by Pat Conroy
Conroy's much-awaited novel details Jack McCall's search to understand the people and events that shaped his life in South Carolina and Rome. From Booklist: Conroy evolves from the Margaret Mitchell school of southern writing, where everything must be Big--the smartest, most beautiful people on the planet living the biggest lives on the grandest sets and, of course, wracked by the greatest tragedies. It's all here in the story of Jack McCall of Waterford, South Carolina, his five brothers, drunken father, white-trash mother, and Holocaust-surviving in-laws. Nothing small happens in this book: the McCalls' story is played out against World War II, Auschwitz, the sixties, and, of course, the South in all its triumph and tragedy. Even the little moments are big in their way: the best cup of cappuccino, the most beautiful southern evening, the freshest shrimp, the most precocious kid. And yet, sneer as we will, we also must admit that Conroy plays the high-concept game as well as anyone. Like Mitchell, he builds narrative momentum that is impossible to resist, and he writes with a hammy eloquence that, while often infuriating, fits his subject matter perfectly. You won't stop reading, but you'll hate yourself in the morning.
Notes from an Italian Garden
by Joan Marble
Thirty years ago, UPI political writer Joan Marble and her sculptor husband Robert Cook bought an unpromising piece of land north of Rome in the hamlet of Canale, home of the ancient Etruscans. Here they restored a house and, more importantly, started a garden that changed their lives. Despite the incredulity of local inhabitants and the seemingly endless problems they encountered, the couple's enthusiasm for the ancient countryside, their ignorance of the obstacles they faced, their downright stubbornness, and the unexpected friends who helped them all served to conquer the inhospitable terrain.
Pasquale's Nose: Idle Days in an Italian Town
by Michael Rips
In this lively book, an American expatriate tries to make a new home in a small Italian city famous for its clannish ways. He succeeds in many ways, but not without plenty of gaffes and cultural misinterpretations--all of which make Michael Rips's memoir that much funnier.
"If you live in Sutri for a hundred years, you won't have a friend; if you live in Sutri for five hundred years, you'll have a friend, but you'll regret it." So runs a proverb from the city in which Rips, a sometime attorney and full-time student of the good life, sets his narrative, a place that defies guidebook description and most of the rules of logic. There, a first-class idler in a town where no one is in much of a hurry, he encounters such figures as a diviner who heals sick tractors by touch; a Calabrian outsider who gauges people by the smell of their feet; a chef whose favorite dish is porcupine; and an illiterate postman, plus a bewildering array of secrets and strange encounters that test the innocence of our innocent abroad.
Tinged with the bittersweet, Rips's extraordinary memoir will please Italian and armchair travelers alike.
A Coin in Nine Hands
by Marguerite Yourcenar
This novella is set in Rome in 1933, the eleventh year of the Fascist dictatorship in Italy. There, during the space of a day, a ten-lire coin passes through the hands of nine people - including an old artist, a prostitute, and a would-be assassin of Mussolini - and becomes the symbol of contact between human beings, each lost in his own passions and in his intrinsic solitude.
Rome and a Villa
by Eleanor Clark
"Perhaps the finest book ever to be written about a city."
- New York Times
"These essays gather up Rome and hold it before us, bristling and dense and dreamlike, with every scene drenched in the sound of fountains, of leaping and falling water."
- The New Yorker
"With her genius for attention, observation and recordings, she sees with beautiful accuracy the differences between things. With a true sense and love for the grand, the tragic, the beautiful, she has the necessary sense of their opposites... This whole book is the distillation of a deep personal experience; it is autobiography in the truest sense...the story of the search for what is truly one's own, and the ability to recognize it when found, and to be faithful in love of it."
- Katherine Anne Porter
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