August 21st, 2014
Chapter 1-3 of The Italian Letters are attached to The Cairo Codex e-book now on sale
from Amazon. Here is Chapter 4:
The Italian Letters
“Unrequited love is the only possible way to give yourself
to another without being held in indentured servitude.”
-Bauvard, Some Inspiration for the Overenthusiastic
Her head still spinning from the museum visit, Justine parked her Spider in front of Chez Anna and checked in. She climbed the stairs to her room, threw open the shutters, and gazed out on the valley below, the sea beyond. Her mind floated back to the carved mirror in the ceiling of the tomb, the married couple in a warm, respectful relationship on the sarcophagus lid in the museum. Riveting images of men and women together . . . what did she know now?
The iron four-poster bed, covered with a white quilted coverlet, coaxed her to take off her shoes and dirt-encrusted khakis and relax with her latest purchase—D.H. Lawrence’s Virgin and the Gypsy, a quick read that the author had written for his stepdaughter, Barbara. She was again surprised by Lawrence’s ability to write with such sensuality without explicitly describing sexual consummation (until Lady Chatterley, that is):
. . . And through his body, wrapped round her strange and lithe and powerful, like tentacles, rippled with shuddering as an electric current, still the rigid tension of the muscles that held her clenched steadied them both, and gradually the sickening violence of the shuddering, caused by shock, abated, in his body first, then in hers, and the warmth revived between them. And as it roused, their tortured semi-conscious minds became unconscious, they passed away into sleep.
An hour later, Justine was awakened by a cool air drifting in from the sea. Stretching and shivering, she took a warm shower and dressed in a white silk blouse and clean khaki slacks. She was ready for dinner with her father.
It was a short walk back down a narrow street, hugged by fourteenth-century stone houses, to the fish restaurant Morgan had suggested. The theatrical owner and chef came from Napoli, and therefore was immediately held suspect by locals. The Ristorante Vladimiro ai Bastioni boasted the best Napolitano seafood outside of Rome . . . and Napoli, of course. Two diners at the table in the intimate room. One was her apprehensive father.
“Good evening, Dad,” she said in a lighthearted tone. “I see you’ve started on our bottle of wine.”
The other man turned toward her. She gasped. “Oh . . . Amir! What a surprise! I didn’t know you were here.” Her voice sounded slightly accusatory.
Morgan looked puzzled.
Amir met Justine’s questioning stare. “Do you think I’m following you?”
Justine blushed. “It entered my mind.”
“Whoa! Hold on here!” Morgan nearly shouted. “If I’d thought there was something between you two, I’d never have hired Amir without talking with you, Justine.”
“There is nothing between us.” Justine’s voice was confident.
Amir looked wounded. He turned toward the mustard stucco walls, dotted with framed photos and commendations to the owner as a much younger man. “Quite an array of accomplishments,” he noted, and picked up his wine. “Your father’s offering me a job. Archaeologist on the new dig.”
Morgan glanced at each of his guests, one at a time. He squinted. “You do know that I’ve known this young man since he was a mere whippersnapper.”
“Of course, Dad. I was just caught off guard.”
“Now for the wine. A little celebration,” Morgan said. “Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco, tears of the Christ. I thought it apropos. Made from the Coda di Volpe, tail of the fox, to be exact.” He poured them each a glass. “Did you get some rest?” he asked, cautious with his daughter.
“I couldn’t rest until I went to the museum. Remarkable!”
“How so?” asked Amir.
“I visited it on my first day in town,” Morgan interrupted. “Impressive structure, but not much of a museum. At least, it doesn’t live up to the reputation of the necropolis itself.” He sipped his wine, watching them closely over the rim of his glass.
“You asked why I found it remarkable, Amir,” she said, ignoring her father. “I found it not only informative but moving. Particularly the Sarcophagus of the Married Couple. There seemed to be such an equal, respectful relationship among Etruscan men and women.” Picking up her wine glass, she held it suspended in her right hand until she concluded her impassioned description, then she took her first sip.
Amir nodded, captivated by her passion.
“You read too much into things, honey,” said Morgan. A flicker of regret moved through his eyes.
“Perhaps you’re right.” Her comment surprised both of them. Morgan relaxed into a familiar grin. He didn’t anticipate what was coming.
“Women are gifted with intuitive powers denied to men. Perhaps men are just defective women.” She saluted the two men with her glass, winked, and suggested that they order.
Amir laughed wholly, a laugh that Justine loved, and looked around for the menu.
“So true, Justine. So true.” Morgan also laughed with unrestrained fullness. “We don’t order here. Giuseppe tells us what we want to eat.” He motioned to the owner, who walked toward the table, his majestic stride practiced for a more abundant audience. “What delightful dishes do you have for us tonight, my friend?” Morgan had become a regular patron, one who was treated with the reverence of family.
“Calamari Ripieni and Pescespado o Tonno Alla Stemperata, signore. Giuseppe’s best. Only for you.” He clustered his chubby fingers into a bud and pressed them to his pursed lips. His smile stretched from cheek to cheek.
“Squid and tuna?” Justine asked, turning toward her father.
“Tonight, no tuna. Swordfish, my lovely signorina. Calamari stuffed with pecorino and prosciutto,” Giuseppe said in his rich Genoan accent. “And who is this beauty with you tonight, signore?”
“Ah, forgive me. Meet my daughter, Justine.” Giuseppe bowed deeply and kissed Justine’s hand. His gallantry charmed her. “And, this young man is my colleague, Amir El Shabry.”
Amir smiled and bowed slightly.
“Everything sounds wonderful,” Justine assured him, flashing her most beguiling smile.
The chef came to stand next to Giuseppe. “My friend here prepares the swordfish with olives and raisins and capers. Delicious,” said her father. The rotund chef hurried back to his open kitchen.
Two hours later, compliments about the glorious seafood paid, the three of them exhausted from speculating about the work to come in Cerveteri, the evening was winding down. With the second bottle of wine, tensions had relaxed and the three had become playful, recalling the years Morgan had taken Lucrezia and Justine with him on dig assignments in Egypt. Amir had tagged along, fascinated by Justine’s buoyant crinoline skirts, at children’s parties at his family home in Cairo. Morgan’s partner and mentor, Amir’s grandfather, Ibrahim El Shabry, had brought the families together on festive occasions. Being Egyptian, Lucrezia had forever been the guide and the star of any occasion.
Justine watched Amir closely as he picked at his dinner. Both Justine and her father knew that Egyptians tended to shy away from exotic cuisine. She had almost forgotten how handsome he was with his rumpled, curly black hair and piercing dark eyes. So sensual, so sexy.
“I’ll walk you back to Anna’s. That’s where you’re staying—right?” asked Amir.
“Thank you, Amir. Dad—you coming?”
“I’ll nurse my brandy.” Morgan pointed to the owner. “Giuseppe and I have some lies to exchange.”
“Why did you say there was nothing between us?” Amir asked as they turned the corner and started west down the narrow, darkened street. “We’ve been through a lot together. How about the kidnapping? Finding the Virgin Mary’s comb? My brother’s death?”
Justine shivered. He was right. They had been through a great deal together. Perhaps she didn’t want her father to know how intertwined they really were. They had desired one another, but refused to act on those feelings. Besides, she knew she wasn’t entirely over her affair with her betraying Egyptian lover, Nasser. Her father had been pressuring her on the details. “I know, you’re right, Amir. I’m sorry. But why didn’t you tell me you were coming? Going to be working with Dad? You have my e-mail.”
Amir took a deep breath. They had arrived in front of Anna’s. “I’d like to come up for a few minutes. At least try to resolve some misconceptions.”
Justine let the comment pass. She opened the outside door with her key and started up the stairs. Amir followed. The door to her room was unlocked. Inside, she turned to face him. “So, what’s the story here?”
“I assumed your father would tell you—and, frankly, as you said at dinner, I feared you’d think I was following you.”
“Were you?” she challenged.
“Justine, you know I’ve wanted to get back into the field for a long time . . . but there is some truth in your hunch. I did want to be nearer to you.” He stepped closer, moonlight catching the side of her face, her white blouse.
“So you relied upon my father to be the intermediary? To inform me of your intentions?” Her voice rose, eyes flashing. She reached over and turned on the table lamp. “I think you know I don’t like being treated like a little girl, especially when my father is concerned. Please don’t communicate with me through him.”
Amir looked confused, miserable, angry. “Why are you overreacting like this? I thought you’d be glad to see me!” He grabbed her by the shoulders. Their fiery eyes met, and held. Her body stiffened—then, breathing deeply, relaxed.
She let her head drop onto his chest. He softened his grip, wrapped his arms around her, holding her, and both began weeping, exhausted by the old desire that now seized them. They began breathing together, the near panting that marked longing. Finally, he raised her chin to meet his and kissed her tenderly, the embrace long, delicious, leading to hunger, then to demand. Shivering, she pushed him back, enveloping him with her eyes. He was handsome, sensual beyond belief. Slowly she began to unbutton her blouse.
He took her in his arms, spun her back toward the bed and let them both fall, press into her quilt. He kissed her with near desperation, born of unrequited obsession.
She held him tightly as they embraced, her legs wrapped around him now, and rolled on the bed. They slowed as they flourished in each other’s bodies, exploring with touch, caressing, finding the heat of buried passion. Shadows danced across the walls, then stilled. No words were spoken before they fell into a deep sleep.
July 22nd, 2014
As I’ve mentioned in the Countdown, The Cairo Codex e-book goes on sale tomorrow for $1.99. What makes it really special is that the first 3 chapters of the sequel in this trilogy, The Italian Letters, are attached. Here is what the new books is about:
The Italian Letters, the second novel in Linda Lambert’s Justine Trilogy, lies in the sensuous curvature of ancient and present day Italy. The sequel to The Cairo Codex, this novel follows the life of anthropologist Dr. Justine Jenner after she is expelled from Egypt in the wake of discovering and making public a controversial codex, the diary of the Virgin Mary. Exiled into Tuscany, Jenner finds herself embroiled in three interwoven stories of discovery: the long-lost letters from D.H. Lawrence to her great-grandmother, Isabella; an Etruscan tomb revealing the origin and migration of an ancient people predating Rome; and the genealogy of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. While shaken by the frank revelations in Lawrence’s letters and the intimate relationship between the primeval Etruscans and Jesus’ mother, Justine must confront her own sexuality and yearning for personal freedom. The Italian Letters is riveted with literary, religious and archeological history and international politics, each narrative magnifying and altering the meaning of the others.
July 13th, 2014
This letter was published in Dear Maxine: letters from an infinished conversation, Robert Lake (Ed.) Teachers College Press, 2010.
Philosopher, Educator, Author, Friend
“Remember not to bow, not to submit, to choose, to be and to become.”
When I was a junior high principal in the early eighties, I vividly recall a presentation that you made in Santa Rosa, California. I was already excited by your writings that brilliantly folded literature and philosophy into the work of education. So you can imagine how delighted I was when I learned that you needed a ride back to San Francisco. A friendship began on that day that has lasted more than a quarter century.
Over these many years, we’ve met at AERA, exchanged letters and stole time for short visits. I visited your classes at Columbia and understood how a small item in the morning paper could frame a searching discussion on social justice. On the eve of my move to Egypt in 1989, we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco and you said to me: “Remember, Egypt has not experienced an Enlightenment.” Often a seemingly small observation from you could focus my thinking about the tasks ahead. Realizing that I had a rare opportunity to affect the fundamental schemas of the younger generations in Egypt, I designed the work in those next years to focus on building understandings of self-directed learning and democratic instructional practices.
Then in 1992, I brought my daughter April and two-year old granddaughter Chloe to your home in New York for tea. You were generous with advice to my daughter, then in her first years of teaching. April became the teacher we both can be proud of; Chloe, now 19, is at the University of Oregon preparing to become a teacher.
In 1994, when I wrote my first book, The Constructivist Leader, you composed the Foreword. You eloquently celebrated the democratization of leadership, realizing that the “constructivist leader” I envisioned is one who engages self and others in reciprocal, purposeful learning within community. Such acts of leadership involve inquiry, reflection, dialogue and action. You noted that it does not mean taking charge, directing, commanding and subjugating others. Clearly, my conception of leadership was substantially borne of the ideas learned from you.
Coming of age in the 1950’s in the Midwest, I could profoundly identify with your life as a pilgrim and a woman on a quest of becoming. Although not during the same historical moments or with the same ethnic identity, in many ways our life struggles paralleled each other. Your efforts to carve the self from the challenge of being a Jewish woman and mother of two children amidst the prejudices found in the professional world inspired my own journey. I graduated from college in 1966, the same year that you were hired as the first female philosopher at Teachers College.
Over the following decades, your persistence and imagination have helped me understand the nature of my own quest for selfhood.
From my perspective, two complementary pathways played vital roles in your construction of the woman who is now recognized by many as the most important American philosopher since John Dewey. (I can almost feel your modest rebuttal of this label.) The first path was paved with an intentional and enlightened philosophy of being. The second path suggests how consciousness can be awakened in others. This awakening, or releasing of the imagination, defines learning in its most powerful forms. Releasing the Imagination has had the most important impact on me of all of your writings.
Your belief that ideas worth learning have the capacity to awaken also laid the foundation for my latest book (with co-author, Mary Gardner), Women’s Ways of Leading. You’ve reminded us that we must awaken to the compelling need to build a just, compassionate, and meaningful democracy. To me, this is leadership, although I realize that you are reluctant to acknowledge yourself as a leader. Perhaps this is a result of your deep sense of humility.
To continue with your notion of being, I understand that the attitude of wide-awakeness develops and contributes to the choice of actions that lead to self-formation through a vision of constructing the self and the world. We share an understanding of one of the major goals of education: to nurture intellectual talents for the formation of our society into a more democratic, just and caring place.
Further, you’ve argued that aesthetic experiences, such as the arts, lead to a defamiliarization of the ordinary, creating a metaphorical distance from the dailiness of life, thereby enabling us to reframe our perceptions of the world. These sensitivities are essential in order for students and their teachers to create meaning in their lives. Indeed, those who teach—as well as those who lead learning––ought to be “those who have learned the importance of becoming reflective enough to think about their own thinking and become conscious of their own consciousness.”
Democracy, you’ve insisted, is a way of life, not just a form of government. This democratic way of life recognizes the capacity of everyone to choose, to act, to construct one’s own life––to lead. “The wonderful part about being a teacher,” you once said, “is that we can free people to move toward an achievement of their own freedom, of their own expression, of their own pain, of their own hopes.”
You have mentored me through your friendship, teaching, storytelling, aesthetic sensibilities and writings. Powerful words, your words, contain meaning, emotion, and music. I want you to know and remember, Maxine, that your combination of values, consciousness, passion and imagination have informed my life, as it will others for generations to come. For this I am profoundly grateful. You often refer to me lovingly as ‘your Linda.’ And so I am.
With love, Linda Lambert
Don’t miss the ride of your life—Starting July 23, The Cairo Codex e-book goes on sale for only $1.99 and includes the beginning chapters of the next book in the Justine Trilogy: The Italian Letters.
July 12th, 2014
June 23rd, 2014
This was a goal, a desire of prolific writer Norman Mailer. I have been thoroughly entranced by the idea of finding a smarter alter ego. Even the omnipotent narrator falls short because, while she knows everything, it is everything that you as author know and think. So how does an author transcend self? Find that iconic self that challenges your more conscious self. Is she hidden inside, in the nooks and crannies of those silken gray folds? Mailer made an easy choice. In his last novel, Castle in the Forest, his narrator was the Devil. Ah.
Answering your own questions makes you smarter.
June 8th, 2014
That’s how Anthony Tommasini titled his excellent column on music and dissonance (NYT, June 1, 14). In reference to Milton’s use of “barbaric dissonance,” the author waded–no–jumped right into the many understandings of dissonance from politics, to music, to psychology. I had been the most familiar with cognitive dissonance as that state of internal tension arising from contradictions, confusions, that we must make right. Those eternal puzzles that cause our heads to spin. Problems that leap at us during the night and steal our sleep away.
Well, Tommasini’s discussion of the clashing, barbarous, discordant sounds in music are not unlike those tight-wire puzzles in novels. Such cases of dissonance indeed set “the senses on edge.” Here are a few cases that occur to me at the moment when the author:
1) dangles a subtle unknown before the reader with just a brush of puzzlement. What could this mean? Lead to?
2) two barbarous acts confront the reader, yet the narrator isn’t aware of the contradiction. You want to cry out–look, can’t you see!
3) a fine mesh of small descriptors about a character hints at impending transformation–or disaster! We don’t know which.
4) a directly-declared, barbaric crime (Sherlock-style), yet you know that there will be nothing direct or obvious about the resolution. Arthur Conan Doyle makes sure of that.
Next up: Norman Mailer’s hunt to find a narrator “more intelligent than he was.”
May 7th, 2014
The Cairo Codex, has now won three prestigious 2014 awards: the Silver Nautilus Award for fiction, the Bronze International Independent Publishers Award for historical fiction, and was a finalist in the USA Best Books Award competition. The Cairo Codex, a riveting novel of suspense, politics, religion, and romance is set in Egypt during the years 2 and 2007. Anthropologist Justine Jenner discovers the diary of Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus, in an ancient crypt during a major earthquake. She barely survives with the codex and her life, both threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood.
I became enthralled with Egypt as a young girl when my mother enchanted me with tales of her own alleged reincarnation from Egyptian royalty. In 1989, I became a State Department Envoy to Egypt and began two decades of exploration of its culture. I’ve written several internationally-recognized books in the field of leadership, none as fun as fiction! Before fiction, I was an administrator, history instructor, international consultant, and am professor emeritus at California State University, East Bay.
The second novel in The Justine Trilogy, The Italian Letters, will be released this fall (I know, I know, I said July!) and the third novel, A Rapture of Ravens, in early 2015.
April 27th, 2014
This week our grandson, Jered, was quick to suggest the origin of the Nautilus Award. Of course, I realized. Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea tells the story of Captain Nemo and his submarine, the Nautilus. Verne is revered for his imagination, innovation, creativity.
My historical novel, The Cairo Codex, won a 2014 Silver Nautilus Award for Fiction. The awards will be announced on May 1. The awards represent “Better Books for a Better World.” Now in its 15th year, this unique book award program seeks, honors, awards, and promotes print books that inspire and connect our lives as individuals, communities and global citizens. Dedicated to excellence and the highest literary standards, the Nautilus Awards seek and promote well-written and -produced books with messages about caring for, understanding, and improving every aspect of our lives and relationships.
I’m proud to be a member of the Nautilus family!
April 13th, 2014
Is it difficult to trust yourself when you are writing? Not surprising if it is. Writers get so much advice: do this, don’t do this, that sometimes it feels as though it would be easy to lose your own voice in the process. You want to write with a desperation that feels like you’re growing a tapeworm inside, says Mario Vargas Llosa in his marvelous little book, Letters to a Young Novelist. In order to generate that passion and calm confidence in play side by side, you need to trust yourself. How do you know when you are trusting yourself?
1) That part of your brain that exits through your fingers moves along well, then you look at the screen, smile and say, “I didn’t know I knew/felt that”!
2) You’re not writing at the moment, but walking, or dreaming, reflecting, watching the sun float through the trees, and you have an epiphany. Believe me, you can trust that insight.
3) You are having tea and devouring that delicious French cookie known as the Madeleine and you can taste and smell your grandmother’s baking, bask in her love, feel the new shoes you worn that day in your youth. Thank Marcel Proust for this delightful observation (see Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life) about the dance of the mind when the senses are invoked.
more soon, Linda
April 1st, 2014
A few writers have asked me to post some lessons I’ve learned about writing. Hundreds, actually! I thought I’d start with a few of the reminders I keep posted around….
• BE WILD AND WONDERFUL, LET YOUR IMAGINATION FLY. OSCAR WILDE SAID, “LET YOUR MIND MISBEHAVE.”
• ADD SENSUOUS DETAIL AND “BRUSH STROKES” THAT GIVE TEXTURE AND WHIMSY
• GO LEAN, THEN ENRICH
• TAKE AWAY AGREEMENT–DIALOGUE SHOULD BE LIKE A SWORD FIGHT