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Valentini, Mario

Valentini, Mario

PERSONAL:

Born in Collemare, Italy; married Cheryl Hardacre (a scriptwriter).

ADDRESSES:

Home—Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

CAREER:

Writer, artist, actor, scriptwriter, editor.

WRITINGS:

(With Cheryl Hardacre) Chewing Gum in Holy Water: A Childhood in the Heart of Italy, Arcade Publishing (New York, NY), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

An artist and former actor and scriptwriter living and working in Sydney, Australia, Italian-born Mario Valentini takes readers back to his own youth in his 2007 memoir, Chewing Gum in Holy Water: A Childhood in the Heart of Italy, written with his wife, Cheryl Hardacre. Valentini was born shortly after the end of World War II in the mountainous Abruzzi region in the very center of Italy. Times were difficult in the early postwar years and money was short. Valentini's father went to Germany to work and send cash back to his family, but still the mother was unable to take care of her three young children. Thus, when Valentini was just four years old, he was sent to live with his uncle, an itinerant priest. The uncle, Don Ruggero, was a strong personality who drove a motorcar and lived in large houses in the various villages to which they moved every few years. Valentini went to school and became an altar boy, but there was also ample time for the young boy to get into trouble. Once he even impersonated his uncle in the confessional. Valentini had a youth's eye for mischief, and he relates tales from getting drunk by sniffing the fumes from a wine cask to switching name tags on Christmas presents. He was fond of chewing gum, dispensed generously by American soldiers, and loved stories about the ancient Romans and the crusaders. He also took on a bull and a hungry wolf with his slingshot. Valentini additionally learned life lessons from the people he encountered, including the distant aunt who kept house for his uncle and a dying artist who taught the young boy the love of color.

Chewing Gum in Holy Water received critical praise from many quarters. A reviewer for Notebook Magazine felt it "brilliantly evokes the smells and tastes of the Abruzzo," and was a "charming childhood memoir." For a New Oxford Review contributor the same work was "a nostalgic look back into a golden childhood." Reviewing the memoir in Quadrant, Angela Shanahan felt the tales of mischievous youths in the book "are redolent of the portrayal of children in Italian films, which have a realism lacking in their Hollywood counterparts." For Shanahan, this was no accident, as both Valentini and Hardacre work or have worked as scriptwriters. Valentini wrote scripts at Italy's Cinecittà film studios and also acted in films by Federico Fellini, including Amarcord, another memoir of a youth in Italy. Shanahan concluded that "few other books originally published in English come close to describing the way of life of the Italian peasantry" as does Chewing Gum in Holy Water. Further praise came from a Kirkus Reviews critic who concluded, "Lively, sweetly humorous coming-of-age stories affectionately evoke a lost time and place."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Valentini, Mario, and Cheryl Hardacre, Chewing Gum in Holy Water: A Childhood in the Heart of Italy, Arcade Publishing (New York, NY), 2007.

PERIODICALS

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2007, review of Chewing Gum in Holy Water.

Quadrant, April, 2007, "A Wolf in the Snow," p. 90.

ONLINE

New Oxford Review,http://www.newoxfordreview.org/ July 12, 2007), review of Chewing Gum in Holy Water.

Notebook Magazine,http://www.notebookmagazine.com/ (January 17, 2008), review of Chewing Gum in Holy Water.

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