Beppe Severgnini is a columnist for Italy's Corriere della Sera and also writes for The Economist. A bestselling author in Italy, his books include Inglesi, a portrait of modern Britain. Severgnini lives with his wife in Crema, Italy.
It would be difficult not to like this delightful book. Best-selling Italian author Severgnini, who is also a correspondent for the Economist and a columnist for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, here documents one year in America. The book is actually an English version of Un italiano in America now with a postscript five years later. Severgnini's encounter with America begins in April 1994 when he and his family arrive in Washington, DC, and settle in Georgetown, a neighborhood where he meets both college students and politicians. In a light yet poignant writing style, he chronicles renting and furnishing his new home and approaches routine tasks that Americans take for granted obtaining parking permits, choosing cable and long distance services with wonder and humor. He also tackles American customs and habits: Why are Americans obsessed with air-conditioning and ice? Why do they like their coffee scalding? Americans, he observes, are individualistic, and yet they also come together for a nationwide picnic on the Fourth of July. While the key strength of the book is the author's fresh perspective, the weakness is its focus on Washington, DC, and many consider America to start actually beyond the capital Beltway. Still, a good purchase for most public libraries. Lee Arnold, Historical Soc. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"A bella laugh...Wonderfully funny perspective. No Dickensian
outrage is to be found in these pages, no close to Toquevillian
analysis; Ciao, America! is fun from first page to last,
pure and simple."
-Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post "Severignini is a master in the vein of Bill Bryson...Ciao, America! is a sardonic tale of cultural bewilderment, an incisive peek into the mundane obsessions of our American existence that makes the commonplace seem not only insane but extremely funny."
-Publishers Weekly "A delightful read, full of wonderful anecdotes that capture the eye-opening absurdity of life in the United States."
-Chicago Tribune "Witty...Whatever you have taken for granted in America is what Severignini observes with the freshness and charm of the outsider, here for an extended visit. He gives us back ourselves-- with our manners and mores and even the fine print on our No Parking signs--in a shining mirror."
-Philadelphia Weekly Press
From his temporary home in the leafy suburbs of Georgetown, Washington, D.C., Italian newspaper columnist Severgnini turns a curious eye toward Americans, their bureaucracy and labor-saving gadgets. With the same critical lens through which he viewed England (in Inglese, which was a bestseller in the U.K.), the reporter sees through all America's gimmicks the fat-free, guilt-free, buy-now, pay-later mechanics of advanced capitalism but he is not adverse to her charms. Both repelled and attracted by the wonders of convenience living, he finds a joyous horror in channel-hopping, mall shopping and the pursuit of comfort, in our abuse of English ("La-Z-Boy is a veiled invitation to commit a cardinal sin") and our blatant lack of sartorial know-how ("The President of the United States jogs through the city in shorts that display his milk-white thighs"). In other hands, such a memoir could have been a jingoistic clich-fest. Severgnini, though, is a master in the vein of Bill Bryson, and his every criticism is matched with admiration. Nor does he spare his own people from his caustic wit in fact, visiting Italians often come off as badly, if not worse, than his American subjects. The result is a sardonic tale of cultural bewilderment, an incisive peek into the mundane obsessions of our American existence that makes the commonplace be it a fixation with weather statistics or an air-conditioning complex seem not only insane but extremely funny. (May) Forecast: Severgnini's take on America will find its hands in the leagues of expats living here, who are desperate to understand and find comfort in their adopted country. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.