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The Smiles of Rome

A Literary Companion for Readers and Travelers

“It’s no trick to put together an anthology of writing about Rome. No city in history has inspired so many accounts of its glories and depravities over so many continuous centuries. Whether rising or falling, it is an irresistible subject. But Susan Cahill does a fine job. . . . Her section on Renaissance and Baroque Rome is original and fascinating. Poems by Michelangelo and the patrician Vittoria Colonna are followed by Freud’s essay on Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses and part of a novel by Susan Vreeland  that details the rape and trial of the 17th-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi. A period celebrated in most guidebooks with arty rhapsodies is recast as a time fraught with psychological intensity and sexual danger for men and women alike. . . . An interview with Fellini . . . concludes the book. . . . In answer to the complaint that Rome is a dead city, . . . Fellini replies, with justifiable indignation: ‘Rome does not need to make culture. It is culture.” –Richard B. Woodward “Armchair Traveler”, The New York Times Travel section

Collecting the essays, stories and poems of great writers from both the ancient and modern worlds, this volume offers an intoxicating and often heartbreaking tribute to the elusive power of the eternal city. “Rome does not need to make culture,” Federico Fellini states in a conversation reproduced here, “It is culture.” Edith Wharton assuaged her loneliness in the gardens of the Villa Borghese, and Nathaniel Hawthorne conceded, “Rome certainly does draw into itself my heart.” Turning an already stellar selection of writings into a practical guide for the literary-minded, editor Cahill then extracts from each piece the places mentioned and provides updated information (including addresses, phone numbers and nearby dining suggestions) for the traveler who wishes to retrace the steps of Goethe and St. Paul, among others. Through these pages, the city lives, breathes and seduces. How can one go wrong with Ovid’s instructive and witty “The Art of Love” or John Updike’s “Twin Beds in Rome,” a bracing short story of a couple haunted by the city’s ghosts as well as their own? “Rome is surely the most beautiful city in Italy, if not the world,” wrote Pier Paolo Pasolini. “But it is also the most ugly, the most welcoming, the most dramatic, the richest, the most wretched.” This dichotomy has bewitched people for centuries, whether they be icons of literature or not, and those who haven’t visited Rome may find themselves planning their own trip after perusing this vibrant collection.-Publishers Weekly

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