Book Review: Readings
Reviewed by Amanda Eyre Ward, Fri., March 30, 2001
Recent HistoryA 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.