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The Smiles of Rome

February 28, 2009

The Smiles of Rome Time for another book review!

I have recently just finished reading “The Smiles of Rome” as compiled by Susan Cahill. For anyone who has been to Rome, is planning on   going to Rome or hopes to someday go to Rome, this is an excellent book to read! It contains a wide variety of excepts from various authors throughout varies time periods about, what else? Rome! A lot of these authors were names I had heard of, names I had heard of as being ‘must reads’ for anyone who loves literature, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading them yet. This book gave me little excepts of their writing style and gave me an idea of whether or not I would enjoy it. And I found that I do!

Authors like Henry James, Ovid, Vittoria Colonna, Goethe, Robert Browning, Nathaniel Hawthorne and John Updike are all represented here, as well as some more modern Italian authors such as, Natalia Ginzburg, Elsa Morante and an interview with Italian Film maker Fredrico Fellini. Each except is chosen for the different part of Rome that it speaks of and prior to each except, Susan Cahill gives a bit of background on the author and the novel or book that the excerpt is from. After each author, she has a little summary titled ‘For the Literary Traveller’ in which she places the things talked about by each author on the map of Rome. Cafes they have their characters eat at, or streets they walked down, as well as more history regarding that area of Rome and also where the authors themselves were known to go when they were in Rome. These were some of my favorite sections because of the extra little tidbits of history and because when I do go back to Rome, I now know some more places to go and visit and when I see them, I’ll have more context to put them in than just another pretty fountain or piazza or ruin.

As for the works excerpt here, they are timeless and wonderfully chosen, with an excellent blend of humor (From Ovid’s the Art of Love, though I doubt that is what the author was aiming for, but none the less, reading dating tips from ancient Rome is sure to make one smile), tragedy (the excerpt from Elsa Morante’s “History: A Novel” is the story of a half Jewish woman and her children prior too, throughout and following WW2), and warm fuzzy feelings that just make you want to sing praises to Rome (Roman Hours by Andre Aciman tells of the beauties that seem to turn up unexpectedly around corners in Rome).  After finishing this, I now want to read some of the full works that were shown here and of course, go back to Rome. For Rome now has a hold of my heartstrings and it tugs on them from half way across the world. Ah Roma, I have a piece of you in my heart as well and on the rainiest, most dreary days in this metropolis of grey where I live, I think of you and I smile.

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