The online Column “Piazza Navona” today is very happy to talk to you about the novel “She seduced me. A love affair with Rome” written by Mark Tedesco and edited by Dixi Books.
I resisted, but she drew me back. I stayed away, but she beckoned me. I distanced myself, but she haunted me. I even rejected her, but she did not abandon me.
Rome. The Eternal City. Mark is nineteen years old when he comes to this magic place for the first time. It is love at first sight. He is beautifully lost between monuments and museums, ancient ruins and churches. People and their stories. And him. Mark. Discovering Rome is a way to growing up and he is feeling himself as a world full of emotions, empathy, love, magic… remembering facts of his past which have signed him in the deep. In the same time he walks through Roman streets and their stories, their fountains, their monuments and their perfumes. In this way he guides the reader with him discovering the mysteries and the people who live in this city shining it with their light every single day. So, She seduced me. A love affair with Rome is really a story of love, or better, a declaration to the endless love for the Eternal City.
About the book
In November 2020 Dixi Books edits the novel titled She seduced me. A love affair with Rome by Mark Tedesco. The AJuthor is an educator and author living in Los Angeles and among his works we remember: That Undeniable Longing, I am John I am Paul, Lessons and Beliefs, The Dog on the Acropolis and Loving Hoping Believing.
The novel She seduced me. A love affair with Rome is a very declaration to love to Rome which becomes part of him and vice versa. Rome and Mark Tedesco become one single thing, a very aria with a sweet and delicate melody. The Author, page after page, takes the reader to discover of the great beauty of the eternal city. In a very simply way. But with all his heart. And we can feel it reading the book. Mark Tedesco is only nineteen years old when comes to Rome for the first time. And he is in a seminary. But he really feels Rome. Streets, fountains, monuments, ruins, squares, bus (above all the notorious bus 64!), street artists, tourists, Roman people, food, restaurants… Mark becomes another Rome’s child. Curious and sweet. Caring and dedicated. And it a pleasure to read so much love for his adoptive city. The Author lives in the streets and, what is more important, he listens the voices of the people who live those streets. Each of them has a story to tell and Mark Tedesco is ready to listen them, to catch them and to share them with his readers.
Nothing is more pleasurable or enlightening in Rome than setting out without a destination in mind; let feet lead and instinct be the guide. On this day, I am heading towards Piazza Navona because it “feels” right, but I am not stopping for the street entertainers; I go behind the piazza and find Via dei Coronari, a beautiful, mostly walking street lined with shops and cafes. (Mark Tedesco)
So, I too, who am Roman, have to thank Mark Tedesco for his gift to Rome. Just a few people have had the same attention, devotion, realism, love…. To realize a portray of this Old but Timeless and Eternal Lady so realistic and so emotionally charged.
For all these reasons I suggest to everyone to read She seduced me. A love affair with Rome: a novel full of love and passion for the Eternal City and, with her, for the Life… through the centuries… The History goes on…
What is fascinating is that today’s street entertainers are part of a long tradition that stems back to the founding of Rome and beyond, through which the spectators get to forget, if even for a few minutes, whatever burdens them and live in another world. (Mark Tedesco)
Meeting with the Author
Is there a place in the city you’d still like to visit?
I like to experience Rome rather than visit the city, so I usually don’t plan what I will see or do until I arrive. But I usually end up in Piazza Navona for the people watching. I almost always find myself walking from there to the Trevi Fountain, passing the Pantheon, shops, churches, and monuments from the ancient world. I find myself drawn to the world of archeology. Some of my favorite archeological sites include the house of the 4th-century soldiers John and Paul (near the Coliseum), the Golden House of Nero, and the various levels of St. Clements, built over a Mithraic temple. I am also fascinated by the catacombs on the outskirts of the city. Though I have been to all of these places, for some reason, they call me back, beckoning me to experience them again, with the eyes of a history teacher and lover of the ancient world. I have a big imagination, so when I visit these sites, I imagine the voices and concerns and conversations of those who stood on those spots; I can almost hear what they are saying.
Why did you decide to write She Seduced me: A Love Affair with Rome?
When I write, a story comes to me rather than inventing it from grit. It is the fruit of passion, imagination, and inspiration. I can remember when the inspiration for She Seduced Me: A Love Affair with Rome came to me. I was walking through Trastevere and entered the ancient church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. I sat down and looked at the ancient mosaics and took a deep breath of that historical and sacred atmosphere. I then rose from my seat, walked out of the door, then the portico, and stood in the piazza in front. All of a sudden, like a lightning bolt, the book came to me. I realized that what makes Rome unique are its stories. There is barely an angle, building, statue, street performer, or shopkeeper that doesn’t have its story. And in Rome, the stories are what give meaning to what the visitor sees. I wanted to capture some of these stories in a book, which was the beginning of She Seduced Me: A Love Affair with Rome.
In your book, you write about people and their personal stories you met in Rome: priests, tourists just like you, artists, nuns… What is the most interesting and unforgettable meeting?
The most unforgettable meeting in Rome was with Ann Louise Amendolagine, an American street performer in Rome. When I would visit the city, I would see her tap dancing in Piazza Navona, sometimes alone and other times with a companion. She always smiled and was a great dancer, but I didn’t know her story until I approached her and told her about the book I was writing. What was unforgettable about meeting her was her passion and longing for her calling as a dancer, as well as her willingness to risk everything. The drama of her life, her hopes, dreams, and fears that brought her to this point, was fascinating. I find those willing to risk everything, who go beyond a 9-5 job to make a life for themselves, to be fascinating people. I also felt privileged when Ann trusted me enough to let me into her inner world, sharing not only what she did to get to this point but what she feels and hopes for. Her outlook was very inspiring for me and made me reflect on my hopes and dreams and what I am doing to realize them. Her story is one of the most inspiring.
In She seduced me: A Love Affair with Rome, you write about Rome from the past to the present and vice-versa. How did you manage to maintain a balance on the narrative plane?
I never plan out a book when I write, but I go where the inspiration takes me. What makes Rome come alive are both its past and present, and these two aspects harmoniously flow into each other in that place. Anyone who stays in Rome long enough can experience this. So the book evolved in the same way; stories from the past woven into stories from the present reveal, hopefully, something of the heart that makes Rome unique. Keeping a balance between the past and the present was easy when writing about Rome because I focused on sharing experiences, whether my own or those of Nero or Augustus or Caravaggio. Entering into Nero’s Golden House last year, for example, gave rise to the realization that the emperor might have stood where I was standing, or his guests in the same room, wondering what Nero was going to surprise them with next. That feeling of being “in-between” the past and the present is unique in Rome, and it felt easy to capture this in my book.
In She Seduced me: A Love Affair with Rome you write about Brother Gino who was suspended by the Vatican for molesting seminarians. And, in a certain sense, you were involved. How did you feel and live this terrible experience?
When I had the experience of attempted molestation with this Brother Gino, I was nineteen years old, and the feeling that I had was confusion and self-doubt, which, I found out later, is very common with victims of molestation. The man was considered to be a saint, so I didn’t interpret his actions as sexual overtures at the time but blamed myself for reading into it what Gino did not intend.
Pilgrims visited San Vittorino, where this Gino lived because they considered him to be another Padre Pio. Busloads would arrive to participate in services at the sanctuary and then line up to kiss his hand. Though this focus on one person seemed weird to me, I figured that there must be something to the stories of his sanctity. I thought that maybe he lived on a higher plane than the rest of us; anything that seemed like a sexual overture must have been misinterpreted because the rest of us are not on that plane yet and were misreading his actions. That is how I explained all this to myself when I was nineteen. Years later, when I was already physically and emotionally removed from the situation, I heard that the Vatican was disciplining Brother Gino (who became Father Gino) for inappropriate behavior. But this revelation illuminated my own experience and removed any self-doubt. My gut was right: the behavior was unacceptable, and I could trust my feelings from that point forward. My experience also made me more skeptical when I heard about the latest “mystic” in Rome who claimed to be receiving some divine communication. I was glad that all of this came out into the open but saddened for those whose lives Gino damaged.
What is your favourite place in Rome? And why?
Years ago, a friend living in Rome told me the story of the two 4th century soldiers, John and Paul. He recounted the last recorded words that one said to the other: “If we submit to this, we will be together forever in paradise.” I started to wonder how these two men lived their lives to say that before the end. I began a quest to find out about John and Paul and soon ended up at their excavated home on the Caelian hill, which became my favorite place in Rome. When I returned to California, I began to research their lives, using documents and contacts with archeologists in Rome. After eight years of research, reflection, and writing, I produced my first historical novel, I Am John, I Am Paul: A Story of Two Soldiers in Ancient Rome. Even after writing this book, I return to this spot again and again. There is an energy there which is difficult to describe; within those walls, their lives unfolded, those words were spoken which were cited to me centuries later; within those walls, their lives ended. The frescos, passageways, and layout of their home tell the story, and their presence there, to me, feels so intense. I never tire of returning to the house of John and Paul, below the church of the same name in Rome.
When will you come back to Rome?
As stated in the title of my book, Rome has seduced me and is like a jealous lover that keeps drawing me back. If I stay away too long, it starts as a recurring thought, grows into a burning desire, and morphs into an almost obsession. I have to return to Rome because she is part of me. If all the pieces fall into place, I will be in Rome after Christmas.
Where will you go first?
One of my favorite activities in Rome is to follow my feet rather than plan. I exit my hotel and go by instinct. Sometimes I might end up in the Jewish quarter, other times at the Forum, still others at the Vatican. I always end up where I am supposed to be and discover some new aspect or appreciation of what I have already seen. When I return to Rome next, I will follow my feet to see what surprises the city wants to offer me. That is part of the magic of the city.
Which writers and books influenced your writing?
I have a wide variety of books that I like to read, from historical fiction to travel, classical literature to contemporary biography, from bestsellers to unknown works. The common thread for me is that a story has to be based on experiences to keep my interest. If I pick up a book consisting only of the author’s thoughts, I get bored. If it is the author’s experience, I get interested. In my adulthood, the first book that spoke to me on a deeper level was Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. It was as if I felt the author reading the story personally, and each episode, each struggle, was my own. The author was able to weave personal experiences into a fictional story in a way that intrigued me. I also fell in love with Graham Greene, whose stories of human struggles in characters who find themselves somewhere between the ideal they want to be and the person they are. After this, I found myself drawn to historical fiction with authors such as Margaret George and Steven Saylor. Saylor’s account of a private detective investigating cases in ancient Rome covered multiple genres that I could not get enough of! I have other favorite books, but the list would be too long! I’ve always enjoyed reading because getting into a book makes my life feel bigger. Being able to explore someone else’s world broadens my horizons and experiences. In childhood, I liked fantasy and adventure books, such as Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland.
What are your plans for the future?
There are two of us, and our dream is to live half the year in California and the other half in Italy. Since we have close friends in Puglia and the climate is similar to California, we hope to live in both places. A lot of pieces have to come together to make this happen, and every day, I find myself hoping that we will be able to live this dream within a year. From Puglia, then, I can easily visit Rome whenever I hear her call.
You are an educator: what do you want to transmit and communicate to your students? What is your message for them?
I am currently working as a mentor for new teachers in Los Angeles, but my background is in teaching history and the Italian language to high school students. History and language can be a window into the world.
I tell my students my own story: that at age 16, I decided that I wanted to live in Italy. I had no money, no means, and everybody I knew told me it was a terrible idea. But by age 19, I was living in Rome. I worked hard on excelling in high school and was able to gain a scholarship to study. I tell my students that it is the same with them; the only one holding us back from what we want to do is ourselves. If a student wants to go to the University of Hawaii, for example, they can set it as a goal. If they want to live in Europe, or travel the world, or have a profession that coincides with their passions and interests, they can, if they set a goal. I try to help them understand the differences between a wish, a dream and a goal. I want to show my students that all of us can have a big life. But to give this message legitimacy, I have to examine myself periodically: am I living a big life, or am I letting everyday living concerns consume my horizons? My students motivate me to live fully and not put my dreams on hold but to turn dreams into goals into reality.
This is what I want for my students.