Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on Sciascia's "To Each His Own"

D.W. Buffa's new novel is Lunatic Carnival, the tenth legal thriller involving the defense attorney Joseph Antonelli. He has also published a series that attempts to trace the movement of western thought from ancient Athens, in Helen; the end of the Roman Empire, in Julian's Laughter; the Renaissance, in The Autobiography of Niccolo Machiavelli; and, most recently, America in the twentieth century, in Neumann's Last Concert.

Buffa writes a monthly review for the Campaign for the American Reader that we're calling "Third Reading." Buffa explains. "I was reading something and realized that it was probably the third time that I knew it well enough to write something about it. The first is when I read it when I was in college or in my twenties, the second, however many years later, when I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered, and the third when I knew I was going to have to write about it."

Buffa's "Third Reading" of Leonardo Sciascia's To Each His Own begins:
In 1891, when my grandfather was a young boy living in New Orleans, a mob broke into the jail, beat to death some of the eleven Italians held there, most of them Sicilians, and then hung the rest. It was the largest lynching in the history of the United States. Both the New York Times and Teddy Roosevelt thought that, on the whole, it was a rather good thing. Someone had to teach Sicilians the consequences of criminality. That several of those killed had just been acquitted by a jury of the murder of the New Orleans chief of police proved only that, if justice were to be done, the mob had to do it.

A dozen or so years later, my grandfather, by then a young man with a young wife and child, warned that he was about to be arrested for a crime which he may, or may not, have committed, left New Orleans and made his way to San Francisco. Thanks to Prohibition and his own ingenuity he cornered the market on illegal liquor and became one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the city. The local police, for reasons of their own, never gave him any trouble; the federal agents who arrested him had similar motives. He was given a choice: prison or his money, and with a Sicilian’s sense of honor, he gave them his money and in that way protected the family name. It was a decision that some of his grandchildren have sometimes regretted.

Some years ago, on my first visit to Sicily, a distant cousin, a prominent physician in Palermo, suggested I...[read on]
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

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Third Reading: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Third Reading: The Scarlet Letter.

Third Reading: Justine.

Third Reading: Patriotic Gore.

Third reading: Anna Karenina.

Third reading: The Charterhouse of Parma.

Third Reading: Emile.

Third Reading: War and Peace.

Third Reading: The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Third Reading: Bread and Wine.

Third Reading: “The Crisis of the Mind” and A Man Without Qualities.

Third reading: Eugene Onegin.

Third Reading: The Collected Works of Thomas Babington Macaulay.

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Third Reading: Doctor Faustus.

Third Reading: the reading list of John F. Kennedy.

Third Reading: Jorge Luis Borges.

Third Reading: History of the Peloponnesian War.

Third Reading: Mansfield Park.

Third Reading: To Each His Own.

--Marshal Zeringue