Sunday, October 15, 2017

Birthday Book of the Day: “Italians have a little joke, that the world is so hard a man must have two fathers to look after him, and that's why they have godfathers.”

Mario Gianluigi Puzo, one of twelve born to immigrants from Campania, was an improbable literary genius who saw his books completed swallowed by their movies.

He served as a military PT man after World War II, wrote mafia stories for magazines like True Action, Swank, and Male, and at 45 was a government clerk with a family and kids and two unsuccessful novels.

He cobbled together bits of dialogue from his family and the New York Streets, and anecdotes from his magazine days, and outlined a novel about a Dostoevskian crime family, The Godfather.  A publisher took it unwritten. Puzo, an unknown author, got a $5,000 advance; by the time the paperback and movie rights were sold, he was a millionaire.

The book was a bestseller for months and its Hemingwayesque style seized the popular imagination. Phrases from it are in common use today.

Uncommonly for a writer, Puzo segued easily into screenwriting and produced all three Godfather scripts. He did two Superman scripts, and, departing from his usual line of turf, that of The Cotton Club.

Late in life, Puzo went back to the well twice more, leaving behind two more Godfather novels. The were published posthumously, and the critics savaged them. 

They sold well anyway.

Today is Mario Puzo's 97th birthday.

Puzo, Mario, The Godfather (London: Heinemann, 1st ed, 3rd printing, 1969). ISBN 434-60491-7. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket. Slight wear around dust jacket edges, otherwise in very good condition. Octavo, 446 pp. HBB price: $150 obo.


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