A novel of relationships suffused with the world of soccer.
Caraccio’s (Tiburcio!, 2014) vivid, fast-paced novel begins with the story of young Lorenzo Cordinni, a natural-born fantasisti (“a highly skilled player,” the book’s footnotes helpfully supply, “a playmaker”) whose future lies before him “like a wide open net on a breakaway with only the goalkeeper to beat.” Lorenzo is noticed by Italy’s big football league officials, who snap him up and transform him into an international star, the consummate professional sports celebrity. “On the field, Lorenzo was always in control,” we’re told. “He could work his way out of every uncomfortable situation, extricate himself from any predicament.” But when Lorenzo’s team falls short at the World Cup, their return to Italy is accompanied by jeers and hisses, and even Lorenzo’s old father starts to believe, bitterly, that his son has disappointed the hopes of the whole country. Lorenzo is injured; he punches a patron at a trattoria and spends a few days in jail; he’s repeatedly fined by the league. By the time he meets young college student Marco Baccari at a youth soccer camp in California (where Lorenzo is part of the guest faculty of visiting celebrities), he’s a man badly in need of personal renewal. For his part, Marco is in need of the boost Lorenzo’s patronage might give him. From these two characters and the women in their lives, Caraccio fashions a rich and intensely atmospheric novel of football—its culture, its thousand details, the cost it exacts on families and personal relationships. The book’s main strength in doing this is its avoidance of sentimentality; these characters whose lives revolve around the game recognize its tawdry realities with complete clarity—a process shown to best advantage in the character of Lorenzo, whose growth from starry-eyed phenom to weathered veteran makes for the book’s most compelling reading.
An involving fictional evocation of the superstar culture of modern football.