AMAT …

And All That

        How to become a Latin lover

         By Harry Mount


After walking up and down Italy for about two years, it dawned on me to learn Latin. I know my life will be immensely enriched by the undertaking. — This book taught me simple desires take the infinitive.

That Tragic Al Pacino Look


In Godfather III, Michael Corleone dies a dog’s death in the relentless Sicilian sun. He topples over from his throne filled with hate and holding an orange with a dog next to him, his face hitting the arid sand. Sans family, sans love, sans everything.

Michael Corleone, the only son with an American name, begins the story in the film dressed in military uniform returning home a war hero and bringing home an American girlfriend, telling her that (violence) is my family it’s not me. But every time he interacts with the outside world, they see him through his family; they see mafia guinea. When Michael does finally pledge his allegiance to his father, who doesn’t feel a certain joy when he says, “I’m with you now.”

If in a Balzac novel the social-climbing hero recently moved to Paris has to shed his provincial ways to make every gesture one of social grace or else he’d give himself away, then in America, he has to erase traces of his heritage: no more buying oranges, lawyers not violence, and get that cannoli out of my house. Along Michael Corleone’s journey to becoming American and less Sicilian, moving from the criminal underworld to the world above, you have other Americans who came and settled just a little bit before him, telling him no matter how much money he makes or how much he tries to be – he will never be American. You’ll always be a puppet you muppet. But the world above has just as many crooks and dishonest men as the world below, different weapon same intent.

The higher he climbs and the cleaner he makes his money, the more he loses his loved ones. His intentions were good and yet, where does Michael Corleone go so wrong, even he wonders by the end, “why am I so hated?”

The Words Found ( Inside Here )

There were two books lying on top of a row of books. When I picked up one in an excited manner, the other one fell behind the other books.

“I wrote my masters thesis on this book!” (It was Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)

“I’m interested in the other book.”

He walked over and reached his hand behind the books to pick it up.

“Pick any line from this book and it’s wisdom,” he said. For him, that book was love.

I looked over and read the title, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)”

“But Andy Warhol was an asshole.” I took the book in my hand and briefly scanned it, thinking wisdom?

Long after this conversation ended and I was no longer apart of his life, I read as much of Andy Warhol as I could but there was no other line I liked more than that phrase inside the parentheses outside on the cover. So I kept using it and repeating it like this… from A to B and back again.


“Something beautiful. Something true … then, out of nowhere, a flock of birds flew by the window, extremely fast and incredibly close. Maybe twenty of them. Maybe more. But they also seemed like just one bird, because somehow they all knew exactly what to do…” Foer, found right in the middle of the book.

My Neapolitan Novel Moment

Wedding photos at Torregaveta beach

In Elena Ferrante’s second Neapolitan novel “The Story of a New Name,” Torregaveta makes an appearance when one of the characters tells her husband she wants to go to the beach with her small son, and her husband, who no longer loves her, tells her to take a bus to Torregaveta.

The bus ride starts from a Naples train station one stop removed from the main train station; the dead end last stop with rows of worn graffitied regional trains parked side by side almost in the dark. The seats in these regional trains are metal and miniature like cable car seats making them hood on the outside but dainty and refined on the inside. Once you leave Naples, the Naples-Torregaveta bus ride is almost entirely along the coast, like the Almalfi Coast route but less winding and less steep. This bus ride requires almost no attention from the bus driver, who frequently had his eyes off the road.

While I was stranded there for 20 minutes, I saw three different wedding groups having their photos taken and as the novel relates, it was not a Capri crowd. From a distance, I saw a little girl in a white dress constantly fluffing a bride’s gown. It was the best image I took in Naples, during my last few hours there. At the time, the only reference I had was to the book cover of the first novel, which I had not yet read, and so I had no idea the location would also signify something in the novel. What’s even more weird is that I had entertained the idea of being a mother with a child on this bus and wondered what it would be like.


Ladies Like These: Danler’s Sweetbitter

This story was a strange one, weird like fate. In the beginning, Danler’s language injected me with Twitter-mania, that her writing voice had been kept so pure, so untouched by the standard New York Times style although I knew she had gotten an MFA. She was The Paris Review. It was like Gertrude Stein telling Hemingway, you can be a journalist or a writer, but you can’t be both. It was like de Botton explaining how Proust’s writing made familiar objects, familiar feelings and tropes seem new again. It was everything I identified with fine writing.

Words came in triplets, and it was all Kerouac but this time, a palate for drugs, sex, and wine… Gaumenfreude. Her writing was Kerouac holy but like the protagonist carrying a copy of his book, hard to stomach till the end. It starts with Kerouac, but it doesn’t end that way. On the Road was written into the surface text, so you knew that wasn’t where the real story was. The Real story alluded to another book.

In the beginning, I was living the protagonist, the girl who “came here in a car like everybody else,” I could just see her head popping out the window as she crossed George Washington Bridge, I know mine did. This girl spent Thanksgiving watching The Godfather and eating Thai food just like I did at that age.

Then Danler introduces you to a world where the service workers are noble and their knowledge of food and life are aristocratic. It was love at first sight, everything was. Noble grapes. At this moment, the protagonist was as educated/ developed as a single-celled amoeba all of 22, all bounce and potential, latching onto the knowledge that one older woman could give her… about wine, life, and the art of paying attention.

The boy between them was a Kierkegaard grad school drop out with polaroids of Berlin and Morocco.

By the end of the novel, I realized I was actually the antagonist, the 36-year-old senior server (without her man-slave or power) but nonetheless, having also constructed my own prison that was not the best restaurant in New York City but Berlin, writing a blog no one reads and going on about an art world I was not apart of yet. For all the girls that start the journey, just like everyone else, there must be tons of women antagonists just like this senior server (wearing Clark Kent glasses with frizzy hair and red lipstick), just like me, not entering the “circle of marriage, children, acquisitions, retirement funds.” Where do all these ladies go?


They go to Sicily… homage to The Godfather and as her story shows, they take care of each other- shaping destinies, teaching or by being your favorite guest.

“Her poems that no one read, her apartment that she could never leave, her expertise so niche it was skeletal. She hadn’t made a choice. Someone else had.” Danler

Disillusionment had hit… the Sweetbitter.

Et in Arcadia Ego


“But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city” (32 Waugh) Brideshead Revisited