The Worst Intentions Paperback – Jul 1 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
This gall-coated Jewish-Italian family folly opens with patriarch Bepy Sonnino, a textile magnate, lying dead in his rosewood coffin, leaving wife Ada, sons Luca and Teo, and aging ex-mistress Giorgia Di Porto bereft—well, sort of. The crackly, all-seeing first-person narrative falls to Luca's 33-year-old ne'er-do-well son, Daniel, who seems born to the task. He shows us his Uncle Teo, an émigré Israeli who backs the Likud party; sexually frustrated Aunt Micaela, Teo's wife (an adolescent encounter with her feet hurled me into a vortex of depraved fetishism); cousin Lele, whose testicular cancer has rendered his homosexuality academic; and Daniel's father, Luca, who makes a cameo in his Porsche and exits in a cloud of irrelevance. Gaia Cittadini, the granddaughter of Bepy's business partner, possesses eyes that drive Daniel to distraction. Rome's Jewish community feels as tight-knit and claustrophobic as mid-century New York's: She's anarchic, says Daniel of his mother, but, like all people who enjoy appearing disillusioned, deep inside hasn't given up the dream of happiness and pleasure: she has only buried it socially. This is a very bitter, very funny book. (July)
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A prizewinning best-seller in Italy, Piperno's debut novel will likely strike some American readers as recycled Philip Roth. For Daniel Sorrentino, the 33-year-old narrator and grandson of a Jewish Italian family, is given to the same erotic obsessions and hypersensitivity to class distinctions that preoccupy the narrators of Roth's early novels. In a monologue that is sometimes bitterly funny and sometimes overly digressive, Daniel sketches in his once wealthy family's disastrous loss of the fortune that was amassed, in large part, by Daniel's grandfather, Bepy, a textile manufacturer whose falling out with his partner precipitated the family's financial descent. Daniel devotes asides to his workaholic father and his put-upon, self-sacrificing mother before zeroing in on the defining moment of his young adulthoodhis obsession with Gaia Cittadini, the granddaughter of Bepy's business partner. Content to be her friend in the hope of eventually becoming her lover, Daniel subjects himself to a series of increasingly humiliating encounters that cripple his self-esteem. What Daniel's meandering monologue lacks in pacing, it makes up for in setting, as he describes in envious detail the luxurious residences of Rome's upper crust. Wilkinson, JoanneSee all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book is set in modern Italy and tells the story of a Jewish-Italian family through the eyes of the narrator whose father is Jewish and whose mother is Catholic. Told in the first person, the narrator is a self-effacing academic who uses an excessive amount of complex words to create a family portrait. He's sadistically clever in probing the depths of human relationships, sparing nobody. There are times he is annoying and mean spirited but there are truths in what he says and he comes across as a very bright weirdo who uses his words well. He's always an outsider but I felt little sympathy for him mostly because he whines just a little too much.
I loved the characters, all of them. There's his Jewish grandfather who lived through WW2 and became a wealthy textile baron, only to lose his fortune because of bad decisions. There's his uncle, who defied the family and became an Israeli. There's his father, a globe trotting albino. A lot of the book deals with social class and the love of his life, a very rich young woman who treats him badly. His romantic life doesn't exist with the exception of his obsessive fetishism and we hear a lot about that too.
Basically, there is no defined plot. And even the ending can be thought of as open ended. The story is uneven and it doesn't flow evenly. However, despite all this, I loved the book, loved its weirdness and the artistic use of the words. I recommend it for the adventurous few who want to read something different and who might be curious as to the kind of book that has such tremendous popularity with young Italian audiences. This is not for everybody of course. But for those looking to expand their literary horizons, it is a real treat.