Sparkle Street Press
The New York Times, 08 April 1960 – Book of the Times
When Augustine went home to his native village of Rivisondoli after eight years’ hard labor in a railroad yard in Cleveland, he intended to stay there. He had saved his money, had never looked at a woman and had lived largely on beans and lentils. But somehow he couldn’t tell his old friends and neighbors the whole truth about life in America and what he did tell them made them all doubly anxious to go there at once. Augustine’s orphan nephew, Fabrizze, was the most anxious of all! And so, almost without Augustine understanding how it came about, he found himself back again in the seething Italian district a few blocks from the railroad yard and even swinging the same shovel with his initials on it in the same gang. But there was n important difference. Fabrizze was there, too, and there never was anybody in Cleveland like Fabrizze, the engaging here of Raymond DeCapite’s engaging first novel, “The Coming of Fabrizze.”
Raymond DeCapite, whose father and grandparents were born in Italy, was born and reared in Cleveland and lives there now. In “The Coming of Fabrizze” he has written a modern folk tale so filled with love, laughter and the joy of life that it out to persuade anybody that any Clevelander not a member of that city’s Italian colony was sadly underprivileged. To miss such bubbling gaiety, such delight in food, drink, kindness and spontaneous friendship!
Way of the Lighthearted
Reading these merry pages is something like eating a dinner of the very best spaghetti and meat sauce with plenty of Chianti and a string orchestra near by playing “Santa Lucia.”
To his Uncle Augustine’s surprise Fabrizze turned out to be a natural leader and an organizer with a golden touch. In no time at all he was a section foreman in the yard and soon afterward an acting supervisor. He opened a store selling imported Italian foods. He made wine in his basement and sold it for more money than he earned working for the railroad.
Fabrizze wrote and read letters for others and sent money home to help old friends come to Cleveland to find husbands, wives and jobs. He himself was a great catch, but he avoided the girls paraded before him until he met and married Mary Mendone, whose every movement was like a dance. Kind, high-spirited and gregarious beyond the understanding of any Anglo-Saxon, Fabrizze was a great man and a hero.
Does it all seem to idyllic—these joyful immigrants singing, dancing, drinking and loving without a shadow of unemployment, poverty or grief? Not really, because this is not a realistic, documentary novel. It is a fairy story of innocence and euphoria in an Eden named Cleveland without even a serpent in the garden. Mr. DeCapite’s characters are real enough and deftly portrayed. Their escapades are pleasantly humorous. But Mr. DeCapite does not contend that life in Cleveland during the Nineteen Twenties was every exactly like this. His purpose is only to please and to provide and appropriate ending that endows his story with something of the nature of a parable.
This comes when Fabrizze and his friends discover the wonders of the stock market, so much more exciting than any sort of gambling previously known to them. They never did understand the character of paper profits, but as theirs mounted their fever rose also and became mania. And so there was a serpent in the garden after all, a serpent named reckless irresponsibility. Fabrizze and his friends were too childish and ignorant to be meanly greedy. They were just enthralled by the most marvelous of America’s many marvels. Who wouldn’t pick up diamonds in the street or take advantage of so easy a way of getting rich?
Spoken by Soothsayers
Mr. DeCapite extends his cheerful story only a little way past the fatal stock market crash and so concludes it on a properly moral and edifying note. To explore further into the dark days of the depression would not be in keeping with the fanciful tale he has to tell.
The old man was talking “I went out for a walk,” said Bassetti. “The trees were fresh in the wind. The warmth of the sun reached into my bones. I saw a smile here and there among the neighbors. Children were playing. And then I heard music. It was Igino playing the harmonica. They say it’s a song of love.”
“Beauty on every side,” said Fabrizze.
“And trouble enough into the bargain,” said Mendone.
“I came here,” said Bassetti. “It was enough to make an old man suspicious. And so I came looking for Mendone.”
“I was sleeping,” said Mendone. “I was trying to recover from the day before.”
“I used to ask for things,” said Bassetti. “I asked for this and that and the other. And now? Now I ask for life.”