The Music of the Inferno

Lentricchia, Frank

Published by SUNY Press
ISBN 10: 0791443485 / ISBN 13: 9780791443484
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Synopsis: An unusual, deft, often piercing meditation on storytelling, ethnicity, and the Italian/American experience.

At eighteen Robert Tagliaferro, an orphan of ambiguous racial and ethnic identity, disappears from his hometown of Utica, New York. At sixty he returns, forgotten by nearly everyone and searching the bin of memory for something to salvage. Having lived for decades inside a bookstore, his search for identity has taken him into the world of great literature and the history of Utica itself, and so his quest must be to create a memory, a history, and an identity from his reading. He becomes a man made of words, a patchwork of styles and rhetoric, an artifice.

In the cellar of a restaurant, Robert tells his stories of the past to six other men: stories of Utica, of New York State, and ultimately of America itself, as well as of the intimate involvement of Italian immigrants with these histories. The other characters respond in a kind of collective storytelling, a play of voices probing the various themes of history, genealogy, fatherhood, race, lost children, the presentness of the past, community, and, finally, storytelling itself as the power guiding all, informing their sense of everything, as they grope imaginatively toward a sense of life and their place in it.

Rich in literary heritage and allusion, The Music of the Inferno is an unusual, deft, often piercing meditation on storytelling, ethnicity, and the Italian American experience.

"The novel as a form still lives in our culture because it continues to be the deepest and most rewarding guide to the mystery of people's souls, and this brave and honest novel serves precisely that standard." -- Don DeLillo, author of Underworld

"This unmetaphorical tour of the underworld plunges into the deep history and foundational crimes of the little city of Utica, New York. It is Lentricchia's most ambitious narrative to date, a confrontation with class and race which also offers the pleasures of magnificent sentences, loathsome objects and events, and grotesque as well as enigmatic characters. The Music of the Inferno does the historical novel in a new way, and that is no mean feat." -- Fredric Jameson

"This beautifully written novel is not just about Italians or others in Utica. Like Faulkner or Joyce, Lentricchia has staked out a small piece of territory from which, implicitly, he can generalize. The part stands for the whole here, in so many ways. Lentricchia's novel frames the American experience in ways that, for me, were revelatory. It is a brilliant piece of fiction, able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best writing in America today."-- Jay Parini, author of Benjamin's Crossing

From the Publisher: This novel follows Robert Tagliaferro, an orphan of ambiguous racial and ethnic identity, who has returned to his hometown of Utica, New York, searching the bin of memory for something to salvage. Rich in literary heritage and allusion, The Music of the Inferno is an unusual, deft, often piercing meditation on storytelling, ethnicity, and the Italian American experience.

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Title: The Music of the Inferno
Publisher: SUNY Press
Book Condition: BRAND NEW

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Lentricchia, Frank
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