THE SUN AND THE MOON by Niccolo Tucci
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A big ripe fruit of a book: pressed anywhere, it squirts ideas, people, amusement. Italy, 1902, and Dr. Leonardo Claudi, physician-mayor, ""Futurian,"" but hopeless stumblebum, comes to the capital to plead for an aqueduct for his little Apulian town. No matter that what he ends up addressing is not, as he believes, the Senate but a dozing men's club. This is a ""fairy-tale,"" this is ""Cinderello""--for every mistake there's a saving grace--and in the big city Leonardo re-encounters the one brief love of his life: Mary van Randan, daughter of Sophie, the linchpin of Tucci's earlier Before My Time. The two haven't seen each other in nine years and now they're married to others--but in view of Mary's (and Sophie's) heedless wealth and Leonardo's fabulous talent for mistake, odds axe on the ""Sun"" and the ""Moon"" getting back into conjunction; reality just gives up in exhaustion when faced with such magnificent fools. With the strings wrapped tightly around his fingers, Tucci sets Leonardo off blundering through nine days Of confusion: the rube who doesn't know how to use a telephone but is attended to by liveried servants, who's spun from one character to another, whose every detour and misstep leads him down another alley of Italian behavior. Like a Roman Ragtime, but without the syncopation, real people amble in and out--Pirandello, D'Annunzio, Marinetti--to disquisit on Dante, the Church, adultery, money, cleverness. And everyone sounds dead-right until inevitably proven ridiculous. From a novelist less wry, wise, and well-equipped, such an old-fashoned comedy of errors would seem brave--out of Tucci, it's as natural as morning.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Knopf