To read a selection of Grace's poetry on the showcase, click here
Grace Andreacchi is an American-born novelist, poet and playwright. Works include the novels Scarabocchio and Poetry and Fear, Music for Glass Orchestra (Serpent's Tail), Give My Heart Ease (New American Writing Award) and the chapbook Elysian Sonnets. Her work appears in Horizon Review, Eclectica, Word Riot and many other fine places. Grace is also managing editor at Andromache Books, and an assistant editor at Sotto Voce Magazine. She lives in London and writes a regular literary blog, Amazing Grace. Author's website: here.
There are so many, but I'd have to name Marcel Proust for his dedication to a single vision, Thomas Bernhard for his rage, Scott Fitzgerald for his beautiful architecture, and John Ruskin for a million reasons. I've also been influenced by the folk tradition, fairy tales from many different cultures. Recently the Japanese author Kawabata has been a big influence.MARCEL PROUST
Click image to visit the TempsPerdu.com website; for the Kolb-Proust Archive for Research website, click here or for related books on Amazon, click hereTHOMAS BERNHARD
Click image to visit Bernhard’s official website; for a profile of Bernhard on the Wikipedia website, click here or for related books on Amazon, click here F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
Click image to visit the F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary Homepage; to visit the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society website, click here or for related books on Amazon, click here JOHN RUSKIN
Click image to visit the Ruskin Museum website; to visit the Ruskin Foundation website, click here or for related books on Amazon, click here
GRACE’S TOP FIVE OPERA MOMENTS
'Che farò senza Euridice' from Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice – the perfection of despair, the utterance of the unutterable, the heartbroken heart of darkness.
Isolde's Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde – right over the top and up into the multi-coloured eternal Wagnerian sky.
Tatiana's letter aria from Eugene Onegin – O foolish youth! Painfully beautiful, shimmering in the unending twilight of a Russian summer.
“Don Giovanni gets dragged down to hell – and doesn't he deserve it! Delicious goose bumps, thrills and chills.
The Invisible City of Kitezh appears – and you thought it was only a legend, wasn't even real, and suddenly there it is, faintly heard at first, a peal of bells, a bubble of air, a glorious golden vision.
It all began when she happened to hear him on the radio one morning, singing his heart out in Lensky's aria from Onegin. She burst into tears at the breakfast table, it was so much the most beautiful thing she'd ever heard, her husband looked at her strangely and asked, Stella, is something the matter? Later she learned that the singer was called Fritz Wunderlich and had died in a tragic accident in 1966. She bought all the recordings she could find, and soon he began to take over her life entirely. She had never really cared for tenor singing before, but this was different, this was true love. She gave up sleep, and spent her nights alone in the darkened room with the headphones on, alone with Fritz. He said he loved her, he said he wanted her to come to him, he said he had been waiting for her for a long time. He had said it from the very beginning, when he first called to her through Lensky's aria, and he said it again and again, night after night. Then he began making love to her. Gentle at first, his lovemaking became ferocious, almost violent. She had never known anything like it. She was terrified, thrilled, delighted all at the same time. She could think of nothing but him. All day long at work she thought of him, a vague, dreamy expression on her face while she processed claims for auto insurance. Sometimes she completely forgot what she was doing, even where she was, and drifted off with him, reliving the adventures of the night before. It all happened in a large, white room like a room in a palace. In the exact centre of the room was an enormous white and gold canopy bed. Both the canopy and the bedcover were of sky blue velvet, the sheets were of white satin, and strewn over the sheets were handfuls of pink rose petals, real ones, not plastic or cloth. It was a real bed, in a real place, but she didn't know where it was. Somewhere in Germany, perhaps. She could feel how soft and slippery the sheets were, just as she could feel his hands on her body, and him moving inside her. Sometimes he left bruises on her neck and arms. Then there were the bite marks on her breasts. Her husband, understanding at first, wanted her to see a doctor. Reluctantly, she went. The doctor gave her pills that made her unbearably sleepy, so she flushed them down the toilet without telling anyone. Her husband moved out. Her boss at the insurance company told her to take a leave of absence.
Now she was alone with him all the time. His attentions became ever more frequent and persistent. He spoke to her in a strange mixture of German and English, although she knew only a few words of German. She began to study it in a book, and was surprised to find that his conversation was often obscene. 'Why are you angry with me?' she asked him one night. 'Because you must belong entirely to me!' he replied. 'But I'm already yours, utterly yours, heart and soul,' she said. 'You must be even more than that,' he said. 'Wait, and I will show you the way.'
The next day she went into a charity shop near Victoria station, she felt she was being guided there by an invisible hand. There she bought a man's dark grey overcoat exactly like the one he was wearing in the photograph on the Fritz Wunderlich: Leben und Legende DVD cover. It was only a little too big for her. When she put it on she suddenly felt a powerful happiness sweep over her like a great ocean wave. There was a soft buzzing in her ears, like honeybees. She heard him laughing with pleasure as she twirled around in the coat before the cracked shop mirror. 'O komm, O komm... ich harre dein!' he sang those words to her, laughing, having his joke with her.
She decided to ask for a job at the charity shop. She had a peculiar feeling about the place – Fritz himself had brought her here, and she didn't think the coat was the end of the story. The woman who ran it was called Miriam and had frizzy, orange hair like a hobbit's, and bright green glasses. She said she would take her on a volunteer basis only. On that understanding she began the next day. Her co-worker was a man named Peter, a German from Berlin, who twitched a lot and smelled a bit funny, but then he told her he'd only just recently gotten off heroin so it wasn't really surprising. 'My boyfriend's German,' she said. She spent the first day going through all the items in the shop, dusting off the bits of ugly crockery and worn-out toys, arranging the skirts and jackets first by size, and then rearranging them by colour because it looked better that way, sorting the books into categories such as mystery, romance, how-to and miscellaneous. She left the the record collection for last, and it was nearly closing time when she knelt down and reached into the cardboard box of old LP's. Her hands were positively shaking. It only took her a few minutes to find it – she knew it was going to be there, and there it was. The Unforgettable Operette Stars I – Volume 5 with Peter Alexander, Rudolf Schock and yes! Fritz Wunderlich. It had three songs by him, and although she already had those songs on her CD's, still she just knew he'd put this here for her to find. 'I'd like to have this one please,' she said to Peter. He took it from her and studied the back cover. 'You like this sort of thing?' he said. 'My grandfather was crazy for this. He was absolutely in love with Annaliese Rothenberger.' 'Was he really in love with her?' she said. 'Yes, I think so. He never met her, of course, it was what you call platonic love.' 'I'm in love with Fritz Wunderlich,' she said, watching his face carefully. 'He's the one I told you about.' 'Do you mean Fritz Wunderlich is your boyfriend?' 'Yes, that's right. I'm in touch with him all the time. I know he's supposed to be dead, but it's the most extraordinary thing. He's fallen in love with me, and we've become lovers, outside time and space.' She was afraid he was about to laugh, but he just looked at her for about a minute and then nodded vigorously. 'Yes, a dead lover is good,' he said. 'Not so many problems.' If only that were true, she thought.
As she got to know Peter better, she found that he was quite sensitive, and genuinely interested in her complicated relationship with Fritz. They spent many hours together, sipping cups of sweet tea which she made in the back of the quiet shop. It may have been Peter who first suggested a reason why Fritz had chosen her above all women. 'Maybe he was unhappy in his lifetime,' he said. 'Probably he was very lonely. Underneath all this big life of a star, is often a great emptiness, don't you think?' 'But why me?' she said. 'You give him the real love he needs,' he said. 'You are not opportunistic. You love him for his true self, this lonely man behind the star.' 'That's so true,' she said. 'When he sings, you can hear how much he's suffering. I'd do anything to help him. Anything. I really would.' 'I know you would,' he said.
As winter advanced and the nights grew longer she found it more and more difficult to get out of bed. There was a strange feeling inside her head, fuzzy and black, like a swarm of angry bees. Then there were the chills, an awful freezing sensation as though she were standing outside naked in the rain. She shivered for hours, nothing could warm her. The chills were often followed by a burning that began at the back of her head and ran right down through her spine. She could see it when she looked at herself in the mirror - a bright, hot blue aura around her head. Despite her fathomless love for him, Fritz was unhappier than ever. He told her she must prepare for a great sacrifice, and he wondered whether she would be up to it. He hinted at dark secrets concerning the manner of his death. One night he completely lost his temper and began shouting at her. 'Dummes Mädchen! Are you ready to die? Are you ready to die for me, Blöde Kuh! Are you ready to die?' She awoke shaking with fear, her eyes full of tears. She switched on the bedside lamp and slid his picture out from under the pillow. In the black and white photograph he was smiling at her, his eyes sparkling as they always did. But now it seemed to her for the first time that there might be something sinister about that sparkle, even something demonic. Was he laughing at her? What had she done to make him so angry? She knew a dummes Mädchen was a stupid girl, but what was a blöde Kuh? She decided to ask Peter about it.
'It's getting serious,' he said the next day. 'He called you a silly cow. It's not a nice thing to say. He's not satisfied anymore with reaching you on the astral plane. He wants to take possession of you through a physical body. We can't talk about it here. Why don't you come to my place after work and we'll see what we can do.' That night she followed him around the corner and up three flights of stairs to the one room where he lived. A bag of overflowing trash was blocking the door. 'Sorry,' he said, pushing it out of the way with his foot. In the centre of the room was an unmade bed, half covered with a new, sky blue blanket. 'Please, sit down,' he said. There was nowhere else to sit but on the bed, so she sat. Peter sat down beside her and put his arms around her. She felt a terrible, painful chill run down her spine and she began to shiver. 'Don't be afraid,' he said, stroking her hair. He held her wrists and stared deep into her eyes. 'O komm, O komm, Geliebte...' he whispered, in the words of Lensky's aria. Let me go, she wanted to say, but was unable to speak as he was already kissing her. He pushed her down onto the bed and began to tug at her clothes. 'You must give yourself to me,' he said. 'You promised to give yourself! It's the only way to save me!' 'Who are you?' she said, struggling to get out from under him. 'Don't you know me, Stella? It's Fritz, your own Fritz! I come to you now through this man's body! Save me, Stella! Only you can save me!' He fucked her vigorously, without taking off most of his clothes. His belt buckle cut into her flesh. She turned her head away and saw a single dirty white shoe propped up on the bedside table. The room was icy cold, and smelled of garbage and burnt toast.