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

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

by Bill Tonelli, Nick Tosches
     
 

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This anthology — the first general-reader collection of writing by Italian American authors — is part manifesto, part Sunday dinner. A gathering of voices old and new, some speak in the accents of another age, some completely contemporary and assured, and all together for the first time. To stand with all the other popular media images we represent, now,

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Overview

This anthology — the first general-reader collection of writing by Italian American authors — is part manifesto, part Sunday dinner. A gathering of voices old and new, some speak in the accents of another age, some completely contemporary and assured, and 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 life.

Inside, there are excerpts from novels, memoirs, short stories, essays, and poems — by the living and the dead, the famous and the obscure. The excerpts are variously moving, funny, poignant, lusty, biting, reverent, witty, loving, angry, and wise, dealing in the most profound aspects of our lives no matter who we are: home, love, sex, family, food, work, God, death.

Characters range from gangsters to grandmas, lovers to fighters, thinkers to doers, sinners to saints, with special appearances by Frank Sinatra and the Virgin Mary.

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Editorial Reviews

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.”
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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060006679
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
01/25/2005
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
576
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.92(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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