- Publisher: BUR Biblioteca Univerzale Rizzoli (22 May 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 8817125539
- ISBN-13: 978-8817125536
- Product Dimensions: 12 x 1 x 20 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 749,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
An Italian in America Paperback – 22 May 2001
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Beppe Severgnini is the narrator of the integration of two different cultures, in many aspects so distant but at the end similar. Through the reading of the pages you will either laugh on Italian behavior or as an American you will be able to understand the Italian perception on the average US way of doing.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
I am sure this book will be viewed differently by American and non-American readers. The author may be conscious of this, inviting, perhaps even provoking, the reader early on to make his or her own judgments on his final conclusions about the United States (which gave way to the author's inital "stupor of the early months" of his stay)
Certainly, the English translation is witty, funny, and entertaining, and I can only imagine that the original in Italian is the same. He likens Italians' encounters with bureaucracy in the United States to a "matador faced with a milk cow" because "having trained on the Italian version...it is a pushover." He marvels at consumer choice in America, describing the experience of Europeans at Potomac Mills, the enormous shopping mall outside Washington DC with numerous factory outlets, as follows: "After one hour, Europeans are enjoying themselves like spoiled children. After two hours, they are scooping things up like refugees from the former Soviet bloc."
Much of the book reads like a manual of how to deal with the practicalities of living in the United States - like getting a social security card, driver's license, telephone, and the like. And he is mostly admiring in his descriptions of these experiences, which include getting free advice late at night from a toll-free service number for his computer.
But this admiring tone belies some questioning about American institutions and attitudes to which he only alludes, but clearly avoids discussing in any depth. Certainly, his references to other commentators on the United States, stretching back to the early days of the republic, and his frequent sprinkling of statistics in the text, make for interesting reading. Yet, absent a certain depth of analysis, many of his conclusions sound more like familiar European stereotypes of the United States than the product of thoughtful comparison: "..this is a nation of optimistic self-improvers, convinced that happiness is above all a question of mind over matter" or "But in Italy, the family is still central and, at least in comparision with America, still works fairly well."
For those familiar with or residing in Washington DC, the book evokes familiar place names, including shopping malls, schools,and streets. But in describing his year spent in the Washington D.C. area, the Italian columnist who is the author -- and is also well known in Italy for a best-seller on Britain --unflinchingly extrapolates his observations to the rest of the United States. He builds his final conclusions on the United States around five 'C's - control, comfort, competition, community, and choregraphy. Some of his conclusions will strike American readers as bizarre - as, for instance, that Americans have a much smaller comfort zone in terms of body space between strangers than do Europeans (I have always heard and also most observed the exact opposite).
I found myself constantly asking whether the audience he has in mind is non-American, and especially European. I cannot tell if the author really intended this book to be read beyond a largely Italian, or even European audience. In the end, this book may probably be more telling of Italians, or perhaps of Europeans to some extent, than it is of the United States as a whole.
However, his analysis of US culture, based on a year in Georgetown, an upscale and very ethnically and nationally diverse area of Washington, DC (hardly representative of America as a whole), is somewhat glib and panders to European stereotypes of Americans.
In attempting to "explain" Americans, he makes many blunders. He assumes the candy free checkout line is for obese Americans who want to avoid temptation, when it is for parents with grasping children. He says Americans have a smaller personal space and talk closer than Italians, which flies in the face of all socio-cultural research. He tries a few brief forays into the "real" America only to making a sweeping judgement of working class people as unattractive without getting to know them. And he calls Dominos the best takeout pizza???
In summary, the book is entertaining as the musings of a talented journalist but should not be taken seriously as providing cultural insight into Americans or Italians for that matter.
However, the clash of cultures described here is amusing, and Severgnini does provide some interesting insights into American culture, as seen by an outsider. Overall, this book is sympathetic to America, and it seems to go out of its way to avoid any appearance of mean-spiritedness. Perhaps a little criticism might have balanced the book and provided a more realistic assessment of how we appear to others.
An enjoyable light read, especially if you find culture clashes amusing, but if you are looking for a more detailed critique of American culture and society, you'll have to look elsewhere.