American English, Italian Chocolate is a memoir in
essays beginning in the American Midwest and ending in north
central Italy. In sharply rendered vignettes, Rick Bailey reflects
on donuts and ducks, horses and car crashes, outhouses and
EKGs. He travels all night from Michigan to New Jersey to
attend the funeral of a college friend. After a vertiginous climb,
he staggers in clogs across the top of the Leaning Tower of
Pisa. In a trattoria in the hills above the Adriatic, he ruminates
on the history and glories of beans, from Pythagoras to Thoreau,
from the Saginaw valley to the Province of Urbino. Bailey is
a bumbling extra in a college production of Richard III. He is a
college professor losing touch with a female student whose life is
threatened by her husband. He is a father tasting samples of his
daughter's wedding cake. He is a son witnessing his aging parents'
decline. He is the husband of an Italian immigrant who takes him
places he never imagined visiting, let alone making his own.
At times humorous, at times bittersweet, Bailey's ultimate subject
is growing and knowing, finding the surprise and the sublime in the
ordinary detail of daily life.