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The beginnings of transformation


La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind
by Beppe Severgnini
Broadway, $23.95

When I was on the radio I mentioned a few books that were clearly about personal or global transformation. I believe the former can lead to the latter. But Joe and Susan wondered what this book (La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind) might have to do with transformation. So, in the interest of full disclosure let me say that I am Norwegian by ancestry, not Italian. Our family name dates about to year 800, to a small island of the coast of Norway just inside the Arctic Circle. So, I have no personal agenda to promote all things Italian. The Italian Tourism Board is paying me NO subsidies, but I’m not above that! :)

Let me say that I do love all things Italian: the language, the music, the food, the people and the country. I’m not saying Italians are perfect. That’s exactly why I love them. They know themselves well enough to know how imperfect humanity is and they wear life a lot more loosely than most of us. I respect that in anyone. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but as a whole I find myself leaning toward things Italian.

And this book is the perfect little “guidebook” to help you see my point. From the beginning encounters with the airport culture of Milan’s airport to the importance of windows in the life of the community, Severgnini takes us inside the mind of a people who can take life so seriously and lightly at the same time. The book is both light and humorous while being instructive. For me, the end result of the book (and I suspect unintentional) is to show us a way to live in the world.

So, I stick by my original and outrageous proclamation on the radio: “If all the world was Italian it would be a much better place.” Simplistic, yes, but isn’t it all about the sound byte these days?

Happy reading.

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