Q&A with Pellegrino D'Acierno, author of "The Fat Man Arpeggios"

Pellegrino D'Acierno will be joining us at Book Culture on 112th Street on May 19th, for a discussion of his new book, The Fat man Arpeggios. In the meantime, check out our Q&A with him!

1. How did you come to write Fat Man Arpeggios? 

I am unsure of where the Arpeggios have come from and regard them as mysterious gifts — whether from unknown muses (if they still exist) or from a madness that has wreaked havoc on my scriptural persona as a writer of critical and hermeneutic prose. I am no longer sure of whether the Fat Man, ostensibly my poetic persona, is my alter ego or vice versa. What I am sure of is that poetry has come to me as a result of wrestling with the oxymoronic and rambunctious trope of the Fat Man —a metaphysical dandy, “foolosopher,” and Zen master manqué incapable of returning to silence — who voices, through the lightness of arpeggios, his existential and amorous dilemmas and his attempt to liberate himself from the gravity of the “fat mind.”

2. What are you currently reading?

I have come upon the brilliant novels of Elena Ferrante, who has become a worldwide literary sensation. I am currently reading her quartet of Neapolitan novels, a compelling account of the politics of friendship between two women as they evolve from childhood schoolmates into strong women. 

3. Do you have a personal favorite book of all time? If so, can you share it and tell us why? 

Of the classics, my professional and personal favorite is Dante’s Divina Commedia, because it is such a challenging and consciousness-raising text and also because of the exquisite last line of “Paradiso” that is a summa of cosmic being-toward--love: “… l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle“ (“… the Love that moves the sun and the other stars”).  Of the canonical modernist texts, my favorites are Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.  Of the canonical  postmodernist texts, my favorite is Calvino’s meta-/hyper-/anti-novel If on a winter's night a traveler.  Of the canonical philosophical works, my best loved are Vico’s New Science and Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. With respect to poetry, the enigmatic works of Wallace Stevens, Giuseppe Ungaretti, and Eugenio Montale have shown me the way to poetry by making the limits of language tremble. 

4. Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to the publication of?

I especially look forward to the publication of books by friends, colleagues and former students. I am now enthusiastically awaiting the publications of Zero K and the as yet untitled new book by Frank Lentricchia, who read riveting excerpts from it at his recent presentation at Book Culture and which I hope he will title The Big Nothing.   

5. What’s next? Any upcoming book projects in the works that you can tell us about?

I am now readying for publication a new book of poetry — Thirteen Ways of Crossing the Piazza. They are Roman poems set in the Piazza Navona that stage a fundamental encounter with both Rome and Italy, one that involves writing/desiring Italy. If you have experienced a bout of Roman fever, they should speak to you directly.


In The Fat Man Arpeggios, Pellegrino D'Acierno presents a ludic portrait of the Fat Man -- a metaphysical dandy and “foolosopher” -- who voices, through the lightness of arpeggios, his existential and amorous dilemmas.

Pellegrino D’Acierno is Professor of Comparative Literature at Hofstra University, where he has been honored to serve as the inaugural Queensboro Unico Distinguished Professor of Italian and Italian American Studies. The chair marks the culmination of his career-long attempt to render Italian texts central to the curriculum of the American university.