Sometimes the Soul: Two Novellas of Sicily

Sometimes the Soul: Two Novellas of Sicily

by Gioia Timpanelli
     
 

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Hauntingly beautiful fiction about two women, solitude, art, and transformation. For years, Gioia Timpanelli has held audiences rapt with her retellings of ancient tales, often appearing with Robert Bly, James Hillman, Joseph Campbell, and Gary Snyder. Here, in fiction full of warmth and resonances--characters we can't help but recognize, prose and imagery that play

Overview

Hauntingly beautiful fiction about two women, solitude, art, and transformation. For years, Gioia Timpanelli has held audiences rapt with her retellings of ancient tales, often appearing with Robert Bly, James Hillman, Joseph Campbell, and Gary Snyder. Here, in fiction full of warmth and resonances--characters we can't help but recognize, prose and imagery that play on the strings of the soul--Timpanelli draws on her deep knowledge of these old stories and their wisdoms to create a new and refreshing kind of storytelling, with hints of both Italo Calvino and Angela Carter.
In "A Knot of Tears," a woman's locked-up life is transformed by a parrot who tells tales; her story becomes a subtle and surprising meditation on the necessity of being true to oneself and others. In "Rusina, Not Quite in Love," a strange and lovely retelling of the story of the Beauty and the Beast, a young woman escapes family and society--especially the grasp of her superficial and beastly sisters--to find consolation and beauty in nature and its muse. In each case, women of very different backgrounds--one aristocratic, one impoverished--find solitary spaces from which they can emerge as artists and shapers of their own destinies. With a sense of character unusual in contemporary fiction (not mere personality, but moral character) and a gentle, lyric touch, Timpanelli blends the seeming simplicity of folktale with a richly textured understanding of human nature. With great integrity and affection for language, her work teaches about love and solitude, honesty and art.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Two rich, witty novella-length fables feature women struggling to develop their artistic and intellectual voices against the colorfully rendered backdrop of traditional Sicilian households. The first novella, 'A Knot of Tears' ('Un Gruppu di Chiantu'), is set in Palermo around the turn of the century and features Costanza, a baroness who has hidden herself away at a friend's house and turned into a virtual hermit. Her life begins to change when a parrot flies through her window and its owner, a charming, storytelling young sailor (a male Scheherezade) comes looking for the bird. Timpanelli's considerable skill as a professional storyteller shines as she effortlessly guides the reader through her nested-box narrative -- each level illuminating the others in a delicate and tangled pattern that gives the story a quiet elegance. The second novella, Rusina, Not Quite in Love, retells the 'Beauty and the Beast' tale, once again in a not too distant past. Poor Rusina, a landscape painter, marries rich, ugly but sensitive Sebastian to pay off her father's debts; then she finds in Sebastian both the inspiration she needs for her art and a version of love that she had not known. Despite their brevity, these tales bewitch the reader with their intelligence and warmth.
Library Journal
As in many of the world's older cultures, the oral tradition of storytelling still has a stronghold in Sicily. Timpanelli, a highly regarded wordsmith with roots on this Italian island, offers two folktale-like stories set there. Both deal with women stuck in unhappy situations: one has been paralyzed by fear of the outside world, the other by abuse at the hands of her sisters. Ultimately, they both emerge from their predicaments by finding strength outside of themselves, whether through the kind courage of a stranger with a talking parrot or the inspiration of nature and romance. Lyrical and mystical, these stories include elements not usually found in contemporary popular fiction, particularly the odd pacing and magic realism more common in Latin stories. Considered the dean of America's professional storytellers, Timpanelli performs and conducts storytelling workshops and seminars. Her formidable talent is evident in this opus, which comes complete with a romantically rustic Sicilian accent.--David Nudo, "Library Journal"
Krug
. . . [T]he art of storytelling itself becomes [Timpanelli's] subject. . . .she enriches [her stories] by capturing the cadences of her characters' voices; through them, we hear the music of their simple lives. -- The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375707223
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/28/1999
Series:
Vintage Contemporaries Series
Edition description:
1 VINTAGE
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.35(d)

What People are saying about this

Frank McCourt
No one tells a better story than Gioia Timpanelli.

Meet the Author

Gioia Timpanelli has performed and presented world literature and poetry for NPR, PBS, and groups and conferences nationwide and internationally. Her first book of fiction, Sometimes the Soul, won the American Book Award. She lives in Woodstock, New York.

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