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A Season with Verona [Paperback]

Tim Parks
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 20.23 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Book Description

March 7 2002
After twenty years in the bel paese, Tim Parks goes on the road to follow the fortunes of Hellas Verona football club, to pay a different kind of visit to some of the world's most beautiful cities, and get a fresh take on the conundrum that is national character.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

arks (Italian Neighbors; Tongues of Flame) sets a daunting task of analyzing the life and mindset of a soccer fan in the wake of Nick Hornby's runaway hit, Fever Pitch, which is to many one of the finer books on soccer. He takes the reader on a tour of Italy, supporting his adopted home team of Hellas Verona through a season in Serie A. Parks in part sets out to examine the Italian national consciousness through the lens of Verona supporters. "The north-east of Italy, Verona in particular, is stigmatized as irretrievably racist. It is also considered bigoted, workaholic, uncultured, crude and gross." Hellas Verona have prided themselves on never having a black player on the pitch (until recently). Their fans shout monkey chants whenever an opposing black player touches the ball. It's a disgraceful part of soccer behavior that is well worth exploring, and this is when Parks is at his best. "I suggest... that the frequent talk about `defeating' racism on the terraces is a mistake. The word `defeat' only provokes the hardliners. They don't come to the stadium to think of themselves as defeated." When he applies his social criticism, he is able to engage on many levels, but when Parks gets caught up in play-by-play analysis he loses focus and his story. He travels with the team's fans in old creaky buses, singing songs and drinking beer. Parks's fanaticism toward lowly Hellas Verona is not unique, and the supporters are not the worst of Italy. Parks's prose often sings with the bravado of the terraces, but the result is at best a draw.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Soccer, Italian-style, is an obsession for many. Joe McGinniss documented his passion for the sport in his 1999 book The Miracle of Castel di Sangro. British author Parks (An Italian Education), a 20-year resident of Verona, is equally enthusiastic about the game (known as football outside the United States) but chooses to focus more on the fans than on the actual sport. This unexpectedly personal account describes his demented devotion to the Hellas Verona football club, which he followed around the country for a year, documenting every one of the 34 matches. While detailing his loyalty to the club, Parks also reveals his admiration for Italy, frequently discussing the character of its people, its national and local politics, and the inexplicable violence of soccer fans. Unfortunately, all but the diehard soccer fan will find this book a bit of a slog, somehow more exhausting than exhilarating. Recommended for libraries where there is an interest in soccer. Janet Ross, formerly with Sparks Branch Lib., NV
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars ultimately nothing profoundly new here June 23 2005
By Brian Maitland TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's not that this isn't a good book but if you've read any of these "follow the club for a season" book, it really offers nothing new other than following a team in another nation. Yes, we find out that all supporters seem hung up on chldish racist/sexist comments/chants. I did like the fact he incorporated Web site BBS postings as many of those were a laugh.
I mean, I do get the whole group mentality male bonding deal that soccer fandom is all about but what i really wanted to know more than anything from this book was why Italian soccer is so popular yet so mindnumbingly dull to watch. How many 0-0, 1-0 matches does Italian Serie A produce? I wanted to find out why a vibrant and colorful culture of fandom (and food, art, fashion, politics, etc.) can somehow produce possibly the worst excuse for entertainment on the soccer pitch ever.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The score on this one is nil May 24 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I recommend Tim Parks's books, "An Italian Education "and "My Italian Neighbors" to everyone planning a trip to Italy. His wonderful observations, funny stories are pure delight.
I am an American, who has lived in Italy for 30 years. I understand the interest of the middle class Italians for "football." Much like the passion of the middle class Americans for American football.
Mr. Parks's book is too narrow in interest. If you want to know about Italian football and the personalities of the players and the fans then read, "The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro." Now that book scores a ten!
Frankly, this book is dead boring.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A raucous look at Italian Calcio June 11 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book is anything but boring! Even more than Mr. Parks' previous books, this book presents both the beauty and the ugliness of present day Italy and Italian football. I especially enjoyed his portrayal of the Verona fans, both their good qualities (wit, camaraderie, fealty) and bad (fanatiscism with a touch of fascism). I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Italian football or Italy in general. Mr. Parks' two other books about his life in Italy, one titled Italian Neighbors, are also very good and highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great read on Italy, football and life Feb. 6 2007
Format:Paperback
Tim Parks is an English author and journalist who moved to Italy more than 20 years ago. In an effort to fully immerse himself into the culture of his new home, he began to support the local professional soccer team, Hellas Verona. This book is his diary of a season spent following Verona to all of their home and away matches.

Parks travelled the length and breadth of Italy accompanied by a motley and colourful band of supporters. Some were professionals, some students, some would-be hooligans, but all embraced Parks and welcomed him as one of their own...which he soon became. This book is not only an account of the trials and tribulations of a professional soccer team over the course of one season, but it is also an entertaining study of the Italian people and a travelogue of its cities and towns.

You don't have to be a soccer fan to enjoy this book although it certainly helps. If you are a soccer fan, you will be able to relate to Parks' experiences and you will realise that sports fans - and particularly soccer fans - are really the same everywhere. If you know a lot about Italian Calcio, you will really enjoy the book. If you want to learn more about the game, the country, the culture and the people, this is the perfect introduction.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chievando Scudetto! Nov. 8 2002
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Part travelogue, part mediation on the Italian national character, and part football memoir, Englishman Parks' diary of his season with the fans of Hellas Verona is a muddled but generally enjoyable hodgepodge of anecdotes and musings. A lifelong football fan, twenty year resident of Italy, and fluent speaker of Italian, Parks is an ably accredited guide to the myriad mysteries and intrigues of Italian professional football. His method was to attach himself to the hardcore fans of his local club and go to every home and away game in search of... well, something...
In doing so, Parks excels at recreating emotional highs and lows and retelling specific anecdotes experienced over the course of the season. However, by attaching himself to these fans, he places himself in the uncomfortable position of riding along with some of Italy's most racist fans. He tries to deal with this a number of ways, from placing them in a broader context of a nation absorbing large numbers of refugees, to attempting to show that the racist cheers actually represent a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy brought about by sensationalist journalism. Neither approach is very credible and it's a shame that Parks kind of dances around it. More insightful is his analysis of the fans as self-appointed pariahs/Davids, sort of a mix of "Nobody likes us, and we don't care" and "It's us against the world."
As the season progresses, and Parks travels around Italy, one gets a very keen sense of the deep regionalism that exists in Italy. From politics to chanted terrace insults, there's a prominent theme of disdain for the "other". Other overall themes are lacking, as might be expected from a book written on the fly, but for the careful reader, there are some strong bits where he gets into corruption both in football and Italian society, or his meditation on the psyche of the referee. Another fun aspect to the book is that it contains a plethora of vile Italian insults and terrace chants, which are often quite hilarious.
One thing that is a bit off about it, is that is only obliquely references Joe McGinniss' excellent book The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro, in which McGinniss also recounts a year following an Italian. It's a shame, 'cause the two books take quite different approaches (McGinniss is an outsider to soccer, can't speak Italian, and follows the team from within), making them rather complimentary. On the whole, I found McGinniss' more enjoyable, and more likely to appeal to the general reader, although neither author is very good at describing action on the pitch. In any event, both paint a picture of league riddled with corruption, game fixing, and bribery, which begs the question of why anyone would bother caring deeply about it?
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life on the "curva sud" with a real fan March 9 2003
By Peter Lorenzi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
An English academic, living and teaching in Northern Italy for the past twenty years, Tim Parks offers a colorful, rich, detailed account of a year (2000-01) following his historic local football club, Hellas Verona. This is a week-by-week, blow-by-blow account, up close and very personal. He starts as an interested observer and becomes a believer.
Better that this is written by a man of letters than by a journalist or a sportswriter, Parks at times becomes perhaps literate in studying the passion behind the football fans who seem to live and die by the fortunes of their favorites. Best of all, Parks chose a season that provided a riveting conclusion to a season of ups and downs. Sadly, a quick look at Italy's Serie A standings in early 2003 finds Hellas mired in mid-level Serie B.
Hellas fans are, at times, boisterous, irreverent, profane, vulgar, and, among the hard core, loyal to a fist fight and to a fault. Seeing them week by week, after a crazed introduction on the first, mind numbing rod trip to the south, Parks offers the insight of an Englishman not unfamiliar with football hooligans but also willing to try to understand the mind and life of the devoted Hellas fan.
Enjoy the passion.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not perfect but gripping nonetheless Dec 26 2007
By KB-United-1983 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Parks vividly captures segments of life on the road following a not-so-glamourous and not-so-successful football team in one of the more cryptic, corrupt and colourful leagues in the world. Overall it is superb reading. The narrative of the season is skillfully depicted. From the blow by blow description of the first away trip to the hothouse atmosphere of the final match, it captures the excitement and dreariness of the season and provides moments of humour as well as disgust. Some of these fans and their behaviour are truly abhorent. However, that is the nature of the game and Parks is obliged to describe them. Whether you think he is overly sympathetic is toward the hard core fans is up to the reader to judge.
Where it fails is in its more lofty ambitions of drawing a canvas of every aspect of life in Italy. The editing could have been more rigorous as the constant to-ing and fro-ing between football and non-football analogies is distracting, particularly in the middle third of the book.
No book written by a fan about fans can truly capture a global view of any game. This book certainly doesn't although it sometimes tries hard. For a more historical and analytical view of the game, I recommend Foot's book. However, if you're after something to give you an idea of the joy and bitterness of life on the terraces, read this.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ultimately nothing profoundly new here June 23 2005
By Brian Maitland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It's not that this isn't a good book but if you've read any of these "follow the club for a season" book, it really offers nothing new other than following a team in another nation. Yes, we find out that all supporters seem hung up on chldish racist/sexist comments/chants. I did like the fact he incorporated Web site BBS postings as many of those were a laugh.
I mean, I do get the whole group mentality male bonding deal that soccer fandom is all about but what i really wanted to know more than anything from this book was why Italian soccer is so popular yet so mindnumbingly dull to watch. How many 0-0, 1-0 matches does Italian Serie A produce? I wanted to find out why a vibrant and colorful culture of fandom (and food, art, fashion, politics, etc.) can somehow produce possibly the worst excuse for entertainment on the soccer pitch ever.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll be gripped from start to finish Dec 22 2002
By Jay M - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Without doubt this is the best football book that I've ever read. Right from the start Tim Parks actually draws the reader into the unfolding drama and story, rather than it just being a case of you reading a book and just taking information in. You'll find yourself eagerly flicking pages to find out what happened next, sometimes I read this book deep (and I mean, deep!) into the early morning rather than put the book down.
Basically this book is all about Hellas Verona football club in Italy, and their battle to stay in the top division in Italy, Serie A. They are one of the most, if not the most, unfashionable clubs in Italy to support, due to the media's overblown coverage of the club's racism problems.
In this book you'll find out about many interesting fans and the sometimes hilarious, sometimes appalling, things they got upto throughout a tense season. It's a totally factual account and that makes this all the more intriguing. If you thought you knew everything about Italian football then take a read of this, you'll be surprised at what really goes on. You thought rivalry was bad in English football!
Not only did Verona have to battle the media and their reputation, but added to that was the fact that they did not have the resources of huge clubs like Inter Milan and Juventus.
Tim Parks wrote this book extremely well, never baffling the reader or losing the plot. It's very enjoyable and added to that you'll learn snippets of the Italian language and all about the Italian way of life.
A superb read.
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