Anthony DiRenzo

Anthony DiRenzo

Professor, Department of Writing
Faculty, School of Humanities and Sciences

After the Fair is Over

Set during the Statue of Liberty’s centennial year, After the Fair is Over satirizes Italian history, the American Dream, and the U.S. auto industry. Parodying Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, its parallel narrative intersects the lives of two Italian American car dealers rather than two classical statesmen:

SUNY Press is considering this historical novel for its Excelsior Editions series. While the book contains early scenes set in nineteenth-century Sicily, its action mostly takes place in Syracuse, New York, from 1900 to 1986. Please read the synopsis and sample the excerpts posted on this website.

Synopsis

A recent immigrant from Villabate, Sicily, a suburb of Palermo known for its fine carriages, 21-year old Attilio Tumeo covers the 1901 Buffalo Pan-American Exposition for Il Risveglio Coloniale, Syracuse’s Italian American newspaper. Inspired by the car exhibits in the Pan American’s Machinery and Transportation Building, the young man joins the fledgling Franklin Automobile Company, which quickly becomes America’s fifth largest car manufacturer.

Prospering through investments, Don Attilio opens two restaurants and an import firm and becomes a major business figure not only on the North Side, Syracuse’s Little Italy, but throughout Central and Western New York, until the Depression bankrupts him. During the postwar boom, he tries to recapture his fortune by designing the Garibaldi, a red sports car named after the liberator of Sicily, but fails to find backing. For his efforts, however, the Italian government awards him a humanitarian title.

Now retired, Commendatore Tumeo is passionate car buff and Lee Iacocca’s biggest fan. Ever since the launch of the Ford Mustang at the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens, Don Attilio has followed Iacocca’s career in Detroit. When the newly appointed Chrysler chairman holds his first stockholders meeting in Syracuse on May 15, 1979, the Sicilian American merchant prince entertains the Guest of Honor. Seven years later, he cheers his hero’s efforts to restore the corroded Statue of Liberty and hopes to see the project completed before his 105th birthday.

Despite poverty, illness, and familial strife, the spry centenarian still believes in the free-enterprise system. Only in America, he proclaims to anyone who will listen, could an Italian kid from Allentown, Pennsylvania rise to the top of the corporate ladder and be considered a dark-horse candidate for the White House. Does Don Attilio understand his adopted country in a way his embittered daughter and caretaker Luisa cannot or is his faith misplaced? Wrestling with these questions, After the Fair is Over chronicles the heartbreak and absurdities of assimilation and challenges our society’s conventional understanding of success and failure.

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