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The Other Side of the Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italy

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, April, 2014, paperback and e-book

This captivating narrative, enriched by more than one hundred photos, offers a striking nonfiction mosaic of a country and a writer. Drawing on personal memories about different parts of Italy and aspects of its long culture, the author suggests how images of country, self, and time are pictures made from pieces.

Praise for The Other Side of the Tiber

"In this elegant volume, Wilde-Menozzi turns her patient gaze on everything from the red brick walls of Siena to the volcanic rock of Etna. This is not a guidebook but a passionate account of a country’s contours and its hidden wisdom." --Mythili Rao, The Daily Beast

"Permesso, the Italian word for work permit, gave Menozzi what she was really after in 1968: permission to write. She never forgot the clerk’s clear instruction. Books. Plural. --Alexandra Johnson, Christian Science Monitor

"Wilde-Menozzi’s stunning prose and astute cultural observations untangle meanings in a country where ancient history constantly brushes up against contemporary life, compassion trumps individualism, and beauty infuses every cobble-stoned step…. The reader couldn’t find a more enlightening guide to Italy and to an Italian state of mind."--Maria Laurino, Were You Always an Italian and Old World Daughter, New World Mother

"I can't help thinking that Montaigne in his tower would have loved this book." --Patricia Hampl, A Romantic Education and The Florist’s Daughter

"A rare and mesmerizing book, a meditative memoir that feels like its description of a Bernini fountain, ‘an event underway.’… Her observations, unromantic and beautifully focused outside the self, reflect the parallel story of the birth of the writer. Italy has given her what St. Augustine found: ‘a self changed by a new inner life.’ " --Rosanna Warren, author of Stained Glass

Toscanelli's Ray

Cadmus Editions, San Francisco, April 2013, and also available as an ebook.

The story begins in the dark hours before the dawn of the summer solstice. It is 1994, Florence, where a ceremony in the cathedral to commemorate Paolo Toscanelli, an astronomer in the fifteenth century, will take place. His solstice measurement, part of the Church’s effort to fix a universal date for Easter, has scarcely deviated, but the Renaissance jewel of a city, explored by myriad artists and writers, is no longer as easily plotted. Perhaps this is why the mood of this fascinating and moving novel seems suspended, as if the characters themselves have scarcely any idea of what is next.

Praise for Toscanelli’s Ray

"WWM’s stunning novel digs deep to unearth the new Italian mosaic; the Americans and Florentines are still here, alongside the Etruscans, but so are the Nigerians, and the Eastern Europeans. Can Florence rise again to spark a new renaissance? Her intricately woven narratives, tough and elegant, illuminate the afterlife of the humanist dream as only the best fiction can." --Askold Melnyczuk, The House of Windows

"… In the course of a single day, [her] remarkable characters (including a long-dead Etruscan woman) circle, engage, damage and heal each other in ways that never cease to surprise. This is a novel of big ideas…and simultaneously it is a novel full of the stuff of life. A stunning accomplishment, and Wilde-Menozzi’s generous heart and lucid intelligence illuminate each page." --Kathleen Cambor, The Book of Mercy

"…Through rich mosaic-like fragments we glimpse the utter strangeness of our own lives in the twenty-first century. Voices from the global south, lives lived at the edge, in penury, without papers force a new reckoning of Europe might be. WWM’s language is iridescent, her grasp of the complexity of human time so sure, her sense of intimacy unerring." --Meena Alexander, Fault Lines

"It is the best book published in 2013 in my view. She has a Toni Morrison lyricism and a certain Delillo-like philosophical tone that is strikingly poignant." --Roderick Vincent, unsolicited Goodreads review

"An intriguing portrait of that Renaissance gem of a city, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi's latest novel takes us where no tourist trip could."--World Literature

Mother Tongue

North Point Press, New York, April, 2003 -- NOW AVAILABLE AS AN EBOOK! This book will be replaced by the new 2020 edition.  The quotes belong to the 2003 edition.

This memoir about a newly married American writer with a young child who moves to Parma, Italy surprised many readers accustomed to travel books about Italy. Instead of remaining on the surface of Italy’s extraordinary beauty, the book creates, in lyrical prose, the universal complexities of living outside of one’s language, and how the experience profoundly alters a sense of self.

Praise for Mother Tongue:

"A warm and wonderful book. The author’s powers of observation are extraordinary. WWM is to be commended both for her profound understanding of (multicultural) tensions and for her exceptional Virginia Woolf-like subtlety in presenting them." --McGills Literary Annual List

"Richly absorbing." -- New Yorker

"In some ways, her work is reminiscent of the English writer Tim Parks, who settled in Verona and wrote…about his life there. But while Parks writes with ironic detachment, WWM is passionate, sensuous, even fierce. Evocative and moving." --Kirkus Reviews

"If I had to choose among them (Mary McCarthy’s Stones of Florence, Barbara Grissuti Harrison’s Italian Days, or Wilde-Menozzi’s Mother Tongue) I’d take Mother Tongue. This woman can write." --Lois Blinkhorn, Milwaukee Journal

"Mother Tongue is a memoir of extraordinary richness and honesty." --Reynolds Price, A Whole New Life

"WWM’s language is original and often poetic and moving." --Publishers Weekly

"This book is a large, beautiful window into the intelligent, literate, reflective life of Italy—intimately lived and observed by a modern American woman." --Shirley Hazard, The Great Fire

"The finest memoir I have read in years. Nothing escapes this perspicacious woman who examines the paths trod by pilgrims and pillagers drawn to Italy over the centuries. Perfection." --Maryann Nault, The Birmingham Post

For those who read in Italian, this collection of essays has been very well received and introduces the author’s work to non-English readers. The essays first appeared in journals such as Best Spiritual Writing, Kenyon Review, Agni, Southwest Review, The Literary Review, Tel Aviv Review, Notre Dame Review. The book covers literary subjects--Primo Levi, Natalia Ginzburg, Aleksandr Kushner, Miroslav Holub, Iris Origo, Daniel Berrigan--as well as more personal explorations of music, political protest and experiences of transformation brought about by butterflies and later, a fainting spell that woke the author up to Dante. In Italian.

Critical praise for L’oceano

"...The first and enduring sensation of reading (this book) is a pleasant feeling of a near vortex circulating the whirling movement of words, languages, events, people, stories, dissimilar and yet mysteriously interconnected, without limits or frontiers, even as they vary and reveal differences, structured underneath by secret music that runs page to page." --Marzio Dall’Acqua, il Nuovo di Parma

"The book, composed of a series of essays written in different periods, in fact has been composed like a symphony, a piece of music that the author discovered late in her life but which then became fundamental. The work of Wallis Wilde-Menozzi is dense, filled with metaphor, sometimes quite mysterious, which, unexpectedly, releases the portrait of a character or scene that perfectly and brilliantly illuminates the situation." --Francesca Avanzini, La Gazzetta di Parma

"Passionate and fearless, delicate and resistant, constantly moving between the everyday world and the spiritual one, the poles of her country of origin and Italy…[the author] knows how life can turn everything into a field of tensions…pain and joy, beauty and mystery." --Paolo Lagazzi, editor, Atillio Bertolucci, complete work