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Christ in Concrete (Signet classics) Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 1993
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Top Customer Reviews
Unfortunately, there was no book jacket so I was not able to read anything about the author, Pietro i Donato.
"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.
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.
One note -- wait to read Fred Gardaphe's introduction until after you read the novel as he gives away a lot of the story.
The writing is stilted at times (di Donato's attempt to make the English sound Italian), and he allows his characters to go on angst-ridden rants for far too long. But there are numerous gems in this piece. I wholeheartedly recommend it -- to Italian-Americans to learn a little more about their heritage and to all others to catch a glimpse of early Italian immigrant life in America.
It is perhaps the most overlooked American classic.
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