the narrative, and you’ve got a
nearly first-class mystery on your hands. Let’s say, Nancy Drew fair for adults. And I say “nearly first class’
because this quirky novel does have its minor foibles easily overlooked by the mad-cap antics of its major characters and
Giordano's deft command of his writing skills. Overlooking the fact that the book was originally written in Italian and is
the author’s first literary offering translated into English.
As huge fan
of light-heartened mysteries – although there is nothing light-hearted about murder – I really enjoyed reading
this novel. Especially following the complex plot-lines as Poldi weaves her inebriated way through a maze of clues to solve
the crime. And not to mention that the intrigue is refreshingly set in modern-day Sicily and is sprinkled with touristy comments
and descriptions. Actually, the whole of the conceit had me joyously second-guessing Poldi’s and Montana’s next
moves – delightfully together as well as deliciously apart.
recaps at the beginning of each chapter were annoyingly glaring spoiler alerts. “Tell them what you’re going to
tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them” was once a hallmark of 17th and 18th
Century books and still might be fine today in other aspects of the real world. But, please, please do not use this egregious
antediluvian technique in novels. Especially mystery novels in which the reader wants the plot line to unfold without advance
hints, clues, and pre-action tells. That is the whole point of reading a mystery. Headings describing what you’re about
to read is like eating dessert before dinner; devouring the olive before sipping the gin martini; those annoying people in
movie theatres who blurt out what will happen next. Yuck. The whole concept of pre-mature précises and re-caps smacks
of immature writing. So, rather than ruin an otherwise decent read, I skipped the headings.
And reveled in the fictional Auntie Poldi’s life and times. Eager for the next installment to be
released next Spring…
Enjoy the read!
Monday, March 5, 2018
4:34 pm est
My Journey in Philanthropy
“’Tis better” the saying goes, “to give than to receive.” One of epitomes
of this is the charming, historical Borough of Phoenixville, with its more than 125 charitable organizations, including
the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation. Established in 1998, it fosters a health-care safety net for the greater Phoenixville
community, comprised of 19 municipalities spanning significant parts of Chester and Montgomery counties. Not only that, PCHF
is an active participant in just about every major charity in Phoenixville, partnering with, to name a few, Rotary Club, Kiwanis,
Orion Communities, Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder No. 1, Good Samaritan Services, and St. Ann’s Heart Code Blue. All
which, among other things, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, plan cultural events, and reach out into the community to
help those in need.
There are a number of events scheduled this spring and summer to celebrate the Foundation’s
20th Anniversary, including a special exhibit in PCHF’s honor currently mounted in the Historical Society
of the Great Phoenixville Area Museum. Running from March through June, it is entitled “The Greater Good: A History
of Community Organizations Giving Back in Phoenixville”. This interested display features key high points of giving
in Phoenixville’s diversely complex history.
And one of the highlights is the display [and promotion] of
My Journey in Philanthropy: Memoir, Reflective Essays & True Stories by none other than the director of the Community Health Foundation, Louis J. Beccaria, Ph.D.
in December of last year, this relatively small book packs a big wallop. For those of you who might think the subject of philanthropy
is dull and arid as dust bunnies… Lou’s book will make you think again. Informally written in an almost “Chatty
Charlie” style, the author relates his 48-year journey learning the art and craft of assisting others in giving. His
interesting and multi-faceted life, as related in the memoir section, is, in fact, the epitome of sharing. I have known Lou
for several years and he is, indeed, a humble, generous, thoughtfully kind person who, in his 20 years as Director and CEO
of PCHF [He is the first and, so far, only…] has dedicated himself to ensuring our community’s well-being.
The book goes on to differentiate between those that give their money – philanthropists – and those
that help them – philanthropoids [a term Lou created]. And depending in which category you might find yourself or those
that you know, there are rules, principles and guidelines that govern each. Tenets of generosity that are clearly explained
and expounded upon. For those of us venturing into the world of philanthropy – even those that are “old hands”
– Lou’s book, I suspect, will quickly become the go-to manual of personal experience and knowledge for those in
Of course, the best part is the compilation of 34 humorous stories gathered in the course
of the author’s philanthropic work. Funny, poignant, and salted with foibles of giving [and taking], they portray the
warm and human side of the world of philanthropy. A world with which if you are not already familiar, I most heartily suggest
that you take the time to visit.
Enjoy the read!
J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is
an author, poet, and librettist. Her currenty published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations,
volumes of poetry, stories
for children (of all ages) and
a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of
Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World
Rainbow in the Sky
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her fifth novel.