Before Doug and Esther left, Rita told us we would be getting a new neighbor in September who was a famous American writer. She said something about a book he had written being made into a movie with John Travolta but I wasn’t sure that this was something about to happen or that had already taken place. So we waited until he moved in and could ask him ourselves. His name is Jonathan Harr and we learned that he had written a book called “A Civil Action” that was on the best seller list for two and a half years and that they had made a movie based on the book starring John Travolta. He lives part of the year in Rome and part in Massachusetts where he teaches at Smith College. He came to Perugia to have a little time alone before embarking on a 14-city author tour to promote his latest work “The Lost Painting” about to be released. He was very unassuming and seemed shy and introverted but friendly to us as he passed our window each morning to go out for his morning cappuccino and cornetto at the corner coffee bar. We tried to stay out of his way and allow him the quiet he had come here to find.
One day we invited him in to dinner, which he graciously accepted and we enjoyed talking with him and learning about his career and what he was doing. I was goofy enough to ask him “What was it like working with John Travolta?” and I could have kiked myself for being such a dork. But he was gracious enough not to roll his eyes at me and said he was very nice and he enjoyed the process very much. His wife Diane, a visual artist came down from Rome for a few days (it rained most of the time she was here unfortunately) and he suggested perhaps we could get together while she was here and we hosted a wine and cheese get together in our apartment. We had intended to do it in the Garden but it was raining. It was a pleasure meeting both of them and sharing conversations about Italy, life and art.
Yesterday morning before we left for a little spin in our car we stopped to ask if he minded if I wrote about him in our blog and gave his book a plug. He didn’t and actually thanked me and gave me his advance uncorrected proof - marked inside with his corrections - but that he wanted to get it back. I asked what time he was leaving the next day and he wasn’t sure. I promised to return the book before he left. We started reading in the car and became very intrigued. We ended up coming home at almost 9 last evening to find Rita at John’s apartment cleaning up a bit. We were surprised to learn that he had decided to leave early and found, on our doorstep a very nice note along with some language books and the umbrella we had lent him one rainy day.
Bob became so absorbed in the book that he finished it all in one day, not being able to put it down! So, I’d like to recommend that you look for Jonathan Harr’s intriguing new book, the true story of a lost Caravaggio painting and the quest to find it. It’s being published by Random House.
It was really fun for us to meet John and his lovely wife and we feel fortunate to have been able to spend some time with them over a few bottles of wine in our tiny apartment in this Italian city at this moment in our lives.
Rosemary & Bob