That Feeling In The Pit Of Your Stomach

Pictured above: George DeStefano’s book; James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano; and Al Capp’s Fearless Fosdick (Fosdick image ©1952 United Features Syndicate)
As evidenced by last Sunday’s episode of The Sopranos, New Jersey Mafia boss Tony Soprano has at least one thing in common with legendary cartoonist Al Capp‘s crimefighting Fearless Fosdick: they can both have big holes blown in their stomachs and live to tell the tale.

True, James Gandolfini‘s character has had a closer call this season than Fosdick ever did, hovering with dangerous ambivalence during his coma’s closing moments at the threshold of an enticingly lit "reunion party" where his dead mother and everyone he ever murdered were no doubt waiting to yell "Surprise!" if he stepped through the door—accompanied I’m sure by Nate Fisher, his dad, and five seasons’ worth of the precipitously killed extras from Six Feet Under.

But Tony has baggage (in the form of a metaphorical briefcase) from his life on planet Earth that he isn’t yet ready to turn loose of, and so he steps back from the unseen revelers and instead returns to the hospital where Carmela, the kids, and the extended Soprano "family" are holding vigil over his betubed corporteal self. So I gather that we will all be graced with his company for a few episodes more.

Since Gandolini is the uncontested star of the series, his character’s survival comes as no big surprise, but that didn’t keep me from vicariously experiencing my most harrowing hospital stay since my double-hernia surgery several years ago. I mean, poke around in my groin if you have to, but please don’t ever let me look down and see a hole in my belly as gory as the one Tony Soprano was sporting for a while!

Mob dramas awash in bloodletting have always been a hard sell for me — weak-kneed, violence-hating wimp that I am — so I avoided The Sopranos when the first wave of hooplah hit and continued to abstain until the third season, when I made the mistake of watching one episode and was quickly hooked by the intriguing characters illuminated by uncommonly incisive writing. Everyone else in America was already ahead of me, of course. That’s the story of my life; I was late in appreciating rock & roll, too.

Anyway, now that I’ve joined the Sopranos-loving masses and rented all of the DVDs to catch up on the shows I originally missed while suffering through the long drought leading up to this HBO season’s new, reportedly final bunch of episodes, I’m so pleased that my longtime friend George DeStefano has written An Offer We Can’t Refuse: The Mafia in the Mind of America.

While a lot of the mob movies George writes about with clarity and obvious insight I never saw and probably never will (yes, I saw the Godfather flicks and GoodFellas many years ago, but otherwise I’m largely a stranger to the films whose themes my pal explores), George’s chapters about The Sopranos pulled me right in.

It’s like batting reactions back and forth with a really smart college friend in the dorm, when you both should be studying but when both your heads are too full of ideas about a cool show you’ve just seen to crack the books. George offers a mix of intellectual analysis, occasional critical caveats, but more often straight-out grooving on the moments and characters he and I both dig. Good stuff to shoot the bull about after the spilled blood has clotted.

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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0 Responses to That Feeling In The Pit Of Your Stomach

  1. grady says:

    I haven’t seen the Sopranos, and probably won’t since HBO is beyond my means. Also, don’t much care for high notes. However, if they put on a series called “The Baritone/Basses” I might bite the bullet and watch, especially if the guns are made of meat and the bullets fluid.
    g