Frank Lentricchia reads from The Italian Actress (State University of New York Press, 2009)

Set in Italy, Frank Lentricchia’s sixth novel features protagonist Jack Del Piero, a has-been, “former avant-garde” filmmaker, once internationally acclaimed for his experimental work but now stuck in a prolonged creative drought. At an obscure film festival in Volterra, he meets the aging but still stunning actress Claudia Cardinale. She falls in love with him, but he resists. Instead, he casts his lot with a perverse but compelling couple who convince him that he can achieve artistic immortality if he makes an explicitly sexual, violent film starring the two of them—a project that Claudia reproves. The Italian Actress is a meditation on ambition and celebrity, the aging body and the cult of youthful beauty, romantic desire, and the power of the visual image.

“The Italian Actress is about high art in circumstances where high art makes little sense. Like the avant garde films of his protagonist, Jack Del Piero, Lentricchia’s novel comprises an erotics without nudity, a virtuoso monologue that veils the embarrassments of flesh, making desire less its topic than its unspeakable condition.”R.M. Berry