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Sicilian Tragedee: A Novel Hardcover – October 14, 2008

3.1 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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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


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

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: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9 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: #2,857,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
No matter how much the authors like this one, who adore free-falling obscenities throughout the story, the fact is that readers either focus on all the cursing and dirty language than the story, or else try to wade through the filth to follow the plot. Thumbs down.
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Format: Paperback
Tino Cagnotto is the stereotypical vain, extravagant, gay experimental theater director taking anti-depressants and stimulants, trying to find inspiration and funding for his next production as he is running out of money to support his lifestyle. It could be so very sad, but set him in Sicily, surround him with stereotypical small-time Mafia, small-town government, small-time aristocracy and star-crossed lovers and you have grand and "laugh out loud funny" farce.

Poor Cagnotto has run out of ideas, he has no current lover, and the doctor cannot get his medication straight. (Never mind that he frequently mixes the meds with a little alcohol!) The local cultural commissioner needs a new production to attract tourists to the town, and is pushing him to come up with his next production.

Turi Pirotta is a local mobster whose position is being usurped by Alfio Turrisi. "Mister Turrisi" owns a bank in London, drives around in an Aston Martin with a right hand wheel and is enamored with all things English. He is buying up land all around the island because it has oil on it.

Pirotta started out driving a cement-mixer--that his how he wooed his wife, Wanda. Now he just "fixes" things and launders money, and Wanda and his daughter, Betty, just "bust his balls".

But hark! Alfio catches a glimpse of Betty and falls in love--he writes to Pirotta to ask his permission to court the lovely Betty. Pirotta sees a way out of his business and family problems. Betty is out of the house and the enemy is part of the family.

Hark again! Cagnotto meets the charming young and innocent Bobo, who loves him.
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