Norman Thomas di Giovanni

Among Friends

These pages, the whole website, is a showcase. So while using it to display my own wares, why should I not also display work I admire - stories, poems, and other pieces - by friends and colleagues? In this spirit, I extend to the reader an invitation to dip in.

Panda is a short story by Susan Ashe, who has collaborated with me over the years on a number of literary projects. She has an unpublished tragicomic novel about Exmoor, in the West Country, where she once lived; and another, also unpublished, for teenagers. Her longer fiction is noteworthy for its rich characterization and inventive storytelling.

Ornamental Drive is a recent haiku by Christopher Hemmant, a writer who lives on the Hampshire coast.

Aldino Felicani was an anarchist friend I knew in Boston during the last ten years of his life. He allowed me to rescue and catalogue his extensive collection of Sacco-Vanzetti materials, which included hundreds of the two men's holograph letters and the entire archives of the defense committee. Felicani died in 1967. His memoir In the Shadow of the Chair, published posthumously, continues to move me after more than forty years.

Four Minus One, three brief prose pieces by the exceptional Spanish writer and editor Marcial Souto, are from his book Climbing Down into a Well of Stars. Marcial was born in Galicia, in northwestern Spain. When I asked him for three pieces he sent four, a hint that the selection was up to me. Hence the title he gave them, an example of self-deprecating Galician humour. Other work of his has appeared in The Yellow Nib and in the anthologies Hand in Hand Alongside the Tracks and Winter's Tales 11.

The Go-Between is also from Marcial Souto's collection Climbing Down into a Well of Stars. This time the work takes the form of a classic short story.

The Man Who Put Out the Sun is another of Souto's incomparable tales. The conception and brevity of his narratives is nothing short of stunning. An earlier version of this story appeared in Winter's Tales 11, edited by Robin Baird-Smith (Duckworth, 1995).

With this uncanny story The Snowfall we see that Souto too is no stranger to economic chaos and decline.

Dosser, an as yet unpublished poem by Francis Spencer, is an impressive achievement. Great power, great use of the language, and the rhymes and near rhymes and internal rhymes and alliterations are all breathtaking. It's a huge story, but what makes it a great poem is the sweep of its moral vision. Spencer, who lives in Salisbury, is also, as might be expected, an inspired teacher and an unflagging truth seeker.

Harry Elliot is the pen name of a virtually invisible American writer who hails from Massachusetts, the state of my birth. The man behind Harry the author has been a friend for many, many years. But it has been only recently that he revealed Harry's existence to me. I have read a number of Harry's short stories, of which one - A Mate for Marta - is presented here. I have also devoured the drafts of two of Harry's novels. Let me stick my neck out. Harry has got to be among the top unknown writers in America. It is my fervent hope that I can help do something about Harry's shadowy existence and bring him into the full light that he deserves. He has written some of the funniest and most heart-rending pages I have ever read.

Tom di Giovanni, the first six chapters of whose novel Home are presented here, is my son. I am showing his work not because he's my son but in spite of it; he would not be in these pages if I didn't think his writing merited attention. Trained as a mathematician, he is employed as a computer programmer. In the novel, he is self-taught. Five times, via the National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November of each year, he has set down a 50,000-word novel in the course of thirty days. Home is his fourth effort and the only one he has shown me. I like its characters, who are young, bright, upright, and untainted by cynicism - the last three nice qualities in this twilight age we live in.

Michele McKay Aynesworth is a poet from Austin, Texas. A year ago she published her first collection, Blue on Rye (Finishing Line Press). The Dependable Blackness of Ink is her latest poem. Michele is also a translator of Spanish and French and maybe best of all a singer equally a home with 'Casta Diva' and 'Stand by Your Man', which she can belt out with a tear in her throat. She came to Hampshire some three years ago to get me started sorting and cataloguing my Borges archives.


- N T di G

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