Diogo Mainardi translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa

The Fall

A Father's Memoir in 424 Steps

Publication Date: Oct 07, 2014

160 pp


List Price US $20.00
Trim Size (H x W): 4.5 x 7
ISBN: 9781590517000


List Price US $20.00
ISBN: 9781590517017

The Fall is a memoir like no other. It is a celebration of love, an homage to a courageous child, and an honest look at the ways beauty and art can be deceptive forces in our lives.

 The Fall is made up of 424 short passages. This is the number of steps taken by Diogo Mainardi’s son Tito as he walks, with great difficulty, alongside his father through Venice to the beautiful Lombardo Renaissance Hospital, where a medical mishap during Tito’s birth left him with cerebral palsy.

As they make their way toward the place where their lives changed forever, Mainardi draws on his knowledge of art history and culture to try to explain a misfortune that could have been avoided. From Marcel Proust to Neil Young, Sigmund Freud to Humpty Dumpty, Renaissance Venice to Auschwitz, he charts the trajectory of the Western world, with Tito at its center.


Excerpt from The Fall

Tito has cerebral palsy.

I blame Tito’s cerebral palsy on Pietro Lombardo. In 1489, Pietro Lombardo designed the Scuola Grande di San Marco. And it was the Scuola Grande di San Marco designed by Pietro Lombardo that brought about Tito’s cerebral palsy.

On September 30, 2000, my wife and I set off for Venice Hospital in Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Our son would be born that day. My wife’s name: Anna. Our son’s name: yes, that’s right, Tito. When we reached Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, next to the statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni, Anna said: “I’m really worried about the birth.” She had expressed the same fear in previous weeks, because Venice Hospital, now looming before us, was known for its medical errors. I studied its façade for a moment. Venice Hospital moved into the Scuola Grande di San Marco in 1808. The façade, designed by Pietro Lombardo in 1489, became the hospital’s main entrance. I said: “With a façade like that, I could even accept having a deformed child.”

“Genius…Each of the text’s 424 fragmentary entries exemplifies the wild, illogical path the mind takes on the way to getting a grip, or to losing one…Mainardi has crafted a masterly work in the best memoir tradition, placing emphasis less on what happened than on what he (and therefore we) can perceive because it happened.” —The New York Times Book Review

Odd and enchanting…Paternal rage, fear, guilt, and joy suffuse every page…Any parent of a child with or without a disability will appreciate [The Fall‘s] eloquence.” —The Boston Globe

“A new way to think about imperfection, expectation, exaltation, and love.” — NPR, Weekend Edition Saturday

“A heartbreaking, brain-expanding hymn of love by a father for his son.” —Oprah.com

“Masterfully written…A singularly compelling memoir.” —Kirkus (starred review)

“Mainardi creates a particular journey into the universe of his mind, directed by his son.” —Publishers Weekly

“Mainardi…picks the world up and erects it as a monument of meaning to his own son.” —Financial Times

“[I]ndelible…This poetic and unsentimental memoir shines with a father’s love and a child’s indomitable spirit.” —BBC.com

“Heartbreaking, astonishing and wise, Mainardi’s telling of Tito’s story is not to be missed.” —Book Reporter

“[O]riginal, defying common precepts of what the reader believes he is reading.” —CounterPunch Weekend Edition

“[A] beautiful book.” —Tweed’s Book Blog

The Fall is a mercurial and enriching walk through ‘off-script’ fatherhood, cerebral palsy, art history, and this commonplace mystery, love. The Fall is wise and kind and moving.” —David Mitchell, best-selling author of Cloud Atlas

“A wise and unsentimental description of what it is like to be parent to a child with cerebral palsy—an episodic portrait of a very intimate paternal journey.” —Andrew Solomon, National Book Award–winning author of Far from the Tree and The Noonday Demon

“Fathering a disabled child, like the plaza outside the Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo to which Diogo Mainardi consistently returns, is uneven terrain. In The Fall, Mainardi traverses that terrain in 424 lucid, deeply arresting steps.” —Ron Suskind, Pultizer Prize–winning journalist and author of Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism.

The Fall, Diogo Mainardi’s remarkable celebration of his son Tito, who was born with cerebral palsy because of a doctor’s negligence, is intensely moving, rational, literate, and an absolute joy to read from start to finish.” —John Berendt, New York Times best-selling author of Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil and The City of Falling Angels

The Fall is a moving portrait of a relationship with a child and a place.  It is a rare book; by turns heartbreaking, angry, and lyrical.” —Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare with Amber Eyes

“[The Fall] will intrigue, delight and surprise you.” —BLOOM Blog

The Fall connects the disparate, and what results is an artful collage of acceptance, growth and appreciation.” —Sacramento News & Reviews

“[E]nthralling…a stirring reminder of how much a fallacy ‘inferiority’ is.” —The Jersey Journal

“Prose poetry without pretension, parenting heartbreak and redemption, history, psychology, physiology, art, architecture—there is so much to love in Mainardi’s deceptively sparse memoir. Share The Fall with the parents in your life, absolutely, but also with any human being who enjoys an honest story.” —Kirsten Jennings, Bookbug (Kalamazoo, MI)

“[A]n astonishing portrait of a parent’s love. This is a tell-everyone-you-know-to-read-it book.”—Stephen Sparks, Green Apple Books (San Francisco, CA)

“This is a potent prayer from a father to a son, from a father to his new god, this firstborn son with cerebral palsy. It is a gorgeous love letter, comforting and dismaying as any psalm.” —Veronica Brooks-Sigler, Octavia Books (New Orleans, LA)

“Other Press has done it again. What a fabulously intricate and idiosyncratic memoir. And what a gift to readers who, but for this book, could not conceive a parent so ferociously loving—and continually delighting in—his disabled child.” —Elizabeth Alexander, University Book Store (Seattle, WA)

“[B]y turns angry, loving and poetic… Diogo [Mainardi] ruminates about art history, philosophy, literature, and what it is to love someone unconditionally, through every tribulation that arises, and at whatever cost.” —Conrad Silverberg, Boswell Book Company, (Milwaukee, WI)

“[A] breathtaking and heartbreaking collage. … I have not read a book that has moved me and surprised me this much in years.” —Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore (Richmond, VA)

The Fall is a poignant and frequently humorous meditation on love and fate. Recommended for anyone who loves a child with special needs. A small gem.” — Bill Greene, Penn Book Center (Philadelphia, PA)

“This little book is all about a father’s love. His son has cerebral palsy, and each short entry takes us on a journey, of understanding, of life. It will draw you in and give you hope. All you have to do is see Tito’s smile and you will fall in love too.” —Percy Sutton, Brown Bookstore (Providence, RI)

The Fall is one of the most moving books I’ve ever read.  Encompassing art, architecture, and the complexities of parenthood, this is a true gem of a book. In a style reminiscent of John Berger’s spare, art-infused, humanist prose, Mainardi elucidates on coping with his son’s cerebral palsy and his own misconceptions of beauty.” —Lauren Gallagher, Spoonbill & Sugartown (Brooklyn, NY)

1. On page 1 Mainardi writes, “I blame Tito’s cerebral palsy on Pietro Lombardo.” Who else does he blame? Who does he not blame? Why do you think this is?

2. Why does Mainardi look to art to recount his relationship with Tito? How does Mainardi’s relationship with art change as he raises Tito, and why does this change occur? Where does he place Tito in relation to art?

3. How does Mainardi’s use of repetition and emphasis work to form a narrative and build meaning or significance? (See p 47: “Biological enemies. Biologische Feinde. Only ‘racial hygiene’ could eliminate the ‘biological enemies’ contaminating the Third Reich. Racial hygiene. Rassenhygiene.)

4. Mainardi refers again and again to John Ruskin (see pp 7–9, 56, 118). Is Mainardi writing back to or responding to Ruskin? Mainardi tells us that John Ruskin “handed [him] all the necessary clues for interpreting the architecture of Pietro Lombardo” (p 7), and that Ruskin praised Pietro Lombardo for his ability to acquire knowledge “without stooping, … without pains” (p 57). Is the knowledge in The Fall “reach[ed] without pains”? What does this say about the ways in which we acquire knowledge and about the power of acquired knowledge?

5. Describe the relationship between John Ruskin’s The Fall and this memoir.

6. Compare Jacopo Tintoretto (pp 20–21) to Rembrandt (p 117). How do each relate to the “Pride of Art” (p 22)?

7. Who are the historical figures Mainardi praises as heroes and who are the ones he disparages?

8. Describe the ways in which Tito’s cerebral palsy works as a kind of theory through which Mainardi interprets the world in The Fall.

9. Mainardi makes a number of surprising comparisons (“In the case we brought against Venice Hospital, we had—just like those Third Reich economists—to add up all the money spent on Tito’s cerebral palsy” p 137; “Jesus Christ, like Josef Mengele” p 154). Why does he do this? What effect do these comparisons have?

10. Mainardi describes how Shakespeare and Joyce use disability in their works as a metaphor for social ills. How is disability treated in The Fall?