Talk about timing.
Just as Elizabeth Gilbert announced her final bow from the “Eat, Pray, Love” spotlight, Luca Spaghetti made his entrance, rescuing scores of Gilberites pining for more of the self-exploratory-chick-lit-travelogue genre Ms. Gilbert made so popular.
In “Un Amico Italiano: Eat, Pray, Love, in Rome,” author Luca Spaghetti of EPL fame offers up a second helping of the "eat" in “Eat, Pray, Love.” This is memoir at its giddy, self-indulgent best. Mr. Spaghetti (yes, that’s his real name, as delightedly described by Gilbert in “Eat, Pray, Love”) breathlessly recounts his story…. of being in Gilbert’s story.
“It was a very strange feeling to read about myself in that book,” he writes. “I didn’t know if that was really me; I recognized myself – no question – but it felt strange, as if I were watching myself from outside.”
Spaghetti’s own story begins in September 2003 with an email he received from an American friend: “A friend from university is about to move to Rome for three months. She’ll contact you. She’s a writer and her name is Elizabeth Gilbert.”
He traces the same narrative that Gilbert weaves in the Italian section of her book – the soccer games and scooter rides, the boozy meals, and American Thanksgiving – albeit with a bit less (okay, a lot less) grace than Gilbert (he is a tax accountant, after all). It’s a fun, if slightly amateurish, replay of “Eat, Pray, Love.”
Knowing that Americans always love to hear what outsiders think of them and of America, Spaghetti turns the table and offers his impressions our country (he’s visited about 10 times and says he’s in love with it). He takes us with him on an Amtrak ride across the country (during which he survives almost entirely on very bad pepperoni pizza), attends a Yankees game, and muses about the American fare served with a side of novelty in Hooters (“immense, savage rotundities were swelling and pressing to explode from their necklines,” he writes).
Fittingly, the only two blurbs on the book’s front and back covers are from Gilbert herself. “Luca Spaghetti is not only one of my favorite people in the world, but also a natural-born storyteller,” she enthuses. “This [is a] marvelous book.”
“Marvelous,” is perhaps, generous, according to most reviewers, but “Un Amico Italiano” is still a fun, light, unpretentious, spin-off. As the New York Times put it in its Sunday Magazine, “It’s just: Hey world, this crazy thing happened where someone put me in a book – so here’s my story! Pasta, pasta, pasta!”
We’re guessing most EPL fans will be thrilled to have a second helping.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.