cover image Crossing Ocean Parkway

Crossing Ocean Parkway

Marianna De Marco Torgovnick. University of Chicago Press, $22.5 (187pp) ISBN 978-0-226-80829-1

Torgovnick, a professor of English at Duke University, grew up in Brooklyn, New York's heavily Italian Bensonhurst neighborhood, but she crossed the Ocean Parkway boundary to marry Stu Torgovnick, a Jew from Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay. Her lucid, loosely linked essays, some personal, others more literary, concern such crossings. ``On Being White, Female and Born in Bensonhurst'' takes off from the 1989 racially motivated Bensonhurst killing of African American Yusuf Hawkins to explore the ``simultaneously choking and nutritive power'' of the writer's roots. ``Slasher Stories'' thoughtfully connects the tales of violence against victimized women, often found in women's magazines, with some of Torgovnick's moments under threat or at a loss as mother and teacher. Surprisingly, the feminist author offers a compassionate reading of the seemingly sexist and racist Dr. Dolittle series and defends Mario Puzo's The Godfather as a serious novel. Perhaps Torgovnick's best mix of personal and professional is her critique of Camille Paglia, suggesting that the critic's spiritual ``hollowness'' comes from her internalization of ``the way Italian Americans are trained to think about women''-i.e., that ``woman can be good, but men are always better.'' (Oct.)