Balding, forty-something Mister Alfio Turrisi, an up-and-coming mafioso in Catania, has the deep pockets that London's financial world loves. He, in turn, loves Betty, the spoiled young daughter of Turi Pirrotta, a rival Catanian mobster. Alfio and Betty would seem to be the Romeo and Juliet of this poison-pen valentine to Ottavio Cappellani's native Sicily. That is, until we meet another pair of star-crossed lovers: gay theater director Tino Cagnotto and his bored and sexy young amore, Bobo. Because the way Tino sees it, the real heat in Shakespeare's tragedy is between Romeo and Mercutio, not Romeo and Juliet . . .
Set in a twenty-first-century Sicily rife with moody aristocrats, vain politicians, inept gangsters, shabby theater actors, and high-tech killers, Cappellani's hilarious second novel—part Tarantino-style operetta, part soap opera—is also a surprising tribute to the Bard.
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About the Author
Ottavio Cappellani is the author of the novel Who Is Lou Sciortino? (FSG, 2007). He writes for La Sicilia and several other Italian papers. He lives in Catania, Sicily, where he also fronts a post-punk band and cultivates carob trees and olives.
Ottavio Cappellani is a journalist with a daily column in La Sicilia. He lives in Catania, Sicily, where he writes for several other Italian newspapers, fronts a post-punk band, and cultivates carob trees and olives.
Read an Excerpt
By Ottavio Cappellani, Frederika Randall
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2007 Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A., Milano
All rights reserved.
Two Months Earlier
Two months earlier.
An explosion of loud yellow and red.
Pinwheels and whirligigs.
The scene widens between flashes of intarsia. A man is lying flat on his back in a piazza: a crime in a public place, as befits the seriousness of the offense.
A red stain is spreading over his white shirt.
Another man, dressed like the first (white shirt, black trousers, white stockings up to the knee with red pom-poms, red sash knotted around the waist, black beret), holds up an enormous knife in victory.
Eyes widening in a furious grin.
A woman runs from the piazza, clad head to foot in black, a shawl over her hair, a hand on her breast. You can tell she's running by her skirt, the way her speed lifts it up and makes it stick to her legs.
The woman is screaming.
Her hair's a mess.
Her features are blurry but they give force to her expression, they spell out passion and murder just as we imagine them to be.
Jano Caporeale and Cosimo Cosentino, two pillars of the Catania dialect theater, are looking, perplexed, at the scene. It's painted, as tradition would have it, on the side of a Sicilian cart. The death of cumpare Turiddu in Cavalleria rusticana.
Both are wearing heavy wool jackets (Caporeale's in brown, Cosentino's in a blue and orange check) and threadbare gray flannel trousers. They wear no neckties and under their shirt collars the raveled edges of flesh-colored underwear can be seen.
Caporeale straightens his jacket with one clumsy hand, then looks around.
The waiters, in worn-out white cotton jackets, black trousers shiny with age, and well-scuffed shoes, are hastening from one room to another of Palazzo Biscari, getting the tables ready for lunch. Chairs squealing as they are pushed over the floor, the clink of heels, flatware, and glasses echoes in the reception room empty of all decor. Memories of old-fashioned grandeur just good enough for catered events these days.
Caporeale looks at Cosentino.
Cosentino looks at Caporeale.
"What time is it?" asks Caporeale.
Cosentino doesn't move a muscle. He continues to allow Caporeale to stare at him. "Why? You don't have a watch?"
Caporeale raises his eyebrows. "If I ask you what time it is, it means I don't have one."
"At the pawnshop?"
"I asked you what time it is."
Cosentino turns to look at the Sicilian cart once again. "I hocked mine too."
Caporeale nods, also turning to stare at the cart.
"I'd say it's past noon," says Cosentino.
"And at past noon the only thing here that's ready to eat is this fucking fruit painted on the cart?"
"What, you think they're all retirees like us who eat at the stroke of noon? Me, seeing as how they invited us for lunch, I even ate a light meal last night."
Outside on the sidewalk, a North African selling pirate CDs and DVDs pushes the play button on a huge radio, out of which comes "No Roots" by Faithless.
This is the Civita quarter of Catania, in Via Archi della Marina. Traffic here flows slowly, dammed up between the arches of volcanic rock in the shape of an ancient aqueduct over which the train tracks pass, and Palazzo Biscari.
Until the end of the nineteenth century, the arches nuzzled up against the sea, Via Archi della Marina didn't exist and Palazzo Biscari didn't open onto a street draped with sidewalk salesmen and upholsterers' workshops, but directly onto the water. Beside the main door there were still iron rings once used to tie up the boats.
The arches of the marina are the principal subject, à la Magritte, of the oil paintings that adorn the many trattorie serving fish in the quarter. What you usually notice in these paintings is a certain disproportion of dimension: Mt. Etna in the background is always too big or too small compared with the mullet laid out on the fishmongers' slabs.
Later, tons of landfill were thrown into the sea to build the port, and the arches were swallowed up by the city. Now, under the vaults, tiny parking lots, improvised and illegal, alternate with the carcasses of automobiles that have been stolen and dismantled, garbage bins, street peoples' homes of cardboard and plastic, fruit and vegetable stands, flower-sellers, vendors of Chinese and African merchandise, a kiosk selling beer and seltzer with lemon and salt.
Across the way, on the other side of the street and the noonday traffic, is the Baroque Palazzo Biscari, and behind that, the Duomo of Catania.
It's a beautiful day and Etna looms over the landscape.
Mister Alfio Turrisi, at the wheel of his Aston Martin — wheel on the right — is stuck in traffic. He looks in the mirror to see if his Brylcreem is holding everything in place (hair that was once thin, curly, and white, but which now, thanks to the admirable services of a barber in Ognina, is straight and black). Mister Turrisi would have liked to wear it thick and combed back, but the barber (who was totally bald) told him he had yet to master miracles, and so he had to content himself with a style that swept rightward from a left parting, covering the necessary.
He wets the tip of his little finger, with its diminutive signet ring, and smooths the tips of his pencil mustache and his eyebrows, watching two punk kids as they cut in front of him carrying a swordfish a couple of yards long.
The crushed ice man (ice for the crates of fresh fish at the fishmonger's next to Porta Uzeda, where Via Etnea, Catania's main street, begins) is sitting thoughtfully on a straw-backed chair smoking a cigarette while he watches a block of ice melt in the July sun.
Turrisi turns the air-conditioning up to the max: he hates sweating but it's a habit he's unable to break. One time he had problems with the hair dye and it began to drip down his forehead. He looks at his watch. Turrisi has a lot of business in England and he likes to be on time.
On the sidewalk, organized by size from the smallest, about four inches high, to the largest, about five feet, stands a row of wooden elephants. They all have their trunks pointing to the sky. Turrisi cranes his neck to see the elephants better.
Behind him, someone honks.
Turrisi, annoyed, shifts into first.
All around him is the midday crowd, old guys who are wending their way home from a morning spent on a park bench in the sun at Villa Pacini, getting a good look at the asses of the female students waiting for the bus in front of the Bar Etoile.
Turrisi notes that the old folks and the young girls are dressed identically. In London they call it vintage.
"Sicily certainly is full of whores," says Caporeale, to pass the time while they wait for lunch.
Caporeale, his hands joined behind his back, points with his chin toward the wooden cart. "Lola, shit, what a slut. She gets cumpare Turiddu killed." Caporeale nods to himself. "And now that I think of it, his wife is a great big bitch too, spying on cumpare Alfio."
"Me, I really like the carts where they show the puppet theater, with the plume of colored feathers on the helmet that makes a fashion statement with the plume of feathers that they put on the horse's head."
Caporeale looks at him. "What do they do?"
"Make a fashion statement," says Cosentino, putting a hand up over his forehead like a plume of feathers and reciting, "Sing to me, O Goddess, of Achilles son of Peleus."
"What the fuck does the goddess have to do with it?"
"It's a theater lunch, isn't it? There are always goddesses."
It's a commemorative lunch in honor of the 350th anniversary of the birth of Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli. Born in Sicily, founder, in 1686, of the famous Café Procope in Paris, across the street from which the Comédie Française was installed. Obviously no one knew when the fuck Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli was born, and nobody knew where he was born either — some said Palermo, some said Messina, some said Acicastello in the province of Catania. But in order that the commemorative lunch, the pet project of the commissioner for culture of the Sicilian regional government (a regional government proudly autonomous from the rest of Italy), not end in strife, the commissioners for culture of all the Sicilian provinces came to an agreement to mutually forgo any parochial claims to his birthplace, and so on the invitation it was just written Sicilian. The celebration had also had the official blessing of the national minister of culture, thanks to a deputy minister from the nearby town of Avola, who, when he learned that French theater had been invented by an Italian, was emboldened to give national visibility to the event, commenting, "Let the French try to bust our balls with their wine."
"Apropos of goddesses," said Caporeale, "that queen of bitches Lambertini, who's usually the first one to arrive because God knows she doesn't want to miss any compliments, isn't even here yet."
Rosanna Lambertini had put on her Giorgio Armani suit that curved around her ass like a mandolin, and with that mandolin she was playing a serenade to Via Etnea that would have stopped all the traffic if the street weren't pedestrians only at this hour. She was wearing high heels too, obviously, which on the basalt pavement were keeping up a percussion beat with her ass like a mandolin, while the whistles of the boys completed the music — violas, violins, and contrabassoons, depending on age and style of whistling.
Every so often she would stop and look in the windows of the shops, but the show, the real show, was when she leaned over to check the price tags, and the construction workers up on the scaffolding restoring the Baroque facades of the palazzi would fake passing out and plunging to the pavement.
With her Farrah Fawcett blond hair and those Dolce & Gabbana shades she looked like Paris Hilton's mother, God bless the whole family.CHAPTER 2
The Director Tino Cagnotto Is Descending a Plexiglas and Neon Staircase
The director Tino Cagnotto is descending a Plexiglas and neon staircase. Left, right, left, right, without missing a beat.
In front of him the pop, pop, pop of photographers' flashes.
He can't see the crowd, blinded as he is by the lights, but he knows they are there, all there for him.
He feels relaxed and easy: it's the first time he has worn an evening dress that shows off his legs. He had even argued with his tailor in the dressing room, where instead of his usual tuxedo he had found this sequined number and a pair of very high heels.
"But I didn't even get a wax job," Cagnotto had shouted in the dressing room.
"Sure you did, last night," the tailor had replied.
"Last night?" Cagnotto couldn't remember.
What had he done last night?
It seems to be true, he has had a body wax, and in fact he feels extremely elegant inside the dress as he descends toward an embrace with his fans.
He spreads his arms to express his genuine amazement, his all embracing love, his infinite thanks, and discovers he is wearing a pair of gloves above the elbows, and on top of the gloves all kinds of rings and bracelets that sparkle under the artificial light.
Where had he gotten the jewelry?
When had he put it on?
His thoughts grow confused; he begins to feel agitated. Was it really a good idea to let himself be convinced to dress up like this? What if somebody is fucking him around? He hears a laugh. Is that joyous laughter or is it contempt? Doubt makes him wobble. Right left right right ...
The bodice is beginning to bother him; he looks down at his cleavage and sees that his chest hairs are tangled up in the sequins, so that every step is agony. Chest hairs? He has never been very hairy. Just the necessary ...
Gasping for breath, he realizes only now that the dress is too tight.
A terrible thought assails him.
He lowers his eyes again, aiming below the neckline, below the gut. Oh, God.
His stomach is huge.
Then finally he gets his eye on it. Oh, horrible. It's there, monstrously in evidence. No way you could not notice what is politely called his member, glistening with spangles.
The bull's-eye toward which all the lights and flashbulbs are aiming.
The more he moves, the more the dress seems to shrink. It seems to be climbing up his legs. Cagnotto can't remember what kind of stockings he has on, body hose or a garter belt?
The dress is riding up his thighs, the sequins are scratching his skin. He feels something around his head, pressing on his brow. Oh, God, is he also wearing a wig?
Left right left ... Cagnotto falls.
Drenched in sweat, he wakes up in his bed, the black silk sheet twisted around his arms and legs, his head pressed under a sweaty pillow, the chain with the huge pendant on it, which obviously he had not taken off last night, clawing into his chest.
Still gasping, Cagnotto nevertheless feels better.
It was only a dream, a horrible nightmare. Rita Hayworth isn't his ideal of elegance. That tailor, who was that? And those disgusting gloves. He's an avant-garde director, he would never dress like that on Oscar night. And anyway, what do the Oscars have to do with it? He's a theater director.
Shaking off the sheet, he stretches out noisily. His body is beginning to hum, his mind is taking charge of his limbs, he feels a pleasurable frisson that makes him think of waking up on a Sunday morning, when there's no school. He ought to take a nice bath, a nice, relaxing, and invigorating bath. Okay. This new-generation antidepressant is starting to take effect — and what an effect. Damn, these new-generation antidepressants are magnificent.
With a beatific smile on his face he turns to look at the alarm clock. Noon. It's great to wake up at noon after a full night of deep sleep, nightmares apart. Damn that satin sheet. Silk in bed can be hazardous to your health. Certainly, he thinks, smiling, all that alcohol he'd drunk last night didn't hurt. The doctor had said not to mix alcohol and antidepressants. He wouldn't do it again. With this antidepressant he wouldn't need alcohol. And he'd lose weight too. That's what he would do today, sign up at the gym, at the pool. Get moving ...
Cagnotto stretches once again, full of new energy.
Then it seems to him that something doesn't quite square in the perfect architecture of the new day that is beginning. It must be the antidepressant that hasn't yet taken hold. What had the doctor said? Three weeks before it kicks in, and there were still a few days to go. Some anxiety on waking was normal. And no alcohol, no alcohol, as we said ... He could use a coffee, a magnificent coffee.
A smile creeps over Cagnotto's face.
He remembers that he has just — thanks to a TV sales pitch — bought the ultimate in automatic machines for espresso, cappuccino, and all that. Cagnotto buys a lot of stuff from TV salesmen. The doctor said it was due to the depression; he was a compulsive shopper. Cagnotto still buys stuff from TV salesmen and now the doctor says it could be an effect of the antidepressant. Cagnotto asked him what the difference was. The doctor said that now he was only buying things he really needed.
Excerpted from Sicilian Tragedee by Ottavio Cappellani, Frederika Randall. Copyright © 2007 Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A., Milano. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PROLOGUE - Two Months Later,
ACT ONE - The Birth of Comedy,
CHAPTER ONE - Two Months Earlier,
CHAPTER TWO - The Director Tino Cagnotto Is Descending a Plexiglas and Neon Staircase,
CHAPTER THREE - Like the Ballroom Scene in The Leopard, but More Now,
CHAPTER FOUR - Car Theater Elegance,
CHAPTER FIVE - Each New Love Brings Great Tumult,
CHAPTER SIX - Mister Turrisi's Brylcreem Reflects the Sun of Piazza Lupo,
CHAPTER SEVEN - I'm a Salesclerk, Not an Object,
CHAPTER EIGHT - No, He Can't Stand Her When She's Like That,
CHAPTER NINE - O Sometimes Insufferable Pomposity!,
CHAPTER TEN - In Pajamas and Dressing Gown in the Sitting Room of Villa Wanda,
CHAPTER ELEVEN - An Immense Ham Hock Lies on Cagnotto's Plate,
CHAPTER TWELVE - Betty Is Counting the Toes on Her Feet,
CHAPTER THIRTEEN - Have You Ever Been in Sicily when the Hot Wind of Love Blows over the Land?,
CHAPTER FOURTEEN - A Patron, a Piazza, an Amphitheater,
CHAPTER FIFTEEN - Rosalba Quattrocchi's Salumeria Is Unctuous,
CHAPTER SIXTEEN - Contessa Salieri Likes It When They Kill People,
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN - Paino Phones Falsaperla,
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - Ridi, Pagliaccio ...,
ACT TWO - Celebrity as Will and Idea,
CHAPTER ONE - Why, Then Is My Pump Well-flower'd,
CHAPTER TWO - It's the Story of an Actress Who's Married and Who's Being Courted by Tonio,
CHAPTER THREE - Pump Means Shoe,
CHAPTER FOUR - Paino and Falsaperla Are at Each Other's Throats,
CHAPTER FIVE - The Next Day Turi Pirrotta Is Knotting His Necktie with Care,
CHAPTER SIX - Apart from Caporeale, Everyone's Tired and Happy This Morning,
CHAPTER SEVEN - God, What a Jerk You Are,
CHAPTER EIGHT - Cagnotto Is Having His Toenails Trimmed by Bobo,
CHAPTER NINE - Betty Is Stretched Out on the Sofa on Her Stomach,
CHAPTER TEN - Shit, Listen to This,
CHAPTER ELEVEN - Bruno Pirronello, Photographer of La Voce della Sicilia,
CHAPTER TWELVE - The Summer Sunset Sends Torrid Waves over the Amphitheater of San Giovanni la Punta,
ACT THREE - The End of Tragedy,
CHAPTER ONE - The Black Silk Sheets of Cagnotto's Bed Are Unruffled,
CHAPTER TWO - Betty Is in a Bad Mood,
CHAPTER THREE - But Have You Read the Paper?,
CHAPTER FOUR - Pietroburger Is Crowded with Female Salesclerks,
CHAPTER FIVE - Timpanaro Is Wearing an Earpiece,
CHAPTER SIX - La Voce della Sicilia Is Making His Brioche Go Down the Wrong Way,
CHAPTER SEVEN - Cagnotto Has Had to Turn Off His Cell Phone and Unplug His Landline,
CHAPTER EIGHT - Dawn Comes at Dusk,
CHAPTER NINE - Cagnotto Is Terrorized,
CHAPTER TEN - On the Terrace of the Top Floor of the Una Palace Hotel,
CHAPTER ELEVEN - Will You Please Tell Me What the Fuck Is Going On?,
CHAPTER TWELVE - No One Would Ever Dare to Question Signorina Betty's Virtue and Good Name,
CHAPTER THIRTEEN - You Understand?,
CHAPTER FOURTEEN - And So the Prefect Wants to Resolve the Situation and He's Asking Me the Favor,
CHAPTER FIFTEEN - Look, Don't Even Let Me Think About What Betty's Thinking About Right Now!,
CHAPTER SIXTEEN - SS Really Exists, Nobody Knows About It, Even Though Everybody Knows,
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN - Giacomo Smiles, Looking Curiously at the Mortars,
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - It's a Beautiful Day and Villa Wanda Is Full of Cops,
ALSO BY OTTAVIO CAPPELLANI,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I GIVE UP!! This was an ER book, so I really, really tried to stick with it and give it a fair trial. I am more than half way through, and have been working on it for a month now. But, I just can't stand it any longer. Set in Sicily in what seems to be the present, there are 2 main plot threads: a mobster is trying to marry off his daughter to his rival, and a theater director is working on a gay version of Romeo and Juliet, where the star-crossed lovers are Romeo and Mercutio, not Juliet. Truthfully? I'm only able to tell you that much because I read it on the back cover of the book. That was the problem - I have absolutely no idea what is going on, who the characters are and what their relationships are with one another, or why I should be interested in any of them. There isn't a single sympathetic character in this entire book - every one of them is scheming to fool someone else or advance themself. The dialogue is inane. There aren't even any descriptions of the lovely Mediterranean location to enjoy.No recommendations from me on this one either way. Read some of the other reviews and try it for yourself if it sounds interesting, but I'm not wasting another minute of my time with it.
A nice little crime comedy. A bit hard to follow at first with all the Italian names, but once I got acquainted with the characters, it was quite a bit of fun.
Not a book for everybody, particularly the homophobic, but it is one of the funniest, most original this year. There is a cast of characters that seem to have come from "the Sopranos", "Soap", and "The Birdcage". There are competing mafiosi, bitchy wives and mistresses, divas and queens (of both genders) and enough bumbling politicians to populate a good sized congressional committee staff.I've spent several weeks in Catania Sicily (the setting for the book) and visited much of the surrounding area, so this one was especially fun for me. However, I don't think you need to have been there to enjoy it. Billed as a farce, and a take-off on Romeo and Juliet (try Romeo and Mercutio as the love interest!!), it involves the courtship of a mafioso's daughter by another up and coming thug, the attempts by an over-drugged director/producer(Cagnotto) to find financing and sponsorship, as well as a venue, for his less than standard production of Shakespeare, all the while convincing a bunch of aging actors (and one outrageous actress) of the wisdom of his "vision', and trying to maintain the affection of his latest lover, "Bobo.". A murder or two (it is the mafia after all) brings in more 'family members' as the plot keeps twisting. In the end it is a true spoof, and I suspect Shakespeare would have loved it.Be warned: it is ribald, naughty, bawdy, raucous, coarse, vulgar, crude rude and lewd, and probably will be offensive to many (there is certainly a generous sprinkling of the 'f' word) but if you can take it as a spoof, or a glorious Sicilian soap opera, it is uproariously funny.
Tino Cagnotto is the stereotypical vain, extravagant, gay experimental theater director taking anti-depressants and stimulants, trying to find inspiration and funding for his next production as he is running out of money to support his lifestyle. It could be so very sad, but set him in Sicily, surround him with stereotypical small-time Mafia, small-town government, small-time aristocracy and star-crossed lovers and you have grand and ¿laugh out loud funny¿ farce.Poor Cagnotto has run out of ideas, he has no current lover, and the doctor cannot get his medication straight. (Never mind that he frequently mixes the meds with a little alcohol!) The local cultural commissioner needs a new production to attract tourists to the town, and is pushing him to come up with his next production.Turi Pirotta is a local mobster whose position is being usurped by Alfio Turrisi. ¿Mister Turrisi¿ owns a bank in London, drives around in an Aston Martin with a right hand wheel and is enamored with all things English. He is buying up land all around the island because it has oil on it.Pirotta started out driving a cement-mixer¿that his how he wooed his wife, Wanda. Now he just ¿fixes¿ things and launders money, and Wanda and his daughter, Betty, just ¿bust his balls¿.But hark! Alfio catches a glimpse of Betty and falls in love¿he writes to Pirotta to ask his permission to court the lovely Betty. Pirotta sees a way out of his business and family problems. Betty is out of the house and the enemy is part of the family. Hark again! Cagnotto meets the charming young and innocent Bobo, who loves him. Bobo inspires Cagnotto to produce a new interpretation of ¿Romeo and Juliet¿ using ¿dialect street actors¿--the young and beautiful Romeo, Mercutio and Juliet all played by down and out and aging Sicilian street actors.The fun really begins when one of the commissioners is shot at the opening night production and it rolls on from there. There is much ¿ball-busting¿ and ¿f**king¿ going on, but no sex. An entertaining story from murderous start to happy ending!
I am an Italophile. Having my roots in sicily and LeMarche, I am drawn to anything written about Italy...from a treatise to a recipe! So I was elated to receive a copy of Sicilian Tragedee as an Early Reviewer book. I have to admit, I had difficulty being engaged at first. It is set in Catania, a city I have often passed through after arriving at the airport enroute to visit my relatives. This is a perfect setting for this theatrical novel. Everything about this story is over-the-top. The characters and personalities, the language, the descriptions, the actions are all slightly less than believable or rather slightly more than believable...yet within them is a lingering taste of the authentic. It was only when I stopped looking for the "usual" and allowed myself to go with the flow that I became swept up in the experience. If you enjoy movies that exaggerate the Italian stereotype, this book is for you.
I really need to stay away from comic novels because they just haven't been working for me lately! This one, about the Italian theater scene and the colorful characters therein, is no exception. I found it confusing and hard to follow although the parts I read were certainly funny. It just didn't hold my attention though. Maybe somebody else will have better luck.
Tino Cagnotto needs to produce a play. He has burned through the income from his last production and, more importantly, he needs to make a good impression on Bobo, ("I'm a salesclerk, not an object,"), who he met at a Sicilian buffet. But Cagnotto has no project in mind, no script, no ideas and, worse, no patron.Betty Pirotta, daughter of Mafia boss Turi Pirotta, is suffering from a broken heart brought on by a newspaper article about her best friend's party that did not feature a single photo of Betty. The only cure for her agony, Betty tells Turi, is an E-Class Mercedes with television monitors installed in the headrest. Meanwhile, rival Mafiosi Alfio Turrisi is suffering cardiac palpitations over Betty, who he saw knocking down a waiter at a local bakery. Despite his rivalry with Betty's father and despite the 20-year gap in their ages, Turrisi simply must marry Betty. His surprising ally in that quest turns out to be Betty's father, eager to get his overly dependent dependent out of the house and pleased with the thought of inflicting her on his adversary.These romantic entanglements form the nucleus of Ottavio Cappellani's breezy and inspired farcical novel, Sicilian Tragedee. Capallini, a Sicilian journalist, appears to be using the cover of fiction to skewer the people he writes about in his columns, but without an intimate knowledge of Sicily's culture and politics, one can never be sure. Nonetheless, it is significant that the characters who meet untimely ends in Sicilian Tragedee could have been plucked from a Gilber and Sullivan satire. After one perfectly timed killing, the victim's mistress is offended because his widow hasn't called her to express her sympathy "after everything I've done for her."When Cagnotto does get an idea for a new production, it turns out to be a reworking of Romeo and Juliet featuring actors from the "dialect theatre" (a term for plays that focus on everyday people using street language, as opposed to the formal, classical Italian theatre). The highlight of the play is to be the unveiling of Romeo's - brace yourself - codpiece.In the working out of his story lines, Cappellani has succeeds in keeping the reader guessing, but one feels that much has been lost in the translation by Frederika Randall. Too many local references go over the American reader's head but, even with the occasional pause for a quick look-up, the whirlwind visit to the Mafia's home ground is worth the trip.
This novel is a rollicking romantic melodrama. It¿s difficult to know what to take seriously, and what is intended as satire or over-the-top farce. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride along the way. The authentic Sicilian flavor comes through in certain references and phrases. I also enjoyed this book¿s humor and colorful, if unrealistic, characters. Though sometimes obtuse, I enjoyed the uniqueness of this novel.