Book Review: “Pavarotti and Pancakes” by Francesco Granieri

Interesting book review.

Dan Santos Book Reviews

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

“Pavarotti and Pancakes” is easily the best memoir I have read in the past ten years, Colin Powell’s and Tiger Woods’ included. It has the authenticity that makes a memoir respectable; a deep from the heart cry in the dark, if you will. Francesco’s writing enthralls; the style is compelling and reminiscent of the fireside storytelling tradition of Southern Europe. He certainly follows Hemingway’s advice to write hard and clear about what hurts.

The scene is familiar to those of us who share a Mediterranean heritage: strong emotions, a sense of family doom around each corner, intense loyalty and unrecognized courage. Put all of these together with the author’s incredible writing skills and you have a winner deserving The New York Times’ unparalleled praise and film makers rushing to buy the rights for what must be an Oscar winning…

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Mother’s Day Blues

I get the feeling from a few online things that Mother’s Day must be soon.  I do not do Mother’s Day, I’m not interested in a few tatty daffs and a lopsided drawing in return for a whole year of devotion.  Anyway it’s been thoroughly commercialised and is just another way of teaching kids to be consumers.

I’ve always said to my family Every Day Here Is Mother’s Day.  By which I meant try to have a little respect and lay the table once in a while without being asked.  And also bear in mind that this means you don’t have to spend your pocket money on tatty daffs.

It worked, with the pleasing side effect that it taught them to question convention.  Of course they also quickly realised that once a year there was one sure fire way to wind me up…


Why Do We Have the Oscars?

Silver Screenings

The first televised Academy Awards in 1953. Image: The Hollywood Reporter

No one can say for certain who gave the name “Oscar” to the Academy Awards statuette.

Bette Davis said it was she, because it reminded her of then-husband Harmon O. (Oscar) Nelson. Some say the Academy librarian, Margaret Herrick, named it after her Uncle Oscar. Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky says he named the statuette Oscar to “erase the phony dignity”.¹

But there is no disputing the driving force behind the Academy and its awards: MGM co-founder and producer, Louis B. Mayer.

According to the reproachful Anthony Holden, author of Behind the Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards, the whole business started because Mayer wanted to build a beach house.

(Now, if you’ve been employed for any length of time, you know how it goes when your boss asks you to work…

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One day my daughter came home from school and told me earnestly ‘gullible isn’t in the dictionary mummy.’  So we fetched the dictionary and looked it up and there it was.  Gullible -‘easily persuaded to believe something whether true or not.’  She was of course humiliated and furious with the kids who’d tricked her, but you know what, she learnt to check things before she believed them.

I feel like telling my friends, or at least most of them, that gullible isn’t in the dictionary, in the hopes of creating the same life-long caution, because they seem to happily post, or re-post, any old nonsense.  In the last few days I’ve been told that Facebook doesn’t let you see your friends’ posts, if you put your pin into the ATM backwards it calls the police, and there is a secret code on your cell phone that alerts the police in an emergency even when there is no signal.

All of them read like hoaxes to me and a combination of thought and careful googling proved me right.  It took less than 30 seconds and yet my friends, mostly educated successful and intelligent people, had cheerfully promulgated the nonsense without checking.  I of course point it out to them, as tactfully as possible, and the response is something like ‘ooops, silly me.’

Ooops?  Is that it?  Will ooops help you when you’re trapped by a rapist and think ‘never mind, my phone will call the police even though there’s no signal’?  Will ooops help an old person under duress desperately trying, through their panic, to work out what their pin is backwards?  No, of course not.

These hoaxes are potentially dangerous.  We all need to be more sceptical.  Not more gullible.

The world turns

Woke up this morning at my usual time and it was not only daylight but the sun was coming through the slats of the blind.  How exciting is that after months of getting up in the dark.  It was still bitterly cold, the sky was an icy blue and an elegant sliver of new moon was also visible.  Wonderful.

Hup, two, three, four…

As a dedicated avoider of all sport and fitness work who would rather stay healthy and live longer I am actually going to try this idea that if you walk briskly for 10 minutes you can do yourself a power of good.  May not manage the recommended three times a day but hey, something is better than nothing, right?

Has anyone tried it, does it work?


Brass monkey weather.  Or Taters as we say in London, no idea why.  Anyone able to explain?  Whatever we call it, it’s cold.  Hard going for commuters (please drive safely) but good news for gardeners.  Yes, good news, because we need a few hard frosts every winter to kill off all the nasties that are hibernating in nooks and crannies all over the garden.  I suppose we lose a few nicies as well.  Such is gardening.  And life.