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Pasquale's Nose: Idle Days in an Italian Town

Overview

Hailed for its quirkiness and charm, this book tells the story of a New York City lawyer who runs away to a small Etruscan village with his wife and baby and discovers a community of eccentrics who make them feel right at home.

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Pasquale's Nose: Idle Days in an Italian Town

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Overview

Hailed for its quirkiness and charm, this book tells the story of a New York City lawyer who runs away to a small Etruscan village with his wife and baby and discovers a community of eccentrics who make them feel right at home.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The author is every bit as eccentric as the villages he describes in Pasquale's Nose, a quirky addition to the growing ranks of travelogues about Italy. The author, who has an obsession with living in hotels, moved to the tiny Italian town of Sutri with his wife and daughter -- and promptly took a room in a local hotel. Rips is far from the adventurous travel writer -- whenever his wife's career as an artist takes them to far-flung locations, she must book him a hotel room and arrange it to match his hotel room back home -- but that only adds to the flavor of this offbeat book and seems to make the author the perfect observer of Sutri's own unconventional inhabitants. Chronicling the unusual characters Rips encounters -- from the blind bootmaker to the illiterate postman -- Pasquale's Nose is an entertaining, enjoyable travelogue.
Vogue
...refreshing...it's the spirit of the great fabulist Italo Calvino that one feels hovering over Pasquale's Nose.
Insight
...beguiling stories...
Boston Phoenix
...[Rips] lovingly details his adventures in this remarkable village...
Washington Post Book World
...entertaining...Rips is a remarkably self-effacing memoirist...
Atlanta Journal Constitution
...an entertaining story...
Ruminator Review
...vivid evocations of human oddity...
Vogue
...refreshing...it's the spirit of the great fabulist Italo Calvino that one feels hovering over Pasquale's Nose.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
First-time author Rips, formerly a successful trial lawyer, ran off to the Etruscan village of Sutri with his painter wife and new baby. In Sutri, the likably neurotic author spent day after day in the cafe, reflecting on the notion that he "was unable to produce or even reflect on anything that I or anyone else would consider useful." Seemingly in the throes of a pre-midlife crisis, Rips presents his quirks at face value, sans psychospeak, with hilarious, moving or unsettling effect. In a small, ancient town, one might expect to find citizens repressed by long-standing social mores, an assumption both confirmed and disproved by the many eccentrics: the man who lights his cigarettes with a magnifying glass; an illiterate postman who leaves the villagers to sort their own mail; a blind bootmaker who claims he can make a perfectly sized boot just by looking at a person's foot (he can't, but still keeps his customers); and Pasquale, a terrifying brute with a penchant for smelling feet. Rips warms to Sutri, finding it "an archaic society... that had... forged a collective identity and story and that had a mystical attachment to both." The kindhearted, brutal and idiosyncratic Sutrinis' nonsensical ideas about causality and the author's peculiar, often bleak worldview complement each other perfectly. In tiny, glittering vignettes, Rips paints an extraordinary picture of interwoven sublimity and absurdity. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Yet another in the proliferation of "I lived abroad" books, this unemotional and self-absorbed narrative explores Rips's stay in Sutri an Italian hill town near Rome where his artist wife finds an available house and studio where she can pursue a new series of paintings. Rips abandons his legal practice to live an indolent life and spends his days drinking coffee in a local cafe while collecting anecdotes about Sutri's citizens. In a town noted for its beans and riding boots, he assembles more than a dozen surreal accounts of the area's most peculiar inhabitants: Aurellio Mezzadonna is reputed to have a cat's paw in place of a hand; Pasquale's nose is enormous and reacts painfully to the odor of feet; and Frank, the shoe storeowner, is a hermaphrodite. There's little mention of Sheila, Rips's wife, and even less of his infant daughter. Almost as an aside, Rips includes the menus of a few meals and relevant recipes. As a whole, the book lacks the wit and warmth of such classics as Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence or Frances Mayes's Under the Tuscan Sun. This is probably results from Rips having lived his entire adult life in hotels. Not recommended. Janet Ross, formerly with Sparks Branch Lib., NV Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An attorney makes his literary debut with a slim collection of musings on a year's residence in Italy. The format will be familiar to anyone having even a passing acquaintance with Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. An American family—in this case, ex-trial lawyer Michael, wife Sheila, and their baby daughter-moves to a European village and has an intriguing time learning about life from the quirky but warm inhabitants. Preciousness is a pitfall of this genre, but the author gives good promise of avoiding it in his opening pages, where he declares that "The plan was that Sheila would spend her days painting, while I would sit and reflect on the fact that I'd not worked for years, had an infant daughter, and was unable to produce or even reflect on anything that I or anyone else would consider useful." Unfortunately, from here Rips swings his gaze outward and relates a series of anecdotes about the inhabitants of the town of Sutri: a blind bootmaker, a crusty bean farmer, a hermaphroditic shopkeeper. The locals seem to be little more than collections of traits; their motivations and relationships remain opaque. More promising is the author's own story: an adulthood spent living in hotels, his relationships with his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, he does little with these topics, telling just enough to intrigue the reader and then retreating to yet another sketch of local qualities and customs. Rips makes motions towards a larger unifying theme, mentioning philosophy or the Bible or his curiosity about the meaning of life, but he never addresses these subjects in a sustained way. Taken as a whole, his effort falls flat. Colorful but slight.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316748643
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 11/18/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,418,540
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Read an Excerpt

For as long as I can remember I have suffered from the belief that the place where I am living, however wretched, is preferable to anywhere else, however pleasant-the brown grass here is better than the green grass there.

My brown grass that spring was the Riss Restaurant, a purgatorial place where I would sit day after day doing little or nothing, surrounded by others doing less. It was at the Riss that Sheila found me, at the Riss that she suggested that we move to Italy, and at the Riss that I refused to go.

Sheila, an artist, had just given birth to our child. With no reason to believe that I would ever work, she felt compelled to earn money. That's where Italy came in.

Sheila knew of a medieval town at the top of a hill in central Italy. Artists lived there and one of them had a vacant house and studio. The town and studio would inspire her to complete a new series of paintings, which she would sell to support us. As for me, Sheila claimed that the town had two or three coffee shops that were as awful as the Riss.

I began to assemble the excuses for not going. But Sheila didn't need to hear them-she knew them from countless other conversations, all of which ended the same way: I would not leave.

But that afternoon something happened. A sheet of paper taped to the cash register. A sign.

The Riss, which had been open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for seven decades, was closing.

It should not have surprised me-unlike Heaven and Hell, Purgatory was bound by time, subject to decay and oblivion.

Days later we left for Italy.

That Sheila was responsible for the sign on the cash register did not occur to me until it was too late.

Copyright (c) 2001 by Michael Rips

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Table of Contents

The Guidi 5
The Blessing of the Bean 12
The Hand 20
The Postman 25
The Piazza 30
The Philosopher 48
Luciano's New Home 68
Pontius Pilate 73
The Boot Maker 95
Times Ravishes the Day 113
Skinning Spinoza 119
Astrid's Story 135
The Guy and the Non-Guy 146
Marcella's Cantina 168
Pasquale's Nose 173
The Ping-Pong Table 191
Poets of the Arm 204
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2004

    A great travel companion

    I am not the bravest traveler. I wish I could start up a conversation with the interesting-looking people I see, but I guess I'm afraid that people will find me either dull or annoying - or both. No such fear seems to haunt the author of Pasquale's Nose. He has apparently discovered that people never find you dull when you are passionately interested in them. Michael Ripps writes passionately, as well, and with some moments of real grace. His interest in his characters and in telling their stories is fervid and seems heartfelt - enough so that he mythologizes their quirks to the point where they are too fantastic to be accepted as fact. That works for me. There's an oddball quality to these tales of a fish out of water - and it comes from the fact that ALL the fish seem at one time or another to be flopping around, gasping for air while trying to splash back into the proper pond. Pasquale's Nose has that Mark Twain kind of fabulousness. There's just enough truth to make the reader wonder how much of the rest to believe. All in all, I'd love to travel with this guy, just to see how it's done.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2004

    Expelled from the Garden of Eden

    Michael Rips teaches a gentle lesson of life through his fanciful views of a quirky little town which is not Rome. He wraps the lesson up with an insight into just what did happen to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves an odd character in his own town or who wishes to travel far from the comfort of her armchair to a charming place out of time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2001

    Pasquale's Nose: Idle Days in an Italian Town

    I am not the bravest traveler. I wish I could start up a conversation with the interesting-looking people I see, but I guess I'm afraid that people will find me either dull or annoying - or both. No such fear seems to haunt the author of Pasquale's Nose. He has apparently discovered that people never find you dull when you are passionately interested in them. Michael Ripps writes passionately, as well, and with some moments of real grace. His interest in his characters and in telling their stories is fervid and seems heartfelt - enough so that he mythologizes their quirks to the point where they are too fantastic to be accepted as fact. That works for me. There's an oddball quality to these tales of a fish out of water - and it comes from the fact that ALL the fish seem at one time or another to be flopping around, gasping for air while trying to splash back into the proper pond. Pasquale's Nose has that Mark Twain kind of fabulousness. There's just enough truth to make the reader wonder how much of the rest to believe. All in all, I'd love to travel with this guy, just to see how it's done.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2001

    Pasquale's Nose: Idle Days in an Italian Town

    ... no, that's not it. More like Frances Mayes on a 3rd glass of grappa. I liked these essays (stories?) a lot, and frequently laughed out loud reading them. I also was touched by the vaguely 'mid-life' nature of the author's apparent crisis: adrift in a tiny Italian town with not much to do for months but watch the populace and reflect on his own uselessness. Most of us have to do that in our own neighborhood, and although it seems absurd that he would complain about his situation, it works as a setup. While Mr. Rips finds many eccentrics among the locals, he seems genuinely to admire them, even to grow to love them. Why not? He seems to have packed a lot of his own quirks for this trip. If God still smiles on Rome, the village of Sutri may never become a haven for rich Americans and Brits like the towns of Tuscany or Provence. On the other hand, these tales might make a great little movie. Meanwhile, it's a charming little book that you could read cover to cover between takeoff from JFK and landing at DaVinci.

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    Posted November 20, 2009

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    Posted June 13, 2011

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