You might remember that I've been working on a novel about time travel and Renaissance Italy. And if you know me, you know I'm a fast writer (though not one to complete a novel in a month!). So you might be wondering where it is -- where's The Renaissance Club, as my novel used to be called. And might again be. Long story short, it's become a play AND a novel. I'm told you can do this. And to prove it, below is a short excerpt from the novel.
But because I'm used to writing plays, I took the detour of fleshing out my story's arc in the compressed intensity of what was to be a one-act play. Should be quick to write a 20-minute play, right? Unless it becomes a two-act, 90-minute multimedia play. It's had one table reading, and I'm now at work on a revision, which I hope will eventually be seen on a stage near you! Or at least a stage.
In the meanwhile, the novel is not forgotten! Their plots have diverged, though the essential elements remain. Elements of Light, you might call them. Which is now the novel's working title. Here's the excerpt -- comments always welcome!
Chapter Two - Excerpt. Bowled Over at the Baldacchino.
she finishes her note, May hears a far-off clang. The Swiss Guards are closing
the front door. She hadn’t noticed them before, which was surprising, with
their bright red and gold medieval costumes.
Tourists scurry past as the great
doors of St. Peter's swing shut. Where are the club members and George? She looks around, then
she looks for a side door and sees it closing, too, trapping her alone inside
Panicking, May dashes toward the
Baldacchino and nearly collides with a man in a frayed doublet and hose who had
been standing so close to the bronze pillar she hadn’t seen him. He’s holding
his hands up, framing the Baldacchino like an architect. He looks a little like
Bernini in his seventeenth-century costume—the dark eyes, full lips, and long,
curly hair. Odd to find someone in costume, she thinks.
He turns and sees her just as she stops
before plowing into him.
“Boy, watch where you’re---oh,
excuse me, Miss, I took you for a fellow in those pantaloons. What are you
doing here? No one’s allowed to watch me working.”
“Working? Are you a restorer?”
May looks at his doublet and hose, a
good period outfit in shades of gray and black, frayed around the cuffs for
“Who are you?” they say in unison.
“May Perl. I got separated from my
tour group and I need to get out.”
“Signorina Pearl, I am Gianlorenzo
Bernini, at your service.” He bows.
“Using the name of St. Peter’s
architect, very funny. Are you in a pageant? Costume’s very good.”
She sniffs. “Do I smell candles? When
did they light those?”
They’re burning on the altar—immense
candles. There’s something different about the Baldacchino. She hears the sound
of a lute.
“Are you rehearsing something? Is it
for a concert?”
“I always have music playing when I
work, Signorina. It aids the flow. They light candles of course every day. How
can we see without light?”
“I don’t know this term. Signorina,
you have to leave. I can’t work with a gawker. A female! My work is based on my
meditations on the Virgin and saints. The crucified and risen Savior. You make
the atmosphere unsuitable.”
May finds his characterization
overdone, with the archaic diction.
“And who do you think I am?” she
He looks at her up with contempt.
You’re clearly not a lady. I could
have you arrested. The dungeon, you know, is no place for ladies.”
“Chill, dude. I’m an art historian. I’m
studying this place. I’ve even studied you!”
He laughs. “Historian? A woman?
“I’m a historian of art and
architecture. I know all about your creations.”
“You’re just a skinny,
strange-looking girl with golden skin. A whore from the street and
half-starved, it seems. Who told you to say you’re a historian? Your madam, to
entrap me? Or the Devil, for the same reason?”
May laughs. “You’re kidding, right? Harsh.”
“Then tell me, Historian of architecture,
what is the Golden Section?”
“The Golden Section is the division
of a unit of length into two parts so that the ratio of the shorter to the
longer equals the ratio of the longer part to the whole.”
He stares for a moment and then
laughs uproariously. His baritone laugh seems too big for his slim, short body.
“Very nice! Your madam has schooled
you well. But she should have put you in skirts to catch a gentleman.”
He walks toward her and then walks
around her, as if assessing her as a potential model.
“Where do you come from? Your almond
eyes and golden skin are not Roman.”
“I’m half Indian and half American.
I suppose you’re all Roman.”
“Neapolitan by birth, half
Florentine by family. So we are both made of halves. Twins.”
“Twins of an odd sort, you could
“This pants costume does nothing for
what little figure you have. Even with your very nice hands and eyebrows.”
He stops in front of her, too close.
She leans back.
“Oh, I see. You find me so very
unattractive, except for hands and eyebrows. What are you, a priest? I’ve read Bernini’s
biography. He hardly led the life of a priest!”
His dark brows purse together and he
compresses his full red mouth.
“I am an artist, Signorina. A
delicate instrument of feeling and a vessel for inspiration.”
“I only wish you really were Bernini.
You’d be quite an artist, yes. And this would be the interview of all time!”
The Bernini man looks pained. He has
been well cast; he really does look like the petulant artist, from his self-portrait
at about twenty-six.
“I create portraits of saints,” he
says. “I must understand their experiences and witness their transports. So
Saint Ignatius Loyola tells us.”
She walks away to look closely at
the changed Baldacchino as he replies, “Methodical, yes. I am nothing if not
methodical. Everyone says so.”
Even with her back to him she feels
him scrutinizing her, as an artist will, taking measurements automatically to
“I have just been asked by the Pope
to create the altar canopy for this great church, so your pathetic body, what
little of it there is, those small breasts and thin shoulders, tempts me not at
He sounds so defensive she forgets
he’s an impostor and feels sorry for him.
“Thanks for not liking my breasts.
So what are you thinking for the canopy?”
She knows what the canopy design is,
though somehow he has managed to make it appear not to be there. Perhaps a holographic
“I have to work with the idea of the
ciborum,” he says, “the traditional canopy covering a sacred spot. In this case
it’s the grave of the Apostle. But I want something new. Something that lifts
it toward Heaven.”
She walks back, interested now in
“Something with a structure above the
canopy perhaps. You did it that way. At
least a minute ago, that’s how it looked.”
He looks puzzled.
“No, I plan to top
two intersecting ribs from the columns with a statue of the Resurrected Christ
carrying the Bannered Cross. My concept is that the bottom of the structure
begins with His sacrifice and rises up to His triumph, ascending to the top of
the dome where His heavenly enthronement is portrayed.”
“Sounds too heavy
to be supported.”
How did he create
that illusion of the unfinished Baldacchino? It looks convincingly empty to her.
She begins to feel queasy.
“You know, you
really do look like Bernini.”
“You are an odd
woman. Yes, the weight is a problem.”
else? Some volutes?”
“I was thinking
the traditional canopy won’t work.”
outside the box? “
“What box? There’s
no box in my plans.”
thinking she says, “It’s just an expression in my time.”
really does look like Bernini. And he knows about the problem of the ciborum
and traditional canopy. Impressive method acting.
“What about light,
curving volutes above the canopy, meeting at the center?” she said, testing him
to see if he would recognize his own idea. “And maybe topped by a small orb and
“You have some
“I’m just echoing
your own ideas. I saw them a moment ago, four centuries after you created them.”
Bernini looks at
her with curiosity and says, “My friend George says time is … what was his
term? Relative. Relative to what, I don’t know.”
“You know George
May thinks there’s no mistaking the famous smile, full-lipped and outrageously
and I are drinking buddies. That is, when I drink. Which is seldom. I must keep
the instrument vigorous.”
say. I read that you almost never slept or ate.”
do you speak of me in the past tense?”
May feels dizzy
now, as if gravity has ceased to work well.
“I think I’m from your
looks past him at the Baldacchino. It would have been impossible even with
holographic images to create the canopy’s absence. It’s easier to believe in a
fold in time.
“What’s the matter
with you? Are you so hungry you’re delirious? I will give you some of my wine.”
offers a small flask, but she shakes her head. The lute player seems to have
been joined by a flautist and they harmonize a high melody with warm tones.
reaches out and instead of taking the flask touches his arm.
“What are you
doing, strange girl?
“Trying to see if
you’re real. You don’t feel solid. I can’t touch you.”
He ignores this.
“You have good
ideas. And your face is somewhat beautiful. I could use you as a model. You’d
have to unbraid your beautiful black hair.”
He touches the top
of her head, maing her flinch.
“I felt that!” she
strokes her hair down to her ear, saying, “Let me loose it, I want to.”
She shrugs away.
“Listen, I’ll just leave you to your
meditations, if you tell me the way out.”
“I could call the guards and have
you dragged to the dungeon. That’s a way out.”
“Is that a dare? Remember, I know
all about you.”
“Really? And you may call me
Cavaliere. I have been knighted, as anyone in Rome knows. Tell me about my
May smiles. “Hang onto your hat,
Bernini. You were born in Naples in 1598 and are credited with creating the
Baroque style. You have captured in marble an iconic image of Teresa of Avila,
a narrative moment of religious ecstasy that changed the way art is made. Some
art historians called you the successor to Michelangelo. You died in---”
“Stop! Don’t blaspheme. And I have
not sculpted Teresa of Avila.”
“You will. It’s next on our tour.”
Labels: Baldacchino, Bernini, fiction, St. Peter's