Sometimes I feel like I read fiction in lieu of traveling. I’d rather be a story tourist, I think, getting into heads and language, picking apart sentences, than a real tourist, walking around a strange place to see how it feels to be somewhere else. Plus, it’s nice to be at home. I bring this up because travel, or, more precisely, the culturally loaded notion of tourism, is integral to  Zoë Ferraris’s bracing story, “A Tarantella.”

Opening with a collection of gruff and grunted descriptions of the main character, Massimo, you immediately get a sense that Ferraris is interested in messing you up a little with this one. Massimo is a legitimately tough guy; he’s a recovered heroin addict, an ex-con, and a scarred up survivor. His mother once stabbed him repeatedly in the chest. In the story, he cooks the same slop of penne and meatballs day after day for the guests at his brother’s hostel, where Massimo also scrubs toilets and makes sexually aggressive advances on some of the female travelers staying in the hostel.

In the end, “A Tarantella” is a kind of broken love story, about music and pain and the tricky correlation between destructive and erotic impulses. Massimo woos a young woman staying at the hostel, Ingrid, and though she seldom speaks she listens and he empties himself out to her, telling her every shit thing that’s happened to him, every shit thing he’s ever done, and of course he doesn’t do this often, not with these tourist women, and so it’s a big deal and he ends up making himself crazy about her, about Ingrid. And she gets a little crazy too, but not too crazy. She’s kind of better at love than he is, which is understandable given the story of his life, which is to say, I guess, given this story, “A Tarantella.”


Joyland published this story, so you should go and read it over there.

Photo from