Saturday, September 06, 2008

MAL OCCHIO BY LAWRENCE DISTASI


THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE ATTENDED ONE OR MORE OF MY PRESENTATIONS HAVE HEARD ME MENTION THE NAME LAWRENCE DISTASI, THE PROJECT DIRECTOR OF THE HISTORICAL PROJECT UNA STORIA SEGRETA. LARRY WAS ALSO THE EDITOR OF THE BOOK "UNA STORIA SEGRETA: THE SECRET HISTORY OF ITALIAN AMERICAN EVACUATION AND INTERNMENT DURING WORLD WAR II." HE WAS GRACIOUS ENOUGH TO INCLUDE MY ARTICLE : "WRONG SIDE OF THE HIGHWAY" IN THE BOOK.

LARRY HAS RECENTLY COME OUT WITH A PAPERBACK VERSION OF "MAL OCCHIO", A BOOK ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN HARD BACK. BELOW IS A SYNOPSIS OF THE BOOK WITH ORDERING FORM. I HAVE ALSO INCLUDE A SHORT BIO ON THIS AMAZING MAN.






NOW IN PAPERBACK--WITH A NEW AFTERWORD BY THE AUTHOR.....
MAL OCCHIO
{evil eye}
The Underside of Vision
By Lawrence DiStasi

Starting from memories of his own Italian American family, Lawrence DiStasi launches an inquiry that ultimately probes universal dimensions of the human psyche. Intrigued by the folkway of mal occhio (evil eye), he follows a spiraling path into realms that have haunted humans in every Western culture.
Not only in Italian villages, but on every continent, from ancient times to the present, there are people who believe that a glance can cause illness or physical harm to those it strikes: young children, dairy cows, field crops, and pregnant women. Early observations of his great-aunt’s ability to diagnose and cure these attacks--with incantations and drops of olive oil in a bowl of water--were the author’s introduction to the rituals, amulets, and other preventatives that surround this core of belief.
But the book does not stop there. DiStasi investigates the social and cultural dynamics of evil eye: its influences on child-rearing, domestic relationships, and ethnic worldviews, its source in images of the mother goddess, spirals and vortices. Finally, Mal Occhio confronts the problem historically symbolized by the evil eye: the pervasive anxiety associated with vision. And DiStasi’s interpretation of eye symbolism, as evidenced in motifs that appear throughout the ancient world, is his contemplation, finally, of the self itself---its shifting nature, its estrange-ment, and humankind’s struggle to make it whole.

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“This is one man’s fancy on folklore raised, by quest of curiosity and quality of language, to literary contribution.” Art Seidenbaum, Los Angeles Times

“Lawrence DiStasi’s Mal Occhio is a classic of Italian American literature. This new edition, with its fresh Afterword, reveals the author at his best. DiStasi’s work shows how a focused and informed attention can find in things that others have overlooked or forgotten the sources of a resonant historiography with deep roots and wide implications. Mal Occhio proceeds from the study of humble and ancient material practices to a contemplation of the abiding dilemmas of human existence.” Robert Viscusi, Wolfe Institute for the Humanities, Brooklyn College



Please send _______ copies of MAL OCCHIO: The Underside of Vision by Lawrence DiStasi

@ $15.95 each copy. Please add $3.00 per copy for postage and handling. California residents add 8% sales tax. Send check or money order to: SANNITI PUBLICATIONS,
P.O. Box 533, Bolinas, CA 94924

Total enclosed $_______________


(Orders can also be placed by sending an email to: lwdistasi@sbcglobal.net.)
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Lawrence DiStasi
Lawrence DiStasi has worked as a writer, editor, teacher and historian since graduating from Dartmouth College (BA) and New York University (ABD). He has taught literature and composition at Gettysburg College, the University of California at Berkeley, and most recently in the Fall Freshman Program at UC Berkeley Extension. Since 1994, he has been project director of the historical exhibit, Una Storia Segreta: When Italian Americans Were "Enemy Aliens," shepherding it to more than fifty sites nationwide, and spearheading the movement it generated to pass "The Wartime Violation of Italian American Civil Liberties Act", signed into Public Law #106-451 by President William Jefferson Clinton. His published books include: MAL OCCHIO: The Underside of Vision (North Point Press: 1981), Dream Streets: The Big Book of Italian American Culture (Harper & Row: 1989), and Una Storia Segreta: The Secret History of Italian American Evacuation and Internment during World War II (Heyday Books: 2001). He lives in Bolinas, CA. View my complete profile

7 comments:

Canadian Furlan said...

Ah Yes "Il Mal Occhio". Now this I have heard many times. However it is not a part of the Friulano Heritage. I was exposed to this from my Calabrese friends. I asked my Mother years ago about the Mal Occhio and she also agreed it was not a common superstition in Friuli. Maybe Lawrence Distasi could elaborate further on this. This may be included in his book.
Let me know

Ciao e Mandi
Doriano

LaNorma said...

Ivano:

Ivano

Thanks for the info on Mal Occhio – have you read it? Is it good?

Let me know. Norma Dinelli Wilson

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Norma and Doriano: I ordered my copy the other day. I spoke with Hugo Bianchini,father of Brian Bianchini,the editor of 'La Nostra Costa'. He told me that he has read it in the original hard copy version. According to Hugo it is one of Larry's best books. Highly recommends it. Ivano

ivano said...

Doriano: Well I don't know about the Friulian Culture, however, I still remember, Tony Marcucci who was a Friulano and also my godfather, giving us all a real demonstration of the 'evil eye'. In dicussions with my parents, he would often get upset with the person he was describing in his discourse. He would then place his right index finger under his right eye, and as he continued to rant and rave about said person, he would pull down the skin under his eye, lean forward and in a dramatic tone of voice he would say "CIO'. (I give you this, you so and so.) I never did follow up to see how effective, my godfather's evil eye was. ivno

lina Gemignani said...

About the 'Mallocchio' book.Nonna Agelina was an expert on those stories.I grew up scared to death all the time. I think it is a lot of nonsense, but people believe what the want to believe! Ciao per ora,Zia lina.

ivano said...

Received this e-mail from Larry Distasi:

ivano:
read both your comment about your godfather, and doriano's.
there is agreement in the literature that all of italy at one time subscribed to the mal occhio belief. however, northern areas, especially those that moved towards industrialization and larger cities tended to drop the belief. the same is true in england, scotland, and northern europe in general. there is good evidence that there was a belief called "overlooking" in england and scotland, but that it waned in more recent centuries. rural ireland maintained it longer.
in the same way, the belief persisted longer in southern italy and sicily, even to this day. one of the things i note in my new Afterword is that even today, in Montreal, the Italian Canadian newspapers contain ads for those who promise to cure mal occhio--a tribute to the persistence of the belief among more recent italian immigrants.


larry

Gino Campioni said...

Hello Ivano,

I can't remember Ada(my mother) having any malocchio stories. However, Baffi(my father) used to tell people that if he didn't like a certain tree, he would point to it, and it would soon dry up and die. Perhaps 'Malocchio' was part of that system.

My father could tell some stories about experiences that he had as a young adult, that used to make me want to run into my room and hide under the bed covers. (when I was about 5) Later on, I decided that they were probably things he saw after having had a particularly good time at the local bottega.

By the way, I was happy to see a comment on your blog written by your Aunt Lina. Apparently she is very fluent with the English, and is computer literate. Buon' per Lina!

Saluti, Gino