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  • Stephen Altman

Think of this as a first date, but with sonnets.

If this were our first date and I offered you a novel consisting of 202 sonnets, would that be a good thing or a bad thing? If you've just come across this site, then this is a first date (of sorts) and that is what I'm offering. Hey, wait!

I have friends of 40 years who have personally thanked me for never making them read one of my sonnets. And I have other friends who have read them all, start to finish, and were just tickled. So whether this sort of thing is for you is like anything else--you offer what you've got and hope that at least somebody will go for it. It takes the writer and the reader, together, to strike a spark.

If it helps you make up your mind, know that it could have been a lot worse. The original plan was for 400-500 sonnets. A kind of insanity obviously took over once I got involved with iambic pentameter. But cooler voices prevailed (a writer's head is full of voices, some cool, some not so much) and I wrote a story in verse that said what I wanted it to say without making you read till you drop.

It's actually a good story, and it contains an assortment of things I'm guessing no one else would put in the same book. The delight for me lay in finding out how these things connected--noir movies and moviemaking and a love of John Keats and Rome and Stoli at the bar and nights spent in the company of Italians who changed me in that way Italians do. And music. And love. And loss. The consolations of art. The differences between the younger you and the older you, and also the things that will stay unchanged no matter what.

Anyway, that's probably plenty for anybody's first date.

[The photo is a still from Moulin Rouge, directed by John Huston in 1952. That's the artist Henri de Toulouse-Latrec, played by José Ferrer, dining for the first time with the model Myriamme Hayam, played by the French actress (and Huston's lover) Suzanne Flon.]

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