Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sinking Fund

Didn’t read Berendt’s first bestseller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil¸ discouraged by the unbearably pretentious title. This one was harder to resist at the Philadelphia airport bookstore last week – promising the story of the rebuilding of the Gran Teatro La Fenice after the catastrophic fire of 1996

In fact it is a kaleidoscope (or perhaps just a mish mash) of reportage about a variety of connected and unconnected aspects of Venice and the Venetians – stories that caught his eye or his ear during a lengthy stay. The blurb on the fly leaf says Berendt is a journalist: that’s the key: his prose comes straight from Time magazine. Every subject’s clothes and hair are documented, and the contents of every room. Every conversation is meticulously transcribed – presumably a taperecorder never left his side.

The spaces, inferences between the ponderous observations are left for the reader to fill in, as he describes all the venality and vanity which present themselves to his unflustered gaze. So this more recent title turns out to be a rather unsubtle metaphor for the human descents from grace documented so carefully in its slow-turning pages.

La Fenice
The reconstruction
John Berendt

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