April 1

Four Seasons in Rome


How wonderful it is when someone interprets a book for you. “Four Seasons in Rome” by Anthony Doerr was beautifully explained to my book club by a friend whose daughter had taken a creative writing course with him while they were both at Boudin College some years back. Most of us had read it as a diary about a struggling young author, who is the father of newborn twin sons, suffering from insomnia when he finally got the babies to sleep. He had won a year in Rome to write a novel, “All the Light We Do Not See,” from the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters with a stipend and a writing studio.

While dragging the children’s gear from pillow to post, Doerr saw to it that they saw all the sights as he observed the architecture of the eternal city and absorbed its history. His wife had her share of frustrations, too, moving from Boise, Idaho, to the splendor and frustration of something so un-American.

The light of Rome was frequently referred to by the presenter, as were the swallows, the granite obelisk, and the pantheon, of which Doerr said, “Your mind caved in when you saw it.”

Rome was so old to the 31-year-old new father, who exposed his two young boys, Henry and Owen, to the sunflowers in Umbria every Wednesday and accompanied them to the largest funeral in the world when Pope John Paul II died.

He reads the chroniclers of Rome, Dante, Keats, and Pliny. His words are pretty poetic, too, as he writes about “the throat of a street,” “a church floats,” and “Rome is a gown with a strap down – not all put together.” In Doerr’s words, “Without the habit of beauty, we would be overwhelmed.” He is a very spiritual writer who knows how to turn a phrase.

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