Photo by the bbp used under a Creative Commons license.
Tim Parks, A Season With Verona (Arcade, 2003).
Parks, an English writer, had lived in Verona for two decades when he decided to spend a season following Hellas Verona, the city’s team in Serie A, the top flight of Italian professional soccer (or football, as you prefer). Previously a serious fan, Parks heightened his commitment by joining the small crew of zealots who follow the team to all of its away games. A sharp observer of Italy, Parks uses football as a window on many facets of Italian life — cultural, economic, political. Those who care less for soccer will enjoy this book less than I did, but I liked it quite a bit.
Here is Parks’s website. Here is a brief bio. The New York Times provides the first chapter, albeit with some coding glitches. Google Books lets you take a look. Parks incorporated the material in this 2001 column into the book. Chris Rose (Spike) says it is consistently provocative, intelligent and funny. Chris Maume (The Independent) says Parks tackles the Italian dichotomies between peity and profanity, right and left, fat-cat north and yokel south. Martin Matusiak, clearly a soccer fan, recommends it only for fans of Serie A. Harry particularly liked Parks’ account of a bus-ride to Bari for an away game. Jesse Berrett says it gives you a truly deep sense of how Italianness intertwines with soccer culture, particularly the regional rivalries and endless fatalism of the people. Inge lauds its insight into the intricacies of Italian football and its place in the Italian psyche. Robert MacFarlane (The Observer) calls it addictive reading, for its acute cultural criticism, for Parks’s ability to evoke the ‘choral pandemonium’ of live football, and for its brilliant narrative rhythm. Leslie Myers says it is part travelogue and part psychological study of the culture of being a fan of Serie A. Via Myers, here is the transcript of an interview of Parks by ABC’s Amanda Smith. Robert Winder (The New Statesman) thinks Parks balances the literary and the football adroitly. Vera Marie Badertscher says Parks captures the ferocity of soccer fans and provides a vocabulary lesson you won’t get at a school. Russell Davies (The Telegraph) thinks Parks has gone native. Michael Veseth liked Parks’s descriptions of political and economic facets of soccer (scroll down). Mando recommends it, as does Vadim. Dr Zen read it and would like to live in Italy.