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Ciao, America! by Beppe Severgnini
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Ciao, America! (1995)

by Beppe Severgnini

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 5 of 5
An arrogant and humorless account of the author's impressions. ( )
  poetreegirl | Feb 10, 2013 |
A sideways look at our America. Severgnini is always critical, but never in a cruel way. Some parts are a tiny bit dated (copyright is 1995). ( )
  debnance | Jan 29, 2010 |
Very funny -- fortunately I was alone when reading it, because otherwise I would have been constantly explaining what I was laughing at -- and perhaps even a bit funnier to me because as an American expatriate in Canada for the past 30-some years, I've been looking at the USA from the outside with increasing bemusement for three decades; and as the parent of a Canadian expatriate in Italy I've been looking at Italy for several years, also with occasional bemusement. Having just survived an Italian move, I do take issue with Severgnini's observations on moving -- *Americans* take everything with them? Has he ever noticed that when Italians move, even to or from a rental house, they have to take the light fixtures, all the appliances, the cupboards, and -- literally -- the kitchen sink? And whoever convinced poor, gullible Beppe that Americans have some kind of mystical regard for a well-known and universally disparaged chopped meat product in rectangular cans should be ashamed. But his comments on the American desire to "be in control" (and how this applies to religion and the self-help industry) and the desire for "comfort" are insightful and thought-provoking. ( )
  muumi | Sep 30, 2008 |
An Italian writer and his wife spend a year in America living in a Georgetown rowhouse, a home Severgnini himself admits is not typically American. Especially in the beginning, Severgnini makes some interesting observations of moving and settling into the way of life in the United States. Some observations only make sense from an Italian perspective, such as visiting government offices being quick and free of bureaucracy or that Americans all drive safely obeying the speed limit (in Washington, DC no less!). With the exception of a few outings and some incidents in his own neighborhood, Severgnini avoids writing about his own experiences. In fact, even though the chapters are titled by months indicating a temporal narrative, the book on the whole is a series of essays on American culture and behaviors. Severgnini ranges witty and insightful to condescending and petty, but generally his views are fair and in a proper perspective. That he tends to write in a tone of someone who has figured it all out and knows exactly how Americans are gets under my skin (even when he admits that it's an Italian trait to do just this even with very little experience to back it up).

"The United States is actually a republic founded on relocation. The whole social order is based on one assumption: people move house. Presidents move out of the White House, workers go where the work is, and children leave home for college. There are awesome mechanisms in place to facilitate these operations." - p. 17

"When Americans take a serious interest in soccer -- and many are doing so with a determined courtesy that honors their nation -- they demand logical answers. But it is no coincidence that the best teams come from some of the most irresistibly irrational nations on earth -- Brazilians, Argentines, and Italian. (There are Germans too, of course, but they manage to do everything well.) How a game will end, and how a team or player will behave, are completely unpredictable. Camus wrote of soccer that 'I learned that the ball never goes where you think it will. This has helped me in life'

But try telling that to the Americans. It's just not possible, and they'll want to know what position Camus played (goalkeeper). The average American approaches soccer like a pathologist: he (or she) cuts it open to find out what's inside. Facts. Numbers. Statistics. You can't simply say that the other team was incredibly lucky and the refereeing was scandalous (these are concepts that translate into any language). Oh no. America demands that victories and defeats should have a justification. Soccer, like everything else, has to be scientific. Whether the science is physics, physiology, statistics, tactics, psychology, or meteorology is immaterial. The vital thing is to have an explanation that doesn't depend on good luck or the moral rectitude of the referee." p. 54-55

"To explain a phenomenon, in the eyes of a fundamentally rational nation, is one way of defusing its explosive -- and subversive -- charge. The weather is therefore subjected to maniacally detailed analysis. The attitude has nothing whatever to do with the British passion for the same topic. In stoical Albion, talking about the weather is way of looking forward to the discomforts it will bring. In the logical United States, it's a damage-limitation strategy." -p. 64

"The mere fact of being American -- even when America has given you very little -- seems to imply a sort of mystic consensus. The fact that you are Italian - even Italy has given you everything -- for many of my compatriots doesn't appear to mean anything at all." p. 92 ( )
  Othemts | Jun 25, 2008 |
I've read so many accounts of Americans and Brits living abroad,it was great fun to read the impressions of an Italian living in the Georgetown neighborhood in Washington DC. ( )
  BudaBaby | May 12, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Beppe Severgniniprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Watson, GilesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Our house is made of white wood and faces west.
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The United States is actually a republic founded on relocation. The whole social order is based on one assumption: people move house. Presidents move out of the White House, workers go where the work is, and children leave home for college. There are awesome mechanisms in place to facilitate these operations.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0767912365, Paperback)

In the wry but affectionate tradition of Bill Bryson, Ciao, America! is a delightful look at America through the eyes of a fiercely funny guest — one of Italy’s favorite authors who spent a year in Washington, D.C.

When Beppe Severgnini and his wife rented a creaky house in Georgetown they were determined to see if they could adapt to a full four seasons in a country obsessed with ice cubes, air-conditioning, recliner chairs, and, of all things, after-dinner cappuccinos. From their first encounters with cryptic rental listings to their back-to-Europe yard sale twelve months later, Beppe explores this foreign land with the self-described patience of a mildly inappropriate beachcomber, holding up a mirror to America’s signature manners and mores. Succumbing to his surroundings day by day, he and his wife find themselves developing a taste for Klondike bars and Samuel Adams beer, and even that most peculiar of American institutions -- the pancake house.

The realtor who waves a perfect bye-bye, the overzealous mattress salesman who bounces from bed to bed, and the plumber named Marx who deals in illegally powerful showerheads are just a few of the better-than-fiction characters the Severgninis encounter while foraging for clues to the real America. A trip to the computer store proves just as revealing as D.C.’s Fourth of July celebration, as do boisterous waiters angling for tips and no-parking signs crammed with a dozen lines of fine print.

By the end of his visit, Severgnini has come to grips with life in these United States -- and written a charming, laugh-out-loud tribute.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:04 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"When Beppe Severgnini and his wife rented a creaky house in Georgetown, they were determined to see if they could adapt to a full four seasons in a country obsessed with ice cubes, air-conditioning, recliner chairs, and, of all things, after-dinner cappuccinos. From their first encounter with cryptic rental listings to their back-to-Europe yard sale twelve months later, Beppe explores this foreign land with the self-described patience of a mildly inappropriate beachcomber, holding up a mirror to America's signature manners and mores. Succumbing to his surroundings day by day, he and his wife find themselves developing a taste for Klondike bars and Samuel Adams beer, and even that most peculiar of American institutions - the pancake house. The realtor who waves a perfect bye-bye, the overzealous mattress salesman who bounces from bed to bed and the plumber named Marx who deals in illegally powerful showerheads are just a few of the better-than-fiction characters the Severgninis meet while foraging for clues to the real America. A trip to the computer store proves just as revealing as D.C.'s Fourth of July celebration, as do boisterous waiters angling for tips and no-parking signs crammed with a dozen lines of fine print."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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