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In the Gathering Woods

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2000 Drue Heinz Literature Prize Winner
Selected by Frank Conroy

In the Gathering Woods contains a cast of characters who hail from the same Italian ancestors, but whose stories come at us unbounded by time and space. The book opens early in the twentieth century, with a narrator’s boyhood recollections of gathering mushrooms with his grandfather—a narrator who seems still haunted by a terrifying local legend that tormented him as a boy. We skip backward to a young shepherd-artist in the Apennine mountains in the 1500s, who yearns to be discovered, as Giotto was. Later, a preverbal baby accumulates bits of the conversation carried on by adults at the table above her head; a neurologist from Chicago returns to the Apennines to deposit shards of glass at a grave.

Whether they speak in the lost dialect of an immigrant, of infancy, or of an adolescent girl’s school lessons, these stories call up fragments of language in a struggle to understand and attempt to console through the act of reassembling. The language of these stories is both lyrical and comic, providing insight through the details of Bernardi’s writing.

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 28, 2000 – This year's Drue Heinz Literature Prize winner is a pasticcio of tales documenting the Italian experience from Renaissance times to present-day Chicago. Novelist, translator and oral historian Bernardi (The Day Laid on the Altar) gives this book a coherence less through plot than through a consistent focus on Italian families, highlighting the way each generation attempts to pass to the next the knowledge it considers vital. In the titular first story, some of that knowledge is horticultural, as a grandfather tutors a young boy in the intricacies of mushroom gathering. It's a pastime with high stakes: minor differences separate the prized mushroom from the deadly one. In "The Coal Miner, Above Ground," the family has made the long journey to America, following in the path of the "bold ones" who emigrated first and sent money back to their families. As the family assimilates, the icons of America become an essential part of their emotional landscape. In "Working the Clock," the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls are playing on television. Ray Gomorri has gone to the game with his son. If the Bulls win, his wife, Rina, watching the game at home alone, will not need to take the pills that protect her from the "dark periods." In "Rustlings," a young mother discovers that part of becoming an American is "to unlearn what things were called," replacing Italian with a flawless, unaccented English. But certain words still come more easily in Italian, reinforcing Bernardi's theme that American-style success doesn't replace an essentially Italian consciousness.
In the Gathering Woods
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Fiction & Literature
  • Published: Oct 15, 2000
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Seller: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Print Length: 256 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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