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Johnny Critelli and The Knifemen: Two Novels
     

Johnny Critelli and The Knifemen: Two Novels

by Frank Lentricchia
 
Set in Utica, New York, in the 1950s, this prosaic, highly textured novel by the author of The Edge of Night evokes the richness, conflicts, lusts, and longings of an Italian-American community trying to embrace American culture as it clings to its own.

Overview

Set in Utica, New York, in the 1950s, this prosaic, highly textured novel by the author of The Edge of Night evokes the richness, conflicts, lusts, and longings of an Italian-American community trying to embrace American culture as it clings to its own.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Drawing on his own upbringing, novelist and critic Lentricchia (The Edge of Night, etc.) has fashioned two short novels that display a rousing capacity for language and a gritty sense of the contemporary male mind. Johnny Critelli ostensibly chronicles the legend of the eponymous character, a mysterious figure in the Italian-American neighborhood of Utica, N.Y., Lentriccia's hometown. Critelli serves only as a jumping-off point for an extended riff on an upstate New York childhood in the 1950s, touching on little league games, hero-worship of Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, the discovery of sex and, especially, the intense, volatile relationships within an Italian immigrant family-whose members bear the names of the author's own close relatives. This is no meandering, nostalgic memoir, however. Adeptly switching points of view among himself, his father, his mother, even his current girlfriend, Lentricchia wrings drama from the spectacle of family members struggling mightily to understand one another. The narrative generates a sense of urgency that, along with the author's knack for the clever phrase, overcomes a diffuse plot. The second offering, The Knifemen, makes use of the same setting, this time re-imagining it as the breeding ground of Richard Assisi, a gynecologist who devolves into an ice-cold, knife-wielding killer. Here, however, the verbal play is too self-conscious, the numerous sexual and scatological references meaningless. By the end, Lentricchia's techniques undercut the story, making the violence seem more like a gratuitous verbal exercise-daring to talk dirty-than the result of psychological horror it's clearly intended to be. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Written in an experimental style with Joycean overtones, these short novels center on the Italian-American community of Utica, New York. This work is about art and memory. While the main character is a writer named Frank Lentricchia, it is the spirit of Johnny Critelli, a union organizer killed in the 1950s, that hovers angelically above a tale that is part meditation on the nature of writing and part homage to a lost world. The polar opposite of Johnny Critelli, The Knifemen deals with a descent into hell. It concerns Richard Assisi, a gynecologist obsessed both by his relationship to a sinister Utica abortionist and unresolved anger at his father. In Lentricchia's world love and violence, memory and murder are inextricably linked. For larger libraries.-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, Mass.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684814087
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
11/28/1996
Pages:
268
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.77(h) x 0.95(d)

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