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Sicilian Tragedee: A Novel Hardcover – October 14, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374531048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374531041
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,373,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This comedy, which centers around a Sicilian summer-theater production of Romeo and Juliet, features not one but two sets of star-crossed lovers. Anglophile mafioso Alfio Turrisi is desperately in love with vapid bombshell Betty Pirrotta, the daughter of his rival. And pill-addled play director Tino Cagnotto is desperately in love with a piece of beefcake named Bobo, who becomes his indifferent muse. Cagnotto’s provocative reimagining of Shakespeare’s tragedy (Romeo’s enormous codpiece plays a leading role) is star-crossed itself and must survive financial troubles, bureaucratic roadblocks, temperamental actors, and a series of convoluted vendettas trasversale—assassinations intended to send a message, though no one’s certain what the message means. The playgoers are riveted not by the onstage drama but by the fear that Romeo’s next pelvic thrust will signal that it’s curtains for them. A broad farce employing a colorful cast to spoof Sicily’s worlds of art, crime, and politics, some of Sicilian Tragedee’s nuances may be lost in translation (through no fault of the capable translator’s), but even the gist of it is funny enough. --Keir Graff

Review

Praise for Sicilian Tragedee:
 

“[An] irreverent and very funny new novel. Cappellani . . . generates full-throttle comedy with a bitter edge. It’s only after the laughter stops that you smell the gunpowder.”—David Leavitt, The New York Times “An exuberant crime novel with a plot as twisty, one might say, as a plate of linguini . . . a black comic explosion of plots and counterplots, murders and reprisals.”—John Powers, NPR’s Fresh Air

 

Sicilian Tragedee is a riotous and affectionate riff on Romeo and Juliet.”—Adam Woog, The Seattle Times

 

“Cappellani’s second novel, a madcap comedy structured as a three-act play and set in contemporary Sicily, pays homage to Shakespeare and bristles with hilariously vulgar stabs at sex, art and family . . . The sheer energy and velocity of this merry farce will sweep readers away.”—Publishers Weekly

 

Praise for Who Is Lou Sciortino?:
 
“[Cappellani] brings a zesty postmodern attitude to his contemporary bloodbath, punctuating scenes of cinematic violence with staccato conversations laced enthusiastically with profane outbursts in three languages . . . A hip and funny take on mob warfare, with very little gusto lost in translation.” —Kirkus Reviews

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Island on January 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well, this isn't literature, and there isn't much of a story here either, but "Sicilian Tragedee" is hilariously funny, some parts of which I've not enjoyed so much since portions of Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2001). People around me at my favorite Italian coffee shop in Larkspur, California, often asked me why I was laughing while reading. At times, the writing resembles that found on [...]

In a nutshell, "Sicilian Tragedee" is all about small-minded people dealing with the world in their small-minded way, unable for the most part to get out of their small-minded rut of talking ONLY about other small-minded people. The story is 100% small minded. There is not one shred of an important notion in this novel put forward by the author or its characters. The people are so ordinary and so consumed by their pettiness and their low-brow contrivances that they sink well below what might otherwise be merely a caricature of modern life, even in Sicily. As to Sicily, bless its woeful and long-suffering inferiority complex, that fabled island is at all times is presented to you by Cappellani in such a way as to never allow you to let go of your own, often irrational, prejudices about Sicilian people and its culture. Pity.

I found myself totally uninterested in "who done it," that is, the solution to the three "Mafiosi events" that dominate the end of the story. For a much more engaging and truer mystery (just as funny, too), read anything by the wildly popular and acclaimed (deservedly so) Andrea Camilleri, author of serial Sicilian-based novels, such as, "The Shape of Water, "The Snack Thief" and others. But, "Sicilian Tragedee" is not a mystery story, no, not at all. It is much less than that.
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Format: Hardcover
(3.5 stars) Organized in three acts, this contemporary Italian comedy is easy to imagine as a film filled with sight gags, pratfalls, and mugging by rubber-faced actors. Short scenes, with "asides" by the characters, set up much of the comedy, some of which is a satiric look at Sicilian society--its social levels and mores, its paralyzing political and cultural bureaucracy, and, of course, its Mafia wars.

Beginning "two months later," with an assassination in a theatre during an experimental production of Romeo and Juliet, the novel quickly switches back to "two months earlier," with the introduction of more than twenty characters, all of whom are involved, somehow, with the production of this Shakespearean tragedy. Tino Cagnotto, the director, must figure out a way to get the local minister of culture to sign off on it and to provide funds, but political realities being what they are, the minister is unwilling to do that. He must also find a place to hold the production, but no one seems to want to provide that, either. Taking matters into his own hands, and making connections as he can, Cagnotto manages to bring the play into being. The production is bawdy, and the line "Why, then, is my pump well-flowered," is played to the hilt by an actor sporting a codpiece.

Love stories, gay and straight, abound--between Cagnotto and Bobo (a male salesclerk and aspiring actor), between Romeo and Mercutio, between the daughter of a Mafia money-launderer and the head of another Mafia family with oil interests, and between various other characters, their mistresses, and wives. "How perfect it would be to be able to resolve matters of the heart the same way you resolved business matters," the men believe. "A little bomb, a nice explosion, and you never had to worry about it again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David G. Kay on December 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If you are an Italo-American,(and even if you're not) it's a great read. If you are an American (as I am) married to an unbridled Italian woman from Milan, it's even more fun. Who but the Italians could conjure up a travelling drama troupe playing Shakespeare in front of an assortment of small town comic uber-politicos and principessa wannabes hell bent on destroying each other before the curtain rises on Act IV. The book gives new meaning to the phrase "laugh-riot".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Puns on August 12, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't get it. This book is supposed to be funny, and perhaps it would make a funny movie (??), but I thought it was pretentious, overdone, and just plain boring. I have so many other books to read that I just gave up about 1/3 of the way through. If it gets better later on, it's not worth the wait. Sorry.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Crafty Angel on January 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
When I read the synopsis of this book, it made me think of The Godfather, The Birdcage, and a humorous attempt at staging Romeo & Juliet. But when I signed up to win this on First Reads I really had no idea what I was getting into: a 340 page struggle to read and finish this book.

I found myself being confused by the numerous characters and the writing itself, whom some have said reminded them of the bare bones of a screenplay. I graduated with a degree in Literature, I enjoy books of all sorts. But I was lost most of the time, and each time I was ready to give up, I resigned myself to keep going.

In short--a lackluster group of actors keep attempting to put on a sometime improvised production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. However, Death keeps stealing the stage. You'd think this would be a murder mystery but with so many characters to lose track of, and so many barely-there plot additions, what could have been a great book was turned into a "dear God let me finish this so I can review it and swap it out".

I suppose if you are Italian, are in Italy, or have great interest in the Italian Mafia, this book may be for you (don't go for the Shakespeare, that's where I got sucked in).

I had moments of amusement, and even the end made me stop and think (no spoilers here!) With all due respect to the Author and translator of course, the only Tragedee I found was having to spend the time reading this.
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