The author’s deep familiarity with Italian culture informs these intelligent, perceptive essays.


A prolific novelist, memoirist, literary critic, and translator investigates “Italy’s collective imagination.”

British expat Parks (Life and Work: Writers, Readers, and the Conversations Between Them, 2016, etc.), a resident of Italy for the last 35 years, reflects on the nation’s literature and history in this gathering of insightful essays and reviews. All previously published, the pieces focus on writers (Giacomo Leopardi, Eugenio Montale, Ignazio Silone, and Natalia Ginzburg), a few artists (the modernist divisionists and Mario Sironi, championed by the fascists), and three monumental political figures: revolutionaries Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi and dictator Benito Mussolini. Parks aims “to pin down what it is that makes Italian life so characteristically charming and frustrating—so rich on the one hand yet irretrievably stalled on the other.” Italian identity, he concludes, comes from a sense of belonging to groups such as family, friends, region, church, and political party. He often takes issue, therefore, with biographers who fail “to draw on the disciplines of psychology and anthropology” to examine the personal and historical contexts of their subject’s life. He rescues Garibaldi, Italy’s heroic unifier, from a biographer who refuses to “give an account of the moments in battle when Garibaldi’s decisions did affect the course of history” and “has nothing to say about the passions that moved him.” In an astute preface to an edition of The Prince, Parks portrays Machiavelli as “a worldly man and compulsive womanizer” who was imprisoned and tortured, charged with conspiracy. Forced into isolation, he became “fascinated by the way certain personality traits can mesh positively or negatively with certain sets of historical circumstances.” That is a fascination of Parks’, as well, informing his review of several biographies of Mussolini, all of which, in his estimation, fail to offer “a serious psychological study of this unusual mind.” Several pieces—on Sironi, Moravia, and Curzio Malaparte, for example—provocatively probe the connection of artists and writers to fascism.

The author’s deep familiarity with Italian culture informs these intelligent, perceptive essays.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-84688-391-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Alma Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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