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A Circular Journey

Helen Barolini

Publication Year: 2006

A Circular Journey collects for the first time in one book the essays that most powerfully define the unique gifts of one of America's most distinctive voices. These fifteen pieces, tracking some thirty years of a writer's life, come together to illuminate the stages and themes and places that mark Helen Barolini's art. Divided into three closely linked sections-Home,Abroad,Return,-the essays move through Barolini's worlds. Her love of literature began when, as a child growing up as an avid reader in Syracuse, New York, she was presented with a diary and told to write in it. Returning to the heritage of her Italian immigrant grandparents, she moved to Italy as a young writer. There she lived for many years, becoming acquainted with the brightest of Italy's literary lights. The accomplished poet, novelist, and critic she became now lives at home in two nurturing cultures, America and Italy both.The essays are memoirs of her house on a street named for Henry James's grandfather, tales of literary journeys from Taos to Taormina, and Paris to Rome, as the young bride of a poet from the Veneto and, later on, as a distinguished writer whose explorations of identity and dislocation took her back to Italian inspirations.From a delightful account of a writing fellowship in an exquisite villa overlooking the Italian lakes to her first trip back to discover distant family roots in the hills of Calabria, Barolini moves lyrically through the generations of her life, giving form to the influences that shaped her art and her sense of self-as an American, a woman, and a gifted daughter of the two cultures she has so powerfully imagined.Praise for Helen BaroliniAn impassioned and magnificent contribution to our knowledge of what it has meant and means still to be an ethnic American and woman . . . . a book of heroic recovery and affirmation.-Alice Walker (on The Dream Book)Large in scope, in depth, and in the gift of narrative.-Cynthia Ozick (on Umbertina)

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-x

I Home

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pp. 1-2

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2004 James Street

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pp. 3-32

James Street, where I lived from infancy through my twenty-second year, begins in downtown Syracuse at Clinton Square, continues a straight course eastbound reaching an elevated point at Oak Street, then proceeds on to become a commercial artery in...

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My Mother’s Wedding Day

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pp. 33-49

It seemed a remarkable coincidence when the mail brought me a page from a long-defunct Utica newspaper called Il Pensiero Italiano, which gave an account of my mother’s wedding day, for it arrived just three days before the anniversary of that event. The...

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Zio Filippo at Summer Camp

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pp. 50-55

Imagine this: it’s a heavy, humid summer day even in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. My brother Jack and I are at adjoining summer camps at Eagle Bay on Fourth Lake. Cedar Cove is for boys and Sunny Ledge for girls. These are very tony camps and are more indicators of my father’s business success than my wish...

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The Spinsters of Taos

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pp. 56-66

One summer in Venice I finally met the person, a friend and countryman of my husband’s, to whom we were to have sent a postcard from Taos, New Mexico, seven summers earlier. Antonio spotted his friend and introduced him to me in a splendid courtyard...

II Abroad

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pp. 67-68

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A Fish Tale

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pp. 69-79

It was a long time ago, just a few years after the end of World War II, and there I was, a bride in mist-wrapped, sodden-aired, graying and bombed-out Vicenza in the north of Italy. With my husband Antonio, Vicenza-born of a Venetian paternal line, I was temporarily...

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Montale and Mosca in a Train

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pp. 80-88

Growing up I was given Nancy Drew books for my birthday, and other reading came from my visits to the Eastwood branch of the Syracuse Public Library. The first book purchase at a bookstore I ever made for myself was T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. Perhaps from...

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Sicily, Light and Dark

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pp. 89-99

On a school vacation when we were living in Rome, my husband and I decided to take our children to Taormina in Sicily for Easter. High above the sea that laps on Sicilian shores, Taormina is one of earth’s beauty spots; as scenery it is superb, but as a town it is...

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A Classical Excursion

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pp. 100-109

When I learned that my liberal arts Wells College, founded for women in 1870 by Henry Wells of Wells Fargo fame, had, not long after celebrating its centennary, eliminated its Classics Department, I was staggered and saddened. How could an institution...

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Neruda vs. Sartre at the Sea

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pp. 110-130

They tell of certain years in the Italian literary-prize business as the French would speak of a good or bad vintage year: the giddy splendors of 1970 prize-feting and fighting, the multiple crises of ’68 culminating in the sad death of Nobel poet Salvatore Quasimodo while presiding at some minor poetry prize event at Amalfi...

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Being at Bellagio

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pp. 131-152

In a late spring of some years ago I was racked with doubts: a completed novel, still unpublished, was in a drawer awaiting not only a publisher but even an agent who would represent it and send it out to some welcoming editor. And I was planning another book about six American women writers and how Italy had played...

III Return

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pp. 153-154

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Shutting the Door on Someone

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pp. 155-163

It’s been a long time since I’ve cared to remember the day I shut the front door of our Croton house in John Cheever’s face. My weird response to his ring and to seeing him on our porch, dwarfed by the columns of that large, four-square grey stucco...

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Paris in the Boondocks

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pp. 164-173

Not long ago, invited to return to my old college in upstate New York to give a reading, I decided in a fit of romanticism that for the occasion I would wear my mother’s honeymoon blouse.
It still hangs in my closet. It is no ordinary blouse. It is cut velvet lined with silk and was acquired in Paris on my parents'...

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A Story of Rings

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pp. 174-187

One March I was in Arizona—vast stretches of desert, ringed by strange, contorted mountains that look thrust out of the earth by volcanic forces as, indeed, they were.
Many years before, on a summer college program, I had had my first experience of Mexico and of seeing among its arts some stunning turquoise and silver jewelry; in Arizona I was seeing...

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A Circular Journey

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pp. 188-210

The place names in my personal lexicon—where I was born, where my family came from, and where I have lived and studied— are classical: Syracuse, Croton, Utica, Magna Graecia, Rome, Aurora. They are in America, or they are in Italy; some are in both places...

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247561
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823226153
Print-ISBN-10: 0823226158

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Barolini, Helen, 1925-.
  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Biography.
  • Italian American women -- Intellectual life.
  • American literature -- Italian influences.
  • Italian Americans in literature.
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