'The End' by Salvatore Scibona
Published on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - 11:59am
This month we’re reading Salvatore Scibona’s The End, a finalist for the National Book Award in 2008 and winner of the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award the following year. A native of Cleveland, Scibona is a recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a Guggenheim, and a Pushcart Prize; he has published in The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Threepenny Review.
The End is a complex piece of fiction that doesn't unfold in any conventional way. It narrates the intertwining lives of several Italian immigrant families who settle in a Cleveland neighborhood and whose paths converge during a street festival in 1953.
The End both spans and skips around the first half of the 20th century and is cast against the racial, spiritual and moral tension that has given rise to modern America. Salvatore Scibona's first novel exhumes the secrets lurking in the darkened crevices of the soul of our country, from the radical changes of an increasingly industrialist America to the smothering poverty and endless labor of those who helped to put the nation at the doorstep of modernity.
Here are the study questions we will be exploring on Thursday, Jan. 9, 7 p.m.:
- Why does Scibona’s novel begin with an extended description of Rocco the baker? How is he integral to the story?
- In what light does the author present the old country? Are any of the immigrant characters able to fully transcend it?
- Ciccio Mazzone runs away from home more than once. Where do we see the theme of running away elsewhere in the book? Are these characters seeking anything other than escape?
- Who is the Forest Runner? How did he get his name? What is his philosophy, and what does it move him to do?
- Costanza Marini, who narrates the final section, is a key figure in this story. How is she tied to the other characters? In what ways does she influence, if not direct, the action?
- What role does family play among the characters in The End? Are family ties unbreakable? Inescapable? Unbearable?
- Though they only appear peripherally, African Americans play a vital role in the novel. How do they alter the course of Scibona’s story?
- The author of The End doesn’t construct a “plot” in the usual sense. What methods does he use to build his novel? How does his idea of storytelling compare with that of our previous authors?
- How does the Catholic church shape the lives of the residents of Elephant Park? Are any of them deeply religious?
- What does the title of the book mean? Which of the characters seem defeated or finished by the end? Which of them don’t?
Here a few hyperlinks to learn more about Salvatore Scibona and his work:
- An interview with Scibona
- A brief bio of the author
- A wide ranging interview of the author
- A brief NPR interview with Scibona
- A review of 'The End'
Copies of the book should be available at the library.
Thanks to the Friends of Cleveland Park Library, we're engaged in another lively and intelligent series of book discussions. Everyone is welcome -- you don’t have to be a member of the Friends to attend. And you’re welcome even if you haven’t come before.
So please join us.