Archive for the 'Italian literature' Category

Ferrante Fever

Ferrante small

Just finished book three, reluctantly. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the third of Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan Novels, ends with a bang. The books have a way of accelerating as they conclude, still I wanted to savor its last few sections. It’ll be a long wait til September when the forth and final book comes out. But just in time, an extremely rare interview with the reclusive Ferrante appears in the current issue of The Paris Review, #212 (available here at Canio’s). Check it out; it feels a lot like reading Elena, the narrator…

Once you start with My Brilliant Friend, you catch a sort of fever. “I don’t usually read like this,” said a customer recently. She spoke for many who read Ferrante rapaciously, ravenously. We’re caught in the fiery friendship, hateship, loveship between Lila and Elena, or Lenu as we’ve come to know her, in dialect. And it’s not just an “Italian” thing. Readers worldwide are captivated. “I told my friend, I’ve finished book one and she could borrow it,” a customer in for book two said. “I wondered why she wasn’t at my door first thing to get it.”  Which book are you reading? And if you haven’t started on them, what are you waiting for?

Beyond our Grandmother’s Gravy

Thanks to years  long hard work and dedication, an English- language edition of the formidable anthology Italoamericana: The Literature of the Great Migration, 1880-1943 has recently been published by Fordham University Press. Originally published in Italian and edited by Francesco Durante, this landmark collection of essays, poems, stories, memoir,  history and more illuminates American society through the eyes of Italian-speaking immigrants. Rich with biographical notes and a helpful introduction, the volume deserves a place on the shelf of any serious student of Italian American literature.

Last Saturday, editor of the American edition, Robert Viscusi offered a comprehensive introduction to the volume he lovingly shepherded into print. Translator Giulia Prestia read selections from a few of the anarchist writers included in the anthology. Reviewing the work in the New York Times, Sam Roberts writes, “‘Recounting first-generation immigrant life in ”the American colony,’ the selections don’t shy away from scabrous subjects, like prejudice, exploitation of women, criminal conduct or radicalism.'” At over 900 pages, we are clearly beyond the stories we heard from our grandmother as she stirred the pot of gravy in her cramped tenement kitchen. The collection has received hearty critical praise and a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which noted, “This volume is a major work and forms an invaluable testament to a forgotten era of Italian literary history in the new world.”

If you missed the event, stop in for a signed copy of the anthology, and stay tuned for the podcast soon to be available at WPKN’s East End Ink blogspot. ( eastendink.blogspot.com)

How do you gift wrap a download?

When I recently heard Ray Bradbury’s comment that a Kindle smells like burning plastic (see NPR) I thought of the transience of this digital media. Ours is the age of impermanence, to say nothing of its toxicity. Some months ago we got a call from someone who sounded familiar. A frequent customer, he had found a book on the street in New York inscribed by a poet from Sag Harbor. Did we happen to know this man? Yes, we did. Vince had been a loyal customer before moving into the city. A published poet, essayist and Whitman scholar, he gave several readings, led an in-depth poetry workshop and championed John Ciardi’s seminal works. The caller had picked up Vince’s copy of Cellini’s autobiography. A note scribbled in the flyleaf indicated that Vince’s ancestors came from the same part of Italy as did the caller’s. Though he made his living as an accountant, the caller also wrote poetry. He said he felt as if he’d found a long lost family member he never knew. All this from a few notes marked in a book, and picked up by a passing stranger one afternoon. The caller had prepared a letter including several poems, some he’d written in honor of his grandfather whose passport photograph he’d copied onto the page. All this, gentle reader, to say our books are our passports into that boarder-less country, the territory of our shared human experience. They are the currency of our community.

Lucky Solstice

You could say the luck began back around Thanksgiving time. Mark Doty had been announced the winner of the National Book Award for his poetry collection Fire to Fire. We’d already scheduled a reading from his memoir Dog Years. How fortuitous now that our audience could congratulate him on this great honor. When the poet read from his memoir, he read each word with the breath and sound of poetry.   Just now an old golden lab and a young man are walking through the light snowfall on upper Main Street, Sag Harbor.  A sign of Beau, perhaps? or just another daily ritual of caring this dark afternoon?  Mark spent time with each question from the audience, answered each generously, encouragingly, the poet teacher sharing his gifts. Here, he seemed to say, you try…

Some weeks later, storyteller and novelist Gioia Timpanelli lit the candles for Santa Lucia on her feast day, December 13.  The patron saint of Siracusa offered her eyes to the world. “Here,” she might have said, “take them, and see.”  Gioia’s new novel What Makes a Child Lucky takes place in Sicily, in a time of great hunger, or as the introduction suggests: “anyplace at anytime.”  Gioia spun out the story as we sat rapt in its charms.  Lucky us, we were able to make an audio recording thanks again to Tony Ernst at WPKN independent radio.  Check the link for this and other special programs: http://eastendink.blogspot.com

Books bring light to our lives. .. Bright Solstice to all!


Canio's Books is located at 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor, NY 11963. You can drop an email to info@caniosbooks.com, or even check out some of our stock online. Thanks for visiting our blog!