AN ETHNIC AT LARGE by Jerre Mangione


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This is one of those warmly observant autobiographies, filled with cameos of people and places, which ends in the author's 35th year, leaving the readers wanting more. Mangione, a writer of Sicilian parentage, was raised in Rochester and fled to New York to pursue his literary ambitions smack in the middle of the Depression. In the years to come he suffered a brief and disastrous stint with Time magazine, worked as a bookkeeper, clerk, editor, coordinating editor for the WPA Writers' Project (see The Dream and the Deal, 1972), and wartime publicist for the government's controversial ""enemy aliens"" program. Along the way he met a dizzy mix of literary figures, soapbox orators, New Dealers, and odd sorts. They range from Uncle Peppino, the nonconformist among ""about a hundred"" relatives, who became a Baptist and then a Holy Roller, to William Saroyan--remembered as being ""as uninhibited as a pushcart huckster yelling out his wares""--to the Italian-American anti-Fascist leader Carlo Tresca who was later assassinated. During a trip to Mussolini's--and his--Italy, he is appalled by the Futurist Marinetti's ode to a corpse-strewn battlefield. A committed leftwinger, Mangione credits his Sicilian wariness for keeping him out of the Party; more ambiguously, it also kept him out of marriage with one of the several women he lived with. The book's theme is the gradual integration of his Sicilian and American selves, capped by the publication of his first book, Mount Allegro. But the real appeal lies in Mangione's flair for recalling Roosevelt-era issues and individuals with a canny mixture of skepticism and appreciation.

Pub Date: May 30th, 1978
Publisher: Putnam