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August 01, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

ITALIAN NEIGHBORS, or A LAPSED ANGLO-SAXON IN VERONA by Tim Parks (Fawcett: $10; 272 pp.). British novelist Tim Parks recounts how he and his wife learned to cope with life in a small Italian town in this lively tale of cultural acclimatization. Noting, "There is no one characteristic which makes Montecchio Montecchio, Italy Italy or Italians Italian. And yet, as in any place, the slow accumulation of details does gradually form a sort of mesh or matrix," Parks gradually finds his place within that matrix: He savors the local food and wine, copes with the eccentricities of his neighbors and revels in the changing seasons in the Veneto. He also battles the corruption and general inefficiency of the Italian government, but maintains a bemused sang-froid that distinguishes his tale from the snobbish complaints and gushing paeans in other travel books.

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