The Italian American Reader: A Collection of Outstanding Fiction, Memoirs, Journalism, Essays, and Poetry

Overview

The Italian American Reader has been seven decades in the making. It could simply and accurately be described as a dazzlingly smart and lively collection of superb works by some of America's most gifted writers. All their surnames happen to end in vowels, true, but that need not affect your enjoyment of this volume one way or the other. America, too, is an Italian name ending in a vowel.

Inside, there are nearly seventy excellent things for you to read -- excerpts from novels ...

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The Italian American Reader: A Collection of Outstanding Fiction, Memoirs, Journalism, Essays, and Poetry

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Overview

The Italian American Reader has been seven decades in the making. It could simply and accurately be described as a dazzlingly smart and lively collection of superb works by some of America's most gifted writers. All their surnames happen to end in vowels, true, but that need not affect your enjoyment of this volume one way or the other. America, too, is an Italian name ending in a vowel.

Inside, there are nearly seventy excellent things for you to read -- excerpts from novels and memoirs, short stories, essays, and poems -- by the living and the dead, the famous and the obscure. Some date back to the 1930s; others were freshly hatched in the twenty-first century. They are variously moving, funny, poignant, lusty, biting, reverent, witty, loving, angry, and wise. They deal in the most profound aspects of our lives no matter who we are: home, love, sex, family, food, work, God, death. Many feature familiar Italian American characters, settings, and themes, but not all.

No matter what they are about, they are all in the end about who and what we are, the essence of history and memory and blood. There are gangsters in here, but there are grandmas too, along side lovers and fighters, thinkers and doers, cops and robbers, poets and grocers, sinners and saints. There are plenty of moms and pops and aunts and uncles and cousins. Frank Sinatra and the Virgin Mary make appearances.

This anthology is a genuine landmark -- the first general-reader hardcover collection of writing by Italian American authors. It is part manifesto, part Sunday dinner -- a gathering of voices old and new, some speaking in the accents of another age, some completely contemporary andassured, all together for the first time. To stand with all the other popular media images we represent, now, at last, one exists in written form, the literature of Italian American lifethe past, present, and future, which is also America's future.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Tonelli, a former editor at Esquire and Rolling Stone magazines and author of The Amazing Story of the Tonelli Family in America, offers this personal and solid compendium of Italian-American voices. After enumerating the accomplishments of other Italian-American artists (singers, musicians, actors, film directors), Tonelli compares these highlights with those of other immigrants and asks whether Italians, in fact, need to be recognized for literary accomplishments. The answer is yes, and Tonelli thematically arranges 68 stories, poems and excerpts from memoirs and novels by such categories as "Home," "Mom," "Work" and "Death." The selection of contributors (some dead, most still writing) is anything but perfunctory, and none of the selections gives a stereotypical picture of Italian-Americans (in fact, several contributors even refuse to identify themselves by ethnicity). The book opens with a section from Don DeLillo's Underworld and includes a piece each by Evan Hunter and Ed McBain (who are one and the same, of course). Kim Addonizio and Tom Perrotta have pieces under "Sex, Love, and Good Looks"; no tome of Italian-American literature would be complete without Camille Paglia, Gay Talese, John Fante and Pietro DiDonato. While Tonelli doesn't shy from stories about or figures of the Mafia (Nick Pileggi contributes a section of Wiseguys, as does Victoria Gotti from Superstar), Mario Puzo's only piece is from his first, underappreciated novel, Fortune's Pilgrim, about the immigrant experience. Nick Tosches sets the tone of this beautiful volume with a bold homage to the granddaddy of Italian-American literature, Emanuele Conegliano, better known as Lorenzo Da Ponte, the librettist for La nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosu fan tutte. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This thematic anthology of fiction, poems, and essays by Italian American writers of the 20th and 21st centuries, famous and not, touches on many aspects of life, from mothers to food to God, and more. The almost 70 pieces include perspectives from laborers and entertainers, family members and loners, who range from Don DeLillo, Mario Puzo, and Camille Paglia to Gay Talese, Richard Russo, and George Panetta. Some of the pieces try to find the "old country" in the new, while others revel in new life. Some are sad, others hilarious, but most convey real poignancy of the human struggle for identity, for dignified and rewarding work, for family, and for meaning in what seems at times a difficult environment. This is an excellent book for casual reading when there are a few moments for uplift and relaxation. Recommended for public libraries.-Carolyn M. Craft, Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An eclectic, even eccentric collection—poems, fiction, and essays—by Americans of Italian heritage. Tonelli (The Amazing Story of the Tonelli Family in America, 1994) is a wise guy—not in The Sopranos sense but in the old-fashioned smartass way that must have annoyed his schoolteachers. "If Philip Roth had been one of ours," he quips, "his grandmother would have chopped him up and buried the pieces under her tomato plants." This tone pervades the selections as well. Arranged thematically (Home, Mom, Death, etc.), the pieces feature the well known (Don DeLillo, John Ciardi, Jay Parini, Richard Russo, Philip Caputo, Dana Gioia) and the lesser known (Luigi Funaro, Beverly Donofrio, Lucia Perillo, and a host of others). There are also selections by Evan Hunter and Ed McBain, although the editor’s notes do not reveal that they are the same person. Tonelli also neglects to tell us which pieces are fiction, which nonfiction, so readers who wonder will have to research it themselves. Many of the pieces are touching or instructive or fun to read. Ciardi’s poem about his mother is poignant, as is Parini’s about his grandmother. Kim Addonizio contributes a hot little poem about sex, and Pat Jordan writes with emotion about a pool game between him and his 76-year-old father. Ray Romano waxes wise about his unconventional Dad, and John Fante’s excerpt reminds us why we should no longer neglect his wonderful work. Mike Lupica catches us up with former baseball star Tony Conigliaro, whose heart attack sentenced him to a wheelchair. Maria Laurino offers a first-rate memoir about Versace, Armani—and her mother, arbiter of style in Laurino’s youth. Gregory Corso’s poem about baldnesswill get a laugh: "Best now to get a pipe / and forget girls," he sighs. Perfect for the nightstand, along with a sliver of cannoli and some decaf espresso.
Harold Bloom
“Remarkable…A comprehensive and poignant collection of a highly distinctive and valuable body of literary work.”
Martin Scorsese
“An extraordinary collection…Essential and fascinating… not just for Italian-Americans but for everyone who cares about good writing.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060006662
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/1/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Tonelli is a journalist and magazine editor in New York. He is the author of The Amazing Story of the Tonelli Family in America.

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Introduction
Underworld 3
Ciolino 17
Oregon Avenue on a Good Day 21
Ten Little Italies of Indiana 22
American Skin 29
Within the Lighted City 34
The Cut of His Jib 51
Age of Innocence 66
The Fortunate Pilgrim 75
The Shaft 86
Johnny Critelli 92
The Catch 98
Going Under 99
Two Poems 107
Clothes 110
The Sweaters 124
For Desire 129
Joe College 131
In Six Short Lessons 142
Hair 151
The Farther You Go 154
The Star Cafe 165
Frank Sinatra 183
Sometimes I Dream in Italian 199
My Kind of Loving 207
An Accidental Autobiography 211
The Coming of Fabrizze 220
The Last Meal 224
Cavadduzzo's of Cicero 235
Unto the Sons 245
Chicken 256
Our Fathers 261
Superstar 262
A Nice Tuesday 269
Dad 273
The Northside at Seven 280
The Right Thing to Do 282
Sitting Pretty 292
Outtake: Canticle from the Book of Bob 313
The Italian Way of Death 314
Planting a Sequoia 319
Crossing Back 320
Cheap Gold Flats 332
A Brother's Keeper 334
Six Haikus 340
Elegy, 1942 342
Ask the Dust 347
A Rumor of War 360
Wiseguy 368
Italian Grocer 377
Cut Numbers 378
Somebody Up There Likes Me 382
Christ in Concrete 405
Looking for Mary 419
Nothing to Confess 427
"Mildred, Is It Fun to Be a Cripple?" 433
Streets of Gold 447
Antonin Scalia 452
How I Learned to Speak Italian 453
The B-Word 465
Breaking and Entering 466
Growing Up Sicilian 471
Hard Feelings 479
Oration upon the Most Recent Death of Christopher Columbus 484
Kiss 491
Suit 493
Round Trip 506
One Night in Television City 519
Contributors 531
Acknowledgments 539
Permissions 543
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