"The Reluctant Tuscan" talks about his Italian love affair
Anyone who has paid attention will notice that lots of Americans and English go to Italy, settle down and write a memoir about it: Frances Mayes and Tim Parks are two of the most recently famous.
Now, former TV comedy writer Phil Doran adds his thoughts in "The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian." It traces his skepticism about moving to a small town -- which he calls Cambione (names in the book have been changed to protect the innocent), not far from Lucca -- to pour seemingly endless piles of money into renovating what Italians poetically refer to as a "rustico." That is, a dilapidated old farm house.
Having written for "Sanford and Son" and "The Wonder Years," Doran has little trouble finding humor in his new life. He also learns to look past the "wacky" Italians we also meet in these kinds of books and to understand what makes them tick. And he learns to appreciate a different way of life and a different outlook on life.
We recently asked Doran about the book and his Tuscan love affair.
OMC: There has been no shortage of books by Americans or Britons who have moved to Italy. What makes yours different -- other than the author, of course?
Phil Doran: There are a number of terrific books about Tuscany but I think mine is the only one that can make you laugh. As a comedy writer my natural instinct is to ferret out the funny, and in Italy that's pretty easy because they are the most naturally humorous people on the planet. In fact, I think writing about the Italians without showing their humor would be like writing about France and never mentioning champagne. Their humor bubbles up through everything they say and do and I only hope I have properly captured that essence in "The Reluctant Tuscan."
OMC: It's hard to get a sense from the book when the action took place. How long ago did you buy the house there?
PD: The actual story of our buying and remodeling the house was more complicated than a Russian novel. Not being Russian or a novelist, I really had to simplify the events and compress the time to make it understandable. Needless to say Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was anything else in Italy.
OMC: How much time do you spend in Tuscany these days? Have you come to love it still more, or can you see yourself tiring of it at some point and being ready to move on?
PD: We spend about half the year there shuttling back and forth between Tuscany and Southern California like migratory geese. I'm not planning to move anywhere and I hope (my wife) Nancy took me seriously when I told her that my next move will be to a box and six pallbearers will be carrying me out in it. As far as getting tired of it, life in Cambione is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colorful characters fully enjoying life as only the Italians can, and if I ever get tired of that, I will be ready for that box.
OMC: What do the townspeople in Camaiore (which is where we're guessing the book actually is set) think of the book? Judging from their reaction to the threatened/promised articles, one would think a book would have them astir.
PD: Ironically, books about Italy written by stranieri (foreigners) are not very popular there. In fact, Frances Mayes' book ("Under the Tuscan Sun") was just published in Italian about a year ago and I think that was only because it was such a huge international hit the Italians became embarrassed they hadn't read it. I am hoping that if and when "The Reluctant Tuscan" comes out in Italian my fellow citizens will see that I have written about them with love and admiration.
Phil Doran reads from and signs copies of "The Reluctant Tuscan," Monday, April 18 at Schwartz Bookshop in Shorewood.
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n.prill said: I forgot to ask if the town of Cambione is the real name and just where is the town located?
Nancy Dinelli-Prill said: This book was wonderful. Had it come out before Under The Tuscan Sun it would have been a hit movie. We were in Tuscany last year and loved it. This year we are going to my mother's birth place....Fanano, in the mountains. I laughed and laughed at the humor in "The Reluctant Tuscan" and e-mailed all my friends to read it.
nancy Dinelli Prill said: I'm half way through the book and I love the laughs. Being Italian and in Tuscany in 05 and heading to Fanano in September, I really appreciate all that is familiar. However, map wise where exactly is Cambione?
anita said: reading your book i felt like i was there also and one day i will be thats a dream i've had since i was a little girl and my grandfather would make his yearly trips back to italy where he was born, not far from there.
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