The Grand Gennaro

The Grand Gennaro

The Grand Gennaro

The Grand Gennaro

Synopsis

An illiterate Calabrian in southern Italy owes money to his church and mayor. He skips town for the bustling streets of New York. Meeting an old friend, a fellow immigrant, he thanks him for help getting settled, and then steals his money. With a new parcel of wealth, he materializes from a small-time laborer into a big-time entrepreneur, soon becoming the tyrant of the local Italian American community. By pluck, luck, and unscrupulous business practices, this cunning character 'makes America'. There are riches, pleasure, and the beautiful Carmela. Then trouble. Comeuppance. Ambush. Revenge. Twenty-first century popular culture? Not at all. ""The Grand Gennaro"", a riveting saga set at the turn of the last century in Italian American Harlem, reflects on how youthful acts of cruelty and desperation follow many to the grave. A classic in the truest sense, this operatic narrative is alive once again, addressing the question: How does one become an 'American'?

Excerpt

When Thomas J. Ferraro declared Italian American writing “one of the better kept literary secrets of [the twentieth] century,” he had in mind Garibaldi M. Lapolla, among other authors. in their detailed and sensitive treatment of everyday life in turn-of-the-century Italian Harlem, Lapolla’s three published novels—The Fire in the Flesh (1931), Miss Rollins in Love (1932), and The Grand Gennaro (1935)—form a cornerstone of early Italian American fiction for readers familiar with the works of Silvio Villa, Giuseppe Cautela, Louis Forgione, Frances Winwar, John Fante, Mari Tomasi, Pietro di Donato, Guido d’Agostino, and Jerre Mangione. However, Garibaldi M. Lapolla’s writing has not garnered nearly the attention it deserves despite his renown among scholars of Italian American literature, the similarity of his fiction to that of canonical ethnic writers such as Abraham Cahan and Anzia Yezierska, and the recent entry into the canon of other Italian American fiction writers (such as Pietro di Donato and John Fante). To be sure, one obvious reason is unavailability. While Lapolla’s novels were generally well reviewed—especially The Grand Gennaro, considered to be his best work—they soon went out of print. and despite an Arno Press resurrection of his first and final novels in 1975, Garibaldi M. Lapolla’s name continues to remain in underserved obscurity; he could very well be the best kept secret of Italian American literature.

Teacher, Soldier, Writer

Born April 5, 1888, in Rapolla, Basilicata, province of Potenza, Italy, to Biagio Oreste Lapolla and Marie Nicola Lapolla (née Buonvicino), Garibaldi Mario Lapolla (his given name reflecting the Italian patriotism of his paternal grandfather) left Italy and immigrated to New York City with his parents in 1890 before age two. He would lose his mother at age nine. An exceptional student in public school as a child, Lapolla attended Columbia University, earning a B.A. in 1910 and an M.A. in 1912, after completing a thesis on British romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. in 1910, Lapolla began teaching English at DeWitt Clinton High School, then located in Manhattan, where he left a great impression on his students, including Mortimer Adler, who would become . . .

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