The Four Corners of Palermo

The Four Corners of Palermo

Book - 2014
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Palermo in the 1980s. Fourteen hours from any place in what one might call the civilized world, a city of great beauty but torn by the second great Mafia gang wars. A perfect place for a young crime reporter to get his start. As our crime reporter looks back on his own youth, he lyrically retells four tragic stories that marked him: a Mafioso who refused to become a professional killer; a model whom he loved and couldn't save; a father who succumbed to hatred and jealousy; and a daughter in search of her lost honor. In The Four Corners of Palermo, Giuseppe Di Piazza brilliantly evokes the smell of blood and gunpowder, the averted gazes of a city in lock-down, and the forced hilarity of young people growing up in a Mafia reign of terror who, surrounded by death on all sides, affirm their humanity in each other's arms and beds.
Publisher: New York : Other Press, [2014]
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9781590516652
Characteristics: 231 pages ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Shugaar, Antony


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Aug 12, 2015

A collection of four connected "short stories" only the last of which saves the book. Best read for just that one.

If publishers were subjected to "truth-in-advertising" laws, the billing "cracks open the Mafia's secret world" would face hefty fines. This book is neither really about the Mafia nor does it expose anything that hasn't been overexposed already in fact or fiction.

The author attempts something more ambitious - to juxtapose the care-free and relatively secure life of the young protagonist (the author re-imagining his twenty-something life in an alter ego) with scenes from the brutal Mafia wars of the 1980s in Sicily that he is covering as a journalist. That contrast has great potential even if overdone in so many contexts - strife in Ireland, Middle-East, Africa, ...

The novel is much more of a study of an author himself maturing in his writing - progressing from banal to poignant in the four vignettes- than that of the protagonist who, like most twenty-something guys, can only relate to the opposite sex in a sexual dimension.

In fact, the first two vignettes offer no more than the equivalent of some brief excerpts of Goodfellas or your favorite Mafia movie set to Kid Rock's "All Summer Long". Such "profound" sophomoric moral/ethical dilemmas as being tempted by the best friend's girl-friend, replayed everyday in college campuses all over is hardly worth writing about.

But it is through the third and the powerful fourth that the author manages to bring out characters forced to live the consequences of that destruction (as opposed to just swimming through it in a daze as the protagonist does), showing dignity amongst despair, hope and courage, all of which merely hint at what makes Italian Noir stand out. As an Italian, this should have been the starting point for the author of course... even in a first novel.


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