John Domini Online

An incident out of a memoir-in-progress, Cooking the Octopus, adapted to stand alone.

"The Portrait Sitter: Poverty, Intimacy, Paint, & Naples"

Published in The Weeklings, Sept. 29, 2016.

In midlife and more, with a long marriage gone bust and a career going nowhere, I began taking my father’s family up on their many invitations to visit Naples. I’d been over to the ancient city before, I knew the language, and I could always find a cheap flight. As for food and drink, that was cheaper yet, often free, like the lodging. I mean, to spend three weeks or a month walking my father’s old Gulf-side blocks, his centro storico — especially since the old man was dying, during those same difficult years — well, it made as much sense as holing up and hammering away at my so-called “career:” some sort of writer, some sort of teacher. I mean, might not Naples offer a solution? For the dwindling remainder of my own life? To suss out answers, yea or nay, took me a good decade of over-and-back. I found help in this country too, naturally, some of it coming from my father himself. Once, I’m convinced, I heard from him after he passed. Just now, however, while there’s no ghost to interrupt, I ought to admit that there remains plenty I haven’t solved. Plenty of mystery yet, no question. Even towards the end of my Neapolitan changes, a few years into the present millennium, I still knew so little that, when I took my shirt off in a good-looking young painter’s apartment workspace, all I could do was wonder.

The woman had asked me to strip down, I knew that much. The undershirt as well, she’d specified... (see link to continue)

Contact John Domini

John is always glad to hear from readers and thinkers: john at johndomini dot com.

He has won awards in all genres, with fiction in Paris Review and non-fiction in The New York Times. The Times praised his work as "dreamlike... grabs hold of both reader and character," and Alan Cheuse, of NPR's "All Things Considered," described it as "witty and biting."

John's grants include an NEA Fellowship and an Iowa Major Artist Award. He has taught at Harvard, Northwestern, and elsewhere, and makes his home in Des Moines.

Photo credit: Camille Renee.