That Fine Italian Hand: A Wry Close-Up of a Resourceful People

Overview

No other people over so long a history have shown a greater knack for survival than the Italians. In this wryly affectionate book, Hofmann reveals his adopted countrymen in all their glorious paradoxes, capturing their national essence as no other book has done since Luigi Barzini's classic, The Italians. The national art of "arrangement"— dodging taxes, double-dealing, working only as hard as one must— is counteracted by Italian inventive genius, gusto for life, fierce individuality, deep family bonds (as well ...

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Overview

No other people over so long a history have shown a greater knack for survival than the Italians. In this wryly affectionate book, Hofmann reveals his adopted countrymen in all their glorious paradoxes, capturing their national essence as no other book has done since Luigi Barzini's classic, The Italians. The national art of "arrangement"— dodging taxes, double-dealing, working only as hard as one must— is counteracted by Italian inventive genius, gusto for life, fierce individuality, deep family bonds (as well as animosities), and a marvelously hedonistic sophistication.

No other people over so long a history have shown a greater knack for survival and adaptability than the Italians. In this wryly affectionate book, Hofmann reveals his adopted countrymen in all their glorious paradoxes, capturing their national essence as has no other book since Luigi Barzini's The Italians.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An entertaining and shrewd appraisal of an ancient, ever-changing nation."—Publishers Weekly

"Nourishing antipasti before the feast of an Italian visit."—San Diego Union

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Continuing his love affair with Italy, Hofmann ( Cento Citta ), former New York Times Rome bureau chief, offers an entertaining and shrewd appraisal of an ancient, ever-changing nation. Although indulgent of the Italian scene, he nonetheless recognizes the blemishes that mar its surface and the violent contrasts that perplex many visitors, especially the cultural differences and tensions between the progressive North and the still semi-feudal, Mafia-plagued South. Strikes, erratic museum and public service schedules and civic red tape and delays, along with ugly, noisy urban sprawls surrounding traffic-jammed ancient cities, he grants, are exasperating. However, the author counters, these astute, individualistic, resilient people who value life moment by moment and cultivate its pleasures with a rare tenacity survive by resourcefulness (`` arrangiarsi '') and by maintaining strong family bonds (despite much-publicized sex scandals). (June)
Library Journal
Three insightful and engaging books about the Italian people include Barbara Grizzuti Harrison's Italian Days (Atlantic Monthly. 1998. ISBN 0-87113-727-5. pap. $15), whose insights are still as fresh and relevant today as they were when the book was first published in 1989; Luigi Barzini's 1964 The Italians (Touchstone: S. & S. 1996. ISBN 0-684-82500-7. pap. $14), which still presents a fascinating perspective on his fellow countrymen; and That Fine Italian Hand (Owl: Holt. 1991. ISBN 0-8050-1729-1. pap. $15) by Paul Hofmann, former New York Times Rome bureau chief, who is especially good on contrasting the cultures and politics of the north and south. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
From the title, one might expect another of those travelogs or literate cookbooks that are often written about Italy, such as Barbara Grizzutti Harrison's Italian Days ( Weidenfeld, 1989). Instead, this book by the former New York Times bureau chief in Rome focuses mostly on the many social quirks and problems that are as much a part of Italian culture as pasta and espresso. Among the topics included are the Mafia, Italy's inclination toward anarchy, its overwhelming bureaucracy, and the ongoing prejudice of the affluent North toward the rural South. Though well researched, the book is written in a dispassionate, almost textbook-like style, with no personal slant or proposed solutions. Interesting and valuable from a sociological perspective, but recommended only for larger Italian studies collections.-- David Nudo, New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805017298
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,461,511
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Hofmann was for many years chief of the New York Times bureau in Rome. A resident of Italy on and off since World War II, he now lives in Rome, writing articles and books. The most recent, Cento Città, a guide to Italy's smaller cities and towns, is now an Owl paperback (Holt, 1990).

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2000

    A Must Read

    The fine Italian hand is a must read for anybody wanting to understand the Itaian State, People and culture. It is well written , entertaining and on the money. This is essential reading for any people of Italian American heritage, although I feel some people of Sothern Italian roots may take offense to the Author's negative refrences to Southern Italians, however precise. (I am of Sothern Italian roots, my mother is from Ariano Irpino and my father was from Avellino, however I was born in London,England.)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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