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richardderus

Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

The Homecoming Party - Carmine Abate, Antony Shugaar Rating: 2* of fiveThe Book Report: Childhood in poverty-stricken Calabrian town. Son of a father who works in the coal mines of northern France. Half-brother of a Child of Shame his father brings home. Boy to a dog of noble heart, who survives a wild boar attack.Oh save me please from this childhood of painful partings and painful reunions and painful illnesses and painful convalescences and painful this and painful that and painful the other goddamned thing.My Review: Published in Italy when the author was 50, in 2004, this book feels as self-important as any roman à clef does. It lays to rest the childhood demons and frustrations of a boy whose father was forced, in the post-war horror of ruin and starvation that was Italy, to go away to find work. It also illuminates a world that, I suspect, is disappearing: That of the Arbëreshë, Albanian Orthodox emigrants fleeing Ottoman oppression, once a minority within a minority in Italy. (Southern Italians aren't terribly highly regarded by the economic elite in the North, and the Arbëreshë are all Calabrian or Sicilian. Hard to get more Southern than that.) I suspect that modern life's media saturation has done for Italy what it's done for the US, which is smoothed out the most dramatic differences in language as more and more people grow up on TV and not stories told by meemaw and poohpoppy. That would account for the Italian reviews of the book mentioning its “linguistic vibrancy”--Italian, like French, isn't a very open to innovation language, preferring to hive off dialects the way English produces slang. At any rate, I found myself hearing my old and beloved friend Nina as I read along, she who was born in another (Sicilian) town called “Hora” which is simply the word for “our place.” I loved listening to Nina's stories about Hora, and I loved eating the dishes her mama made and she learned not to cook for her Napolitani in-laws and I was endlessly fascinated by the cultural gulf between the Arbëreshë and the Italians and the Americans. Which accounts for both stars, since I found the author's tale about as boring as anything I've ever read in my 52 years of life, which I could feel drawing to a close as yet another dreary anecdote would fail to push the plot, of which if you were wondering there is little sign, in any sort of active direction. I didn't read this in Italian, but the translation is regularly referred to as masterful, and so I assume it's faithful to the original. In which case, I offer one comment on the writing: Pfui.God, I am sick of childhood, and I thought before this it was just teenhood. Nope. I don't want to read any more books whose focus is on anyone who can't legally drink or vote. If you feel like wallowing in the angst of a boy who doesn't need Clearasil yet, this is a book for you. If you didn't have a Nina in your life to share stories of the Arbëreshë, this book could very well be a revelation to you. I can't in good conscience recommend it, but I won't stand here making the “toxic waste biohazard flee flee for your very life dear goddesses what are you still doing here” face.Barely.