When I am looking for my Lost in the Stacks books it is often a case of I've read about an author and then go looking for their books. Sometimes I happen upon a book when I am looking for something else, but this week I had no one in particular in mind and so decided to just meander a bit and randomly choose a book from the Literature section.
On the spine of this slender book "piazza" caught my eye. Piazza? Italy? Yes, indeed. I have never come across Elizabeth Spencer before. She was actively writing between 1948 and 2001 and according to the wikipedia she now lives in North Carolina. Born in 1921 she studied literature and went on to teach at the University of Mississippi before being granted a Guggenheim Fellowship to Italy where she began writing full time. She was apparently nominated for a Pulitzer in 1957 but that year no award was given.
Italy is the setting for her 1960 novella, The Light in the Piazza, which is still in print as The Light in the Piazza and Other Italian Tales. The description given for the book is "seven fascinating tales in which Southerners surrender to the mesmerizing spell of Italy," which was enough for me to bring the book home for a closer look. The novella was made into a movie and a musical and the story is an interesting one--a young woman travels to Italy with her mother and falls for an Italian man. Due to an accident she was involved in she suffers from a mental disability, but the man believes her to simply be young and naive. It sounds like a curious story, but it's the Italy angle that really appeals to me. It begins:
"On a June afternoon at sunset, an American woman and her daughter fended their way along a crowded street in Florence and entered with relief the spacious Piazza della Signoria. They were tired from a day of tramping about with a guidebook, often in the sun. The cafe that faced the Palazzo Vecchio was a favorite spot for them; without discussion they sank down at an empty table. The Florentines seemed to favor other gathering places at this hour. No cars were allowed here, though an occasional bicycle skimmed through; and a few people, passing, met in little knots of conversation, then dispersed. A couple of tired German tourists, all but harnessed in fine camera equipment, sat at the foot of Cellini's triumphant Perseus, slumped and staring at nothing."
Has anyone read The Light in the Piazza, or Elizabeth Spencer? I admit to being attracted by the idea of reading a novella this weekend. A little instant gratification is always nice when in the midst of several longer reads.