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Recent History Hardcover – March 13, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Ticklish issues of sexual identity, class and intimacy wreak frightening confusion in the life of an Italian-American boy growing up in 1960s Massachusetts. In playwright and author Giardina's introspective, finely crafted first-person narrative, 11-year-old Luca Carcera finds his life upended by a series of baffling changes. A sensitive only child who is often frightened by the sounds of his parents' lovemaking, Luca adores his taciturn father, a man who "gave the effect of there being at least two of him, two things not fighting it out so much as living inside of him in some interesting kind of harmony." Luca's father is an accountant who builds his family a new housein a community envisioned as a step up the social ladder. But one year later, he abruptly abandons his wife and son, leaving Luca heartbroken and confused. Eventually, Luca learns that his father is living with another man. By age 13, Luca's relationship with a gay classmate clouds his understanding of his own sexuality. Through high school and college, Luca experiences feelings for girls and boys, but largely represses both. Twelve years later, he is happily married, but still stricken by what his father calls "[that] lovely manly fear that sleeping with a man makes you something. Something irrevocable... [that] if a man even once, and, God forbid, likes it... well, that's it, isn't it?" Now that fear threatens his marriage, and Luca must delve deeper into his personal history to find a saving peace. Giardina (The Country of Marriage; A Boy's Pretensions; Men with Debts) draws the reader into Luca's life with a candid, insightful narrative that probes important subtleties of identity and honesty, although the occasional withholding of information for dramatic effect seems too manipulative a technique for this otherwise frank exploration. 5-city author tour.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In his new novel, Giardina builds on the exploration of marriage and divorce he began in The Country of Marriage. Here, 12-year-old Luca's parents divorce when his father comes out as a gay man; years later, after Luca marries Gina, he begins to doubt his own sexuality. Like many boys, he fears he may grow up to be like his father. And like many, he does, only not as expected. Finally, Luca learns to accept his sexual nature (heterosexual) and to live free of fear and restraint. Giardina is a gifted storyteller; at times, his tightly controlled art shows, but it doesn't matter because his story is so very compelling. Details about the setting are spare and at times seem obviously chosen, but the plot has a sure, subtle logic of its own, which makes this work artistically interesting. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries, especially for collections of gay literature.DRoger Durbin, Univ. of Akron
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
I listened to the sound of them on the patio, my mother's voice, now drunk, the loudest. I imagined my father using the word "guinea," and I wanted my mother to lift a gun and shoot Bob Painter. Or I could do it. I could take an ax and finish the job. But my mother made her loud noises and then her murmuring assenting ones, and the men's voices rode under hers. It was like they were going away from her secretly, under the cover of night, throwing their voices like ventriloquists, so that she could not know how far away from her they already were.
Get the book and judge for yourself.
Luca Carcera, twelve years old in 1962, confronts his father's homosexuality in with a combination of denial and confusion. A sensitive single child whose shattered sense of family stability induces the development of dispassionate observation, Luca's withdrawl from initmate relationships coincides with his wondering about the limits of knowledge. Indeed, one of the central ironies about the novel is its title; as an adult, Luca becomes a history teacher who repeatedly notes that history is little more than guesswork. Knowledge to Luca, therefore, is permeated with relativity. As a shaken youngster, Luca senses "there was a power to standing outside, to knowing things about people they didn't know you knew."
Knowledge, however, is false armor for Luca. Angry and frightened, Luca determines that "the way to get back" at his father "was to fall from perfection, to fall as far as I could." Convinced that if he were to engage in homosexual behavior, Luca would so anger and shock his father that the latter would recant his abandonment of family and return to a more normal life. Luca believes in "an order, even one that rendered us the losers;" he assumes the responsibiility of recreation of family life, even at the expense of his own sexuality, his own identity.
This confusion renders Luca's adult life a shambles. Are Luca's adolescent homosexual activities indicative of genuine homosexuality or comprehensive sexuality? Why do Luca's adult relationships bring fear, even terror, instead of fulfillment and joy? Can Luca ever establish his own sexual identity, apart from his father's and independently validated by his own emotional needs? As Luca thrashes about for answers, the reader agonizes with him.
Anthony Giardina provides no simplistic solutions or nicely-packaged bromides in this taut novel. Instead, a thorough exploration of male sexuality, its impact on one man's personality and its manifestations on the various families he inhabits during his adult life are the complex themes Giardina deftly explores. "Recent History" is a challenging, textured and compelling novel. It richly deserves the critical praise it has earned.