back to REviews
Review of Scarabocchio continued...

Nabokov's Lolita appears as a "reincarnation" of Humbert's late beloved, a girl from his childhood by the name Annabel whose "honey-colored skin" reminds us of Anabelle's "marzipan cheeks". Annabel's mole is reminiscent of the "streak of dirt" on Anabelle's face, especially since both are signifiers of  eroticism and death. To continue the chain of prototypical charters, Edgar Allen Poe's Annabel Lee is another prototype for both girls. Her early death, her name ("Lo-lee-ta," says Humbert, outlining "lee" and making it an independent part of the name. "Lo. Lee. Ta."), as well as her association with the sea (the "princedom at the sea" in Poe's poem, the "kingdom at the sea" in Lolita and, and the mythopoëic sea in  Scarabocchio) make it possible to speak about her as the oldest part of the trinity.


The "quantum" portrait of the Meister presents its model both in the present and future, and it includes not only the aging image of Meister-Goethe but his posthumous image, as well.   The description of the scary brow with the mention of the skull ("a huge, white brow like a skull's, a veritable thought machine in which one sensed the combination and re-combination of innumerable ideas") makes one think that the brow belongs to a dead person.  Presumably we have reference here to a verbal portrait of Goethe's dead body "made" by Johann Peter Eckermann. After Goethe died, Eckermann entered the room where the body rested in bed, and later he made the following notes:

The mighty brow seemed yet to harbour thoughts. I wished for a lock of his hair; but reverence prevented me from cutting it off. [7]

It's a typically indeterministic system of various possibilities and many-worlds interpretations occurring owing to the rich potential of the diversifying universe of sounds, colors, images, thoughts, and characters. Every character is a creature and a plot-line, a crowd and an individual, a philosophy and a living being. The novel is ended, and you still wonder who is who and in which direction the snow universe drifts, and whether all those characters existed in the space of action or was it just Beale-Gould talking to gould-beale…[8]


Every character in the novel is like a musical theme with its subsequent variations. It may manifest itself as a chain of characters which still revolve around the same isomorphism. For example, the isomorphism of a group that I'd call "seductive martyrs" is formed by the pink color and a streak of dirt. To this group belong all "girlish" characters, including Danzig and the cat. The group wouldn't be complete without amphisbaena - a serpent with a head at each end, also known as Mother of Ants. Its spirit penetrates everything through ants,  like the animated streaks of dirt - a symbol of the River of Death guarded by the Mother of Ants - that occurs in the hotel, and in the portrait of the beldame, and upon the murdered girl's "sugary almond" cheek.

She did not appear to be breathing at all. Up close the dark streak revealed itself to be composed of dozens of tiny black ants that were crawling from under her hair, into the socket of her right eye, across the creamy white cheek, and down into the corner of her mouth.

The characters' relations are not clear in the beginning but the more you follow their "melodies" the more you realize that they come from the same "theme" and, perhaps, are actually the same. In the end, all isomorphic structures merge into one great isomorphism that reveals the common ground between the lilies-girls and the female Saints with the streak of dirt upon their white cheeks, "white as lilies"; the beautiful "like a girl" Prince of Palermo, and "girlish" Danzig; the Lily-Mother and the Mother of Ants… And now you know what eats them from within.

Andreacchi's technique of structuring the image is analogous to Goethe's "form as movement"
[9] method in The Metamorphosis of Plants. Zemplen Gabor writes:

The leaves of a plant usually resemble each other. In fact, for a trained botanist, most of the species can be identified by a single leaf, regardless of the leaf's origin. This implies the existence of general homology among leaves. That we are able to find a  'theme' behind the 'variations' (and say that a leaf is the leaf of a beech tree, for example) is the result of our working, ever-searching intellect. For modern theory of science this can only be hypothetical.[10]

The same hypothetical search for  a "theme" and "variation" is required when  approaching the characters in Scarabocchio. Their differences and similarities are equally important, just as they are in Goethe's method in which "the two, similarity and difference, have the same importance in understanding the movement."[11] As Gabor states, the movement is the engine  that governs static and "it can be used to generate new forms that follow it."[12] Like Goethe's single plant that can be extended "over several plants in a species, over related species, and the plant kingdom in general"[13] Andreacchi's characters sprout in  spatial and temporal movement, confirming once again that "by taking the Goethean step, we attribute the same lawfulness to the outer world as to our intellect."[14]

Finally, the inner pillars holding up the vault of the novel are of Dantean nature. There are Hell, Heaven, and Purgatory in Scarabocchio, and there is a Beatrice, a Virgil and a Casella.  The novel is written in the first person like, The Divine Comedy, and is woven from the names of various historical figures that are mixed with the fictional characters. Both stories are connected to Wednesday, though the Wednesdays are different: Scarabocchio begins on Ash Wednesday while The Divine Comedy ends on the Wednesday after Easter.



There are few a major paradigms that serve as the basis for the implied space in Scarabocchio. Some of them concern the formation of the characters and others the formation of the plot-lines. The former is linked to Goethe's two novels, Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship and Wilhelm Meister's Years of Travel since "Meister" is the name/title of the main protagonist in Scarabocchio. "Meister" means "master" in German, which explains the symbolism of Wilhelm Meister's last name.
This adds to the ambiguity of Andreacchi's main character, as it alludes both to Wilhelm Meister and to the title "Meister" and, of course, to the Goethe character. Like his literary namesake, the Meister undergoes some essential changes as a result of his physical and spiritual journey. But if Goethe's Bildungsoman is directed towards the  formation of harmonious individuality in  the main character, Scarabocchio, on the contrary, is an Anti-Bildungsroman due to the negative nature of the Meister's metamorphoses.

There are quite a few scenes and characters in Scarabocchio that are reminiscent of Wilhelm Meister. To this
belong the Meister's strange dream in the hotel, echoing Wilhelm Meister's dream at Lothario's house, the Meister's interaction with the puppet-like creations that reminds of Wilhelm Meister's early adoration of the puppet-theater and his initial intention to dedicate his life to the world of Melpomene. The Meister's ascent  of the tower in the finale alludes to Wilhelm Meister's commitment to the Tower Society. The likeness, however, appears with a negative sign since the tower in Scarabocchio is the anthithesis of the Gothean Tower. Above all, the image of the "marzipan girl" in some way reflects the character of the Nut-Brown Girl in Wilhelm Meister's, though the passions the Meister exhibits are  very much unlike those of Wilhelm which, as Goethe described them, were "passions out of conscience".[15]

Regarding the plot, the visits to various  Italian places, and even some particular meetings in Scarabocchio are taken from Goethe's Italian Journey, and it makes one applaud the ingenuity and humor with which Grace Andreacchi incorporates the documented stories from Goethe's diary into the surrealistic context of the novel.  

Nevertheless, it seems to me that the cementing meta-paradigm that unites in a meaningful structure the characters, the plot-lines, and the idea of the "scribbles" is Goethe's fairytale, A Story about the Green Serpent and the Beautiful Lily (1795). The main plot of the tale, as well as its various plot-lines designing the characters' relationships, become the hidden pillars holding up the diversifying structure of Scarabocchio.

The myth of the fair Lily occupies a central place in Goethe's aesthetics, forming his concept of the Ewigweibliche. Sometimes the image of the Lily appears directly, as  in his poem, Lily's Menagerie, and in a chapter in Wilhelm Meister's Years of Travel that's called The Lily Stem, and sometimes it's either mentioned, as in Faust or merely  implied.