Thursday, December 6, 2007
My favorite books on Italy
The desire to go to Italy grew upon me slowly. I don't why. I had been to most all of the other Western European countries except Italy. Maybe it started one day in the Borders Bookstore when I picked up a small orange book and could not put it down. The title was As the Romans Do by Alan Epstein. The book was about the Epstein family moving to Rome and raising their two sons. They had an overwhelmng desire to live in Rome. That it would no longer do to just visit. They had to be Romans. I read the book from cover to cover, trying to memorize all of the italian words. I shared the book with family and friends and we all laughed at the sometimes outrageous behavior of the Romans.
My sister found a book called A Thousand Days in Venice, An Unexpected Romance by Marlena De Blasi. She tortured me with it how great it was but how it was unfortunately, backlogged at the library. I finally gave in and bought it. What a wonderful story about finding love later in life. (She later wrote another book, A Thousand Days in Tuscany). Next, a friend loaned me Under the Tuscan Sun . I think that everyone must have seen the movie. But, by then, I was hooked and I hadn't even been there.
I found Tim Parks at the bookstore. He is an Englishman married to an Italian with three children born and raised in Italy. His books were funny and insightful and written as an outsider trying to become an insider. Even in his own family, he is different. He is an observer to the Italian culture. His wife and children know nothing else. I read the Italian Neighbors, An Italian Education and, I think his best, A Season in Verona. This is his book about trying to understand the male passion for soccer and since he lived in Verona, that was the team he and his son were passionate about. I learned all the worst swear words and even a hand gesture. When I asked my italian teacher if I was making the hand gesture correctly (I wasn't, I just didn't have the right fluidity of movement), he may have blushed and asked me where I learned such things. (And, I have a special index card with all the swear words on it, just so I'll know when someone isn't saying something very nice.)
With only a volcabulary of cooking and swearing words, I decided I'd better fill in the blanks and bought Italian, in 10 minutes a day because I realized that reading about Italy just wasn't going to be enough. I had to go there and if I went, I wanted to talk to Italians.