In the illuminating prose that made Italian Days a contemporary classic and Barbara Grizzuti Harrison one of our most celebrated writers, this collection of essays spreads before us the rich abundance of life as it documents the author's love affair with the world. Harrison sorts through the complexities and contradictions of our times, bringing to each of her...
In the illuminating prose that made Italian Days a contemporary classic and Barbara Grizzuti Harrison one of our most celebrated writers, this collection of essays spreads before us the rich abundance of life as it documents the author's love affair with the world. Harrison sorts through the complexities and contradictions of our times, bringing to each of her subjects a rare and generous ability to see the extraordinary amidst the mundane. She offers an exhilarating assortment of people, places, cultures, and--as always--food, as well as personal reflections on her own life and heritage.
The most perceptive of travelers, Harrison takes us from Bensonhurst to Budapest to Morocco, from the hills of Tuscany to the walled city of Dubrovnik. We meet Nadia Comaneci, visit Gore Vidal in his Roman apartment, spend a day with Governor Mario Cuomo, and go on set with Francis Ford Coppola. In Yugoslavia Harrison explores purported sightings of the Virgin Mary, and in a small town in Vermont she witnesses the horrifying effects of a religious cult on children. Under her captivating gaze the world takes on new color, and her refreshing vision reminds us how astonishing our world really is.
This collection of some of her finest writing will be a treat for Barbara Grizzuti Harrison's many fans and a wonderful surprise for the uninitiated. Altogether, these essays constitute a luminous reflection of our world and a personal testament by one of our most beloved writers.
From Publishers Weekly
Harrison is among our most eloquent journalists, and if there is one characteristic that informs this collection of essays and stories, most of which appeared previously in Partisan Review , the New York Times , Commonweal and other journals, it is a lyrically exclamatory love of life. It shines through her superb travel sketches of her beloved Italy, Morocco and parts of Eastern Europe (before the recent upheavals). That quality explains why she is clearly puzzled and disconcerted in her interview with Gore Vidal, who seems, for all his intelligence, a mere husk of a person in his responses to the sunlit world outside his Roman windows; why she cannot relate to the stultifyingly lifeless person that once-exquisite young gymnast Nadia Comaneci has become; and why, too, she is so enchanted with the unquenchable curosity, self-questioning and eloquence of New York governor Mario Cuomo. Harrison is excellent on a horrific sect that invades a town in Maine (she reminds us that her mother was a religious cultist), and wryly allows the promoters of a "miracle" shrine in Yugoslavia to metaphorically impale themselves. Only the few and brief short stories, dim reflections of the vibrant essays, are disappointments in this exhilarating, often moving collection.
From Kirkus Reviews
Essayist, novelist, and travel writer, Harrison (Italian Days, 1989, etc.) here collects pieces drawn from such disparate magazines as Partisan Review and European Travel and Life. Together, they're meant to track her spiritual journeys through a world at once sacred and ordinary. But that asks too much from journalism and short fictions that are mostly just ordinary. Harrison's travel articles, though full of color and anecdote, develop no higher themes. Impressions of Morocco, Tuscany, Budapest, and Dubrovnik concentrate on bad odors and personal discomfort. Even in her profile of former gymnastics star Nadia Comaneci, Harrison seems obsessed with the athlete's rank smell. Portraits of Mario Cuomo and Gore Vidal succeed because the author allows these men to be themselves, witty and entertaining. On the set of The Godfather, Part III, Harrison discovers the remarkably obvious connections between Coppola's family and the Corleone saga. Equally unprofound is her essay on ``Women and Blacks and Bensonhurst,'' an attempt to contextualize the racial violence in her native Brooklyn, which includes the declaration of authority that ``My first lover was a black man.'' The two best articles return to the subject explored in Harrison's book-length study of Jehovah's Witnesses: cults. Here, she includes a chilling portrait of a dangerous messianic sect in northern Vermont. And a pilgrimage to a Yugoslavian shrine where the Virgin Mary purportedly appeared reveals the political agenda behind this recent Marian cult. The fictional pieces in this volume are the weakest: humorless bits about failed marriages, repressive families, and death. No Joan Didion, Harrison editorializes too much and edits too little.
From Library Journal
In this collection of essays, Harrison, author of Italian Days (Grove Weidenfeld, 1989), explores such disparate yet compelling subjects as Morocco, Tuscany, Nadia Comaneci, Mario Cuomo, and race relations in Bensonhurst. The sensuous details of her travel pieces entice readers to wander off to sample the exotic delights of North Africa and Europe, especially the newly liberated Balkans. In her personal sketches, she becomes the journalist, questioning and probing for the hidden thoughts and ambitions of her subjects. One chilling piece even calls attention to child abuse in a Vermont-based religious cult. Only when she writes about Cuomo does Harrison abandon her objectivity and let her admiration for the governor take over. Nevertheless, these timely and penetrating gems provide entertaining and informational reading. Recommended for all libraries.