Incipit vita nova

Florentine Scribblings

Though I’m not set to depart Florence until May, I know there are three things that I’ll leave with—a kick-ass shoe collection, a taste for capuccini and a love of Dante Alighieri. My course on Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio is amazing—it may be my favorite course (definitely my favorite lit course!). My professor is incredibly knowledgeable about Dante, not to mention sarcastic and quite funny.
It’s odd, but because of this course, things are starting to make sense. While I still don’t like politics, I can see their importance in the way the world works. How people can love their city/country so much that they risk everything for it (and often sacrifice everything). The connections between politics and the written word are falling into place. By understanding the world that Dante lived in, I can better understand his writing. If I care half as much as he did, my world would make more sense, and from there, I’ll have a better grasp of my own writing. There goes my internal romantic.
And his words! Oh, they are so perfect, so beautiful. I wish I could write such things. “Dante never made mistakes in his writing. In his life, yes, but in his writing, no,” my professor said this morning. Every word choice was deliberate. Every thought executed exactly. If only language had not changed so much over time, so we could better comprehend his meaning. Gentle, sweet, honest—all of these words meant something else in Dante’s day.
Dante begins La Vita Nuova:

“In quella parte del libro de la mia memoria dinanzi a la quale poco si potrebbe leggere, si trova una rubrica la quale dice: Incipit vita nova. (In that part of the book of my memory before which little could be read, a rubric is found that says: [Here begins the new life]).”

So, here begins my new life. However, not one changed by Love, but one changed by Thought.


The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

Last night, between hacking my lungs out and listening to my neighbors’ cheesy-awesome 1980’s tunes, I started writing Per Ardua ad Astra (bit of a mouthful, by no means is this the final title).

Beginning a story is difficult for me. I have no problem writing internal scenes, even endings, but the whole first-impression thing…I feel that if I can’t strike the right tone with the opening line, the rest of the book will suffer. Look at some of famous opening lines:

“Marley was dead to begin with.” A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit.” The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.

“Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.” Inferno by Dante Alighieri.

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.” Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling.

These opening lines capture the essence of the stories to follow. As for me, my opening line is pseudo-epic and quite frankly, reeks. It doesn’t fit with the vibe that I hope to achieve. Oh well. That’s what rewrites are for!

And I’m not going to rewrite a scene until I’m completely done. Unless I come up with a better beginning.