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the Complete Review
the complete review - dialogue

La cazzaria:
The Book of the Prick

Antonio Vignali

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To purchase La cazzaria: The Book of the Prick

Title: La cazzaria: The Book of the Prick
Author: Antonio Vignali
Genre: Dialogue
Written: 1525 (Eng. 2003)
Length: 164 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: La cazzaria: The Book of the Prick - US
La cazzaria: The Book of the Prick - UK
La cazzaria: The Book of the Prick - Canada
La cazzaria - Deutschland
  • Edited, translated, and with an Introduction by Ian Frederick Moulton

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Our Assessment:

B- : somewhat amusing historical curiosity

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The New Yorker . 8/12/2003 Judith Thurman
VLS . Spring/2003 Angela Startita

  From the Reviews:
  • "His exemplary introduction is nearly as long as the text itself and twice as worthwhile. (...) It would be satisfying, if only for the worthy Moultonís sake, to report that La Cazzaria is a masterpiece rescued from obscurity by a feat of heroic exegesis, but, even making allowances for the nuances inevitably lost in translation, a masterpiece is something shapelier and more solid than an extended riff, however much fun it is. Vignaliís antic prose staggers in and out of coherence like a student video ad-libbed as it is shot, and it also reminded me of the scatological graffiti, most of it in Latin, that one finds in the catacombs of Roman churches" - Judith Thurman, The New Yorker

  • "Vignali's dialogue wasn't meant as straightforward pornography but as a text about the Sienese body politic and the politics of the body -- a peculiarly anthropomorphized vision of genitalia and the men and women who operate them." - Angela Startita, Voice Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       La cazzaria is an explicit 16th century Italian dialogue, now available in what is apparently the first serious English translation. (Ian Frederick Moulton mentions two possible previous translations, from 1968 -- The Love Academy, by Rudolphe Schleifer, and Dialogue on Diddling, by Samuel Putnam -- but claims: "These editions did not circulate widely, nor if their titles are any indication, were they very accurate translations." Moulton was apparently unable to find any copies.)
       Moulton's useful introduction isn't much shorter than the dialogue itself, and provides a good introduction to this unusual text and it's author.
       Moulton explains the title (and his attempts at rendering it in English):

it comes from the Italian word cazzo, a slang term for "penis." (...) The closest English rendering is probably "cockery" -- but that is too close to "cookery" to be useful in translation. "Prickery" might work, but it lacks the specificity of the Italian word. ZIn English, "prick" is a word with many possible meanings; in Italian "cazzo can mean only one thing.
       So La cazzaria is, indeed, a book about the male genitalia -- and specifically where it might be put. As much attention is lavished on two of the primary orifices where it might be pleasurably introduced (oral sex, however, isn't closely considered) as the prick itself.
       The book is in the form of a dialogue, with Arsiccio doing most of the explaining and Sodo mainly asking questions. It isn't quite a sex manual, but it does offer answers to many questions about sex and related issues -- though the responses to questions such as 'Why the Crotch is Hairy' or 'Why Women Have Periods' (as well as an explanation why women make small steps) are definitely not textbook answers (they are creative but generally very misguided).
       Most of the book is rough and tumble and very explicit. The vocabulary is straightforward (lots of Cocks, Cunts, Assholes, and all the fucking-variations), and there are quite graphic (if not particularly detailed) descriptions (including an unpleasant fixation on the smells in the genital areas).
       Moulton describes the book as "openly homoerotic", though it seems more obviously misogynistic. (It does not, in fact, seem at all erotic, though buggery-fans may find otherwise.) Certainly, the focus is on rear-end action, of both the same-sex and mix-and-match variety, with Arsiccio insisting women prefer it that way too.
       Among the odd preoccupations is also one with the voluminous capacity of the uniquely female orifice -- which Arsiccio insists makes for little pleasure for men and insatiable female appetites for filling it with inordinately large objects. But Vignali was clearly not a fan, speaking -- when not using the four-letter word -- of it as "a profound abyss and horrible cavern, their dishonorable pit and dark ditch".
       Among the odd digressions is also one on 'Why No One Today Has Profound Knowledge', complaining about the lack of scholarship and interest in learning of the time -- some of which is more interesting than the sexual ramblings.

       La cazzaria is an occasionally interesting text, and it certainly has its moments of humour. While some explanations are amusing in their creativity (so, for example, 'Why We Kiss with the Tongue when Fucking' -- though it's a borrowed idea), many are entirely harebrained. The dialogue moves along unevenly, though there is some order to it (but not quite enough). Not focussing enough on either explanation or eroticism it's a muddled piece of work
       Moulton's useful introduction and endnotes help explain many of the allusions and provide a good background for the text, and the book as a whole is interesting as a historical document. It's sheer oddity also makes it of some interest, but it does not impress particularly either as literature or as pornography.

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La cazzaria: The Book of the Prick: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian author Antonio Vignali lived 1500 to 1559.

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© 2003-2021 the complete review

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