Will I Get “Talented Mr. Ripley”-ed in Italy?
I am not a traveler. Before this week, I had left the coastal United States exactly once: I went to Toronto, which is a two-hour flight away, and I was only there long enough to walk around the block, give a speech, and order one very exotic Canadian coffee.
This is the week everything changes. This is the week that (assuming I don’t get hit by a bus, or get COVID, or get involved in an air crash somewhere over the Atlantic, in which case this post will read pretty morbid after the fact) I go to Italy.
My books sell very well in Italy. This is a strange, but pleasant, fact. You know those jokes from the 1990s about how Germans went nuts for David Hasselhoff? Or how the French actually found Jerry Lewis funny? That’s me, but with Italians. Americans look at me and see someone melodramatic and temperamental and riddled with Catholic guilt, and the Italians are like, “yes, that is a normal man. We’ll have more of him.”
So, this week, I am going to ruin all that goodwill by actually going to Italy, to a series of events. I’ll be in Rome. I’ll be in Milan. I’ll be in Naples. I’ll be in a whole lot of incredibly beautiful places, some of which contain the Pope, and these are, for the record, places I have always wanted to be. They are places I am very grateful to be invited to.
They are also places where I expect to get murdered. This is because my primary exposure to Italy, for much of my young life, was the 1999 movie The Talented Mr. Ripley, directed by Anthony Minghella, and starring Matt Damon as a sociopathic grifter and Jude Law as the trust fund baby who breaks his heart and then gets beaten to death on a boat.
The movie is based, of course, on the famous novel by Patricia Highsmith, and a more sophisticated person would refer to “the Patricia Highsmith novel.” I am not that person. I am a person who watched The Talented Mr. Ripley roughly 300 times in my freshman year of college. Actually, I went back and forth between Ripley and the David Cronenberg Naked Lunch. Freshman-year Jude had a lot of issues, in retrospect, but feel free to ignore them. Freshman-year Jude sure did.