The Last Italian

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Many readers will have felt the urge to move to Europe, where one can breakfast in a quaint sidewalk cafe, work on a novel, sip a cup of rich coffee, and then have lunch when the time comes, all the while having not moved from the table. Such fantasies, unfortunately, assume an endless supply of cash. Since the economic status of most readers is not as robust as their dreams, they must depend on people like William Murray to live their fantasies out and report on them.

In THE LAST ITALIAN, Murray, with charm and wit, expresses the vitality of modern Italy. While he does not always paint a rosy picture, one cannot help but sense his love for the country, and taste, through his writing, the richness Italy has to offer. One of greatest contributions Italians have given to the world is food, and Murray fixes the scene in one Roman trattoria with powerful detail: “A meal in Rome, even in the middle of a working day, was an experience to be savored and lingered over and never took less than two or three hours, after which one went home for a snooze before going back to work. At night, long after the tourists had departed for their hotels and pensioni, the Grappolo would remain busy, sometimes until nearly midnight, with tables of diners reluctant to abandon the source of such contentment and still nibbling on cheeses, fruit and dolci, sipping Frascati, sweet wine, santo or a liqueur.”

Ah! La dolce vita! But it would be misleading to suggest that THE LAST ITALIAN is only about eating. William Murray had an Italian mother, spent a portion of his childhood living in Italy, and since has lived a part of every year there. Murray knows Italy and its people intimately, and in this book he considers how modern changes have impacted an ancient Italian heritage. Yet despite change, Murray deduces that there is something eternally Italian. “Italy is not simply a geographical entity, but an ethos—a point of view.”