Monday, September 24, 2018

The Return of the Blogger

Buon giorno my reading friends. I realize that it's been a full month since I've shared my literary life with you. Sometimes real life intervenes and then, unfortunately, there are times when I no longer feel that I have anything worthy to say! I suspect that the incivility of our national discourse has, rather than sparked a fire in my gut, dampened my enthusiasm for social media and oversharing.

Some of you may know that I have been eating and drinking my way through southern Italy for a few weeks and I can't tell you how joyful it felt to think and speak in another language and to submerge myself in a different culture. What a respite from the sturm und drang! What a pleasure to walk the cobblestones of ancient cities, to greet folks in their native tongue, and to see my smile reflected back at me. And oh, how safe we felt.

Sicily was a delight. And what culinary surprises! We have become expert at recreating the traditional pasta alla Norma, first recommended by Anthony Bourdain during his episode on Catania, and then reaffirmed by Don's grandson who joined us on a portion of our trip.

As for the literature of Sicily, I began with what many Sicilians consider their masterwork. "The Leopard" by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa was rejected in the author's lifetime but has gone down in history as a realistic picture of an aristocracy in decline, an approaching revolution with Garibaldi marching into Palermo and reclaiming Sicily for  a reunified Italy, and the influence of the Catholic church on the everyday lives of both the wealthy and those barely hanging on.

Most people think of Sicily and the Mafia as one and the same thanks to The Godfather trilogy so I felt I'd be remiss if I didn't take along a mystery or two. "The Day of the Owl" by Leonardo Sciascia dates from 1961 and was the first of several crime novels which examined the power of the Cosa Nostra as it infiltrated all areas of government and the judiciary.

A new officer, Captain Bellodi, exiled from his family in Parma, is ensconced in an unnamed town in Sicily and is charged with changing the way business is done, a thankless and impossible job against which he rages mightily. But when a man is gunned down in the main piazza in front of a busload of townspeople on their way to work, and no one sees anything, Bellodi throws caution to the wind and hunkers down to expose the history of corruption, complacency, and mob rule that once defined this beautiful country.

Since my return I have been reading almost 24/7 and I'll explain why in another post. I'm sorry to say that I may not be able to share my thoughts on all the fabulous new books piled up on my desk until the end of the year when Library Journal will print its "best of 2018" lists. I'm proud to say that I will have some input. More on Barbara Kingsolver and Andre DuBus III coming soon.