Ciao, America!: An Italian Discovers the U.S. Paperback – May 13 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
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 cliche-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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
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, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Which isn't to say this book is always easy to get. Lots of passages leave Americans saying "As opposed to what?" Will everyone who reads this book understand why Severgnini lists the cost of things like hooking up his telephone and getting a social security card? And I admit to being totally mystified about the reasons Severgnini's mattress-buying experience was so traumatic. He went to a mattress store, inspected his options, picked one (without thinking to measure it first, unfortunately), and bought it. This seems natural to me. How do they buy mattresses in Italy? This book should have a second writer for the American edition - someone who can explain what other options there are.
The Italian edition should have a second writer, too - one to explain where Severgnini went wrong. Every American reader of the book will cringe extravagantly when the author pays sticker price for an automobile - there should be a footnote in the book explaining why you don't do that. The Italian edition also needs to explain why you never rent a house when the ad says "grace and charm.Read more ›
Where the author is perhaps most telling is in the shared yet differing Italian/American institutions: commercial bureaucrats, ie.the phone company, communion in Catholic Churches, domestic architecture/drapery. Here he is as perceptive as witty, which earns forgiveness for Yanks /Brits pointers. We know 'em already. And please, no more discussions of "OK."
The author's suffering with the arctic nature of Washington supermarkets and theatres is understandable, but to some of us the appealing point may be nostalgia for the un-airconditioned forties and fifties when anyone who could left D.C. during July and August. Nice to recall those days of politicos on vacation. They caused a lot less trouble in ten months than twelve.
Most recent customer reviews
As usual some italians never miss a chance to complain and bash about things they either don't have or don't understand. Read morePublished on April 27 2004
I picked up "Ciao America!" as one of my flatmates is from Italy, and I was thinking it was going to be a great satirical, sarcastic view of a foreigner living in... Read morePublished on Feb. 5 2004 by pma
This book is full of interesting snapshots of what we Americans are like from the point of view of a European. Of course, living in D.C. Read morePublished on Dec 14 2003
"Ciao America" is an OK book for all the people that know Italians, their daily habits and problems with the "Italian system". Read morePublished on Dec 10 2003
I've just finished this book. Its clear that the author likes America but he's still compelled to provide the same sophomoric satire that irritates me about Bill Bryson. Read morePublished on Dec 7 2003 by Gina Belsito
I thought this was going to be a fun look at American life, and some of it was, but the vast generalizations of Americas were supposed to be humorous but I found them inaccurate... Read morePublished on Nov. 13 2003
As an American living in Rome, I thought it would be interesting to get the opposite perspective. This book was charming at times but mostly rather boring. Save your money.Published on Oct. 16 2003 by Amazon Customer
A light-hearted look at American mores and foibles from an Italian journalist. He finds himself amazed by the efficiency of American bureaucracy and telephones, encouraged by shop... Read morePublished on Sept. 3 2003 by ensiform