Memoirs

The Ides of March: A Novel

by Thornton Wilder

In this inventive narrative, the Caesar of history becomes Caesar the human being. The Ides of March, first published in 1948, is a brilliant epistolary novel set in Julius Caesar’s Rome. Thornton Wilder called it “a fantasia on certain events and persons of the last days of the Roman republic.” Wilder also resurrects the controversial figures surrounding Caesar — Cleopatra, Catullus, Cicero, and others. All Rome comes crowding through these pages — the Rome of villas and slums, beautiful women and brawling youths, spies and assassins. Through vividly imagined letters and documents, Wilder brings to life a dramatic period of world history and one of history’s most magnetic, elusive personalities.

Stolen Figs: And Other Adventures in Calabria

by Mark Rotella (Author)

The jacket copy defines PW Forecasts editor Rotella’s narrative as a “model travelogue,” but it’s much more. Even without a conventional conflict and plot, the author’s intensity and personal commitment to a country and its inhabitants cast a spell. Anecdotes range from comedic-a long unseen relative scolds Rotella’s father, “Thirty years and you don’t write!” – to curiously romantic, as when the author’s wedding ring slips off his finger while swimming and a “crazy aunt” exclaims, “That’s good luck. Now you will have to return!” Descriptions of delicacies such as soppressata, capicola, fettucine and rag – simmered with pepperoni incite a desire to be there just for the luscious, succulent meals, supporting Rotella’s belief that you simply can’t get a bad meal in Italy. Calabria is a particularly vivid character; readers learn how much the region has been through: spoiled by drought, destroyed by earthquakes and plundered by barons and kings. Rotella points out the effects of Mafia control in Bianca, a small, decrepit city, and the economic destruction it causes, without belaboring or stereotyping the Italian-Mafia connection. Playful moments are equally memorable, detailing petty fig heists from trees belonging to unknown farmers. Such likable protagonists as Rotella’s loving father, his wife, and guide Giuseppe are woven unobtrusively through the tale of a culture that counts among its children Tony Bennett, Phil Rizzuto and Stanley Tucci. The book is a love letter, and Rotella reinforces that feeling when he writes, “I am a romantic. With each trip back to Calabria, I’ve felt myself becoming not only more Calabrese but more Italian.” Readers, whether Italian or not, will find themselves captivated by so much meticulously drawn history and enchanting terrain.

“Italian-Americans of a new generation are discovering their homeland, and they could not ask for a better guide than Mark Rotella.” – Gay Talese

“The author’s intensity and personal commitment to a country and its inhabitants cast a spell . . . Readers, whether Italian or not, will find themselves captivated.” – Publishers Weekly

“Evocative, beautifully rendered travelogue/memoir by Publishers Weekly editor Rotella, recounting his adventures in Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot and the land of his ancestry…” – Kirkus Reviews

“Calabria deserves to be discovered and Mark Rotella is an enthusiastic and compassionate guide, traveling from the top to the toe of this least-known region of Italy to uncover the people, the food and the folk traditions that make up his Calabrian heritage.” – Mary Taylor Simeti

Coins in the Fountain: A Midlife Escape to Rome

by Judith Works

With middle age looming, Judith Works decided it was time for a change. But after graduating from law school at the age of 47, she still faced the question “What now?” Casual conversations about far-off travels with husband Glenn became a reality with the offer of a dream job at the United Nations in Rome, Italy. Coins in the Fountain brings to life the challenges of acclimating to the beautiful and chaotic ancient city of Rome. Works shares her struggles of learning the arcane rules and folkways of the UN while Glenn begins his valiant effort to cook Italian-style, as they both endeavor to embrace la dolce vita. With an extraordinary count and countess for friends, dogs in the doctor’s office, snakes and unexploded bombs on the golf course, along with a sinking sailboat, the unexpected was always just around the corner. Through wit, wry humor, and enticing descriptions of food and travel adventures, Works takes you on a journey into the heart of what it is truly like to live in the Eternal City. According to Roman lore, if you toss a coin over your shoulder into the famous Trevi Fountain, the gods will grant you a return trip. When it was time for them to leave, Works made that hopeful toss of a coin and her wish was granted.

Poland’s Daughter: How I Met Basia, Hitchhiked to Italy, and Learned About Love, War, and Exile

by Daniel Ford

For Poland, the Second World War began in September 1939 when Hitler’s army invaded from the west, and Stalin’s from the east. Among their victims was a five-year-old named Basia Deszberg, whose father and brother were shot by the Russians in the Katyn Forest massacres. Meanwhile she, her sister, and their mother were loaded into a cattle car for a horrific three-week journey to the steppes of Kazakhstan, there to survive as best they could. Over the next eight years, Basia would escape through Persia, Lebanon, and Egypt to safe haven in England. Meanwhile, Daniel Ford grew up in a United States mired by the Great Depression. But eventually, Europe’s agony was America’s windfall. Dan went from hardscrabble poverty to a fellowship that took him to the English university where Basia was also a student. This is the story of their meeting, their travels, and their parting. “An extraordinary book, highly original, gripping, at once full of joy and of sorrow.” (Irene Tomaszewski, Cosmopolitan Review, March 2014).

Coffee, Chianti and Caravaggio: One Man’s Love Affair with La Bella Italia

by Robert Noble Graham

A masterwork of Italian rambling. Those who have rambled with Robert through Cuba and Spain already know what to expect, but Italy is more so. Robert rambles through great sites of Rome and Venice of course, but finding a special meal on the exclusive beach of Portofino or listening to woodworm digest a bed in the Chianti hills take a special mastery. Whether getting lost on the tourist road from Bologna or crossing to Capri with a Mafia don, Robert rambles through history, language and gastronomy as readily as the back streets of Naples for delight, color and discovery. Who did Caravaggio kill and who killed him? What did Tiberius get up to in Villa Jovis? Why are car crashes in Naples more democratic than anywhere else? How can one man who so easily loses himself when travelling be so good at finding unique, memorable companions? Sometimes alone, sometimes in company, Robert’s tales give you more color, romance and knowledge of Italy than many an expensive visit will provide. Whether you wish to laugh, marvel or learn, this book will meet the need.