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Recent History: A Novel Paperback – April 9, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (April 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375759387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375759383
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,420,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ticklish issues of sexual identity, class and intimacy wreak frightening confusion in the life of an Italian-American boy growing up in 1960s Massachusetts. In playwright and author Giardina's introspective, finely crafted first-person narrative, 11-year-old Luca Carcera finds his life upended by a series of baffling changes. A sensitive only child who is often frightened by the sounds of his parents' lovemaking, Luca adores his taciturn father, a man who "gave the effect of there being at least two of him, two things not fighting it out so much as living inside of him in some interesting kind of harmony." Luca's father is an accountant who builds his family a new housein a community envisioned as a step up the social ladder. But one year later, he abruptly abandons his wife and son, leaving Luca heartbroken and confused. Eventually, Luca learns that his father is living with another man. By age 13, Luca's relationship with a gay classmate clouds his understanding of his own sexuality. Through high school and college, Luca experiences feelings for girls and boys, but largely represses both. Twelve years later, he is happily married, but still stricken by what his father calls "[that] lovely manly fear that sleeping with a man makes you something. Something irrevocable... [that] if a man even once, and, God forbid, likes it... well, that's it, isn't it?" Now that fear threatens his marriage, and Luca must delve deeper into his personal history to find a saving peace. Giardina (The Country of Marriage; A Boy's Pretensions; Men with Debts) draws the reader into Luca's life with a candid, insightful narrative that probes important subtleties of identity and honesty, although the occasional withholding of information for dramatic effect seems too manipulative a technique for this otherwise frank exploration. 5-city author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In his new novel, Giardina builds on the exploration of marriage and divorce he began in The Country of Marriage. Here, 12-year-old Luca's parents divorce when his father comes out as a gay man; years later, after Luca marries Gina, he begins to doubt his own sexuality. Like many boys, he fears he may grow up to be like his father. And like many, he does, only not as expected. Finally, Luca learns to accept his sexual nature (heterosexual) and to live free of fear and restraint. Giardina is a gifted storyteller; at times, his tightly controlled art shows, but it doesn't matter because his story is so very compelling. Details about the setting are spare and at times seem obviously chosen, but the plot has a sure, subtle logic of its own, which makes this work artistically interesting. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries, especially for collections of gay literature.DRoger Durbin, Univ. of Akron
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lynda Stevenson on September 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is one of those novels that leaves a mark. While I must say that I was not aware of how much I liked this book until I was well into it (more than 1/2 through reading it), it all changed at that point. What seemed like skimming the surface of intensely emotional subjects, dove much deeper in the second half of this book, much like the character himself dealt with his confusion and terror relative to human intimacy. Luca lived much of his early years not allowing himself to fully experience intimacy and connection with others, instead, dwelling on his terror of what he might be....was he gay because he felt sexual stirrings over a boy.....was his voyeuristic behavior for a neighborhood girl driven by anything more than a desire to fit into this suburban paradise? All of this confusion is normal boyhood stuff.....but what if your dad walked out on your mom and went to live with another man in a rooming house? What do you make of this "normal boyood confusion" under these circumstances? How can it seem normal when your life is all of a sudden the antithesis of "normal"??? Luca's journey through all of this, and Mr. Giardina's telling of it, was an extraordinary read. I "felt" this book intensely.....and, while I know that sounds a bit histrionic, it is not overstated.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Galen on April 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a troubling and quiet novel narrated by a kind and decent man who from childhood has lived tentatively and, sometimes, in real pain. As an adolescent he finds himself confused about his sexuality, and afraid - of girls, of boys, of a disappointed mom, a dad who has left - of feelings in general. He has a deeply complicated relationship to his father, a good man who has gone to live with a man. Giardina's narrator, Luca Carcera, reports calmly, carefully, and reasonably - from the eye of the storm. Despite an inner life that from childhood has been constrained by the keeping of a series of secrets, Luca's world brims with friends, relatives, and lovers.
Luca's considerable conflicts are of the yearning for love and connection, of desire versus the longing for acceptance and the safety of conventionality, and some real confusion regarding his sexuality, and - ultimately - of how to live. Countless other protagonists in similar straits have been encouraged by authors to drink like fish, wreck cars, abandon families and betray lovers. Giardina's narrator fights his battles quite differently, with a quietude and a respect for those who would love him. That is some of why this story is well worth reading.
Luca's urge to live honestly competes agonizingly with his desire to hide. There are moving and poignant descriptions of people and inner states. The suburban milieu of Luca's childhood is memorably rendered. There is no misogynism, and no homophobia. Transcendent (hetero)sexual love would seem to be Luca's goal, yet throughout this novel desire is muted, and during lovemaking with women, Luca's mind is often elsewhere.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bruce J. Wasser on November 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Anthony Giardina's finely nuanced and emotionally-charged novel "Recent History" is much more than a stirring account of a young man's coming to grips with his father's homosexuality. This evoctive and intellectually sophisticated work entices the reader to reflect on the nature of knowledge, the limiting and liberating aspects of sexuality, the perils of detachment and fear. Giardina treats his themes with subtlety, his characters with compassion and his narrative with integrity. "Recent History" compels its audience to identify not only with the people who populate its pages, but with the demanding questions its author demands we consider as we struggle with the protagonist's quest for self-discovery and authenticity.
Luca Carcera, twelve years old in 1962, confronts his father's homosexuality in with a combination of denial and confusion. A sensitive single child whose shattered sense of family stability induces the development of dispassionate observation, Luca's withdrawl from initmate relationships coincides with his wondering about the limits of knowledge. Indeed, one of the central ironies about the novel is its title; as an adult, Luca becomes a history teacher who repeatedly notes that history is little more than guesswork. Knowledge to Luca, therefore, is permeated with relativity. As a shaken youngster, Luca senses "there was a power to standing outside, to knowing things about people they didn't know you knew."
Knowledge, however, is false armor for Luca. Angry and frightened, Luca determines that "the way to get back" at his father "was to fall from perfection, to fall as far as I could.
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