Swift, sinuous, deep and brimming with cultural artifacts.

THAT SUMMER IN SICILY

A LOVE STORY

From de Blasi (The Lady in the Palazzo, 2007, etc.), a fragrant tale of life and love in the mountains of Sicily.

Shortly after the Venetian interlude she luxuriously captured in A Thousand Days in Venice (2002), the author accepted an assignment to write a magazine article on the interior regions of Sicily. Like many other journalists, she was met by silence from the wary Sicilians. She was about to retire to the mainland when she stumbled upon Villa Donnafugata, whose romantic turrets, towers, balconies and chromatically tiled roof were surrounded by gardens, fields, piazzas and hills. The black-draped, oldish women in residence tended to their various labors, chanted, laughed and prayed. The sun was hot, the smell of herbs suffused the air. Was this a fever dream? de Blasi wondered. No, but it was surely a place from another time, and how it emerged out of feudalism through an act of moral modernity was a story unfurled to the author by the villa’s mistress, Tosca. The tale, which comprises most of the book, is a marvel. As a child of nine or ten, Tosca was sent by her horse-breeder father to live with a Sicilian prince, Leo, who “had a stallion that Tosca’s father wanted more than his daughter.” Early rebellion gave way to affection, then love. Together, in the years following World War II, the prince and his ward brought education, health care and a shared sense of purpose to the village around their manor. Rapture and grief came in measured doses, but ultimately Leo was run out of town for his affront to the “centuries’-old system of hierarchy that kept the wealthy in comfort and the poor in misery.” Even in 1995, when de Blasi first visited Donnafugata, the old ways abided, like the shawl Tosca wore at night, still permeated with the scent of her beloved.

Swift, sinuous, deep and brimming with cultural artifacts.

Pub Date: May 20, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-345-49765-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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Erudite writing from an author struggling to find meaning through music.

THEY CAN'T KILL US UNTIL THEY KILL US

An Ohio-based poet, columnist, and music critic takes the pulse of the nation while absorbing some of today’s most eclectic beats.

At first glance, discovering deep meaning in the performance of top-40 songstress Carly Rae Jepsen might seem like a tough assignment. However, Abdurraqib (The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, 2016) does more than just manage it; he dives in fully, uncovering aspects of love and adoration that are as illuminating and earnest as they are powerful and profound. If he can do that with Jepsen's pop, imagine what the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Prince, or Nina Simone might stir in him. But as iconic as those artists may be, the subjects found in these essays often serve to invoke deeper forays into the worlds surrounding the artists as much as the artists themselves. Although the author is interested in the success and appeal of The Weeknd or Chance the Rapper, he is also equally—if not more—intrigued with the sociopolitical and existential issues that they each managed to evoke in present-day America. In witnessing Zoe Saldana’s 2016 portrayal of Simone, for instance, Abdurraqib thinks back to his own childhood playing on the floor of his family home absorbing the powerful emotions caused by his mother’s 1964 recording of “Nina Simone in Concert”—and remembering the relentlessly stigmatized soul who, unlike Saldana, could not wash off her blackness at the end of the day. In listening to Springsteen, the author is reminded of the death of Michael Brown and how “the idea of hard, beautiful, romantic work is a dream sold a lot easier by someone who currently knows where their next meal is coming from.” In all of Abdurraqib’s poetic essays, there is the artist, the work, the nation, and himself. The author effortlessly navigates among these many points before ultimately arriving at conclusions that are sometimes hopeful, often sorrowful, and always visceral.

Erudite writing from an author struggling to find meaning through music.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-937512-65-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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Essential for fans and the definitive celebration of a show that made history by knowing the rules and breaking every one of...

THE SOPRANOS SESSIONS

Everything you ever wanted to know about America’s favorite Mafia serial—and then some.

New York magazine TV critic Seitz (Mad Men Carousel: The Complete Critical Companion, 2015, etc.) and Rolling Stone TV critic Sepinwall (Breaking Bad 101: The Complete Critical Companion, 2017, etc.) gather a decade’s worth of their smart, lively writing about New Jersey’s most infamous crime family. As they note, The Sopranos was first shot in 1997, helmed by master storyteller David Chase, of Northern Exposure and Rockford Files renown, who unveiled his creation at an odd time in which Robert De Niro had just appeared in a film about a Mafioso in therapy. The pilot was “a hybrid slapstick comedy, domestic sitcom, and crime thriller, with dabs of ’70s American New Wave grit. It is high and low art, vulgar and sophisticated.” It barely hinted at what was to come, a classic of darkness and cynicism starring James Gandolfini, an actor “obscure enough that, coupled with the titanic force of his performance, it was easy to view him as always having been Tony Soprano.” Put Gandolfini together with one of the best ensembles and writing crews ever assembled, and it’s small wonder that the show is still remembered, discussed, and considered a classic. Seitz and Sepinwall occasionally go too Freudian (“Tony is a human turd, shat out by a mother who treats her son like shit”), though sometimes to apposite effect: Readers aren’t likely to look at an egg the same way ever again. The authors’ interviews with Chase are endlessly illuminating, though we still won’t ever know what really happened to the Soprano family on that fateful evening in 2007. “It’s not something you just watch,” they write. “It’s something you grapple with, accept, resist, accept again, resist again, then resolve to live with”—which, they add, is “absolutely in character for this show.”

Essential for fans and the definitive celebration of a show that made history by knowing the rules and breaking every one of them.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3494-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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