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Christ in Concrete Paperback – September 7, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

The death of Pietro di Donato's immigrant father sent Pietro to work at twelve as a bricklayer. His acclaimed, semi-autobiographical bestseller, "Christ in Concrete" (1939), was a seminal novel that influenced a generation of writers.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: NAL (September 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451214218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451214218
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #574,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on September 1, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Christ in Concrete," by Pietro di Donato, is a superb novel of the Italian-American experience. The Signet Classic edition contains a preface by Studs Terkel and a very informative introduction by Fred L. Gardaphe. Terkel notes that the book was first published in 1939, and compares it to John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath."
"Christ" tells the story of an urban, working-class Italian-American family in the early part of the 20th century. Much of the book is focused on Paul, a young man who finds work as a bricklayer.
di Donato writes with a vivid style; he attains a muscular poetry of blood and concrete as he describes the workers' "symphony of struggle." He brings to life both the specifics of Italian-American life as well as the larger multicultural world in which Paul's family lives. The book deals with Italian-American folk beliefs, tenement living, bilingualism, and a young man's sexual awakening. di Donato also writes on the theme of the common person's struggle against uncaring officialdom. He also explores the question of faith in the face of suffering.
There are many vivid scenes and characters in this novel. One account of an Italian-American feast is particularly memorable. There are also some really graphic, horrifying descriptions of workplace death and injury. I believe that this powerful novel belongs on the shelf with all those great books that sympathetically look at the oppressed and the overworked in the United States. And for another author who has written eloquently on the Italian-American experience, I recommend the fiction of John Fante.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
You have seen those photos from the thirties- construction workers sitting on a girder hundreds of feet above Manhatten, lunch pail next to them, seemingly unaware that their legs are dangling over an abyss. Christ in Concrete is about those workers and that abyss.
This is one of the strangest, most original books I have ever read, a lost classic of American modernism. I cannot think of an author to compare Di Donato to- the mundane and fobidding ironies of Celine come to mind, but so do the mythic qualities of Brecht. It is sort of a reverse image of The Fountainhead- here are brilliant and passionate people literally being crushed by architechture.
Di Donato's style is loud, blunt and operatic. He rushes through cinematic images and superdramatic tragedies, almost as though he fears he is going to bore you. The events are fairly autobiographical. It's rather like meeting a charming but slightly frightening stranger who tells you thier life story: you are entranced and sympatheic, but fully unnerved.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Christ in Concrete" is both paean and prayer to the old immigrant Italian industrial worker.

Like the laborers it depicts, "Concrete" lurches towards moments of joy without ever breaking through the unrelenting misery that is very much author Pietro di Donato's message.

This is working class literature of the 1930s where the great unwashed are brought into finer relief, their desperate situations the fodder for heart-wrenching plot.

In vogue during its Depression heyday, this kind of literature, even done as well as it is here, faced structural barriers to mass acceptance later. The disadvantaged are always the disadvantaged and their most uplifting stories still register as grim.

In "Concrete," the tenement dwellers of New York's lower East Side are not necessarily unhappy. Di Donato portrays them as stout of heart, quick to aid their fellows, and adept at grabbing a rare laugh when presented with the chance.

But they are maimed or ground to dust and the novel's pessimistic conclusion is that the game is rigged against them poor WOPS. And it is. They are "Christ in Concrete," dependent on work that literally kills them.

There is not a lot of workerist rhetoric to this book. It is less Marx, more Biblical justice and Christian plea. Merely an adept portrayal of the construction worker's life in the great Gotham of skyscrapers and cold bitter bluster.

Stories of work itself.

Di Donato, a bricklayer by trade, mined prosaic music from the mundane task:

"He reached the trowel down into the mortar. Slice down toward him, edgewise twist in quick short circle and scoop up away from him. The trowel came up half-covered with mortar - but how heavy!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the finest book I have ever read about Immigrants. As an Italian American it is especially rewarding. If made into a real film (not like the cheesy 1949 version)it could be a masterpiece -- it could be to Scorsese what Schindler's list is to Spielberg.

One note -- wait to read Fred Gardaphe's introduction until after you read the novel as he gives away a lot of the story.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This tale of the Italian-American experience told through the voice of a young man whose father is killed in a bizarre construction accident is overwhelming.
It is perhaps the most overlooked American classic.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ah, how to adequately describe this vividly written, tragic, humorous, sometimes-horribly-graphic, deeply poetic novel that depicts a true-life story! Perhaps my adjectives may seem to have done that already, but they hardly scratch the surface! I have never experienced anything exactly like it, and except for a little later, when I read its sequel, Three Circles of Light, I don't believe I ever will again! Although written as a made-up story, it is actually a form of memoir written about the author's father, a bricklayer in the early 19th century who, because of the dangerous and corrupt working conditions he and his co-workers are forced to endure, dies a terrible death, entombed in concrete on, of all days, Good Friday. Although the death-scenes of he and others are truly uncomfortable and unforgettable reading, this book is far from unremittingly depressing! It colorfully, humorous, sometimes ribaldly, evokes the lives of Italian immigrants in the New York City area; their loves, loyalties, laughter, traditions...the characters, so real, so hilariously, heartbreakingly human, become like your own family members as you read. It also shows how little things really do change as far as the plight of laborers is concerned. The closest thing I can think of to this book is Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, but this novel, I think, has more life, more heart to it. An absorbing read, highly recommended!
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