‘Wuthering Heights’ – 2011


Young Catherine and Heathcliff, still from the 2011 film version of ‘Wuthering Heights’

A most inventive film version of the Emily Bronte classic, ‘Wuthering Heights’, directed by Andrea Arnold, starring Kaya Scodelario as Catherine and James Howson as Heathcliff. At the top are excerpts from the film. Soundtrack by Mumford and Sons.



‘Damage’ and Obsession

Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive. From the Josephine Hart novel, DAMAGE

I’ve been terribly absent from this blog and feel guilty about it. Three nights ago I had sushi with friends at a Japanese restaurant. At their insistence, I had sake. Too much of it. I don’t tolerate alcohol well. The problem wasn’t so much the sake but the glass of white wine I had prior. The combination wasn’t a good one. I spent the following day in bed, destroyed. It’s taken me a bit of time to recover.

For the last few days I’ve been consumed by the fact that I must return to the States to visit my grandparents. They’re approaching their nineties. The trip may not happen until December. I’m also contemplating a move to Hamburg after the first of the year. When I tell people this, they ask me why. Hamburg is, they say, so conservative. But I’m a bit conservative so the city resonates. I like the slight overcast. I liked the fog. I like the fact that the city is dominated by bridges, water.

This afternoon, I’m thinking a bit about the film I want to develop which is loosely based on my novel. I went through a pile of notes made back in February. I started thinking about Sautin, the development of his character. So much of the original treatment, featured here on this blog, (posted as the ‘Storia Film Treatment’), centers on Vincent Lee, the charismatic, wanton painter who was Sophie’s closest friend. But during a brief script consultation, I was encouraged to change directions. It was encouraged to push Sautin to the forefront of the narrative.

This resonated.

The film would still be the story of Sophie and Sautin’s relationship. But with the re-scripted emphasis, Sautin would become the focus. This made sense. After all, when I first started the treatment, I kept saying to myself over and over again, as if as a mantra: the film must begin and end with Sautin. At the conclusion, I saw Sautin in a prison cell, serving time for Sophie’s death. The question is this: is he truly guilty? As a narrator, he’s unreliable. He’s so tortured over an array of past misdeeds for which he cannot forgive himself, he may actually have willed himself to serve a sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. This is most interesting. Why? The film then becomes a journey into the mind of one man’s self-imposed imprisonment. Why would a person subject themselves to such a fate? Sautin. He’s the beginning of the film. He’s the end of the film. In essence, he’s the core. This means I have some significant re-writing to do.

I’m going back to 1993 for a moment. I was home from college one weekend and I went to see Louis Malle’s, ‘Damage’. The film is the insanely captivating story of a father who becomes irrationally preoccupied with his son’s girlfriend. A love triangle ensues. Secrets and lies create high drama as secrets and lies always do. Jeremy Irons plays the lead. He is repressed, tortured and certainly obsessed. When I think of Irons at the end of the ‘Damage’, I can’t help thinking about Sautin in his prison cell. He’s sitting on a small ragged cot and he’s thinking about Sophie. Her presence is always with him. She never escapes him, not even in death. His love for her remains, exemplified by his tragic preoccupation, very much like Heathcliff’s death fixation with Catherine in the classic, WUTHERING HEIGHTS.

At the end of ‘Damage’, the Jeremy Irons character is in his own form of prison, a spartan, one-room apartment in a Mediterranean country. Removed from his once opulent London environ, he’s confined himself to a studio with a poster-sized photograph of himself, his son, and the woman who remains the object of his relentless imaginings.








Flash Special: Works by Curtis Smith (September 2014 / 14.17)

Originally posted on Blue Fifth Review: Blue Five Notebook Series:

Flash Special: Works by Curtis Smith (September 2014 / 14.17) — with artwork by Leslie Marcus

time angel

Bluecurls and Aster

The cavalry detachments stumbled upon each other. The fog thick, October in the valley, and with the men away, the unpicked apples lay rotting in the grass. Fifteen minutes, a butchering, the fever of those mad years. After, the bodies of men and horses littered the field. Rigor mortis, bloat, the stench overtaking the apples’ vinegar scent. Before the dead could be buried, a local boy picked through the corpses’ pockets. He left the valuables  but took the photographs of wives and children. The boy’s father dead. Another field, another state, the same stars above. Or so the boy believed. The months to come brought snow, the first in years. Then spring, the wildflowers, bluecurls and aster. Their blooms unaltered by the blood in their roots.

A man and woman, both naked…

View original 2,819 more words

Malcolm Gladwell on Disadvantages and The Beatles in Hamburg

It is quite possible for people who have never met us and who have only spent twenty minutes thinking about us to come to a better understanding of who we are than people who have known us for years. Malcolm Gladwell, from BLINK: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Like a lot of other people out there, I really like Malcolm Gladwell. He’s the kind of guy I wish I were related to. I can imagine cornering him over dinner and asking him questions about his latest book. Whatever he’s working on is bound to be fascinating in a kind of pop-culture yet intellectual way. I sent my father a box collection of three of his most well-known books a few years ago, all on CD: BLINK, OUTLIERS and THE TIPPING POINT. He was thrilled. The moment he’d listened to them, he called me. By the sound of his voice, I believe it was the best present I ever got him.

Today is beautiful. It is sunny and windy and I am off for a late morning run.


Tea on Torstrasse

Bio Pic, September 2014

Author Bio Pic, September 2014

I’m up this morning about to eschew having my usual cup of matcha, that massively potent Japanese blend of green tea which gets me out of the house in the mornings and off on long runs. Today I’m taking a day off from running and am headed to the cafe across the street from my apartment for a piece of cheesecake. I may even have an espresso. This is a bit of an indulgence for me but one I deserve it. I’ve run everyday this week and have just started a light program of weights.

I met with Eva on Tuesday. We went to our meditation group meeting. Enrico was there as was Sonia. There were five or six of us total. We meditated and discussed Buddhist philosophy through the lens of a book entitled: WAKING THE BUDDHA. The discussion of the book was interesting. But soon one of the group member’s personal problems took over the meeting. The meeting became all about her. I got bored. I got irritated. And then I recognized that if I had a bunch of problems (which I do) and had a group of people sitting around wanting to listen, I’d would want them to do so. The dramatic nature of her issues were extreme and obviously wouldn’t be solved in one evening. At the end of the meeting I remembered that these discussions should be based on compassion, cultivating more of it and I obviously had a long way to go. After the meeting, Eva and I went to a cafe on Torstrasse and sat and drank tea. It was dark and candlelit and cozy and our conversation leapt around. She spoke about the intensity of this past year. The year has been very charged, I agreed. She was in New York in January and was going through a long-distance relationship. It didn’t work out. Then she became pretty ill in the spring and even spent a week in hospital. She’s better now. Totally recovered. But I worried about her health for a while and that was stressful as I’m quite close to her.

Our conversation got me thinking about the beginning of the year. I was much busier then: putting in a lot of hours working at a part-time editorial position that turned out to be more full-time. I was also spending loads of time on my film treatment. I was stressed out about developing it. I was doing quite a bit of research then. I was reading WUTHERING HEIGHTS, watching documentaries on Edgar Allen Poe and researching Gothic fiction. I wanted and still want the eventual film to feel a bit like a work of Gothic fiction: slightly haunted.

Life has quieted down. I’m not doing any new writing. Eva is a seasoned, specific reader with good taste in books. She will be reading my novel this weekend. She’ll give me notes. Despite a tremendous recommendation to the president of Random House Germany, the novel wasn’t accepted for publication. Now I’m thinking about the adjustments I need to make on the book to get it re-submitted.

This fall feels quiet. Not melancholy. Just quiet. Last night out of boredom and too necessity, I decided to experiment with some new bio pictures. I really dislike the camera. The only time I can seem to get a decent picture is when I take one of myself. I’ll ultimately post one of these pictures in the ‘About’ section of this blog.


Penelope Trunk on Feeling Lost

There was a time several years back when I read Penelope Trunk’s blog, The Brazen Careerist, religiously. I wanted to blog but was intimidated by the commitment, the process and of the potential exposure of my life via social media. I’ve obviously overcome some of those apprehensions as I’ve posted some very personal memoir pieces as of late. But I still struggle with what to post. I don’t like the over-sharing of private lives. I’ve not yet accustomed myself to the microscope of social media. In some way I hope I never will. I got rid of my Facebook account more than a year ago. My LinkedIn profile is blank for a reason. I don’t want my CV online. I’d rather someone contact me directly about consulting or I contact them. I don’t own an iphone or a tablet and have never used either. My mobile phone is ancient and frankly the idea of purchasing something on which I can take pictures and video and Skype makes me nervous. I’m a bit of a luddite. But enough of my reticence about technology and social media and back to Ms.Trunk. These days I don’t read many blogs but I still read hers. Here’s a one minute spiel she did on what to do when you’re feeling ‘lost’.




Ree Drummond, Heather Armstrong and Penelope Trunk: Three Experts in Online Media You Should Know About


The Brazen Careerist’s Penelope Trunk


Heather Armstrong, founder of Dooce


Ree Drummond, center (and family), millions of readers follow Drummond as she blogs about her life in rural Oklahoma

 …Blogging opens tons of doors via networking, especially, because bloggers have access to people they would not otherwise get access to. Blogging is a great way to build a career if you know what you want from your career. This doesn’t necessarily mean that blogging itself is a great career. It’s probably best as a means to create stability in one’s career by getting to the top of one’s field. I think bloggers in general are smart, dedicated, and exceptionally well-informed. Blogging takes a ton of time, so most people are blogging about career-related stuff because that’s the only area that is worth the time commitment. So it makes sense that bloggers would be great hires, and blogging, therefore, will help people to get to the top of their field. The Brazen Careerist’s Penelope Trunk

I started my blog in 2011 after reading an article on Ree Drummond in The New Yorker. For the past several years, I’ve worked as a freelance editorial consultant (last winter and earlier in the year, I served as the arts editor for a start-up and online magazine). As I actively explore new consulting possibilities, I continue to go back to the stories of three influential bloggers. Each have built businesses based on writing by linking with other brands.

Ree Drummond was a media executive living in Los Angeles when her career took a rather bizarre – and in my opinion, potentially bleak – turn after she fell in love with a rancher from Oklahoma. She moved to the middle of nowhere and began blogging about rural life. Her blog consisted of writings and photographs of her children, and meals she made, romantic pictures of the vast acres she lived on, and her daily life lived with ‘Marlboro Man’, her rugged, never-named husband. I was inspired by Drummund, not because I was interested in her rural lifestyle, but due to her massive success. At the time of the The New Yorker piece, her blog was averaging 23.3 million visitors per month. What has followed is pretty amazing: a book deal, a film starring Reese Witherspoon, an entire lifestyle brand built around her carefully crafted image.

The site cleaned up at the 2009 Bloggies, winning for Best Photography and Best-Designed Weblog, and, most notably, beating out PerezHilton.com and the Huffington Post for Weblog of the Year. It was the equivalent of an indie director winning Best Picture over Steven Spielberg and James Cameron. Drummond brought in a marketing and Web-development firm called Voce Communications (its other clients include eBay and PlayStation), which now hosts her site and manages her server.

‘…The amateur country-girl persona works as a literary device because it allows readers to imagine falling in love and ditching their frenzied lives for a calmer, more agrarian existence, without having to abandon the notion that they are sophisticated, independent women. “Ree made a life that fit into this unexpected world in which she found herself,” said Laura Ziskin, a movie producer, who, with Amy Pascal, of Sony Pictures, optioned “Black Heels to Tractor Wheels.” (Reese Witherspoon has signed on to star; Robert Harling, the author of “Steel Magnolias,” is writing the screenplay.) “When you look at the book, or you look at the cookbook,” Ziskin continued, “you think, I’d like to do that. I don’t care if there’s cow dung on the porch, it looks pretty good to me.’ ‘O Pioneer Woman!’ The New Yorker

The entire article, which I highly recommend, can be read here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/05/09/o-pioneer-woman

In 2001 Heather Armstrong, founder of Dooce was 25, with a degree in English, and a job at a start-up in L.A. ‘In those days’, she deadpans ‘when you said you had a blog, people thought you had a venereal disease.’ Armstrong’s blog has now become a bit of a media empire. But a home-grown media empire. For starters, lunch at Blurbodoocery Inc. is a family affair — Heather, her husband, Jon, 18-month-old Marlo, LaCaze, and Heather’s cousin McKenzie (who baby-sits for Marlo during the day, and for 7-year-old Leta when she is home from school), all gather around the table in the stone-and-glass kitchen.

The ability to blur home and work is one reason they bought this house when the company began to burst the seams of their smaller one. They considered just renting office space, as most start-ups do when they grow. But ‘my life is the business,’ Armstrong says. ‘It wouldn’t work without the chaos nearby, without being able to wear my workout clothes all day and nap on the bed with the dogs.

Typically, there are 100,000 visitors daily to her site, Dooce.com…She is the only blogger on the latest Forbes list of the Most Influential Women in Media, coming in at No. 26, which is 25 slots behind Oprah, but just one slot behind Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair and current editor of The Daily Beast. Her site brings in an estimated $30,000 to $50,000 a month or more — and that’s not even counting the revenue from her two books, healthy speaking fees and the contracts she signed to promote Verizon and appear on HGTV. She won’t confirm her income (“We’re a privately held company and don’t reveal our financials”). But the sales rep for Federated Media, the agency that sells ads for Dooce, calls Armstrong “one of our most successful bloggers,” then notes a few beats later in our conversation that “our most successful bloggers can gross $1 million.”  ‘Heather Armstrong: Queen of the Mommy Bloggers’, The New York Times

The complete article can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/magazine/27armstrong-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

And last but not least, my favorite blogger, Penelope Trunk. Trunk is an expert in the constantly evolving, new media economy. Her blog, the Brazen Careerist is a site for people attempting to re-vamp their careers. Trunk also manages to seamlessly blend her personal life with her writings about work within the technology based new economy.

‘The best careers are built on kindness. Kindness in every job, and kindness to people who don’t work with you but need you, at one point or another. You never know who will help you next, so assume all the goodness you give out will somehow come back.’  ‘New Economy Career Advice from Penelope Trunk’, Forbes magazine

For more on Penelope Trunk, see her piece in Forbes magazine:http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2011/03/28/new-economy-career-management/




Memoir: 2006-2014

It’s 8:30 on Wednesday morning. I woke up around 6:30 but didn’t get out of bed until 7:30. What have I been doing for the past hour? I do what I always do on the mornings I am behind on my blog, I try to unearth something to write about. I promised to write a memoir piece. I should write about my marriage. I really don’t want to write about my marriage. But I will.

My husband and I were in a relationship on and off for three years before we married. I met his family only once or twice before the marriage. But still I found them peculiar. I was never around them long enough to understand them. My husband assured this. I never questioned why. They were country-dwellers and he fancied himself cosmopolitan. He often worked abroad, was rarely in Italy full-time. It was easy to set himself apart from them.

My husband and I met one evening while I was walking down the street in Turin. My boyfriend had broken up with me the previous year, while we were living in South Africa, and I had been so devastated I didn’t date anyone for a year. I moved back to the States. I moved in with my grandparents who lived in a small city outside of Chicago. I sat in a chair in their backyard and stared into space for hours. No one could reach me. I was unreachable. I avoided calls from my ex-boyfriend. I took a medical leave from my masters program and became, quite unintentionally, very thin. My grandparents kept taking me to church. They thought it would calm me down. It had the opposite affect; it made me more agitated.

My grandparents. On hot summer days, they would put me in the back of their cornflower blue 80s-model Buick Oldsmobile and drive me to church services where people sang far too loud into cheap microphones and the minister’s brand of biblical ‘logic’ was, for the even marginally educated, unreasonable. There would be lots of music and sometimes, dancing. And I would think, my God, this is horrible. I would go home and go to sleep and basically not get up for days. In the real world there’s a term for this. It’s called ‘nervous breakdown’. I was having one. I didn’t get it at the time. After all when a person is going crazy, they’re never aware of it in process. I just thought I needed to stop taking phone calls from my ex-boyfriend, who, at least in my mind, was romancing half of Johannesburg. I thought I just needed to forget about him. I thought I just needed sleep.

A year after this debacle, fast-forward. I got back to a somewhat normal weight and stopped being dragged around to various churches. I went to Italy where my ex-boyfriend was from. I met my husband one evening in Turin. I was still very upset about my ex, whose family I had just seen that day. He was still in South Africa. They were ringing their hands, attempting to stage a boycott of the new woman he was with, hoping his new relationship, like a storm, would blow over.

That morning I received an invitation from Elisabetta, my ex-boyfriend’s older sister. Formidable and astute, very little got by Elisabetta. She was often quiet but in the most political of ways and defended the family with the instinct of a lioness. Elisabetta’s secretary called me that morning and I was summoned to her office, in a lovely seventeenth century building not far from her and her husband’s apartment, the apartment where we used to spend our Christmases, looking out over the snow-covered Alps. These were the days when my boyfriend and I were happiest. Mischief-making, holding hands under the dinner table over four course meals, me standing beside him on the balcony while he smoked and taught his nieces the rude Mandarin sayings he’d picked up in Shanghai. We laughed a lot. He traveled to China once a month for work and left me alone in the apartment with his father whom I loved like my own father. Signore. He was wonderful to me. He drove me to the seaside for weekend excursions and worried over me while his son was away. We all had lovely times together. I went to birthday parties for all of the children. How happy was I? I was ridiculously happy.

But then something happened to change everything, and there was no turning back.

By summoning me to her office, a year after the break-up, Elisabetta was attempting to regain control of a circumstance which had gone terribly awry. She sat with me for a few moments. She updated me on the social events of the family. And then she did something entirely unexpected, she picked up the phone and called her brother in Johannesburg. She spoke to him for a moment and then, getting down to business, she handed me the phone. When I left her office I was crying. I cried all day. That evening I was walking down the street and a man wearing a tailored suit walked up to me. He asked me to dinner. Two weeks later he was talking to me about marriage.

Have you ever had a feeling you are about to do something very wrong? You know it. But you don’t have the courage to stop yourself. You’re afraid of what might happen if you don’t just go along with it. You talk yourself into it. It seems, in a rational way, like the logical thing to do. I was well aware of the fact that I could not handle another soul-crushing summons from Elisabetta. I had to go on my own way. I never get headaches. But the morning after my wedding I woke up with a horrible one. The headache lasted for exactly six months. I was in constant need of pain relievers. The morning of the wedding, I actually canceled but my husband talked me into going through with it.

By the time I filed for divorce, four years had passed. The headache had morphed into all sorts of problems. I hated the small Italian city we lived in. The people there were ignorant. While I could walk the streets of Turin with ease, there I couldn’t walk to a cafe to write without being harassed by men in cars who opened their doors and tried to coerce me into them. I kept being mistaken for a Nigerian prostitute. I’ve never seen a prostitute carrying a laptop. Nor have I ever seen one wearing glasses. But from their perspectives, I guessed, there was a first time for everything.

My husband’s father refused to attend the wedding. He wouldn’t eat with me at family celebrations. I wasn’t even allowed at the dinner table. I remember the first time I saw him outside the house one night. He was walking the dog. I told him good evening in crisp, well-practiced Italian. He responded by turning to talk to the dog. It was pretty clear. The dog was worthy of a greeting. I was not. When we visited my in-laws for the holidays my husband was left out of every celebration because he had married me.

When two people marry, it is generally because they want to build a family together. I wanted this but I did not want to bring a child into a family where the child wouldn’t be accepted. The idea was, in the end, unthinkable. When one moves abroad, one can better appreciate the importance of family. Even now, sitting here in Berlin, I can appreciate those terrible church services on those hot summer afternoons with my grandparents. Because I recognize how much they loved me. They didn’t exactly know what to do for me, but they did their best.

When you become more established in life and in who you are as a person, you understand what truly feels right, and you know what doesn’t. I knew early on that I needed to make a u-turn. It took me years to do so. There are times when a u-turn isn’t easy.

My husband and I eventually left Italy. We moved to Belgium. I tried to reconcile things there too. But beyond the family who wouldn’t accept me, it wasn’t right between us. I suffered under the weight of what to do next. The suffering ended when I made up my mind to leave.

Two years later, I’m headache-free. I’m single but you know what? For the first time in a very long time, I can honestly say it: I’m happy.



Moon and the Sky





I was the one
I who could
Pull in all the stars above
Lay them on your feet
And I gave you my love
You are the one that got me started
You could have let me
Love anyone but I only wanted you
So why did you make me cry
Why didn’t you come get me one last time
You’ll always know the reason why
We could have had the moon and the sky
You’ll always know the reason why this love
Reason why this love
Ain’t gonna let you go
You lay me down and left me for the lions
A long, long time ago
You left me there dying
But you’ll never let me go
You’ll always know the reason why
We could have had the moon and the sky
You’ll always know the reason why this love
Reason why this love
Ain’t gonna let you go
You’ll always know the reason why
The song you heard
Will stay on your mind
It ain’t gonna let you go, no
‘cos you were the moon
And I the endless sky
You’ll always know the reason why
We could have had the moon and the sky
You’ll always know the reason why this love
Reason why this love
Ain’t gonna let you go
Ain’t gonna let you go
You had the keys to the car
You had every star
Every one of them twinkling
Baby what were you thinking
We had the moon and the sky above
And I gave you my love