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New Book by City Tech's George Guida Stirs Religious Pot with Humor
Building on the success of his previous books about Italian-American identity in the New World, George Guida has released his new fiction collection, The Pope Stories and Other Tales of Troubled Times (Bordighera Press, 2012).
The stories range from laugh-out-loud funny to touching to thought provoking. Says National Public Radio’s Jean Feraca, host of “Here on Earth”: “George Guida has guts. In The Pope Stories and Other Tales of Troubled Times, he sets about slaughtering the sacred cows of Italian-American culture beginning with the Papal Bull himself, and then, in descending order, the cult of the Infant of Prague, the Cana conference, the holy rites of matrimony, and, of course, the family marshaled by La Mama, all of it cast as comic/grotesque curiosities. These are thoroughly modern stories from a natural born satirist.”
“The four Pope stories are a ‘mini-novel’ about the fictional Pattelli family and their unlikely encounter with an imaginary papacy,” explains Guida, who teaches English at New York City College of Technology (City Tech). The book’s opening lines, in the story, “Killing the Pope,” bear out Feraca’s comment. “How would my mother react if I accidentally killed the Pope?” muses protagonist Peter Pattelli.
The volume’s other stories, "In Flight," "The Imbecile Professor," "Angel Boy" and “Rome” deal with a range of prickly subjects, from adultery to homeland security. The Pushcart Prize-nominated “Rome,” set in the midst of the 1968 Columbia University student uprising, is an exploration of the conflicting emotions, thoughts and impulses of a police officer facing the violence and moral choices of his past and present.
According to Jeffrey Heiman and Adam Berlin, the editors of John Jay College’s highly respected J Journal: New Writing on Justice, “With its complex questions about ethical action, George Guida’s story ‘Rome,’ part of The Pope Stories, sets the tone for the inaugural issue of J Journal and, we hope, for many issues to come.”
Professor Guida is aware that his witty satire may cause a stir. After pondering the inadvertent assassination of the Pope in "Killing the Pope," Pattelli becomes a celebrity, and thanks to his strong-willed mother, campaigns to become the new Pope in "Resurrecting the Pope." While debating the selection of his papal name, Peter enumerates real papal sins, from fatherhood to murder. Those who don’t know this history or truly believe the Pope to be infallible will be shocked by the mini-exposé. "Courting the Pope" reveals the surprising outcome of the Pattelli family's engagement with the Vatican.
His new book expands on an earlier chapbook, says Professor Guida, currently president of the Italian American Studies Association. “I wrote "Killing the Pope" in 1998, but the death of John Paul II in 2005 gave me the impetus to think about the process of papal succession -- all the ramifications of the Pope's presence and activism. The new book is about belief, but also the politics of the church and what the church means to different people, as experienced through the points of view of an Italian-American family.”
Professor Guida has authored two books of poetry -- Low Italian (Bordighera Press, 2007) and New York and Other Lovers (Smalls Books, 2008) -- as well as the critical monograph The Peasant and the Pen: Men, Enterprise and the Recovery of Culture in Italian American Narrative (American University Studies Series: American Literature, Lang, 2003).
His writing appears in numerous journals and anthologies, including Hurricane Blues, Inkwell, The Paterson Literary Review, Poetry New York, The Columbia Journal of American Studies, The Journal of Popular Culture and Italian Americana. He is the poetry editor of 2 Bridges Review, City Tech’s new literary magazine.
Known primarily as a poet and founder of the Intercollegiate Poetry Slam (now the College Poetry Slam) at Manhattan’s Bowery Poetry Club, Professor Guida has performed his work at numerous venues including National Public Radio, Harvard University, the Genoa Poetry Festival, and the New York, Brooklyn and Queens Public Libraries.
Professor Guida also is a playwright. His "Pope Play" was workshopped in the City Tech Theatreworks program under the direction of Vittorio Capotorto, founder and artistic director of the theatre company Teatromania. It, too, is likely to make people laugh and ruffle feathers.
Recently, Professor Guida completed a poetry manuscript, Friars Club Conscience, and is at work on Carrying Place, a novel set in Brooklyn and in Upstate New York.
Visit Professor Guida’s Web site at www.georgeguida.com.
Editor's Note: See below for excerpts from the new book.
In “Resurrecting the Pope,” Peter Pattelli has a vision of the dead Pope:
My father wants to believe me. My mother does believe me, but doesn’t want to. This is because I am a first-born Italian son, whose word is family gospel, even if he has no idea what he’s talking about and no one really likes his opinions.
In “The New Pope,”the pontiff discusses his plans for an upcoming world tour:
Our goal then must be absolute security and comfort. We must guard against the human frailty we’ll be declaring epidemic. Travel by ship would be best of all: better meals, midnight strolls along the aft deck, a well-appointed martini bar. But this new public would never stand for the appearance of leisure in our evangelism. If we make ecumenical noises, we must reach the bar the Protestants have set. They bring the energy of terriers to their work. Alas, we shall fly. We may of course summon LoSpuntino, the pastry chef, to our side, though Caponuzzo, the saucier, claims he has commitments that preclude travel. His mint-laden lamb shanks are an incalculable loss. You and I and a small staff aboard the Vatican jet. Have we arranged for in-flight films? And what of the lavatory? Few enough are the pleasures of an airborne pontiff.