There are reality TV shows for aspiring designers, singers, and chefs, so what about writers? The Italian reality show Masterpiece will pit writers against each other in competition for a book deal. As judge Giancarlo De Cataldo said, “The book is dying, and we must do everything we can to save it. Even a talent show.” We expect a lot of dramatic crying at typewriters.
Parks sees Italian culture with the more or less detached clarity of the outsider, but has spent enough time living in the place to feel justified in critiquing it from within. This liminal stance gives the book an interesting frisson of internal conflict. He doesn’t want to become irretrievably Italian, but at the same time he’s comically resentful of the ways in which his Englishness remains an issue in his everyday dealings with his not-quite compatriots.
Our own Mark O’Connell reviews Tim Parks’s Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo.