MARIE SACCOMANDO COPPOLA, PhD
IN this coming-of-age story two nineteen-year-old women set out across the country in the summer of 1972, searching for answers about siblings they have lost. Their initial goal is soon overshadowed by the trip itself, reminiscent of Thelma and Louise. What begins as an upbeat adventure evolves into a dark thriller as they try to return a stolen fiddle to a cult member. The plot has many twists and turns, taking us across landscapes from Boston to Berkeley. The language conjures up images that titillate the senses: “sex was like a swirling tornado of white light.” Music of the time pervades; it is the driving force behind the road trip. References to politics (Watergate, Vietnam), to music (Beatles, B.B. King), to something as mundane as cigarette brands (low-tar Salems in Kentucky, Virginia Slims in California) convey larger meanings of the cultural background. The alliance between Anna and Cindy is central; other characters serve to illuminate their personalities or carry the plot forward.
Palamidessi Moore paints a convincing picture of the contradictions that women faced with the new sexual freedom of the 1970s.
Although both claim to be liberated, Anna and Cindy argue over whether they are responsible for each other or should just allow each one to do whatever she wants at the moment. Anna has sex for the first time and Cindy complains about Bill who is twenty-eight while she is only nineteen. He asked what she wanted him to do in lovemaking. She was upset: shouldn’t he teach her something she didn’t already know? Aren’t men supposed to be the aggressors? Such paradoxes expose the dilemmas of the generation.
As with her first novel, The Virgin Knows, Moore weaves fantasy into the tale. The fiddle case exudes a flood of light and warmth when least expected, punctuating a closeness of spirit like that of trust or intimacy between friends. The relationship between siblings in both novels carries the resentment that one feels about the good fortune of the other. Considering the view that a novel should be like a street full of strangers where no more than two or three people are known to us in depth, Fiddlehits the mark.
There is little to identify the italianità of the novelist in contrast to The Virgin Knows, which moves from Rome to the United States and associates the characters with Italian culture on both sides of the Atlantic. But in The Fiddle Case Palamidessi Moore has left ethnicity behind to concentrate on details of American culture in the 1970s with its cults, folk music, and sexual liberation couched in an engaging, suspenseful story.
Review from Italian Americana, (academic journal)Spring 2009The Fiddle Case by Christine Palamidessi Moore. Boston:/IAP Press, 2008. 243pp.
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In the 70s both the big folk music and peace and love eras were gasping last breaths; we were living the last days of a pre-consumerist society. Big business, branding and surveillance knuckled in. THE FIDDLE CASE uses the politics and culture of this transitional time, particularly at the summer of 1972, as backdrop for a coming of age story. Nineteen year olds, Anna and Cindy, take a cross-country trip, starting out as fresh-eyed, East Coast best-friends. Along the way sex, jealousy, family secrets, and their inevitable loss of innocence pushes them apart . One of them has a gun, they get involved with a cult, and together they witness a murder in California. in order to survive the two are forced to collaborate, not to abandon each other. In the end, each goes their separate ways, one holding onto the idea of an ideal love and the other looking to satisfy personal ambition.
A Wolf man review:
The Fidldle Case brought me back to the days in the late 60’s and early 70’s when you could stick out your thumb and cast yourself into any adventure. Anna and Cindy travel through a landscape filled with Appalachian scoundrels, down to earth saviors, false prophets, brainwashed devotees and just plain good friends and lovers.
The music scene in the book is true to form and shows us a time when pure motives began to turn to dark.. At any point in their trip, Anna and Cindy could have turned around and gone home but the music and its spell keeps them going. Like all great traveling stories, the trip and not the goal becomes the reason to go.
Anna and Cindy show us of the foundation of our present world and its music. There are no illusions. The times were both simple and complex. Coming of age is never easy. Anna and Cindy do it with love and grace and some hair raising adventures. If I were you, I would stick out my thumb and join them.
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