Sal Pane gleefully bounds back and forth across two continents over the course of a century to portray a breadth of Italian American experiences in stories that are funny, triumphant, and beautifully sad. This book is a showcase for his ability to bend form to his will in service of complex, mature emotions. And Pane’s characters are searchers; in these stories he captures that powerful mix of grief and exhilaration that comes in the moment of leaving home and all the moments afterwards when someone chooses to stay gone. It’s also a book about that oh so classically American theme: failure. The failure to connect, the failure to clearly know ourselves and our world, the failure to hold onto family and the past and the guilt that attends it. This is a fabulous story collection that taps deeply into the joy and pain, the triumph and tragedy, of anyone who is really alive.— Chris Lee
Eleven short stories following Italian characters exploring life in an era of media oversaturation.
Salvatore Pane’s The Neorealist in Winter is a collection of eleven short stories that explore what it means to be human in an age of media oversaturation. Utilizing methods of speculative, historical, and postmodern storytelling, Pane grapples with legacies of immigration, poverty, toxic masculinity, and moral failures, while focusing on working-class issues, family drama, and PTSD. Following eleven Italian narrators, Pane builds a cast of cinematic characters across disparate times and places—a struggling director attends a house party in the la dolce vita of 1960s Rome, gangsters chase a low-level lottery runner in coal valley Scranton, a woman contemplates experimental surgery to purge memories of her childhood trauma in Minnesota, and a pro wrestling promoter descends into self-denial through his autobiography.
The Neorealist in Winter was selected by Venita Blackburn as the winner of the 2022 Autumn House Fiction Prize.
About the Author
Salvatore Pane was born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He is the author of two novels, Last Call in the City of Bridges and The Theory of Almost Everything, and a book of nonfiction, Mega Man 3. His work has appeared in Indiana Review, American Short Fiction, Story Magazine, and many others. He has also written video games and graphic novels, and his textbook, Story Mode: Writing Narrative Video Games for Everyone, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury. Pane is associate professor at the University of St. Thomas and lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
"Eleven stories that cast different facets of Italian American identity in a neo-noir light. . . . A cinematic thread weaves through them, and it can feel as though scenes are written with the camera in mind, what with dramatic last-minute trains to Siena, British hand models riding in shiny cars, and deals made while picking at shrimp cocktails. . . . It’s in these stories that Pane’s sense of play is most evident, and they buoy the collection. Vivid fiction that asks how you can run from your past when it made you who you are."
“These stories ache and bend into the convex shapes of despair without necessarily pining for seasons of respite. In the scratch that is ordinary tragedy and extraordinary expectations, a light pulses in these characters filled with language for obsession, adoration, and fury.”
— Venita Blackburn, author of Black Jesus and Other Superheroes
“A wildly inventive book that’s both hilarious and heartbreaking, about the strange comforts we find in desperate moments: a man holds off his sorrows by obsessively watching Goodfellas; a son copes with his absent father via professional wrestling; a woman works through trauma by way of a talking-animal sitcom. Pane is a writer alert to all the puzzling paths that healing sometimes takes, a writer of profound insight and honesty and pure gracious human compassion.”
— Nathan Hill, author of Wellness: A Novel
“Take a breath between these thrilling stories: you’re about to meet characters on the verge of something great or calamitous, navigating a range of worlds from the hyper-real present to the sepia-toned past. Pane builds delivers each cinematic scene with deft narrative urgency and economy, blending fact and fiction in a way that feels thematically true not only to the Italian American experience, but to the harrowing experience of being alive.”
— Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men