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Twisted Head: An Italian American Memoir Hardcover – October 7, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

All the usual Italian-American stories are here—Sunday dinners, being an altar boy, Grandma's gravy, the controlling father and the family's pizza parlor—but Capotorto (whose name is Italian for twisted head) adds his own spin to the genre: he describes growing up gay in the Bronx of the 1970s. Capotorto's humorous prose comes to life when he describes his disco-era lifestyle, whether it be dancing the hustle or, as he's primping for the Saturday night disco, overhearing his mom gossiping about Rock Hudson having an affair with Jim Nabors. He describes how he first fought his feelings and then, later, embraced a gay lifestyle despite the misgivings of his stern father. Capotorto, a playwright and actor, does a great job describing the relationship between his parents (his father is traditional, his mother loving yet powerless) and himself and his four sisters, who all struggle to find their way. In the end, Capotorto skillfully weaves stories that are both comic and tragic to capture a family caught between the Old and New worlds. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

You have read this memoir before: an actor and playwright author tells the story of his tyrannical father, visiting his own demons on his wife and children and especially on the terrified, closeted gay son, who is trying to find how to live. What you do not know, however, is the sweetness, the fluid grace, of Capotorto’s writing, which never makes us feel like voyeurs. Capotorto (yes, it means “twisted head” but the head of a village or an organization, not the head on your shoulders ) has never forgotten a single sensation: the ghastly drift of plaster dust in your own sweat; the aroma of a Sunday table piled with good food and surrounded by laughing cousins; the wild, patterned joy of disco dances; the secret support of siblings, teachers, and friends since childhood. The Bronx streets where he grew up and where his father obsessively remodeled their home will be familiar to urban readers: Italian Americans in particular will smile at the taste of food, the shape of hairdos, and the look of interior design they will remember with affection. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway (October 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076792861X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767928618
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,937,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Portianay VINE VOICE on October 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The title reflects the classic Italian-immigrant shrug my grandfather would have given, and I use it to say: so what? This book is full of old stereotypes, and the personalities seem exaggerated, to say the least. Not only that: can anyone who has ever been a part of, or even been around, an Italian American family, be surprised by any of the reactions herein? I find it dificult to see why this author's life would be memorable for the rest of us. I am glad for his sake for his "exorcism;" its publication is what I question.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By BeagleGrin VINE VOICE on October 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
OK, I LOVED this book. Let me give you some key points first. 1. I'm NOT Italian, as a matter of fact the first time I had pasta it was out of the box, as was the sauce, and I was well into my TEENS before I had it!
2. My parents were normal, not "an exorcism, with laughs"
3. I'm not gay.
WHY, oh WHY would I want to read this memoir?
Because, I'm a memoir FANATIC. I love a good written memoir. Lives don't have to be exciting to make an exciting memoir. BUT, luckily, this book is as well written as it was a VERY GOOD READ.
The author allows each particular character in his life come to life on the pages. So, you don't have to be gay, Italian, or have a drill sargent father to enjoy this book. Trust me. You get the whole package, LOVE, ANGER, FEAR. Deep seeded aggression. HUMOR. Psychotic episodes. Amazing it all fits in one book.
This book was read in two days, and it isn't a short book. JUST one book that was very hard to put down. Kick back, grab your copy, and enjoy a good book that should be read for what it is. An amazingly GOOD memoir!!!
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By bronx book nerd VINE VOICE on October 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Currently living in the Bronx and growing up in New York at the same time as the author, I was curious to learn more about Italian-Americans from that era. Capotorto's memoir had the potential to deliver but did not, for a number of reasons. First, a good 80 percent of the book reads like nothing more than re-telling of childhood stories, with only glimmers of introspection or reflection. Many of these stories remind me of sitting around at family dinners and recalling childhood incidents - not exactly what would fill a book of interest for me. Capotorto takes us through just about each and every grade of school (I am grateful that pre-K had not started yet) but mercifully becomes less rigorous in his recounting when he reaches high school. He fills his texts with attempts at humor, often making it difficult to tell whether he is being factual, funny or sarcastic. I know, for example, that there were not 17 7th grade classes in junior high school, which the author states there are to make the point of how classes were dumber the higher their number, but one can't tell if he's trying to be funny (it's not) or presenting a fact.

There are a number of other annoying instances of his use of humor. For example, he laments the fact that he was not abused by the parish priest. He unbelieveably uses the cliched "but I digress" and a twist on "take my wife...please". The first two thirds of the book are a lot like this: attempts at humor, excessive detail about mundane childhood experiences, and even execessive detail on Italian food preparation. For traditional Catholic readers, there is a particularly offensive passage about communion.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By MyBeesWax TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Twisted Head by Carl Capotorto is divided into Part I: early/pre- teen years and Part II: teenage years.

The take on this book seems to be divided into two camps - the people who loved it for its descriptive, spirited, and humorous prose, and the people who did not - for reasons not unlike my own.

Twisted Head offers very little in the way of character development. For example, all we can gather about the characters that were a major part of the author's life, his family, is meager and can pretty much be summarily portrayed thus: an overbearing Father, a servile mother, a feisty but kindly grandmother, a rebellious sister (Rosette), and very little is known about his other sister (Eva). We are introduced to a smorgasbord of characters - neighbors, friends, his father's friends, his mother's friends, and characters from school and church, among others. A large part of the book is a hotchpotch of anecdotes regarding these characters, again, with very little in the way of character development. As a result, I was unable to "get into" the book because the shallow nature of the writing made it hard for me to feel a connection to and empathy for the author and the people in his life. (-1 star)

I can only speculate as to why the publisher chose to leave out details about Capotorto's sexual orientation on the back cover - a fact so pivotal to Capotorto's development as a person. Is it due to fear it would generate adverse reactions that would affect the sales of this book? Who knows. But whatever the reason, there's no denying that Twisted Head contains a sprinkle of the author's "sexcapdes" throughout the book, some of which some readers might find a little distasteful.
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