A Man Of No Moon
In McPhee’s entrancing tale of post-war Italy, Dante Omero Sabato is a famous poet, novelist, and translator with two obsessions: suicide and sex. As the narrator of the story, Dante is open about these competing forces and the effect they have upon his every movement. His current love interests are two American actresses, sisters who have come to Rome to be a part of Italy’s booming cinematic industry. Gladys and Prudence Godfrey, while not classically beautiful, are nonetheless intensely alluring, Gladys in her unbounded lust for life and experience, Prudence with her seeming reticence of the same. Dante falls for, and beds, both, creating a complex yet oddly satisfying relationship for all involved.
Interspersed with the current action of the women’s movie careers are flashbacks to defining moments in Dante’s life, helping the reader understand his conflicting desires for life and self-destruction, and his inability to commit himself to one person, one career, one anything. McPhee provides Dante with a good deal of self-knowledge, but makes him an unreliable narrator, which effectively reels in the reader as a participant and questioner of the action. The settings—from the cafes of Rome to the Aeolian Islands to the beach behind Dante’s villa at Castiglioncello—are vivid characters of the novel as well. McPhee has created a world which we know cannot be sustained, but which also cannot be ignored; this is a riveting, sadly beautiful read.