Marchese, John 1961-
Marchese, John 1961-
Born November 6, 1961; son of Tully Marchese (a construction worker).
Home—New York, NY; Narrowsburg, NY.
Journalist; professional trumpet player.
National Magazine Award, for work with Philadelphia magazine.
Renovations: A Father and Son Rebuild a House and Rediscover Each Other, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2001.
The Violin Maker: Finding a Centuries-old Tradition in a Brooklyn Workshop, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to books, including The Best American Sports Writing and The Wall Street Journal Guide to Executive Style. Contributor to periodicals, including Premiere, Discover, Esquire, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. Former contributing editor, Worth and Philadelphia magazines.
Near the end of his debut book, freelance journalist John Marchese writes: "Like all sons, I am what I am both because of [my father] and despite him." Marchese came to that conclusion while writing Renovations: A Father and Son Rebuild a House and Rediscover Each Other. The book recounts Marchese's efforts to renovate his home in the rural New York town of Narrowsburg with the help of his father, a retired construction worker. It also describes how the two men mended the rift that had grown between them over the years.
When he turned forty, Marchese bought a home in the small town of Narrowsburg, New York. He was in the midst of what he described as a fit of midlife turmoil—drinking too much and not writing enough. He began to reevaluate his life because he had "missed the normal benchmarks of adulthood—college graduation, steady job, marriage, home ownership." So Marchese bought the home, in part as a way to get away on weekends from the fast-paced world of New York City. He was glad to discover that the home needed many repairs because he felt that his life "could be buoyed by the sheer busy-ness of work—work I'd never done before, work that seemed somehow more real than any I'd done." Because of his lack of experience with construction work, Marchese asked his father to help him. He also thought it would be a good way for the two to repair their relationship, which had grown distant. As he explains in the book, the two men were quite different. "As I entered midlife, I realized that my father and I shared a name and just about nothing else," Marchese writes. "No one has ever told me, ‘Oh, you're just like your father.’ We had, each of us, built a wall between us, whether we meant to or not. I tried one day to make a list of things we had in common. It was a short list." Marchese's father, then in his mid-seventies, is a blue-collar man with traditional values. "My father is not a particularly sentimental man, but his relationship with his work, I've come to realize, is strong and complex." Renovations received positive reviews. Booklist reviewer David Pitt called it "a memorable, sensitively written memoir, full of wisdom and … genuine humor." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt the author's "humor and self-deprecation … capture certain essentials about being a father and son." And J. Peder Zane wrote in the News Observer that the book "speaks to our concern that modern technology and contemporary thought are at odds with our basic humanity, that the great freedom and comforts we cherish distance us from our families, our selves and ‘reality.’"
In The Violin Maker: Finding a Centuries-old Tradition in a Brooklyn Workshop, Marchese looks at the age-old process of carving a violin. To research the book, he observed Sam Zygmuntowicz, a world-renowned Brooklyn violin maker, at work in his shop over a period of months. Marchese addresses the physical aspects of the process, such as choosing the wood and working toward acoustical perfection; the history of the process, including mention of Antonio Stradivari, known as the world's most accomplished violin craftsman; and the magic of the instrument, particularly in relation to the playing of Eugene Drucker. Booklist critic Alan Hirsch remarked: "This exploration of the lore of musical instrument manufacture is easy, entertaining, and uniquely informative reading." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the book "a beguiling journalistic meditation on the links—and tensions—between art, craft and connoisseurship."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Marchese, John, Renovations: A Father and Son Rebuild a House and Rediscover Each Other, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Book, May, 2001, John Marchese, "Tearing Down Walls," p. 55.
Booklist, April 1, 2001, David Pitt, review of Renovations, p. 1440; March 1, 2007, Alan Hirsch, review of The Violin Maker: Finding a Centuries-old Tradition in a Brooklyn Workshop, p. 51.
Library Journal, June 1, 2001, Douglas C. Lord, review of Renovations, p. 193.
Philadelphia, May, 2001, Caroline Tiger, "See John Saw," p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, April 9, 2001, review of Renovations, p. 61; January 22, 2007, review of The Violin Maker, p. 176.
News Observer,http://cgi.newsobserver.com/ (June 17, 2001), J. Peder Zane, "A Son's Search."