Cover image for Recent history : a novel
Recent history : a novel
Giardina, Anthony.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [2001]

Physical Description:
242 pages ; 25 cm
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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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When Luca Carcera is twelve years old, his father moves out under mysterious circumstances. He surfaces across town, in a run-down rooming house, living with another man. Luca is equally surprised by his mother's burgeoning sexuality after her husband's departure. And what about Luca's own adolescent sexual awakening? He has an unusually intense friendship with a boy at school. He's also drawn to his attractive female neighbor. He can't choose. He's overwhelmed by the degree to which sex can shatter the status quo. He shuts down. We meet Luca again as an adult. His wife wants a child, and that terrifies him. But more terrifyingly still, he's been married for twelve years -- the precise length of time his own father was married when he admitted his feelings for another man -- when he gets a phone call that yanks him back to the past he's tried so hard to ignore. Now he wonders if he'll do exactly what his father did. With this extraordinarily intelligent and sensitive exploration of sexuality -- what it means to look deep within oneself and resist looking away -- Giardina plumbs great emotion depths with his trademark literary grace.

Author Notes

Anthony Giardina lives with his wife and children in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The photograph on the cover of Giardina's new novel shows a man with outstretched arms holding a baby. The baby is smiling, yet in the same purse of the nose it appears to be upset and on the verge of sobbing. The emotional uncertainty expressed in the photograph is the perfect depiction of 11-year-old Luca, the confused main character of the novel, whose father has suspiciously moved out of the family's new house. From here an exploration begins as Giardina delves into the mysterious world of human sexuality: A husband meets a man, a boy encounters a boy, and a wife courts a man who is not hers. The chapters are tight stories unto themselves and, like the characters of the novel, seem to feel their way through the murky indecision and fright of sensuality. Despite the skillful manner in which Giardina allows the novel to mature, the complex themes are never resolved, almost as if they are too ubiquitous and must be dealt with at arm's length. --Jeffrey Snowbarger

Publisher's Weekly Review

Ticklish issues of sexual identity, class and intimacy wreak frightening confusion in the life of an Italian-American boy growing up in 1960s Massachusetts. In playwright and author Giardina's introspective, finely crafted first-person narrative, 11-year-old Luca Carcera finds his life upended by a series of baffling changes. A sensitive only child who is often frightened by the sounds of his parents' lovemaking, Luca adores his taciturn father, a man who "gave the effect of there being at least two of him, two things not fighting it out so much as living inside of him in some interesting kind of harmony." Luca's father is an accountant who builds his family a new housein a community envisioned as a step up the social ladder. But one year later, he abruptly abandons his wife and son, leaving Luca heartbroken and confused. Eventually, Luca learns that his father is living with another man. By age 13, Luca's relationship with a gay classmate clouds his understanding of his own sexuality. Through high school and college, Luca experiences feelings for girls and boys, but largely represses both. Twelve years later, he is happily married, but still stricken by what his father calls "[that] lovely manly fear that sleeping with a man makes you something. Something irrevocable... [that] if a man even once, and, God forbid, likes it... well, that's it, isn't it?" Now that fear threatens his marriage, and Luca must delve deeper into his personal history to find a saving peace. Giardina (The Country of Marriage; A Boy's Pretensions; Men with Debts) draws the reader into Luca's life with a candid, insightful narrative that probes important subtleties of identity and honesty, although the occasional withholding of information for dramatic effect seems too manipulative a technique for this otherwise frank exploration. 5-city author tour. (Mar. 16) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In his new novel, Giardina builds on the exploration of marriage and divorce he began in The Country of Marriage. Here, 12-year-old Luca's parents divorce when his father comes out as a gay man; years later, after Luca marries Gina, he begins to doubt his own sexuality. Like many boys, he fears he may grow up to be like his father. And like many, he does, only not as expected. Finally, Luca learns to accept his sexual nature (heterosexual) and to live free of fear and restraint. Giardina is a gifted storyteller; at times, his tightly controlled art shows, but it doesn't matter because his story is so very compelling. Details about the setting are spare and at times seem obviously chosen, but the plot has a sure, subtle logic of its own, which makes this work artistically interesting. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries, especially for collections of gay literature.DRoger Durbin, Univ. of Akron (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



When I was eleven years old, in April 1961, my father arrived at school one day to take me into the woods. It was half-day, Wednesday. I usually walked home for lunch but that day he was waiting beside the Fairlane, in the suit he wore to work, the only man among the group of older, nervous mothers who insisted on coming and walking their children home from school. On the drive -- unannounced, with a mysterious destination -- he tapped the wheel and hummed an odd little song that let me know he was nervous. I tried to follow the song, but couldn't. My father was a small, secretive man, quiet, well-dressed. He was known in the family into which he had married, a large and clamorous Italian family (as he was Italian, himself), as one who habitually stood back from the passionate center of action. You can see even now, in the home movies that survive from those years (he never took them, my Uncle John did), how he stands aside from the others on the beach, hardly noticeable sometimes, smaller and more compact and less expansive than the other, heavier, laughing men. What those movies don't tell you, though, is how he spoke, and the power he wielded because of the way he spoke. "Should we dig for clams?" someone on the beach would shout, trying to draw one last drop from the day. "No," he'd say, and point. "The tide's coming in." The others would stand back then, nod. How foolish they'd been. That day, he'd brought sandwiches for us to eat, meatball; they were on the seat between us. By the time we were into the woods the submarine rolls had gone soggy, and the bag had a wet stain on the bottom. We had to park at the bottom of the hill where the road ended -- the hill was adjacent to the old Girl Scout property, a large undeveloped tract in our town, which had been dominated once by a mill and watch factory, then, after these had closed, had managed to hold on to its population by becoming a bedroom community for the city of Boston. There were still large wooded patches left, one or two farms. My father led me up the hill, as if following some sort of map that existed nowhere but in his head. We found a rock -- a large, flat boulder -- that seemed to be what he was looking for, then ate the sandwiches. He still hadn't spoken. He held a napkin six inches under his chin, a formal gesture, so as to catch any of the drops of sauce. Then, finally, he leaned toward me. He nodded once, and his lips made a small, familiar pursing motion. "We're going to live here, Luca," he whispered. He took another bite, then gestured, with his mouth full, across the ground in front of us. "This, this is our lot." My father's voice had a slight rasp to it, as though he were in fact tougher than he appeared. It mixed with what was subtle and educated about him, and it was one of the things -- there were many others -- that gave the effect of there being at least two of him, two things not fighting it out so much as living inside of him in some interesting kind of harmony. "That, over there, you see those sticks with the little orange flags? They mark out lots. Of course it's only trees now, but they're going to build a road up here. Everything you see . . ." Here he hesitated again. "They're going to blast away. The rocks and . . ." He gestured with his fist. "Make houses. You can't see it, but there's an orange stick way over there. That's where Uncle John's house is going to be. We're starting a neighborhood, you could say. The family. The Italians." He laughed a little after he said that, as if this last part of it, the Italian part, so important to my Uncle John, could never be as serious to him. Then there was a silence. I looked where he'd asked me to look, and took in all this strange information, strangely delivered; delivered, that is, as though while he was telling me one thing, he was also telling me something else. So I listened harder than I was used to. I listened for the second story. We kept a photograph prominent in our house in those days, a photograph taken when my father was in college. He'd gone to Boston College, the first in his family to go beyond high school, on a hockey scholarship. The photograph was black and white: him and his teammates, a row seated, a row standing, hockey sticks crossed in front of the seated row, "Snooks" Kelly, famous in our house, stood beside them, heavy, jacketed, the coach. They were either jug-eared boys or else big-jawed boy-men who looked thirty when they were only twenty, and I suspect your eye would be drawn to my father even if you didn't know him. Seated in the front row, he is smaller and more delicate then the others, the one who appears most singular, and therefore blessed. There is a smile he is wearing that I used to sit and study. It was the smile of a man announcing: I am in this world, but not of it. It was there now, curiously so, as he looked off into space, and ate his sandwich. "Listen," he said. "This is for you. Here, living here, so you can have a better life." I watched him consider his words carefully. "Candace Road, that's a decent street, Luca, a nice neighborhood, but this is really something else . . ." Suddenly he trailed off. Something had begun to trouble him. He had stopped -- that was my father -- as if too bold an announcement would trap him. He smoothed the wax paper in his lap. He took several seconds and then he looked at me. "You almost finished?" I said that I was, though I still had half a sandwich in my lap. That is the quality I remember of that day: my settling into a journey I believed was to be slow and luxurious, then being hurried by him, as if the direction in which he'd pointed us were being altered midstroke. I have to say that in the days and weeks afterward, my father seemed more excited by what he was doing than he had that day in the woods. Sometimes, even months later, he would take out the architect's renderings and sit with us -- that is, with my mother and me; I was their only child -- at the kitchen table, pointing out this nicety and that. It wasn't uncommon that as he was speaking he would touch my hair. I would run down the street, afterward, on a kind of cloud. And return, an hour or so later, to find he had retreated to his office, my mother setting the table for the two of us. Excerpted from Recent History: A Novel by Anthony Giardina All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.