In June, Italian-American author Christopher Castellani came to Montreal to speak with me about his book, Leading Men. The event took place on August 9 at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Montreal. You can watch a recording of the event below (interview starts at 4:10).
Ever since I discovered his book in 2019, I’ve been trying to get Christopher to Montreal for an event. At first, he was supposed to come for the 2020 Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival but we all know what happened that year. But COVID be damned, we made it work, albeit three years later.
I loved Leading Men. It has everything I look for in a book: Brilliant sentences, a gripping story, historical research, unabashed queerness, Italian geography, a beating heart… Christopher found a goldmine of material when he stumbled upon Frank Merlo, the partner of Tennessee Williams who was with him for 15 years during his heyday. Merlo lived in Williams’ shadow as his assistant, but he had his own dreams and desires. He was a working-class New Jersey boy from an Italian family and a war hero with aspirations of being an actor.
I had so much fun speaking with Christopher about tumultuous relationship between the two men, the literary and film circles of 1950s Italy, the burdens of fame, and the intersections between queerness and Italian heritage. Hope you enjoy.