Alexander writes in his introduction that ""over the last century, Sicilians have played [a] disproportionately large. . . role in Italy's literary life"" and he provides copious demonstration of that fact in his selection, from Luigi Capuana and Giovanni Verga, co-founders of the influential Verismo movement--the Italian version of French realism and Naturalism; to Luigi Pirandello and Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Italian lights of the first half of our own century. Many of these stories appear here in English for the first time. They are universally acute, with a sentimental edge dictated by the near-feudal traditions of Sicilian society. Capuana's ""The Bond of San Giovanni"" explores the obligations incumbent on godfatherhood as well as the violation of honor. Verga's ""Cavalleria Rusticana"" (the source of the opera) and Virgilio Titone's ""The Sulphur Mine"" also turn on vendettas; the Titone story, like Pirandello's ""Ciaula Discovers the Moon,"" is set in the mining sub-culture of the island. Gino Raya's account of ""How Filippa Died"" is an indictment of the family of a seduced-and-abandoned signorina who recommended poison to save face. Vitaliano Brancati writes about the gallismo of the Southern Italian male; and Danilo Dolci is concerned with the extreme poverty of the region. The writing is some of the best Italy has to offer; what's more, the ambiance of country and people is as heady as garlic, olives and rough red wine--literature cum travelogue.