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Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 12, 2007
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
- Publisher : Scribner (June 12, 2007)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1416540016
- ISBN-13 : 978-1416540014
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #555,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Add to that list dry humor, which he combines with all the above in “Four Seasons in Rome.” Watch him, and feel for him, as he tries to order groceries in his beginner’s Italian. See Roman grandmothers fawn over the twin boys in his stroller as he and his wife walk the crowded streets.
To say that Doerr is a “writer’s writer,” means that people who want to hone their own story-writing skills should read him carefully and pay attention to his use of the language. Soak in his work until it oozes back into ones’ own writing.
That was my purpose in exploring this, Doerr’s project to show us the Eternal City in his words.
One of my favorite passages is brilliant in its simplicity. It is Doerr’s description of what the family did at the 260-year old Fountain of Trevi, replete with its many statues and carvings of mythological figures, and famous to many Americans from the movies “Three Coins in the Fountain” and “Roman Holiday” (even Sabrina the Teenaged Witch made a movie at this fountain…)
“We lean over the rail; we hurl pennies at the gods.”
Crafting great fiction was not Doerr’s intent here. “Four Seasons in Rome” reads like a private journal, edited intentionally for public consumption. The Doerr family’s four seasons in Rome were a significant time full of challenge and discovery. Doerr shares that significance with us. His time in Rome was marked by a papal death and coronation; a brutally hot summer, friendly Romans, and occasional reminders that Yankees aren’t necessarily all that popular even in countries such as Italy that are among the U.S.’s closest allies.
“Home base” during the Doerr’s year in Rome was a hillside apartment with easy access to sweeping views of Rome. The city comes to life through Doerr’s descriptions of what he can see from the balcony; of the fountains, the food. The crowds, cathedrals, and crazy traffic.
Doerr sprinkles his journal with his own inner thoughts about life, family and existence as he ponders and reacts to the spectacle of Rome. These musings can be thought of as connection points to his novels, which explore similar themes. He presents his own ideas about God and ultimate reality gently; often in the form of questions rather than answers. It serves to give this work depth. For instance:
“If we creatures are on earth only to extend the survival of our species, if nature only concerns itself with reproduction, if we are supposed to raise our kids to breeding age and then wither and slide toward death, then why does the world bother to be so astoundingly, intricately, breathtakingly beautiful?”
Crazy, disorganized, delicious and delirious Rome is the most memorable beautiful thing that emerges from this journal. Unlike his native Boise, Rome is something that could not possibly happen in America. That is both America’s blessing, and Americans’ misfortune.
He wrote sometimes that in our everyday life we stop noticing things because of “habit”, reading this book gave me the chance of seeing Rome with different eyes and I am grateful for this.
One of my favorite passages is the following excerpt concerning his son; it really captures the purity of personal experience and thought conveyed within these pages.
Swaddled in his Moses basket, wires trailing out the bottom, his monitor flashing green, green, green, his entire four-pound body motionless except his eyelids, it seemed he understood everything I was working so hard to understand: his mother's love, his brother's ceaseless crying; he was already forgiving me for my shortcomings as a father; he was the distillation of a dozen generations, my grandpa's grandpa's grandpa, all stripped into a single flame and stowed still-burning into the thin slip of his ribs. I'd hold him at the window and he'd stare out into the night, blue tributaries of veins pulsing in his neck, his big eyelids slipping down now and then, and it would feel as if tethers were falling away, and the two of us were gently rising, through the glass, through the trees, through interweaving layers of atmosphere, into whatever was beyond the sky.
One aspect of the book that I particularly appreciate is the author's emphasis of understanding a place through the eyes of its people. He's not a simple tourist or traveller, he's experiencing Rome through the act of truly living there: mingling in the markets, strolling the ancient streets, speaking--or attempting to speak--with its residents, and, in short, truly living in the place. I know my upcoming visit will be but a fraction of the length of his, but I hope I may leave Rome with a much greater sense of what this city is all about when my time comes to head home. Like Doerr, I don't see most of this knowledge coming from being a tourist per se, but as something along the lines of a (very) short-term resident.
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All copies arrived in a short time and all three in excellent condition.