Kazuo Ishiguro's tame Arthurian allegory ultimately shortchanges its considerable promise.
Young Irish writer Colin Barrett's first book of short stories is an out-of-nowhere knockout.
Max Blecher's musing about the terrors of life, and youth, is a near-perfect voyage into sadness.
Jenny Erpenbeck denies death repeatedly to give a character a full 20th-century life.
Dying Max Blecher had time and will enough provide a remarkable "fictional" chronicle of his decline.
Dino Buzzati's overlooked 1963 masterpiece is a perfect companion to La Dolce Vita.
Alberto Moravia's tales of blue-collar Rome men in the postwar help explain neorealism.
The Raymond Chandler of the final Philip Marlowe book is more brilliant than ever, but also burned out.
Regina Ullmann's stories, finally translated into English, are creations of other-worldly grace.
David Malouf's all-but-forgotten collection of autobiographical essays is an exceptional pleasure.
Chickens Eat Pasta
By Clare Pedrick
Troubador Publishing, 2015. 224 pages
In 1995, director Christopher Monger made a touching pastoral film called "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain," a quirky story of life in rural Wales. In this delightful book, which has its own set of hills, valleys and quirks, Englishwoman Clare Pedrick tells a tender tale of falling in love with an Italian village, San Mamiliano, a broken-down house, and the man who will eventually become her husband. At age 26, Cambridge-educated reporter Pedrick felt "alone and numb with boredom at the prospect of a future which until recently had seemed to be just what I wanted." Enter her great escape from England and newfound life in a medieval Umbrian village, which slowly transforms "alone and numb with boredom" into "member of an extended family" in a countryside filled with colorful characters (Pedrick in her roaming Fiat 500 is among them).
But the house that husband and wife (and children) finally settled into after a stretch in Rome was more wreck than house. This anecdote rich memoir explains how Pedrick & Co. came to love it, fix it up, and live in it — an event partly triggered by once having seen a video of chickens pecking at pasta in the local countryside. It's a three-way love affair with country, home, and man.
Admittedly, the Italy she so beautifully portrays isn't quite the same now as it was 25 years ago, but the sweet nostalgia of her serendipitous beginnings in Umbria and the pitfalls and pleasures of making a life in the hinterlands invites the reader to consider the power of a ruin — since in this case it's the catalyst of Pedrick's Italian transformation. Interspersed with flashes of partings, sadness, and whimsical decisions, this is the story of a life path changed in many and touching ways.