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Offers a candid portrait of the Italian people in a collection of pieces describing events and topics highlighting life in contemporary Italy
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A look at modern-day Italy by a New Yorker writer who spent part of his childhood in the peninsula and has been returning for extended visits ever since. This book of essays picks up where Murray's earlier memoirs left off (Italy: The Fatal Gift, 1982). In an attempt to get beneath the picture-perfect Italy described by most guidebooks, Murray delves into the country's back streets, talking to the ``little people''--waiters, shopkeepers, etc.--and into its darkest secrets, exploring such recent scandals as the collapse of the Rizzoli publishing empire and the murder of Italian playboy Francesco D'Alessio by American model Terry Broome. Some of his essays are place-oriented, others center on people, but all portray a complex culture afflicted by industrialized ills yet still imbued with a strong sense of the past. Murray is at his best when making small insightful observations (``the old people seem, in a way, to be mourning for a way of life which is vanishing'') or relaying surprising tidbits of information (murder is rare in Rome). His essays on Sperlonga, once a poor village, now a fashionable resort; on Naples, ``an elegant old invalid'' still recovering from the earthquake of 1980, and on the D'Alessio affair are especially fascinating. Still other essays fall surprisingly flat. Murray is occasionally repetitious (his Pozzuoli and Naples chapters are very similar) and bland. The book lacks cohesion as well, and although he tries to bring it all together through his final portrait of ``The Last Italian,'' ``living out his last days...in the streets of San Francisco,'' the conceit doesn't quite work. But despite the lack of a strong unifying shape and occasional weak spots, Murray's thoughtful, well-written essays offer unusual insight into the daily concerns of late-20th-century Italy. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
Spending part of his childhood in Europe with his Italian mother and returning there for numerous extended visits since, Murray, noted contributor to The New Yorker , knows the terrain of Italy and temperament of its people. Different from Barbara Grizzuti Harrison's very personal travelog ( Italian Days , Grove-Weidenfeld, 1989) and Paul Hoffmann's dispassionate analysis ( That Fine Italian Hand , LJ 5/15/90), Murray's book combines vignettes of his experiences with journalistic accounts of the country's colorful citizenry: entrepreneurs, gangsters, an aging Italian immigrant in the ethnic ghetto in San Francisco. Some of the pieces found here have previously appeared in Traveler and Cosmopolitan , while others are original to the book. ALA voted Murray's Italy: The Fatal Gift ( LJ 9/15/82), one of the Notable Books of 1982. This current work is most likely headed for the same recognition and will be a good addition to any European studies or general collection.
-David Nudo, New York
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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