It’s Too Soon
In that classic Canadian way, spring has turned into blazing hot summer for about a week and that meant the A/C got turned on for the first time this year because I almost got heat sick for the first time this year. Ugh. I am not ready for this kind of weather and I was hoping for a few more weeks before it hit the scene in a very big way.
The good news is that I am getting my nearly daily dose of cold vicariously by watching the Women’s Hockey World Championship and feeling the glow of sweet Canadian domination at our national pastime. I’m big enough to admit that I have grown quite a fondness for hockey as I’ve gotten older and I’m especially invested in watching the women’s team. The inequality in sports is horrible and outrageous and I want women’s hockey to get the attention it so richly deserves — and not just during the world cup.
So, we’re spending most evenings yelling at the television in our sitting room and wondering if I have finally reached the moment where I give in and get a hockey sweater. I think it very well might be; I am contemplating watching the Stanley Cup playoffs after all.
A Word About Forgotten Classics
Gianfranco Calligarich’s Last Summer in the City was a random purchase for me. The bright orange of the 2021 Picador edition stood out blazingly on the shelf of my local independent bookstore and the loveliness of the book design was a big draw indeed. While I do pick up most classics I’ve never heard of whenever I find them, I do find a particular fondness for the classic that’s been resurrected by another classic writer that I’ve enjoyed reading in the past.
This novel in particular was discovered by Natalia Ginzburg, according to the back of the book copy. I enjoyed Ginzburg’s work so I read this one. Both writers clearly have a place in studies of Italian literature, but they are inherently different. All the same, trying to see what drew Ginzburg to the novel was a pleasant additional thought that I had in the back of my mind while I was reading through Calligarich’s tight, compelling prose.
A Note on Style and Setting
There are certain novels that I consider best seasonally enjoyed and Last Summer in the City is definitely in that category for me. The real art of the novel is in the descriptions of Rome when the tourists and citizens have left it empty in the face of the broiling heat of the summer sun. Leo Gazzara wanders around the barren streets, trying to find himself in the midst of the dust and the ruins of several relationships he can’t quite bring to fruition. Friends and connections help him, but he often abandons their aid, opting instead to pursue a winding path to his own destruction. Between the alcohol and the lack of money in his pocket, Gazzara is a man without prospects and without a future in the middle of the relentless summer haze.
Calligarich’s prose shines most when Gazzara is in the midst of Rome, trying to figure out where to get his next meal and vaguely wondering what kind of mess he’s made of his life. It’s a beautiful thing to see such a powerful connection between setting and subject, theme, and atmosphere.
I would absolutely recommend reading this novel on sun-drenched terrace in the middle of a very hot August day.
The Comp Titles
The back of the book glowingly compares Last Summer in the City to The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye — two of my favourite books. While I did enjoy the novel, I didn’t really find much similarity with the comp titles. True, there are moments where the reader is treated to the lifestyles of the rich and nearly famous, but not with the same focus and depth as The Great Gatsby. It’s there, but it’s not the point of the novel.
When it comes to a comparison with The Catcher in the Rye, I can see the themes of alienation and a character that finds himself lost and at a loose end. However, there’s no longing for the simplicity of childhood or the fear of adulthood and sexuality — which I would argue are the critical elements of The Catcher in the Rye. Gazzara seems older, wiser, and more comfortable with himself. His lack of desire to find a direction is more random and not rooted in a reluctance to grow up. He already is an adult — just not the adult that others envision him to be or want to be.
It goes to show that a reader can’t always trust the comp titles. It’s best to keep your mind open and let the book be what it is without being defined by the back copy’s opinion of who the novel will sell to.
It’s Never Too Soon
I am very pleased with the opening of the theatre season this week. We’re seeing our first play and getting ready for a busy time of films at the local cinema, plays at the local theatre, and enjoying all of the seasonal businesses and events that are now springing to life. Of course, it means that the tourists will be back in droves and that parking downtown will now be next to impossible — but I can’t be too angry because I’ll be too busy immersing myself in the art that makes this town come to life every year in such a big way.
In kitty-cat news, it’s time for daily walks around the yard for each of our little girls. Every afternoon we put one in a harness and take them around the backyard to gape at bugs or roll in the long grass. Each cat gets something different out of it, but they all seem to very much enjoy it.