Italian Days

Italian Days

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

That is a title of a book by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison that I just finished rereading. Book CoverI read it first quite some time ago and remembered it as enjoyable. It was enjoyable the second time but was quite a different experience. Why the change in feeling about the book? Perhaps I have just matured and my tastes have changed. I found it both a very enjoyable book in many ways and also quite a slog. I waged a relentless campaign to work my way through what surprised me as being an amazingly dense book. She is a very observant and seemingly totally open writer. She let’s you know just what she’s thinking about things external and internal. Opening at random to look for one of her pithy observations I came across this one on page 9:

“ Italy’s’legislature has today – my first full day in Milan – outlawed artificial insemination by an unknown donor. Why it has chosen to cleave to tradition in this regard when it permits abortion and divorce is a mystery. Italian law is mystical, severely poetical.”

In another random opening of the book I came across this on page 175:

“ Italians are lousy lovers,” she says, “superficial and careless. You can’t tell them about your orgasms – it would wound their precious manhood. Provided they have any.” Florence, T. says, “is gay – the San Francisco of Italy” (which fact had escaped my notice). “They all get married, all the gay men, and then they have their nights out with the boys, and what do their wives care, as long as they have status and their precious position and babies? … Let them screw anybody, who cares?”

I find it difficult to single out such items because the book is absolutely packed with them. HarrisonNot only do you get great observations about Italy in all aspects – architecture, art, culture, food, people – but you get Barbara and what’s in her head. Quite a bargain. Barbara led a difficult existence and died at the early age of 68 in 2002. You can make a quick side trip to read about her on Wikipedia as I did. Click here to go there now. Having read this book I really now want to read the one that she subsequently wrote:  The Islands of Italy: Sicily, Sardinia and the Aeolian Islands.  If anyone has read that let us know what you thought by leaving a comment.

2 Responses to “Italian Days”

  1. Victor Miller Says:

    Thanks for bringing her to my attention. I did not know she existed. Or her books.

  2. Joe Says:


    I don’t know if you’ve started reading her. I’d really like to get your opinion of her if you read Italian Days. As I said, it’s a bit of a slog but well worth it in my mind. Of course I never know how my mind will compare to others and it’s always interesting to find out.


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