I just returned from a wonderful trip to the beach. It was great to have the time to actually read articles from the New Yorker (and not just glance at the cartoons) and watch complete dvd's in one sitting. I brought along a Carl Hiaasen book thinking its Florida setting would make it great beach reading, but I found it was far to frenetic for the relaxed experience we were having.
A much better choice was the non-fiction book I brought along: John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels. This book is a wonderfully slow-paced study of the colorful characters, exuberant lifestyles and majestic architecture of the Italian city of Venice. A major theme of the book was the fire that destroyed the Fenice, the grand opera house of Venice. These sections are a true-life mystery with heroes and villains, mafia connections and construction workers, destruction and rebirth--all a part of the grand drama that is life in Venice. Other sections of the book address famous and infamous Venice residents. The legacy of Ezra Pound is followed through the lives of the friends and family scrapping about his place in history. Another major figure is art collector Peggy Guggenheim whose palace on the Grand Canal is now a major museum. Many other characters are discussed, but the real star of the book is the city itself. Berendt captures the juxtaposition of grandeur and decay that make Venice one of the very few truly unique cities in the world. (945 B)