Books: What Does “The Brady Bunch” Have to do with “The Sopranos”?

Twisted Head is a memoir
by out actor Carl Capotorto, who played Little Paulie Germani in The Sopranos (Broadway Books, $14).

And yes, it’s yet another childhood memoir, this one set in the Bronx, with yet another unfeeling, autocratic, and yet
ultimately somehow caring father, and the less memorable, long-suffering
mother.

And there’s the familiar gay sexual awakening in an era that is simultaneously
more innocent and also more mind-bogglingly cruel. There’s even the obligatory
anecdote about ordering – and being disappointed by — sea monkeys.

But if you can accept that this is all well-trod ground, these accounts of
the Capotorto family – whose name literally means “twisted head” – are well
worth reading.

Author Carl Capotorto and Sopranos castmate Edie Falco
at a book signing for
Twisted Head

Some sequences are hilarious, as when Capotorto’s father embarks on an
effort to snuff out all porn – even haranguing the customers who patronize his
pizza shop (and who are, understandably, disinclined to ever come back).
Naturally, Carl’s childhood interest in porn inevitably comes in conflict with
his father’s fanaticism, with disastrous results.

Other sequences are quite moving, as when Capotorto’s thoughtful African
American fifth grade teacher, seeing a sensitive young man being bullied by the
other boys, gives him some of the best advice he’s ever received: “You’re a
sponge,” she tells him. “You absorb everything you see and hear, and you take
it in and hold on to it. You don’t have to do that all the time. Sometimes you
can decide not to let things in, but to just let them roll off you. Did you
know that? You don’t have to let everything
in
.”

Tolstoy once wrote: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is
unhappy in its own way.” That’s another way of saying that many families – maybe
even most – are dysfunctional, possibly even downright insane. The beauty of
most childhood memoirists – who, let’s face it, tend to concentrate on Tolstoy’s
unhappy families – is that they communicate to the world, “You’re not alone! I
grew up in an insane family too – and look! I survived!”

It’s not a new message, but it’s definitely worth hearing. And in Twisted Head, Carl Capotorto tells it very
well.

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