Sunday, May 25, 2014

Our Ideas of Castles

It’s funny—I ordered a simply irresistible Italian bowl and mug from an online shop, and just got back the message “this item is out of stock and being made for you in [some small village in the hills of] Italy; it will be shipped when ready.  I feel honored—though the “print on demand” processes in place at the press where I work are really just the same, just much less romantic somehow.  The potter and the painter of cherry red and their lunch of penne con ceci e gamberi just aren’t there, as they are now in my mind’s eye.

That reminds me of my favorite quote from a favorite John Cheever story set in the Romantic realms of Italy.
“Our ideas of castles, formed in childhood, are inflexible, and why try to reform them?  Why point out that in a real castle thistles grow in the courtyard, and the threshold of the ruined throne room is guarded by a nest of green adders?  Here are the keep, the drawbridge, the battlements and towers that we took with our lead soldiers when we were down with the chicken pox.  The first castle was English, and this one was built by the King of Spain during an occupation of Tuscany, but the sense of imaginative supremacy—the heightened mystery of nobility—is the same.  Nothing is inconsequential here.  It is thrilling to drink Martinis on the battlements, it is thrilling to bathe in the fountain, it is even thrilling to climb down the stairs into the village after supper and buy a box of matches.  The drawbridge is down, the double doors are open, and early one morning we see a family crossing the moat, carrying the paraphernalia of a picnic.”—John Cheever, “The Golden Age”

image:  Tuscany


  1. a nest of adders?
    i may never think of castles the same way again! LOL.
    in truth... my castles are more like highclere.