Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Drawing of Giacomo Casanova by his brother

Still working our way through a novel--can you guess which?--in our small Saturday reading class, I was telling the four boys a bit about the great Venetian lover Casanova, alluded to in the book. We’d read enough that day, so I gave them a challenge. They had thirty minutes to write out a Casanovan narrative of their own and had to use as many of the words in the handout vocabulary list as possible. The words:

Results from Anthony, Felix, Ryan and Shawn. I edited the tales for grammar, but the narratives are theirs.



by Anthony

He stepped out of the Santa Lucia Train Station, taking in the extraordinary view. He was seeing it for the first time.
     “How beautiful!” he said aloud, and, thinking back on his plan, a sinister grin appeared on his face.
     His name was actually Casanova--yes, the same name. He’d just read Casanova’s Story of My Life, finishing it some weeks earlier, and he considered the lines illuminating. He’d immediately decided to take the man as his ancestor and namesake, and decided as well to do what his great ancestor had done in the 18th century. So he had come to Venice.
     “Plan A”, he thought. “This will almost certainly work, so I won’t have need for any Plan B.”
     He took an object from his elegant Italian bag and placed it under the sun. A crystal prism!
     “Okay, c’mon, ladies,” he thought, peaking at the passing women from where he was standing.
     The prism refracted the sunlight into a rainbow of colors on the slab of marble where he’d placed it.
     To his surprise, none of the women even stopped to look.
     But in fact somebody did notice him, a man standing not far away. A frown bent his face. It was “Alhambra”, nickname of this particular Venetian policeman.
     “What’s that guy up to?” he thought.
     Casanova looked around in disappointment. “Why?” he wondered. He felt it extremely strange that the women showed no interest in this magic of light and color he had brought.
     “Newton was English, not Italian,” he thought. Maybe that was it. In any case, since he’d prepared no Plan B, he put the prism back in his bag and began to walk around. As he walked, he kept his hand on the prism in his bag, which alarmed the policeman watching him.
     Casanova strolled through the streets trying to come up with some Plan B.
     “What’s he going to do?” Alhambra wondered, stalking not far behind.
     Passing through the city and across St. Mark’s Square, Casanova reached the Bridge of Sighs. He remembered some superstition that kissing a woman under the bridge would lead to success in love. He waited.
     Moments later, a girl passing by stopped and looked at Casanova.
     “Who’s she?” Alhambra wondered.
     Since the girl had made eye contact, Casanova stepped up to speak to her.
     “She will have a sudden girlhood crush on me!” he thought. He had dressed himself with understated elegance for his first adventure in Venice, and his clothes gave him confidence.
     He began talking with the girl, and though she began to walk away, he didn’t stop. He followed her closely, talking all the while, asking if she had ever seen a prism refract light.
     The girl felt a growing anguish in the presence of this nervous man speaking English to her. After enduring it for a few minutes more, she shouted: “Stop, please! You are overbearing and swashbuckling!”
     Casanova was taken aback by the odd words she’d chosen. While he wondered how to reply, the girl slipped away.
     Alhambra still had no idea what was going on, and couldn’t understand why this foreign man kept his hand in his bag.
     Casanova then wandered to a different quarter, Alhambra not far behind. In a quiet neighborhood Casanova began to peer through the quatrefoil perforations in the stone surfacing of an old building.
     “No,” Alhambra thought. “Not . . .” Alhambra moved closer.
     A woman’s voice was heard from within. “Pervert!” she finally yelled in Italian.
     The woman came out the entrance, still in her underwear, wielding a broom to hit the foreigner who’d spied on her.
     “You are under arrest for invasion of privacy!” Alhambra announced, seizing Casanova’s arm.
     “No!” Casanova cried. “I just--“
     “If it were up to me you’d languish in the lead-roofed cells atop the palace, you English scum!” Alhambra yelled.
     “But I was just--“
     “This woman is my wife!” Alhambra said, dragging Casanova away.


[The “Mr. Ma” mentioned in the story is the former president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-Wen the current president.]

by Felix

The very day that Mr. Ma finished reading his copy of Casanova’s My Life, the Alhambra exploded, but that’s not important.
     The important thing is that Mr. Ma decided to become just like Casanova and go to Venice. In Venice he knew he would find his boyhood crush, Tsai Ing-Wen, since she was going there on a state visit to the Venetian Republic.
     Mr. Ma approached her on St. Mark’s Square. But as he approached, he also noticed a handsome Italian man with a six-pack doing a perfect swashbuckling scene to impress the foreign woman. Fortunately, after the scene was over, that man had some business, so Mr. Ma seized his chance to ask her on a date. She thought he looked familiar, was a bit suspicious, but finally accepted, and their date on the Grand Canal was everything Mr. Ma had dreamed it would be.
     Over the following months in Venice, he did the same thing to hundreds of women young and old--but especially old.
     One day, Mr. Ma was hitting on a Russian model when the same man appeared, but this time he had a twelve-pack and huge pecs that were bigger than his own head. The man threw Mr. Ma against a low-slung lead-tiled roof and began to beat him savagely.
     But suddenly, the Ghost of Casanova appeared to protect his follower Mr. Ma. The Ghost was now taller than Taipei 101, and it appeared holding a rubber slipper, the kind you can buy at any thrift shop. He swung the slipper down on the man with the twelve-pack, but he swung with such force that the whole city was broken apart and began to sink into the lagoon.
     And so the ancient legend was fulfilled that said the great city of Venice would be destroyed by a rubber slipper.


by Ryan

A man in Japan named Cusinowa, inspired by the holy book The Life of Casanova, decided he would model his life after the famous Venetian. So he bought another book from Amazon called How to Seduce Italian Girls and read it carefully. Thirteen days later he packed up his books and notes and boarded a flight to Italy.
     He got lost in the Marco Polo International Airport and met the first interesting girl in the men’s room there. It was a boyhood crushed because within thirty seconds he found certain things about the girl to be disgusting. Cusinowa abandoned her and set out to find his next target.
     The first chapter of How to Seduce Italian Girls said it was necessary to find a nice suit, so he went to buy a pair of jeans and a pair of handsome binoculars. He thought his outfit had understated elegance. He finally found the train to Venice and arrived in the city without incident.
     Cusinowa thought the best way to show how handsome he was was to pilot a gondola by himself. His first customer was a girl, and he happily piloted the gondola into one of the smaller, less busy canals so he could be alone with her. He soon found out it wasn’t a canal, but a sewer ditch that carried the city’s flushings into the sea. Cusinowa, the prow of his canal now stuck in a huge pile of poop, realized he was in trouble.
     The girl happened to be the niece of Antonio Pimponi, former head of Venice’s Department of Historical Preservation. She phoned her uncle to send rescue and had Cusinowa incarcerated in a sea level room in the prison next to the Ducal Palace. It is there that Cusinowa languishes today, waiting for the flood that will drown him and doing his best to concoct sushi plates from the small sea creatures that wash through his barred windows at high tide.


[Ryan, writer of the previous tale, is made the main character in Shawn’s tale. Ryan is a dedicated fanatic of curry dishes.]

by Shawn

After Ryan finished reading The Life of Casanova, a copy of which Eric had given him for his birthday, he couldn’t get the famous womanizer out of his mind and decided that becoming a 21st century Casanova was the best thing a young man could hope for. Borrowing money from everyone he knew, he used the sum to buy a ticket to Venice. To his great frustration, he took the wrong flight and ended up part of a tour group heading to Spain.
     “I can’t afford another flight,” thought Ryan. So he decided to follow the tour.
     Visiting the Alhambra, he broke away from the group and set out on his own. He had put on his understatedly elegant black suit that day, which made him stand out, given the June heat.
     Around lunch time he caught sight of a curry stand behind which a slim Pakistani girl was making curry. The sight of slim girl, the smell of curry, and the June heat struck him with a sudden force. This was more than just a boyhood crush.
     “That’s my spicy stuff,” he thought. “The love of my life!”
     He took out his wallet and stepped toward the curry stand.
     “Hello,” he said to the girl. “It must be hot selling curry in such weather--and hey, your stand even has a lead-tiled roof! That’s crazy!”
     The girl said nothing to this, busy making another customer’s order.
     “Please give me . . . uh, your best curry chicken,” Ryan said, “along with . . . er, your milk tea.”
     “Okay,” the girl said.
     Ryan got his curry and started eating, the whole time watching the girl.
     Before he had half finished half his meal, a policeman approached.
     “Papers?” he said.
     “Huh?” Ryan said.
     “Your passport,” the policeman said. “Please show it to me.”
     “Uh, I don’t have it,” Ryan said. “I’m with a tour group.”
     What Ryan didn’t know was that the police were looking for a terror suspect, a Pakistani immigrant whose complexion and height were not very different from Ryan’s, and who also was known to prefer wearing suits regardless of the weather.
     “Come with me,” the policeman said.
     And so Ryan never finished his curry that day, and never again saw his beloved Pakistani curry girl. Three days later, when he had finally cleared up his identity with the police and returned to the street where he saw the stand, she was nowhere to be found.

Shawn Chuang (莊崴翔), Ryan Tsai, Anthony Huang (黃聖翔), and Felix.

Whatever are you waiting for? Read my new book Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

No comments: