Venice and Other Temporary Places

Gondolas in Early Morning, Venice, 2005 The copy of John Berendt’s “The City of Fallen Angels” that Heather gave me is water-logged. It looks as though it made it here by water taxi.

The book, which I am halfway through, wanders through this old city, meeting real Venetians and asking them: “How do you feel about Venice?” It’s a series of snapshots of the real people who live there.

Berendt admits that there’s no point writing another book about Venice– every kind of history, travelogue, commentary has been said and repeated about this melancholy place.

Why do I like this book, then, so much? Something to do with what it is doing to me.

This book didn’t get nearly the attention that Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” did back in 1995. I suppose that might be because critics and readers, alike, feel bored with done subjects in “discovered” places. Sort of the way we feel instantly bored at seeing The Mona Lisa in the Louvre. Hours of flights, trains,walking to get to this place and what should we expect to feel?

Venice hides itself away from us, as foreign tourists who scuffle around heads down, in the twisting calle.  Even if you stand on a bridge and stare at its beauty, thinking, “Here I am! In VENICE!” there is no admission ticket to this city, if you don’t belong to it.

Being a tourist so often has made me realize what it means to be home, to belong somewhere, to be a part of the human machinery that makes a place as corrupt as it is beautiful.

Tourists flock to places like London, Venice, Paris, Salzburg, New York. They can pass through and even “experience” these places, but like Berendt (writing from is converted palazzo storage room), it is really only like licking the outside window of a truly fantastic restaurant.

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Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She teaches and speaks about the rhetorical impact of beautiful writing. A recent transplant to Connecticut, she calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home.