by Matteo Curtoni
I don’t know if it’s the same for some (or all) of you, but my stories are hungry. They’re always hungry and some of them are more than hungry – they’re ravenous. Of course they’re hungry for love and attention, for the hours I spend working on them. But the hunger I’m talking about now is something different. It’s the hunger for the things that stories want to find inside my head when I’m writing, I guess. They sink their teeth into paintings and photographs that I just vaguely remember sometimes, into songs from obscure or not-so-obscure bands that I happen to find on Myspace, into pages from authors I love or I loved a long time ago, into pieces of news half-heard on the radio while I’m having a coffee in a bar. Anything, really. But I don’t think it’s up to me to look for the words and sounds and images that they need to feed on, so I let them find all that stuff where and the way they want – and I must admit that usually chance helps them with their hunger more than I could ever hope to do, even if I decided to try.
These days I’m writing a new novel called A Sud dell’Inferno – which means South of Hell – that’s coming out in January 2009, here in Italy. It’s set in Milan and deals with a sort of modern-day Sawney Bean Clan. (By the way, mesdames et monsieurs, if you’re not familiar with the deeds of Sawney Bean and his lovely wife Black Agnes Douglas, I warmly recommend you to check out their terribly amazing story.) And South of Hell is really, really ravenous… indeed one of the most ravenous stories I’ve ever written. While I was still working on the plot, it devoured Johnny Cash and Rob Zombie, 16 Horsepower and O’Death and The Flesh Eaters, passages from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and William Faulkner’s Sanctuary that had been haunting me for a long time and still haunt me today, Harvey Bennett Stafford’s Muerte! – Death in Mexican Popular Culture and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Russ Meyer and Daniel Pennac’s Le Dictateur et le Hamac. It chewed and swallowed so many true crime stories that its belly’s still aching to this day and later it ate news about the fires that every goddamn summer turn some of Southern Italy to a wasteland of ashes and smoke and even ate some scenes from Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trailer.
I told you: it’s a ravenous book, and that’s one of the reasons I’m so fond of it.
Now that I’m working on it full time (until last week I was working my head off translating The Mike Hammer Collection Vol. 1 and I didn’t have much time for anything else) it keeps feeding and feeding and I guess that’s appropriate enough, since hunger is one of its central themes.
I never, never try to find out why a certain story’s hungry for the things it feeds on. It would be a waste of time, probably, and I guess that it would feel somewhat unfair. I just let them chase their appetites the way they want, without asking questions, without investigating too much. I’m sure it’s not a matter of influences – literary and/or creative influences are something deeper and older and much more complex for me than the banquets that stories consume inside my head. Rather, I think it’s a landscape that stories ask me to create for them, a landscape made of pages and sounds and hints and fragments, that won’t necessarily be visible or perceptible between the lines once the novel will be written but that somehow creates a much more deeper focus on the creative process of writing.
Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, I gotta go now.
There’s a ravenous novel that’s demanding for my attention.
Bon appetit to all your stories.