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IN MAREMMA by David Leavitt


Life and a House in Southern Tuscany

by David Leavitt & Mark Mitchell

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-58243-016-6
Publisher: Counterpoint

A tiresome collection of episodes from their days living in southern Tuscany, from Leavitt (Martin Bauman, 2000, etc.) and Mitchell (Virtuosi, not reviewed).

Leavitt and Mitchell purchased a dilapidated farmhouse in south-central Italy in 1997, and for nearly 200 pages they subject us to some random stories about the place and their life there. It is a beautiful, unspoiled spot, a hilltop of olive and fruit trees and sloping pastures, a skyline of villages in a surrounding of Etruscan memories. This is still farm and ranch land, and much of the rest is given over to a national park where wild boar, chamois, and roebuck abide. Too bad, then, that in most of these quick chapters, the authors prefer to prattle on about closet space or coo over fixtures: the stair railings they had made, for example, were “a design copied from a terrace on a crumbling building in the Monti neighborhood of Rome.” They can be painfully coy (“Isn’t the whole point of living in Italy, though, to try to live—although one knows that one cannot—in a fairy tale?”) when they aren't ladling out their own vacuous brand of social analysis (“Is it any wonder that this country is so corrupt, when men are taught by their mothers that everything good in the world is theirs by right?”). The rare passages of smooth prose (“the land is like an actress: it always shows itself from its best angle”) are buried beneath a sea of dross (“People assume that to live in Italy is necessarily more expensive than to live in America. This is and isn’t true: some things are more expensive, while others are less”). And tales about the color of Mitchell's pants or why they choose not to use a clothes dryer are remarkable only in their banality.

Astonishingly moronic and self-absorbed.