Been away for a little while. A much needed vacation. Time to catch up a little and post something here for those of you who are following this. Not much new news to offer so instead I will say a little something about some recent reads:
The Right Thing To Do - Josephine Gattuso Hendin
This was one of those chance finds while browsing one day. It is a story about an Italian-American woman from Queens New York who struggles for independence from an old world, domineering Sicilian father and the conflict between immigrant parents and their more Americanized children. There are some clichés here but that doesn’t take away from the power of the story, which seems to be autobiographical in some ways but it’s hard to tell for sure. It was an enjoyable read but it doesn’t really cover any ground that hasn’t been covered before in stories such as these. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but there really isn’t anything “new” brought to the table here. Still, it is very well written and it is a good story. For those who are interested in Italian-American literature, I would recommend this. Just don’t expect anything truly groundbreaking.
Rating: * * *
Christ in Concrete - Pietro Di Donato
A classic of Italian-American literature. The story of an immigrant boy struggling to take care of his family after the death of his father at a construction accident. Beautifully captures the life and times of Italian immigrants in the early part of the 20th century in a prose that is inventive and poetic. Donato’s prose seems to pre-date Kerouac’s “spontaneous Bop prosody” by a good thirty years. A powerful story about the exploitation and prejudice that many Italian immigrants faced at the time. Definitely one of the best---if not the best----book on this subject I’ve ever read so far. A deeply moving story which made me think of my own ancestors and what they may have faced when first coming to America. Highly recommended. Absolutely brilliant.
Rating: * * * * *
Invisible Monsters - Chuck Palahniuk
What can one say about Palahniuk’s imagination. A truly insane book. The protagonist is an ex-model who’s jaw was shot off and she spends the rest of her life with only half a face. She and her cohorts travel around, looking through homes for sale while stealing prescription drugs to sell. It is a fiercely satirical look on the nature of beauty in America and the lengths that some people will go to obtain it. There are a lot of twists and turns to this semi-crime, quasi-mystery story that I won’t reveal here but it’s safe to say that this is one of the most disturbing, insane books I’ve read in a very long time.
Rating: * * * *
The Last Evenings on Earth - Roberto Bolaño
A collection of short stories from the Chilean master covering themes such as literature and Latin American issues. Not his best work but a fine collection of stories. If you haven’t read Bolaño, I would start with one of his novels but it does serve as a good introduction for those who aren’t ready to tackle some of his more complex work.
Rating: * * * * 1/2
Survivor - Chuck Palahniuk
Another fiercely satirical novel, this time about the nature of celebrity and religion. The sole survivor of a religious cult suddenly finds himself becoming an international celebrity. The whole story is told via a black box from the airplane that the protagonist hijacks and plans to crash in the Australian outback. A wild romp about the fine line between religious cults and celebrity worship.
Rating: * * * *
Choke - Chuck Palahniuk
This one was also made into a film which I’ve yet to see. The story of a foster child who seeks love by pretending to choke on food in restaurants. He uses the money his “saviors” donate to him to help care for his dying mother---a wild, crazy woman with a lifetime of crazy antics and prison time behind her. because of his dysfunctional childhood, the protagonist often seeks love via sex addiction therapy groups and is only able to have superficial relations with them. A satyrical look at modern masculinity and sexuality.
Rating: * * * *