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This report is taken from PN Review 248, Volume 45 Number 6, July - August 2019.

from ‘The Notebooks’
from ‘The Notebooks’of Arcangelo Riffis
Marius Kociejowski
Suppose one were to drop a youth of Byronic sensibilities into the middle of 1950s America, how would he fare? Suppose one were to add a dash of Shelley as well and maybe just a smidgeon of Keats and then consider such a compound figure when compared to any found in the innumerable books and movies about growing up in that period, the Eisenhower years, the years of promise. The You’re a lucky fellow, Mr Smith decade. What would be immediately noticeable is that he, Arcangelo Riffis (b. 1940) grew up to a wholly different soundtrack. Not for him ‘Blue Moon’ or the beginnings of rock’n’roll or even The Beverley Sisters (although, surprisingly, a fair bit of shlock gets in there, gushing movie themes, ‘Helen of Troy’, for example) but, rather, Gesualdo, Corelli, Pergolesi, all the way through to Bruckner and Mahler and, later still, Gershwin, Respighi, Elgar and, after a bit of a struggle, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Shostakovich, but not too much further beyond them. And then one would have to consider that by the age of twelve he had already fully acquainted himself with Homer and Shakespeare. What we’d be looking at is someone who did not jive with the times. And consider too that his experience of the poets, the Romantic in particular, was such that his reading of them and his living through them were close to indistinguishable. Quixotic is, in the circumstances, a weak adjective. If Byron was the house in which he dwelled, Shelley was the key to it. I’ll give Arcangelo the run of ...

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