But not for real. This is a virtual tour of a place that I would love to visit some day … well, actually, now I’m not so sure. Let me explain.
City-Pick Venice was my choice for the Blogging Event Venice in February. Real life interference means it’s has taken almost 3 months for the blog to catch up. (Which it now has, hurrah!)
Returning to City-Pick. I love this series of books but this is the first time I’ve read one pertaining to a city I’ve never visited and that made this read an experience in itself.
The book is made up of extracts from multiple books, both fiction and non-fiction which are set in Venice. Cleverly structured in chapters which comprise a virtual holiday taking the virtual visitor from Chapter 1 Arrival … by Land, Air or Sea through the city tour in Chapter 3 of Some Unmissable Places, Chapter 4 Streets Full of Water, Chapter 5 Sights, sounds smells … and that Venetian weather until finally we take some Parting (Snap) Shots in Chapter 8. There are many authors “collaborating” here, the old (Goethe with extracts from Italian Journey) and the new (Geoff Dyer with extracts from Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi). I was personally delighted to reacquaint myself with Dibdin’s Venetian detective Aurelio Zen on his home turf. Most illuminating for a ne’er-set-a-foot-or-paddle-in-Venice were the extracts from guidebooks written by Venetian authors Paolo Barbaro (Venice Revealed) and Tiziano Scarpa (Venice is a Fish)and if I ever do go there, I will be taking both of those with me.
If I ever go there? Well, a funny thing happened as I was making this virtual trip. I took up a piece of advice given by Jeanette Winterson in The Passion:
Canals hide other canals, alleyways cross and criss-cross so that you will not know which is which until you have lived here all you life. …. Leave plenty of time in your doings and be prepared to go another way, to do something not planned if that is where the streets lead you.
OK, I thought, let’s do that in a literary sense and see where the Venetian paths of my TBR lead me. So as I read my way through City-Pick, I also read Susan Hill’s novella, The Man In The Picture and Daphne Du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now. Could I have picked two more unsettling pieces? What did I learn? #1 Wisdom according to Susan Hill: do NOT allow yourself to be approached by a woman wearing a Venetian carneval mask. You may find yourself locked in the picture frame forever. #2 Wisdom according to Daphne Du Maurier do not give in to your better instincts to rush to the aid of a crying child – likelihood is it is a malevolent dwarf seeking only to take your life. Add this to #3 advice from Thomas Mann, learned many moons ago from Death In Venice: do not to eat cholera-bearing strawberries.
I’m beginning to wonder if I’d ever get out alive.
But the image that has put the real life trip to Venice on hold is this. Talking of the infamous acqua alta or high tides:
Tourists love it, take snapshots, walk about barefoot with their trousers rolled up fisherman style, and tread on invisible underwater dog-shit; there’s always one who walks blissfully on, laughing his head off and generally rejoicing, unaware that he is getting dangerously close to the edge of the submerged fondamenta, the invisible shore beneath his feet has come to an end, but he goes on dragging his ankles under the water until he misses his step and suddenly plunges into the canal.
Thank you, Tiziano Scarpa. Have you any idea how spine-chillingly terrifying that is to someone who can swim only within her depth? (All 5′ o” of it.)
City Pick Venice / The Man In The Picture / Don’t Look Now
P.S I suspect this is the beginning of an obsession with the city. I joined Pinterest to create a Virtual Venice. Have you pictures you’d like to add?
Venice is a dream, one for which it’s exceptionally easy and maybe even inevitable to develop an obsession. I’ve been baffled by how often it’s portrayed as frightening and menacing, and for that reason experienced an unusually violent dislike for the film version of Don’t Look Now (I haven’t read the novel). I’m aware that a good number of writers have portrayed the city this way, but I reject such portrayals constitutionally. I just can’t understand – except in an intellectual sense (and in a temperamental one towards which I can only feel pity) – how anyone could have that kind of response to the place, and not instead just be in a constant, heightened, overwhelming state of awe even under adverse circumstances, even in the city’s most shadowy corners. So for whatever it’s worth, I’d urge you not to put your real life trip on hold, and to wave away any foul vapors left by such mean depictions. Venice is glorious beyond comprehension.
Mc Ewan’s The Comfort of Strangers is another example in which Venice is menacing.
As the host for the Venice in February challenge I am always more than thrilled to discover people n love with Venice 🙂
I recommend Dunant’s In The Company of The Courtesan, for a Venice that you enchant you forever 🙂
I love, love, love, love, love (you get the picture) Venice and have been there three times now, most recently in February for a long weekend. I’ve got a list of Venice novels on my blog, but I can highly recommend Jeff Cotton’s Fictional Cities website for Venetian inspiration. http://www.fictionalcities.co.uk/venice.htm