This interview originally ran in the Newark Star-Ledger in March 2009)
In her witty and glorious memoir “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti”(Grand Central, $24), the former book publicist Giulia Melucci recounts two decades of her turbulent New York romances, the meals she made to seduce her men and the comfort food she consumed when things ended disastrously.
Melucci is one of five children from a tight-knit Italian-American family in New York City, and didn’t have a boyfriend until she was 23. She first wound up with the alcoholic Kit, then the noncommittal Ethan, whose passion seemed limited to the spectacular risottos and salmon with lemon-tarragon butter that Melucci served. In the book, Melucci cooks up her delicious recipes with an ongoing hilarious commentary on her willingness to feed and nurture her men to the point of insanity. There is the hypersensitive writer Mitch, who likes women who dress like librarians, and a late-middle-aged New Yorker Magazine cartoonist who woos Melucci, sadistically dumps her and stalks her to try to get her back. Finally, there is Lachlan, a Scottish man-boy writer who Melucci meets on a Brooklyn street. Lachlan winds up living with Melucci while she twists his novel into shape, getting him an agent and a book deal before he leaves her. With an over-the-top meditation on both her failed love affairs and her meals, Melucci blends sex and food into a great comic feast of life.
As a publicist, the 42-year-old Melucci handled such prominent writers as Harold Bloom, the psychiatrist Peter Kramer and the memoirist Andrew Solomon. Melucci met with freelance writer Dylan Foley at her Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment over mozzarella and chianti.
Q. You wound up with a series of sophisticated New York men who couldn’t commit. How did this happen?
A. I had gone to Sarah Lawrence College and had made out with a few guys. I think they are all gay now. I was in therapy and I thought to myself, “Okay, I have to get a boyfriend now.” I was then with Kit for four years. I kind of wanted to get married, but I was freaked out.
I think I am neurotic and I find men that help me in my destiny of not being married. I have my own fears and issues, and it is absolutely my own fault in every way. I can sniff these men out a mile away. They are going to give me not enough, which is exactly what I want.
I guess it is my own fear of commitment. I never dump anyone. Everyone dumps me. I find people who will dump me so I don’t have to do the heavy lifting.
Q. What was your impetus to write this book?
A. My hand to god, it was the next day after Lachlan left me. By then, I hated Lachlan’s guts. It was New Year’s Day. I was going to therapy, and I said to the therapist, “So, what do you want to know first, how much money he got for the book or how he broke my heart?” That day, I started writing about Lachlan and thinking about old boyfriends. The book came together when I put the recipes in (like “Lachlan’s Last Supper,” a teriyaki pork roast). I realized I was going to write and sell this book, and everything was going to be okay. I say thank god that I got the book from all that dating. It was all research. I just didn’t know it.
Q. Lachlan was a 46-year-old nomadic English teacher who lived like a transient adolescent in Italy. What happened to Lachlan’s novel?
A. Lachlan got a $110,000 advance from Random House. One day, I went to Barnes and Noble and saw the book. It hurt a bit. The Washington Post gave him one of the most vicious reviews. The reviewer wrote, “This book is like a bad blind date. You should give this book to people you never want to see again.” I think the novel only sold 3,000 copies. He is probably very happy and will live off that money for the rest of his life.