Book Review: Readings

Anthony Giardina

Readings

Recent History

A Novel

by Anthony Giardina

Random House, 205 pp., $23.95

There comes along, every once in a while, a fictional character so compelling that the novel he or she inhabits becomes larger than life. A reader begins to pick up the novel not only for plot progression, or for the simple beauty of its words, but to learn something from the fictional character, to absorb the character's take on things. To write such a novel, I believe, is the goal of every writer, and to find such a novel, the hope of every reader. Recent History, the new novel by Anthony Giardina, is such a book.

The narrator of Recent History is Luca Carcera. Luca is an 11-year-old boy when the book begins, a boy living a charmed life: "Just before dusk, in the spring and summer, the boys on Candace Road always gathered on the street to play Wiffle ball. It was a quiet street, full of small houses into which sound penetrated easily."

Luca's world is altered suddenly when his father disappears, and again when Luca goes to visit his father and finds that he is living with another man. Luca is a thoughtful narrator who speaks very little but absorbs everything. His father's homosexuality will chart the course of his life.

Giardina, who has been a visiting professor at UT's Michener Center, acknowledges at the back of Recent History that "The journey of this novel began in 1995, when I read a letter to the editor of the Dallas Sunday News, in reply to a forum on gay issues conducted by that paper. I am indebted to that letter's anonymous author, who grew up with a gay father, as much for his tone as for his sentiments, both of which ignited something in me."

Readers are indebted as well. In Luca, Giardina has created a narrator who is able to pinpoint both sorrow and joy in lovely and unexpected ways. There were times, while reading Recent History, that I closed the book to stare into space and let Luca's thoughts cast shadows on my own life. For example, "When you're loved, you hardly have to be there at all, even your absence fills up a space, but when you're not loved, you become too big, just being your normal size turns you into an unbearable weight for the other person."

I woke my husband up in the middle of the night to read to him from Recent History. He is a scientist, and I am a writer, and Giardina's words filled us both with awe.


Anthony Giardina will be at BookPeople on Wednesday, April 4, at 7pm.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Book Reviews
<i>Presidio</i> by Randy Kennedy
Presidio by Randy Kennedy
For his debut novel, Kennedy creates a road story that portrays the harsh West Texas terrain beautifully and fills it with sympathetic characters.

Jay Trachtenberg, Sept. 14, 2018

Hunting the Golden State Killer in <i>I'll Be Gone in the Dark</i>
Hunting the Golden State Killer in I'll Be Gone in the Dark
How Michelle McNamara tracked a killer before her untimely death

Jonelle Seitz, July 20, 2018

More by Amanda Eyre Ward
A Journey Through Hell
A Journey Through Hell
Óscar Martínez talks about riding the rails through Mexico to America

Oct. 11, 2013

Uncorking Creativity
Uncorking Creativity
Amanda Eyre Ward doesn't think you should beat yourself up too much

Nov. 27, 2012

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Recent History: A Novel, Anthony Giardina

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle