The Stranger at the Palazzo d'Oro Paperback – Oct 5 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Theroux's characteristic haze of exoticism hangs over this uneven collection of two novellas and two stories, ushered in by the gothic title novella, which tells a tale of sexual perversity in Taormina, Sicily, in 1962. Gilford Mariner, a young American artist, is traveling around Italy imagining himself as a hero in an Antonioni movie. But when he encounters a rich German countess ("the Grafin") and her consort, Haroun, a Chaldean doctor, the movie turns into a Visconti: baroque, kinky and slightly kitschy. Haroun pays for Mariner to become the Grfin's lover, an alternately arousing and demeaning chore from which Mariner is only released when Haroun reveals the countess's "secret." In the four parts of "A Judas Memoir," Andy, the narrator, is a preteen Catholic in Medford, Mass., in an era when sexual repression meant something: the 1940s. Evelyn Frisch is a bold nymph who shows Andy the wonders of female urination in his back yard before his parents put a stop to it. We then jump to the affair between a horny schoolmate's mother and a milkman, and the perplexing discovery, on the part of Andy and his buddies, that the local priest, Father Staley, is a pedophile. In "An African Story," a Afrikaner farmer/writer is disastrously fixated on a one-armed black woman. Finally, in "Disheveled Nymphs," a retired lawyer becomes so infatuated with the mother and daughter team who clean his house in Hawaii that he stalks them on their vacation to Vegas. Theroux's title story is bigger on portentousness ("This is my only story," it begins) than revelation. By contrast, the quieter moments in other stories (Evelyn Frisch's giggling micturations, the Hawaiian maids' casual putdowns) are real gems of observation.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Supremely moving. A master class in detail and sensuous evocation.The Financial Times of London Yet another stimulating volume in [Theroux's] impressive canon.The San Francisco Chronicle Erotic intrigue is at the heart of these stories, each of which renders familiar territory wonderfully strange.Vogue For armchair adventuring, STRANGER AT THE PALAZZO D'ORO is golden.Boston Herald an accomplished book by an accomplished writer (B+) Denver Rocky Mountain News Therou'x prose is shot through with gentle melancholy, evoking the complexities of matters of the heart with subtlety and grace. (3.5 out of 4 stars) People Magazine Theroux has rarely been in better form.The Los Angeles Times futher proof that Theroux, the evocative prose stylist, remains ever worth reading.The Washington Post Compelling reading.Charlotte Observer Theroux has the ability to capture people and places that are achingly beautiful Pittsburg Post Gazette Theroux uses his precise, realistic style like a scalpel...a marvelous yarn.Providence Journal a satisfying mix of tales...[Theroux's] stories are engrossing and evoke an air of sensuality.The Oregonian Oddly beguiling...dramatically rich.Contra Costa Times --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The theme of the title story is sort of retold in a different framework in a second one. Neither to me are satisfying. With the Palazzo story I get the feeling that it SHOULD HAVE BEEN a novel but that there really was only a limited story to tell. Sex without conversation gets dull even for an author. The "readalike" seemed to be another way to try and draw out the same story. Neither worked for me.
The stories that are grouped together under the "Judas" theme posed an even more difficult issue for me. They seemed like doodles. By that I mean - Theroux wanted the characters in them to do something but couldn't settle on one thing. So he tried in different ways, and lacking the ability to develop them (they really aren't interesting people) gave us all the attempts in this short story collection. To me they were barebones, or sketches if you will, of an idea.
Recently I saw a drawing show of Parmagianino's work at the Frick Museum in NYC. There were many sheets of what my friend calls "doodles" which is how he defines sketches and studies for "real" drawings or paintings. I asked myself why I loved looking at the art studies but resented reading what I thought were literary studies. I think the reason is that an artist's thought process is interesting for comparison to what he finally achieves. A writer's studies are not interesting in the same way unless there is a final definitive version.
Also, the artist - Parmagianino for example - never expected his studies (doodles) to be seen. In contrast, Theroux has assembled his and published them as a final product.
This is not satisfying to me. But I'm sure I am in the minority. Moral: I should stick to novels.
The title novella takes place in Taomina, Sicily in 1962. The protagonist/narrator is Gilford Mariner, a twenty-one year old painter who has traveled to Taomina hoping to find something of inspiration. What he finds is the Palazzo d'Oro (now a hotel) and its strange inhabitants, a young Iraqi doctor named Haroun and an older, sophisticated woman simply called "the Graefin" (which is "Countess" is German). Mariner enters into a strange relationship with the Graefin, a relationship from which he will only be released once he learns the Graefin's "secret." I don't want to give away anything of the plot, so let's just say that the Graefin's secret was pretty transparent, yet it took Mariner most of the novella to discover just what it was. Oh, well, he was only twenty-one...I can, and will, make an allowance for that.
The novella, "The Stranger at the Palazzo d'Oro" is told in a frame when Mariner has reached his sixtieth birthday and has "returned to the scene of the crime." Although he terms it his "only story," it is probably just the one that is the most bizarre. Though it could be termed a story of sexual awakening, I think "a sexual nightmare" describes it far more aptly. The characters were impossible to like or empathize with, nevertheless, I liked it.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Paul Theroux's characters -- men and boys mostly -- don't evolve much beyond coming to terms with their their sexual desires, but these are compelling yarns that illustrate how... Read morePublished on Feb. 15 2004 by Flipper Campbell
This collection of stories presents a 21-year-old art student narrator - a countess traveling with a companion who witnesses aging and decay in a golden age of Europe. Read morePublished on Feb. 6 2004 by Midwest Book Review