Mary CaponegroUSAWriting2014

While in residence at Civitella, I made substantial progress on my novel. Because part of  the narrative is set in Italy, and because much of is its imagery draws heavily from masterworks of Italian art, Civitella was the ideal location for me to write. I concentrated particularly on the Italian segments of the book, and I was grateful for the inspiration of the excursions, given that Dana's expertise deepened my understanding of this rich material.



From Chinese Chocolate, a novel in progress:




Thousands and thousands of young people blend into one body.  This malleable  landscape of flesh raises thousands of hands, each index and middle finger held high in a V--no longer the symbol of victory but of peace. From the stage, Country Joe speaks the language of the middle finger minus its neighboring forefinger--not to condemnor dismiss but to celebrate, eliciting from the crowd a selective alphabet far more ecstatic than the call-and-response one might hear during the Prayers of the People at Sunday mass, well before the kiss of peace. That same weekend, in fact, Margaret Kinsella, Jane Salerno, Dawn Krotowski, Victoria Corrigan, Virginia and Angela Postodellafuoco, and the vast majority of the girls who attend St. Rose recite the Nicene Creed, the Our Father, the Eucharistic Prayer, as well as the responsorial psalms. Whether in their respective parishes or a church they see only in August, they will dutifully pray for the Pope, the President, the bishop, the clergy, the army, and every civilian, including the poor and the sick and the lonely, each congregation soliciting God’s ear: Lord Hear our Prayer, Lord Hear our Prayer, Lord hear our Prayer. The drone begins Saturday evening at five and resumes Sunday at eight-thirty, ten, eleven-thirty, twelve forty-five, and again at five. Just as banks and grocery stores have extended their hours, so has the ever-more-flexible Vatican II Catholic Church.


But two and a half hours north in the Catskills, the three-day-long festival has become, as if a temporal version of the bodies crammed into it, a single contiguous entity, and its jubilant, mimicking din drowns out all the distant, sotto voce incantations, matching them syllable for syllable, transforming entreaty into command. Gimme an f!—shouts Country Joe into the crowd, and hundreds of thousands of people reciprocate “F.”  “Gimme a u!  Gimme a c!  Gimme a k! What’s that spell?,” Country Joe McDonald asks his electrified audience, and through their collaborative fervor, those four infamous letters inscribe themselve into the mellow ambience of folk music, pot smoke and anti-establishment good will.      


For whom, meanwhile, do the girls of St. Rose most fervently pray, huddled in pews, safe under rooves, assembled not in a single, vast, open-air congregation but in scattered locations across the Island and beyond? For the poor, the sick, and those who are alone. (They know they should not put themselves in this category; they’re too young to have boyfriends and besides, that is not how the Church defines alone.) Being a member of the Catholic Church, Mrs. Postodellafuoco believes--and has repeatedly told her daughters--means never having to be alone, even if poor, even when sick. She would not likely acknowledge that one hundred twenty miles away, at Yasgur’s Farm, an alternate church has evolved overnight, in the form of a thousand-armed Siva-like body. Nor would she likely perceive this unwieldy but functional body as the picture of health. And yet this appears to be the case. Excepting a lack of some basic supplies—sanitary napkins and aspirin and soap--and of course the anomalous bad trip, there are no complaints; there is certainly no loneliness. Money is irrelevant, as somewhere along the line, due to its ever-expanding corpus (a benign version of the Postodellafuoco girls’ favorite horror movie, The Blob), the festival has become free of charge. Thus no one need pay for this delectable taste of the zeitgeist’s forbidden fruit, and no one need pray for the soon-to-be-legendary, self-sufficient squatters of Yasgur’s Farm.