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Bla Bla Bla.

At barely thirty, Giuseppe Culicchia already has two successful novels and a group of stories in Pier Vittorio Tondelli's "Under 25" series to his credit. Like all this previous work, Bla Bla Bla takes place in not only the present but the hyperpresent. It is set in a city that might be Stockholm, London, Munich, Zurich, or Turin (all of which are mentioned in a note), and the narrative is garnished with such icons of the urban scene as subways and department stores, chain restaurants, discotheques, porno and fast-food emporia, laundromats, and pay telephones. This landscape of greed and alienation is covered with hostile graffiti and inhabited by the expected urban fauna: hustlers, tourists, the homeless, punks, junkies, and thugs as well as the nine-to-fivers successfully inserted into a feared and hated consumer society.

The story is divided into five chapters of thirty brief sections, some no more than a paragraph in length. It is recounted in a relentless first-person monologue by a narrator determined to remain cool at all costs, even if this means indifference to love and betrayal, loneliness, danger, and physical and moral degradation. The plot focuses on the disintegration and apparent death of a slacker lost in this urban wasteland, a character who elects to live between the cracks of contemporary society but does so with a notable lack of joy, or even emotion of any sort, save anxiety about what he will do next. The question, indeed, probed by the novel is the supremely adolescent one of what in the world to do with one's life in a greed-based society devoid of civility, and traditional ideals.

The book, however, is not the work of an authentic social misfit and pariah (and is thus unlike recent publications by the Roman cooperative "Sensibili alle foglie," for example) but is the product of an educated sensibility. The narrator is well informed, apparently multilingual, and capable of mordant and often funny ironic sallies who is telling his story of psychic and physical disintegration from a comfortable distance. In addition - as if to prove how hard it is for some cliches to die - when at least reasonably cleaned up, he is irresistible to almost all the women of whatever age he encounters in the course of his wanderings (never mind that at least one of these is more interested in obtaining one of his kidneys than any of his other organs).

What saves Bla Bla Bla from being no more than adolescent rant is its often malicious and inventive use of language. The idiom employed seems that of Italians born no later than the late 1960s who in some dismay are now extending their hands toward the levers of social and economic power in Italy. With this book, Culicchia has provided a sometimes bitter but also amused mapping of their new sensibility.

Charles Klopp Ohio State University
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Author:Klopp, Charles
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1998
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