A HIGHLY RAMIFIED TREE by Robert Canzoneri


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Mingled in one family, Mississippi and Sicily provide a singularly exotic colloid. Canzoneri, middle-aged and permanently muddled, begins his search for family roots with the return of bis 83-year-old father to the small Sicilian town he left at 17. Stone houses change very little and old men still sit ""like a flock of blackbirds"" in the sun. Canzoneri's father--a Baptist minister educated and turned toward his vocation in Mississippi--and a confusion of cousins make oblique contact across a span of years, customs, language, while Canzoneri himself fantasizes an Italian childhood. Then it's back to Mississippi actuality, from life as a preacher's son to a memorable reunion with Sicilian-American relatives in New York. Switches in time and locale lead up through divorce and a remarriage to the moment of his own displacement. Rome is the scene of the crisis, and in a surreal vignette, garish with macabre images, he attempts to meld discordant religious and cultural symbolism into very bitter fruit. At the close Canzoneri looks back on his acfions--a course as inevitable as that of his father, who exchanged one allegiance for another. The factual recall is spare and straightforward; alongside, Canzoneri's self-indulgent explosions are an unhappy distraction.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Viking