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Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World Paperback – June 10, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Acclaimed novelist and short story writer Doerr turns out a well-observed chronicle of his family's year in Rome, when he was a fellow at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Doerr is a precise, lyrical writer who, dividing his book into seasons, captures in equal measures the wonder of the Italian countryside, the mind-boggling history of the Eternal City and the measured joys and trials of parenting twin baby boys. Upon their autumn arrival, it is the boys who most connect Doerr and his wife to their new city: "Grown men in suits stop and crouch over the stroller and croon. Older men in particular. Che carini. Che belli. What cuties. What beauties." In Spring, Doerr captures well the color and emotionof the vigil for the dying Pope John Paul II, providing insight into the man and his death: "More than three miles of artwork hang in the Vatican Museum and the pope could have any of it brought in front of him...Instead, he wants only to hear something read from the Bible in Polish." The memoir is full of other such rewarding passages, and anyone with fond memories of Rome will want to savor it slowly. Illustrations.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The recipient of an American Academy fellowship, Doerr, his wife, and their twin newborns are on their way to Rome for a year. Cultural isolation, the death of John Paul II, struggles to complete a novel, and the tales of first-time parenthood uniquely blend together as Doerr meanders his way through a one-year Roman holiday. Along the way, he meets Romans quick to praise his twins, Romans quick to prejudge an American, and Romans happy to share the secrets of their city with him. Set against this backdrop, Doerr finds it difficult to focus on the novel he plans on writing; instead, like so many other visitors, he falls for the Eternal City. For readers who have been to Rome, Doerr's reflections will leave them longing for a return trip. For those who have not, Doerr's stories of piazzas and pizzas will have them checking travel arrangements. Either way, this memoir is a wonderful combination of a writer's two dominant struggles: cultural identity and family. Blair Parsons
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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One of my favorite passages is the following excerpt concerning his son; it really captures the purity of personal experience and thought conveyed within these pages.
Swaddled in his Moses basket, wires trailing out the bottom, his monitor flashing green, green, green, his entire four-pound body motionless except his eyelids, it seemed he understood everything I was working so hard to understand: his mother's love, his brother's ceaseless crying; he was already forgiving me for my shortcomings as a father; he was the distillation of a dozen generations, my grandpa's grandpa's grandpa, all stripped into a single flame and stowed still-burning into the thin slip of his ribs. I'd hold him at the window and he'd stare out into the night, blue tributaries of veins pulsing in his neck, his big eyelids slipping down now and then, and it would feel as if tethers were falling away, and the two of us were gently rising, through the glass, through the trees, through interweaving layers of atmosphere, into whatever was beyond the sky.
One aspect of the book that I particularly appreciate is the author's emphasis of understanding a place through the eyes of its people. He's not a simple tourist or traveller, he's experiencing Rome through the act of truly living there: mingling in the markets, strolling the ancient streets, speaking--or attempting to speak--with its residents, and, in short, truly living in the place. I know my upcoming visit will be but a fraction of the length of his, but I hope I may leave Rome with a much greater sense of what this city is all about when my time comes to head home. Like Doerr, I don't see most of this knowledge coming from being a tourist per se, but as something along the lines of a (very) short-term resident.