Questioner: Welcome back. We are here again with author R. J. Nello. The demand to hear more from him was underwhelming. Still, we figured, what the hell, we have space and time to kill, and it’s Sunday. Part I of the interview yesterday was running long. We thought we’d give you all a break before continuing….
R. J. Nello: Well, at least this title makes more sense than yesterday’s. I’m not a legend, though. I’m still alive. I do hope someday, though, my English niece and nephews will be able to say, “He was so insightful, even for an American.”
Q: We just thought a title more akin to that for a Gore Vidal interview would have been more appropriate.
Nello: Aren’t you a load of laughs. Oh, and thanks a lot for that non-cheerleader of a lousy intro.
Free Stock Photo: A stack of blank books isolated on a white background.
Q: We’d like to use this continuation of your interview with yourself to talk about something other than your uncle, Gore Vidal, and French girls.
Nello: If so, do you think anyone will actually care?
Q: Now, to go on, Passports covers a melange of themes….
Nello: Melange? A what? Oh, wait, got it. It was your pronunciation. It’s mélange. You from Long Island or New York originally or something?
Q: Let me say, you’re getting better at being the haughty novelist.
Nello: And condescending. Don’t forget that. I’m improving on that too. You know, if this were truly a European interview, like France 24, I’d probably be offered a glass of wine. I’d settle for a Sauvignon blanc. But you’re some American who doesn’t do wine of course. Still, not even a light beer?
Q: Feeling an impulse yet to overturn the interview table?
Nello: I’ll save that for nearer the end.
Q: I’d still like to talk themes and subplots. Passports revolves around global living, diverse relationships, traveling and….
Nello: I know, I know, no machineguns. Or wizards. Or vampires. I’ll try to fit those in at some point down the road in a third volume.
Q: And it’s about late twenty-somethings….
Nello: And there’s sex too. Don’t want to forget the sex.
Q: And it’s about friends.
Nello: Uh, not the Friends as in the 1990s TV show….
Q: But, Mr. Nello, in one chapter you do allude to a program that sounds just like that one.
Nello: Because they were funny at times, weren’t they? My 16 year old English niece has all the DVDs. I never understood how Ross went with Rachel over Emily. He was a moron. But Emily dodged a real bullet there because he was such a lunkhead. I married my Emily and have never regretted it for a moment.
Q: Oh, that’s so sweet, my teeth are decaying. There’s also a brief chapter in Passports about an American student who, shall we say, “misbehaves” in Italy, to the disgust of her English roommate.
Nello: It was worth only a short chapter. We should acknowledge that type exists. But it isn’t really representative of most young Americans in Europe either, thank God.
Q: Is the fictional student inspired by a certain real woman study abroad student convicted of a murder in Italy?
Nello: Wow, no slipping anything by you.
Q: You can understand many Americans think the real one’s been railroaded.
Nello: That’s their right. But we Americans can be awkward: an American can’t be guilty. Really? Why? Because we’re a country where no one murders anyone for asinine reasons or in a fit of pique? The dead actually all commit suicide?
Q: So you don’t think she’s innocent?
Nello: I wasn’t there. And I wasn’t in the courtroom. My view is I can’t help but believe that if we reversed the nationalities of she and the murdered woman, with the exact same evidence, too many Americans now yelling she’s innocent would be screaming for the English woman to be renditioned to Texas and executed.
Q: Sounds pretty harsh.
Nello: Deep down, we know what we are. Think about it. And Ms. Study in Italy always has that perpetually dim expression, that look of, “What? I have to stay after class? But I’ve got a dentist appointment. I’ll get a note from my Mom.” And she was 20 years old. I dealt as a lecturer with American study abroad students in New York before they went over to Europe. More recently, here in London, I’ve seen them after they arrive. Most of them are exactly what we want the world to see. But there’s also a dopey minority we don’t like thinking about: some of our “young” are, unfortunately, immature dimwits.
Nello: Sorry, that’s my Gore Vidal coming out again. I can do nasty and pompous really well now, can’t I? Regardless, can’t we all just settle on at least keeping her the hell off of Good Morning America for good?
Q: To another issue. I also notice there’s lots in your novel about “only children.” Or those with distant, or much older, siblings.
Nello: I think it’s an interesting family dynamic.
Q: Are you?
Nello: Am I what?
Q: An only child?
Nello: I have a sister who’s much younger than I am, so in some respects I could be an only child. She went to Yale for a time. She’s a helluva lot smarter than I am in some ways. She can correct a Frenchwoman’s French.
Q: James in Passports is an only child. Isabelle has only much older brothers. Virginie is an only child. The list goes on. And the cultural differences you weave into the tale….
Nello: You realize you just ventured onto the subject of French girls? I did lead you there with my last answer, though. But you didn’t stop me? Are you paying attention to your own interview boundaries? Anyway, do you have an actual question?
Q: No. Just pondering the profundity of it all.
Nello: Okay, I’ll give you a moment. Who you pondering? What’s her name?
Q: Actually, where I was headed is the issue of the French hating Americans and vice-versa. You tackle that.
Nello: The discourse is complex and multifaceted on that matter. Did that answer sound suitably literary theory-ish?
Q: So do you also perceive how the cross-cultural difference of some of the characters may be interpreted as being at odds with the notion of them as individuals possessing unique inner voices, yet faced with a commercial and capitalist construct that outwardly demands they adhere to certain mores that….
Q: Uh, I’m not finished with the question yet.
Free Stock Photo: A beautiful girl isolated on a white background.
Nello: Look, I’m the intellectual here. I know where you’re going. Get to the Valérie character already, will you….
Q: God, you are indeed brilliant! You knew exactly what I was going to ask before I asked it.
Nello: I was channeling Gore Vidal again. Careful. Although I’m smiling, I could turn nasty on a dime. Us novel-writing intellectuals don’t suffer fools gladly.
Q: So you’d never appear on, say, Good Morning America ever?
Nello: Good grief, have you seen it? I mean really watched it? No wonder half of Americans think Beirut is in Northern Ireland.
Q: You champion social media, though. That’s full of lunatics.
Nello: At least they’re interesting and can be fun. You run into those who’ve figured out how Dick Cheney was standing on 5th Ave on September 11, 2001, dressed as Madonna, and used a pacemaker to implode 7 WTC. At one time, “independent thinkers” like that were unable to make their voices heard.
Q: So you see social media as a positive?
Nello: Absolutely. Every now and then someone appears and follows you who you never would have imagined would. It’s flattering. Even for us geniuses. You do get to interact with other brilliant people.
Q: What do you think would happen if, via social media, your uncle discovered your book(s)?
Nello: He’d probably sue me. And we’d end up on Good Morning America: “Novelist uncle sues novelist nephew.”
Q: Now, a few more words about the upcoming sequel.
Nello: Oh, well, fine, if you insist….
Q: You’ve written it’s somewhat darker than Passports.
Nello: Yes. It’s not Stephen King, for God’s sakes. It’s just a bit rougher and less optimistic maybe. The death of our very close girlfriend in February still hurts every day. I miss her terribly. That did actually impact my writing. I sat down some days hating life.
Q: For a moment, this actually has become a serious interview….
Nello: I know. We’d better stop it. Here, look, I’ve actually been reading The Winds of War. Could this book be any longer? And the Pug Henry character is really amazed by writers. He should be. We are amazing human beings. I’ve also discovered the Pug in the book looks nothing like Robert Mitchum. What a real downer to learn that!
Q: Not that book again? Feel free to quote Humphrey Bogart. But don’t mention Camus, because no one reading this gives a damn about him.
Nello: Here we go. Typical. Getting all tense at being unable to control the narrative all the time. Maybe I should cry? It could be just like on Good Morning America?
Q: I think we’re finished now. Thank you for your time. I am sorry to say this Mr. Nello, but you’re damn exhausting.
Nello: Are we done again already? But I haven’t had a chance to turn over the coffee table? And I can whine like Ross if you’d like to hear it? Awwwwwwh….
Note: If you missed the gripping Part I of this interview, here it is. ;-)