Di Prisco, Joseph 1950-
Di PRISCO, Joseph 1950-
ADDRESSES: Home—Northern CA. Agent—Elizabeth Trupin-Pulli, JET Literary Associates, 4519 Cherrybark Ct., Sarasota, FL 34241.
CAREER: Educator, writer, and poet. Saint Mary's College High School, instructor, 1972-73; Bentley School, instructor, 1973-75; University of California—Berkeley, instructor, 1980-86; San Francisco University High School, San Francisco, CA, instructor, 1986-94; University of California—Berkeley Extension, instructor, 1989-91; Saint Mary's College High School, instructor, 1994-96. Redwood Day School, Oakland, CA, trustee, 2001—; California Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley, trustee, 2001—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Poetry prizes, Poetry Northwest, 1976, 1977; John Atherton poetry fellowship, Middlebury College, 1982; Culpepper grant, 1990; Council for Basic Education fellowship, 1992; Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize, 2000; two Eisner prizes, Irving Prize, Academy of American Poets Prize, and James Phelan fellowship in poetry, all University of California—Berkeley.
Wit's End (poems), University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1975.
Confessions of Brother Eli (novel), MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2000.
(With Michael Riera) Field Guide to the American Teenager: Appreciating the Teenager You Live With, Perseus Publishing (Cambridge, MA), 2000.
Poems in Which, Bear Star Press (Cohasset, CA), 2000.
Sun City (novel), MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
(With Michael Riera) Right from Wrong, Perseus Publishing (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
Contributor of poetry to journals, including Three-penny Review, Midwest Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and Berkeley Poetry Review, and of essays and reviews to periodicals, including New York Times, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Review of Books, and San Francisco Chronicle.
SIDELIGHTS: Joseph Di Prisco's first book of poetry, Wit's End, is a collection that includes many themes, from the traditional to drug use. Some of the longer poems, called "essays," tend to be more reflective. A Choice reviewer considered them "perhaps the best work in the volume." Di Prisco's poems appeared in journals for more than two decades before he collected many of them in his second volume, Poems in Which.
Di Prisco, a long-time teacher of high school students, wrote Field Guide to the American Teenager: Appreciating the Teenager You Live With with fellow teacher Michael Riera, author of Surviving High School. By using anecdotes and conversations with teens, the authors address problems that include violence, drugs, sexual activity, drinking and driving, and eating disorders. The theme that is evident throughout is that parents should influence rather than control their teen's life and that teens should be loved, trusted, and guided.
In the introduction, the authors say that "Sometimes with our teenagers we get more information than we want, and sometimes we get less information than we need. The same is true with these narratives. The art of parenting begins with knowing how to read kids in between the lines of their lives. Teenagers don't fall in love, or grieve, or smoke, or play soccer in a vacuum. We only know what these experiences mean for them, and for us, when we grasp them in the context of their tribulations, aspirations, and dreams. Their decisions and choices, their weaknesses and strengths, are interconnected."
A Publishers Weekly contributor remarked that Di Prisco and Riera "have a solid grasp on what makes adolescents tick" and felt the book is "invaluable for parents facing this challenging time in their child's life." "This excellent work is to be thoroughly read, reread, and thought about," commented Linda Beck in Library Journal.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that in Confessions of Brother Eli, Di Prisco's debut novel, he "serves up a parochial world peopled by the unwashed, the unpromising, and the uninterested." The protagonist, Brother Eli, teaches English at a Catholic prep school near San Francisco that has never produced a student outstanding enough to get into one of the "better" colleges or universities. Brother Eli is himself a less-than-perfect role model, a smoker and an over-eater and drinker who steals food from the cafeteria and wine from the rectory. The big man's life changes when transfer student Nadette Nevers shows up in his classroom, a super-bright girl who presents the kind of challenge not offered by his other students. His choice is whether or not he should accept that challenge.
J. Uschuk noted at Tucson Weekly online that the novel "fairly sparkles with humor that ranges from sophisticated to slapstick....And yet, it's not only that. This is a novel that draws the readers in and becomes a serious meditation almost before you can put it down." Uschuk observed that in the last third of the book, "the novel becomes an elegant elegy for opportunities lost."
Sun City was called "red-hot at the start" by a Kirkus Reviews writer. This novel is about the blackjack players and card counters who try to beat the odds in Las Vegas, and in this tale, also in South Africa. Dolly Leone is a gambler who is beaten for failing to pay what he owes his bookie, and who is looking for a way to raise funds. An old gambling friend wrote a book about their escapades, at Dolly's suggestion, and Dolly revives the unpublished manuscript to promote it as his own writing. But the story contains little flattery about Dolly and exposes personal details of their lives that he wouldn't want made public. The story-withina-story also follows the romance between the manuscript's creator, Valentino "Schoolboy" Comfort, and Tess, also known as the Teaser, as well as describing crime and terrorism from Las Vegas to Africa. A Publishers Weekly contributor described Sun City as a "noirish gambling novel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2002, Bill Ott, review of Sun City, p. 1690.
Choice, October, 1976, review of Wit's End, pp. 978-979.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2002, review of Sun City, p. 681.
Library Journal, June 1, 1976, Lynn Emanuel, review of Wit's End, p. 1291; September 15, 2000, Linda Beck, review of Field Guide to the American Teenager: Appreciating the Teenager You Live With, p. 99.
North American Review, spring, 1977, review of Wit's End.
Publishers Weekly, August 7, 2000, review of Field Guide to the American Teenager, p. 91; October 9, 2000, review of Confessions of Brother Eli, p. 75; June 3, 2002, review of Sun City, p. 62.
Tucson Weekly Online,http://www.tucsonweekly.com/ (October 11, 2001), J. Uschuk, review of Confessions of Brother Eli.*