prospect to set we Venetophiles' pulses racing: April 2009 sees
the publication of the annual Brunetti novel from Donna Leon.
It's called About
promises a plot involving the Mafia and dubious waste disposal.
Added joy comes in the form of a book called Brunetti's
Venice: Walks Through the Novels
by Toni Sepeda also due out in April.
Everyone else is doing their year-end lists and so I've not
resisted. My best books and CDs are over on the right. And looking forward to 2009 - site favourite (and site
friend) Edward Sklepowich is swiftly following up 2008's Frail
his eighth Urbino Macintyre mystery, with The
Veils of Venice
having watched two of the episodes (mentioned below) which find
the Dorrits in Venice I must admit to disappointment. Some
exterior shots of characters crossing bridges and arriving at
'Venetian' palaces, plus our heroine passing in front of the
Madonna dell’Orto, twice, and resting in front to of San
Giorgio Maggiore is about the limit of the use of real locations.
The interiors all seem to be shot in English country houses, or
on sets looking very much like. The scene where the Merdles and
the Dorrits meet and compare their mad hair-dos in an 'art
gallery' was very obviously filmed in the long gallery of a
country mansion and the supposed interior of the Ca d'Oro looked
very Robert Adam.
Following the recent very bad flooding
in Venice, much sympathy to all of my Venice-based readers and
all those now drying out and recovering, and having to put up
with the drowned rats.
Neal Stephenson Anathem
True Blood (new
US TV series)
The Acorn Glory
bit of a bumper night on TV tonight for fans of this site's
subjects. At 8 o'clock the 9th episode in BBC1's fine 14-part
adaptation of Little
Dorrit sees the Dorrits' arrival in Venice and at 9 o'clock
on BBC4 is the first of Andrew Graham-Dixon's two one-hour
programmes devoted to Vasari. Plenty of Florence fixes in the
Books of 2008
harmonies: the Secret Life of Antonio Vivaldi
Streets of Babylon
Rebirth of Venus
Piazzas of Florence
Suspicions of Mr Whicher
- His Majesty's Dragon
really knocked my Venetian socks off this year, with Florence
having a better year. The list is chronological, and so also
reflects a year in which the early part saw swarms of suitable
books and review copies, with a distinct drying up towards the
end. This and my leaving my reading group saw me descend into
self-indulgence and available e-texts for my new Sony Reader toy,
which helped some sci-fi catch-ups and discoveries dominate the
latter part of my year.
CDs of 2008
Battle of Land and Sea
Emma Forever Ago
for a Dark Horse
of Eagles In
this time, and showing a distinct bias towards the first six
letters of the alphabet. American indie stuff, mostly. So who
cares about the plight of the big record companies? Not me. The
Verve, Elbow and Coldplay nearly made it onto the list though.
in Venetian scaffolding news...a news item in the Guardian last
week about the scaffolding on Venice's historic buildings being
covered in tacky adverts: Outrage
in Venice as giant ads smother cultural jewels It's all
to do with funding, evidently. And in better news: the
scaffolding on the Salute dome, which has been blighting one of
THE classic Venice views for years now, is partly off. Brigitte
Eckert, creator of a
fine Venice blog, in German, provides the news, and a photo -
see below right.
of my new Berlin page might like to know about a season of radio
readings of stories and excerpts on Radio Four this week,
covering the city's history from the 30's up to the
present. Click here
for details and to listen. The blurb for the season reads
authors write about the city described by Karl Scheffle in 1910
as "condemned forever to becoming and never being".
is very true but also very mystifying.
want to speak to you today about waves, and how they ebb and
flow. The early part of this year I was awash with new books to
review, and e-mails from readers of this site; but with the onset
of autumn there has been a considerable drying up of both. Oh
well. The other ebbing has been in the flow of books (and plays)
about the life of Vivaldi: five between Autumn 2007 to Spring
2008, and yet nowt these past six months. (And the planned films
seem to have gone very off the boil too.) However, the last
book that I read on the subject, and thoroughly enjoyed, has just
Four Seasons: a novel of Vivaldi's Venice
Laurel Corona. Check out this
site for sample pages and some useful background
Naomi Novik Temeraire
- His Majesty's Dragon
stuff - Neil
Young, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan...
try (sometimes successfully) to steer clear of politics on this
site, but I must just send a big Trans-Atlantic pat on the back
to all my American readers for electing a president who's full of
hope, replacing one who's been so full of... It'll take a while
for the rest of us to truly forgive and forget the George W.
years, but the time is approaching when you can travel to Europe
and hold your heads up proudly, and not pretend that you're from
Peter Ackroyd Dickens
almost complete contrast to the e-book below is the kind of book
produced by the Folio
Society. Here it's almost more important to own the book than
to read it. Almost. They are a book club, but no ordinary book
club, because their thing is that books should be things of
beauty. They produce very covetable illustrated editions of
a range of already-published books, from the classic to the
not-so-classic. I joined a few years back and let my membership
lapse so they've been bugging me ever since, but I've just
rejoined. The temptation I couldn't resist? Well rejoining got me
a book called
History of Venice in Painting,
an extremely large and plush book (not actually published by the
Society) which goes for £120 usually, but the intro offer
knocks 100 pounds off, and there's a free spiffy Folio edition of
John Julius Norwich's
thrown in too. How could I resist? For this I have to buy four of
the Society's books in the coming year. Not a hardship. Some
other books which might tempt readers of this site in these
extremely undisposable editions include
Room With a View, Brideshead Revisited,
a collection of Daphne Du Maurier short stories called
a volume of Casanova's memoirs.
Department Of Eagles
a bit of a gadget lover I've had my eye on e-book readers for a
while. My heart has been moved somewhat but my head has always
had its doubts, so my credit card has been untroubled. Until now.
I've just bought a Sony PRS-505 Portable Reader System. It's a
lovely thing: well designed, with page-turning buttons in just
the right places (just above the bottom of the 'crease' and half
way up the right-hand edge) and the screen is very, well,
paper-like. The battery lasts forever, too, as power is only used
when you turn a page. Arguments about whether such things will
replace real books miss the point, I think. This being that
e-book readers serve subtly different purposes. There are times
when one wants to read downloaded or e-mailed text files, times
when you want to travel light and have a large choice of reading
matter, and the free files on Project
Gutenberg means an e-reader owner never has to worry about
which edition of a classic to buy (except where the thorny issue
of different translations arises). Other advantages I've found
this past week is being able to have the 'book' open resting on a
lap or table and also being able to truly read one-handed.
Useful when eating a doughnut with the other hand, a situation
that can often otherwise lead to greasy pages.
James's testicles. Not a subject I've dealt with before, but an
article in yesterday's Guardian posits that an injury that he
sustained in this area may answer some questions about his
sexuality. There's been much conjecture about whether James was a
closet homosexual, asexual or just plain scared of consummation.
(His treatment of Constance
Fennimore Woolson provides material for all three theories.)
He writes of the intimate injury too in such an obtuse
late-Jamesian way that we're not even sure what the injury was.
narrator, following his crucial moment of amatory cowardice,
finds himself staring up at the Colleoni statue in Campo San
Zanipolo. The point here being that the famous mercenary was
known, it seems, to have had three testicles, a fact he even
proclaimed on his coat of arms, with its representation of three
The implication that the narrator of the novella 'didn't have the
balls' is thereby maybe also applicable to James himself.
Interesting also that two such non-consummatory types as as James
and Ruskin should feel so drawn to a city associated with
Casanova and Byron, and become equally associated with it in our
safe, mosquito bites itching, I've done a final sprucing of the
trip page and have starting doing improving things to my
churches site. Normality returns. Sigh!
have wi-fi! With apologies if you've been dropping by and hoping
to read about my adventures this past couple of days. There is
now some content, as we say, and all is
beckons, and I'm up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to catch an
Easyjet. I hope to be posting daily bulletins on my
2008 Venice Trip page.
to keep up with all the latest gen on important stuff like ice
cream, cats, scaffolding and cakes, you know where to look.
vaguely Turneresque painting is called Venice,
it's by one James Holland, and
comes courtesy of the
Manchester Art Gallery. But where does it represent
Sinclair, like Peter Ackroyd, sometimes writes prose which puts
literary style way above content, and to accuse them of a
tendency to fluffy overwriting is a big understatement. So it
gives me joy to report that an article
by Sinclair in last Saturday's Guardian is a truly
fascinating (and unobtuse) account of a forgotten author's lost
works and Sinclair's search for more information about his life.
The writer's name is Roland Camberton and his best book
is very out of print. I found only one second-hand copy online,
going for 75 quid.
And if you have fond memories of the
excitement caused by
in London in 2006 you'll need to know that Artichoke, the group
behind it, are doing another such thing in Liverpool on the
5th,6th & 7th of September called La
have been a few new site-related book out lately that I've not
been able to get review copies of so I'll mention them here
pending their later paperback appearance. Jason Goodwin's
is a novel featuring his detective hero Yashim the eunuch and a
lost Bellini painting in Venice. The setting is historical,
but it's the 19th Century, which is not common. It is also the
century of the setting of another Venice-set novel,
The World Before Her
by Deborah Weisgall. Then there's
Monster of Florence
by Douglas Preston, the account written by one of the journalists
involved of their exposure of the incompetent investigation of
the famous serial murders, and the harassment they suffered at
the hands of the police.
people click on the link on my front page to send me an e-mail
they usually say nice things and I always reply, as many of you
will know. Having not had my ego stroked in a fair few weeks I
was checking my spam folder for something else, and found a
half-dozen mails from you good people lurking in there. I have
replied to these now, but if you've sent me an e-mail in recent
months (the spam folder self-deletes mails after a couple of
months) and had no reply please accept my apologies, and do write
London-related stuff today. Last week I went to an exhibition at
Collection about what we can learn from old skeletons dug up
in London. Quite a lot, it turns out. Details of diet, as well as
the illnesses and afflictions that people survived as well as
what they died from. There's an example in the exhibition of an
arrow in the spine that was one of the former rather than the
later. Pains are taken to relate the remains to where they were
dug up, and the result is a solidly interesting little
exhibition. The permanent display of Sir Henry Wellcome's
collection of medically-related artefacts is weird and wonderful
Then last night on BBC2 there was a documentary about
how London has changed since 1945, made using contemporary aerial
photography and comparing it to an aerial survey made by the RAF
just after WWII. Not nearly as fascinating as it sounded, the doc
was good on how London as a city has resisted any kind of
planning, how the haphazard street plan has changed little since
medieval times, and how this still shapes the city now. The
programme is part of the BBC's Britain
From Above season, and to celebrate they've set up an archive
of aerial photography footage.
Berlin-derived observations, regarding photographic habits this
time. Now I find the taking of photographs of one's relatives and
friends posed in front of famous sights a strange thing at the
best of times, usually resulting in a photograph that isn't a
good portrait and isn't a good view. But whilst visiting the
Topography of Terrors exhibition in Berlin I witnessed a
chap taking a photograph of his blonde smiling girlfriend in
front of a display board of mug shots of Nazi war criminals! And
then visiting the vast Russian war memorial, featuring two huge
statues of Russian soldiers down on one knee with heads bowed, a
man was taking a photo of his two children up on the plinth with
one of the statues with them adopting the same pose as the
soldier. All too bizarre.
back from Berlin, and now have another favourite European city to
add to the list. I did intend to get me to a cyber café
but the one nearest the flat looked a bit squalid, and by the
time I got to Sunday I thought it'd make an interesting lifestyle
change to last a whole week offline. I also unusually did without
DVDs, a TV, my iPod, Indian food and hummus.
big, full of skyscrapers and vast swaths of wasteland, cranes,
loads of graffiti, marzipan-a-go-go, some great paintings, and it
was very hard on the feet. The real-life things I liked most were
the lack of crap and litter, the lack of threat and tension, even
on the public transport system, and the very real lack of
in-your-face annoying mobile-phone use on the trains too. And did
I mention the marzipan? I found a shop selling only marzipan near
our flat, and have returned home with bars bought in KaDeWe
flavoured with pineapple, mango, ginger, and strawberries and
The place has had such an utterly grim recent
history, but it's all barely visible in the fabric of the city,
what with allied bombers and the post-war (and post-wall) desire
to erase all memories. So much of the content of the guide books
and instructive displays is telling you about buildings and such
that were once there and the stuff, usually death and suffering,
which went on in and around them. It can be frustrating, but
makes a mental map and a lithe imagination pretty much essential
to understand what went on. And novels help. I'm considering
making a new Berlin books page.
mentioned a couple of months back an admirable plan to rebuild
the Euston Arch. Now come two more, less tempting, projects. The
first is to rebuild the Skylon, the pointless pointy symbol of
the Festival of Britain demolished in 1952. The
began by projecting the thing onto the side of a building near
its original site.
The other (less serious) plan launched
last week was one to raise London's 'lost' rivers from the sewers
through which they nowadays run. Not really a practical option in
Central London as the original courses are long lost and the
Fleet and Tyburn would run through some very lucrative areas, so
that the landowners not take kindly to replacing high-earning
offices with non-earning riverbanks I would think. Nice dream
though. There's a map of the lost rivers here.
And in Venice news - hailstones the size of walnuts fell last
weekend. There's an arty photo
da Mosto has a new series on BBC2 in the UK called
I think that his accent qualifies him as Italy's answer to
Inspector Clouseau, but Lucy Mangan in the Guardian accuses him
of having 'an accent that could make you pregnant by the end of
the programme.' Anyway, the series is far more
Venice-concerned than the somewhat generic title would suggest,
as in it our man voyages around the old Venetian Empire following
in the wake of his ancestors 500-odd years ago. The first episode
is a Venice-treat especially, as it deals with his preparations
and leave-taking. I could do with less of the self-conscious
set-up encounters with locals, but the series looks set to give
good art and lush photography. Episode 2's visit to a church
outside Split to see some famous frescoes was especially
article in the Sunday Telegraph magazine a couple of weeks back
recommending summer reads rightly singled out
girl of of his dreams
by Donna Leon but wrongly doubled her up, describing her as a
'thriller-writing partnership' and saying that this is a good
place to start if we've never 'sampled their wares'. A weird
mistake, even if you suspect the writer of the review is mixing
her up with Nicci French, as that partnership writes very
different books from our Donna.
new scheme to cut down on the plague of mineral water bottles
bobbing around in Venetian canals involves the handing-out of
free re-usable bottles along with a map of Venice's water
fountains. Despite my love of the (locally produced) San
Benedetto water this seems a stunningly good idea to me. There
are also posters featuring Venice's mayor encouraging you to
drink more tap water, with the snappy slogan I
drink the Mayor’s water too.
Brian Ladd The
Ghosts of Berlin
fascinating investigation of the arguments that developed around
the demolishing, renovating or rebuilding Berlin's many
contentious buildings, statues, and even commemorative plaques.
When your recent history is so grim and fraught with meaning what
to do but reach back to a time before...but to do that is fraught
with meaning too.
A Wild Sheep
Chase: In Search Of Haruki Murakami
the author's unwillingness to be interviewed on screen, this BBC
TV film still managed to evoke the essence of the novels and what
makes them special.
without preconceptions and prepare to be very pleasantly
surprised. Hold on...that sentence contradicts itself doesn't
the three cities featured on this site were my children Florence
would be the one I feel bad about neglecting. Not quite locked in
a cupboard under the stairs and fed on bread and water, but
getting much less attention than Venice and London. But it's not
all my fault - there just aren't a lot of novels written that are
set in Florence, and I get many less hits and e-mails related to
Flo than the other two cities. But this year has been different:
four novels, a lovely book about the piazzas, and even a couple
of additions to the films section. Something of a renaissance
nobody's perfect right? And you never told me! Expect reviews
soon of some books I missed. Continuing the musical theme over on
the Venice page Interrupted
by Beverle Graves Myers are described as 'baroque murder
mysteries' featuring a castrato detective in 18th Century
Venice. Then there's The
by Robert Hellenga's - it's the sequel to his Sixteen
it came out last year, and it passed me by completely. With
thanks to Richard from California for making me aware, and to the
generous folks over at Poisoned Pen Press and Little Brown.
I'm spoilt, but it's been so long since I've had to buy a
newly-published novel set in any of my three cities that when my
polite request for a review copy is met with silence in the inbox
and through the letterbox...well I'm disinclined to spend my
hard-earned to give them free publicity. Am I being a bit of a
prima donna? I think not myself, so if you're waiting to read
reviews of Steven Carroll's
Stopover in Venice
by Kathryn Walker you might just have to wait for me to buy the
I have now been sent a copy of
hold your breath for a review, soon.
more playful news - the new Nancy Drew computer game is called
Phantom of Venice.
Check out the weirdly pseudo-Venetian scenes here.
There's also a little teaser video on which Nancy sounds to be at
least in her 50s, which is about right I suppose: time passes. In
the press release Venice is described as 'one of the world’s
most unique cities known for its interlocking canals' and the
games are said to be 'targeted to female play preferences' and
it's claimed that they 'engage and empower players'.
of the saddest and most shameful recent architectural losses
for London was the magnificent Euston Arch. It was demolished
when the nasty 1960s Euston Station was built, despite much
campaigning at the time. Now there's to be another new station
building, and the possibility of rebuilding the arch has been
mooted. There's a website
- go and read the whole sorry story and support the new
seems that a large earth-drill tip has appeared from under the
paving in front of London's City Hall on the Thames. I smell an
elephant. Click here
Conrad Williams The
not a big horror fan and so I'm reading most of this with my eyes
perfect, but magical and very stylish.
Bon Iver For
Emma, Forever Ago
and thoroughly deserving a lot of glowing
London Daily Telegraph was having a splutter yesterday over the
new Andrew Davies adaptation of
including a scene in Venice with a love triangle between Charles,
Sebastian and his sister Julia. I don't see the objection - the
relationship between these three always seemed like a bit of a
love (if not sex) triangle to me, even if Julia coming with them
to Venice is not in the book. Over at the official
website there's a trailer which gives the impression of much
Venice, and that the Charles/Julia thing gets passionate in this
version. We'll see. Nice to see they've kept the use of Castle
Howard as Brideshead from the TV series.
one's opinion of a work of literature be swayed by its appearance
is a famously unwise thing to do, but with
Piazzas of Florence
by Lisa McGarry it was love at first fondle. From the lushly
textured terracotta cover, via the tasteful crimson
embellishments within, to the fold-out watercolour maps this is
one gorgeous piece of printing. Even the stitched-in bookmark is
a lovely colour. As to how the content lives up to the
presentation (and there is text aplenty - this is no mere gift
book) watch this space.
is a new phrase on me, but an
article in the film supplement of The Observer last week was
all about a love of films for their locations. It mostly mentions
films set in parts Mediterranean, leaving a pervy obsession in
films which revel in Venice, Florence and London to these here
London Eye being built in 1999.
church of Angelo Raffaele in Venice,
before its 2004
term readers of these posts will know that I'm usually a positive
and optimistic sorta guy but it's hard to look on the bright side
after last week's election of Boris Johnson as London's new
mayor. He's a buffoon, you see, who was only voted in because his
predecessor, Ken Livingstone, had the temerity to try to make
central London a bit less of a smoggy and congested drivers'
paradise, and make the place better for pedestrians. He had had
some success but powerful business interests and the newspapers
they control put their corrosive might behind the idiot Boris and
now we have a wacky cartoon character running our city. My
only bright thought is hoping that he'll soon be forced to resign
over some new and spectacular examples of the gaffs and incompetence he's famous for.
regarding them links I mentioned last time - we now have an
answer to the question of the number of bridges in Venice.
Contradictory totals have reigned so far, but it turns out that
some engineers from the Worcester Poly have been out to Venice,
counted them, numbered them, and made a map. Go engineers! The
total number? 473, including private bridges and the Ponte di
Calatrava, the new one.
email today presents a fascinating flurry of links, and some
ambitious projects. The source is the Worcester Polytechnic
Institute in Massachusetts and the impressive Venice-related
projects that their students have undertaken. But the fingers
and pies radiate out from here, and include a Wiki (online
encyclopaedia) devoted solely to Venice, starting here,
and a project/site setting out to identify and preserve Venice's
street art - all the impressive stone plaques and statues and
such that are such a joy to find on Venetian rambles. There's
also talk of some fruitful collaboration between me and my sites
and them and theirs - I'll keep you posted.
A highlight of
last week, and my life so far, was starting to read the third
book in a series and finding a review of mine of a previous
volume quoted on the back (see
- a first!
Linda Proud The
Rebirth of Venus
third book in the
Botticelli trilogy with the gritty details of renaissance
philosophy presented as digestibly and enjoyably as before, with
art and intrigue and a good story too.
believe the reviews - gripping and exciting and
New CDs by the B-52s and Was (Not Was)
sudden and surprising 1980's wacky-funk revival.
write today of the Garden of Eden. Back in 2003, after
discovering it on my trip of 2002, I made one of my digression
pages (here it is) devoted to this
fascinating place. It's fascinating because it's the biggest
private garden in Venice, has a reputation for dilapidated
splendour, and yet remains an inaccessible mystery. I was
reminded of the place last week by an e-mail from Polly Higgins,
who is visiting Venice this week and had also stumbled upon the
place and been fascinated. The years since I created the page
have not seen any news slip out as to the place's fate or owners
- if you Google
small page is your first and best option. Some feelers have been
sent out this week, though, and so let's hope.
James Meek We
are now beginning our descent
people's act of love
certainly want to read this, the new one, but be prepared for
something very unlike - much less strange, but just as
a weird film!
seldom seen kid
are sounding all surprised at how good this one is. Where have
around Amazon for future Venice-set fiction I've come up with a
few. Firstly a promising-looking first novel called
Stopover in Venice
by Kathryn Walker which is due in August. Then there's another
novel concerning our favourite baroque composer The
Four Seasons: A novel of Vivaldi's Venice
the interestingly named Laurel Corona and set for publication in
November. Sooner, in April, we have Steven Carroll's
concerns itself with Venice and cellists. Ingratiating e-mails
are already on their way to publishers.
dreamed of a White Easter? Things pretty quiet around here, so
thoughts turn to odd coincidences. Three of the last four books
I've read for the site (including my current read) have taken
around a 100 pages to get to the place/reason for which I was
reading them. Strange and interesting, or more than a bit
Grace Brophy A
Cenni comes from Umbria but goes to Venice on page 115.
gripping as Donna L. but more muscular.
In A Lonely
more film noir treats - both weird and wonderful, but in very
revitalised and jangly after a depressing run of rubbish
satellite image above you can see the extent of
the Garden of
Eden (bottom right) with the church of the
left) included so that you can place it.
interesting new interview with Edward Sklepowich, a fave and
friend of this site, has just gone up on Italian-Mysteries.com.
And through my letterbox this week have dropped
Grace Brophy and
Enchantress of Florence
Salman Rushdie. Reviews soon.
Ann & Jeff VanderMeer (eds)
you know what to expect from the likes of VanderMeer,
Miéville, and M.John Harrison then you'll know
the kind of stuff you'll be getting here. Like Gormenghast, only
much shorter and occasionally weirder.
funny and touching and very far from being the pro-life
propaganda flick that some have suggested.
like unspecial strummy Americana at first, but soon begins to
snag and grow.
over at the German
Venice blog writes and recommends a Venice-set novel by Carlo
Fruttero & Franco Lucentini called
senza fissa dimora
which translates into English as
Lover of no fixed abode.
Poking around a bit I can find no firm information about it ever
having been translated into English, and it seems very
unavailable if it ever was. But some mentions of a novel by them
are sprinkled around other sites. A bit of a mystery.
is my birthday! And not only that, but World Book Day too! Pardon
my paranoia but I don't think that this is a coincidence - some
shadowy presence is sending a message I think. Anyway, I implore
you, my people, to celebrate my day with observance of the
primary tenet of my personal philosophy, The Central Guiding
more books, eat more cake, stroke more cats.
more Vivaldi stuff. My knowledge of Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge is
pretty much confined to the story about the sordid tussle over
their letters as told in John Bernedt's
of Falling Angels.
now I read about how Rudge, a famed violinist whose reputation
overshadowed her lover's initially, was a leading figure in the
20th Century rediscovery of Vivaldi. Her transcribing, promotion
and performances contributing much, with Pound's help, to
the composer's current reputation. She also dyed her hair red in
his honour. Let's remember her this way. And it seems that
the motion picture, with Joseph Fiennes as Vivaldi, has not been
cancelled. There's a
website and it has a trailer. But said trailer is bizarrely
made up of clips from other Venice-set films and scenes featuring
the actors in other period films - wearing facial hair and floppy
white shirts without buttons, basically - except for Malcolm
McDowell, who's in a modern suit.
another fictionalised account of life in the Pieta, featuring
Vivaldi and the girls, comes my way. This follows
comes just ahead of a promised DVD of
Red Priest of Venice,
the play put on in San Francisco I mentioned last month. This
time it's a radio play, broadcast by the BBC a couple of weeks
back, called Daughters
by Don Taylor. So far - I'm about half way through - it's pretty
much your standard tale of girls-with-limited-choices, with some
added broad humour provided by a naive and smitten English milord
and his cynical valet. In fact there's an attractive streak of
cynicism running through the play that's making me much more
likely to return for part two. I'll keep you posted. And then
there's luggage labels - here's a
link to a page with photos of 867 of the lovely little
buggers, quite a few featuring Venice. There's few on the
Iain Crichton Smith Consider
the story of an old woman during the Highland Clearances being
told she has to move, and how she reacts and her life changes.
But just wonderful
and The Blue
of the best film noirs (films noir?) and I'd not seen either of
that Poles can do trip-hop (as well as doughnuts) better than
in the National Gallery in London today, as I'm walking past a
school class getting a talk on Titian's
teacher saying: 'Yes, but can anyone tell me why there wouldn't
be a motor boat..?'
many bridges are there in Venice? This is the hot question of the
In Edward Sklepowich's novel
I've just read, Urbino says that there are around 400. Yet
is a fish,
which I'm currently reading, says 500, which is a bit of a big
discrepancy. In an e-mail exchange Mr S himself says that as far
as he knows there are 395, including the new glass one, and
suggests that a higher figure might include the small private
bridges to palazzo entrances, and such like. Puzzling. Does
anyone out there have a copy of
A-Z) and a lot of patience?
find it fascinating to monitor the terms which web-searchers put
in which then lead them to this site. By far the most popular is
I imagine that most of the people who find themselves here after
putting that one in don't stay very long, although I shouldn't
assume that such searchers aren't looking for info on Veronica
Franco, of course. However I pass on, without comment, a search
term which, I know not why, lead to a visit to my site last
Saturday - clitoris
Robert Louis Stevenson Kidnapped
thought I'd try something else.
I'm not exactly gripped, but
also not giving up yet. It's just so Scottish!
Laurel & Hardy
fine big box of 21 DVDs is available in the UK.
me much joy, and will for many months yet.
got it back - the best since
books slip wetly through my letterbox this morning: one is the
Venice volume of
Liquid Continent trilogy
below, the other is called
is a Fish.
reviews soonish. I say -ish because the fish one has a review
embargo slapped on it until the 14th February, which I presume
applies to me as well as print media.
Steve Erickson Zeroville
best novel about the mystic mysteries of filmmaking since
No country for
first 100% classic Coen brothers film in so so long
Emmylou Harris Songbird:
Rare Tracks & Forgotten Gems
gems and the sweepings, and all damn good.
Vivaldi news: my last news item scared up an e-mail from
Lisa Murphy in San Francisco who recently premiered a play about
the composer's relationship with Anna Giro and Paolina Trevisana.
Read more about the play (with some interesting background
material) at redpriestofvenice.com
or watch it on youtube.
Lisa also mentions that the film with Joseph Fiennes has been
delayed so much now that the omens are that it may never appear.
To finish with good news...my mention earlier this month of my
lack of luck getting a review copy of
from Edward Sklepowich has resulted in an e-mail from the man
himself, who's going to send me a copy. Result!
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
of a Yellow Sun
bit as good as they've been saying, if not better.
that it WAS worth doing it again.
The Very Best
you think that you've heard it all after listening to all
those African music reissues of the 80s, you're
(and loving) the Vivaldi novel mentioned below I had a poke
around fact-checking and found out about two films about the
composer, one just out and one in pre-production. The one in
pre-prod is said to be due later this year and is to star Joseph
Fiennes as the man himself. So it seems that the little chap gets
to play Shakespeare
Vivaldi! The one that came out last year is French, called
Vivaldi, un Prince à Venise
judging by the cast list, seems to play the Anna Giro card - the
famous 'secret mistress' conjecture. Vivaldi fans might also be
interested to know that there's a site where you can download pdf
files of a couple of good biographies for free. It's here.
small swarm of new Venice-set novels I mentioned in December has
begun to slip through my letterbox, including one dealing with
The Secret Life of
Vivaldi. But if you're looking for a review of
by Edward Sklepowich then breath-holding is not advised. The
publisher has refused my request for a review copy and
unhelpfully supplied a pdf file for reading on my computer. Now I
have many odd habits, but taking my computer to bed is not one of
them. Also on the horizon is a reprint of
by Rosalind Laker which is due in March, as is
Troubles of Janice 4: Voyage to Venice,
erotic graphic novel. If your heart is not faint check it out
And Nicholas Woodsworth has written something called
Liquid Continent - A Mediterranean Trilogy,
of which volume two is about Venice and its relationship with the
of the Road
rollicking respite from seriouser tomes.
- Save Our Souls
Collings on the continuing influence and importance of
'visionary British art guru' John Ruskin - mighty clever and
The Radio Dept Pet
sure why I've taken so long to discover this bunch of Swedes but
I love them now, as they obviously love the Pet Shop Boys and
Prefab Sprout. Giving shoegazing a very good name.
well into that post-festive quiet stretch, with very few people
working (although I was yesterday) and with nothing much going on
but a lot of TV to catch up on. So let's look forward to the
return of real life, and the weekend of the 19th/20th of January
when The Temple in London, one of my favourite places for
Sunday-walk seclusion and the reek of history, is having an open
day. It's part of a year of events (details
here) to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the place's
Thomas Quinn The
Sword of Venice
when I do look back over this year I can't help but see it as one
of my best. For a chap who has previously gone years without
trips to Venice and Florence it seems nothing short of miraculous
to me to have had three trips in one year. A trip to Venice
in March warmly celebrated my half-century, and was swiftly
followed in April by my first visit to
Florence in 13 years. Another week in
Venice in October was mostly spent taking photographs for my
Churches of Venice
website - another very good thing about this year. And as the
year ends I seem to be getting more review copies, author
contact, and encouraging e-mails than ever, so I enter 2008
contented and with high hopes. I hope that you do too.
a time of year when the media are full of articles looking back
over the best this, the worst that, and the most embarrassing
examples of the other, it's good to look forward, and 2008 is
looking good for Venice fiction. Early in January there's a
new Urbino Macintyre mystery called
by Edward Sklepowich, and you don't get one of these every year.
Grace Brophy is a new name on me, but
a Venice setting, as does Elizabeth Adler's
Me in Venice.
there's a new Donna Leon in the spring, called
Girl of His Dreams
for Florence fans there's the last Magdalen Nabb, called
year will not go down as one of the most sparkling for Venice-set
fiction, so it's good to get news of the immanent publication of
the sequel to one of my (surprise) faves of a couple of years
back. Thomas Quinn's Lion of St Mark
gripped me like nautically-themed books rarely do, and now
Sword of Venice.
He's kindly sending me a copy, so expect a review early in 2008.
London had by far the better books written set in it this year,
but then again it usually does.
Philip Pullman The Northern Lights
A Whisper In The Noise Dry land
Books of 2007
Yiddish policeman’s union
Clark The nature of monsters
Arnaud Delalande The
M. Homes This
book will change your life
Leoni The Third Heaven conspiracy
Journal of Dora Damage
Louis Stevenson New
CDs of 2007
The Antlers In
the Attic of the Universe
Cook The Sky Observer's
A Fine Frenzy One
Cell in the Sea
Mouse We Were Dead Before the
Ship Even Sank
Sissy Wish Beauties
mix dwarf cosmos
Oblivion with Bells
me shallow, if you must, but my attitude to any so-called 'wave'
of immigrants to the UK is best summed up by the greeting:
'Welcome to my country - I hope that you brought tasty treats.'
In which spirit I've just added some yummy Polish cakes to my
surprisingly popular London Cakes page.
I've also just been made aware of Capitan
Venezia a very Venetian superhero, whose web-site and comics
seem to speak only in Italian at the moment.
Anton Chekhov The
complete short novels
on the London Underground will know about the in-train
announcements warning them about the next station, and to do
things like 'Mind the gap'. The woman who reads them is
colloquially called Sonya, because she gets
nerves. But it turns out she's actually called Emma Clarke and
she's just been sacked for posting mp3s of spoof announcements
like "We would like to remind our American tourist friends
that you are almost certainly talking too loudly" on her
website. The news item is here
and the spoof announcements are on www.emmaclarke.com
although the site seems to be currently groaning under the strain
Alan Bennett The
The Height Of Summer
A Number of Small Things: A Collection of Morr Music
interesting article in the UK
newspaper last week about the representation of cities in films.
Nothing about Venice or Florence, but a bit about London. Read it
Margaret Atwood Oryx
Memory of Me
an Italian film released last week in London which is set in San
Giorgio Maggiore and features other Venetian locations. Stately
and dour are a couple of the more complementary words used in
reviews, slow and implausible are a pair of the less encouraging.
It is on at one of my favourite comfy London cinemas, though, so
I might give it a go next week. See a trailer here.
David Peace Tokyo
lives of others
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
surprise Florence fix in the shape of a new version of
Room With a View
on ITV1 in the UK this Sunday night. Comparison with the
Merchant/Ivory version is inevitable, but the new adaptation is
by Andrew Davies and seems to be more faithful to the concerns of
the book. We'll see. Details here.
bit of a site redesign going on - I hope that you lot like it.
I'm gradually phasing out the pseudo-calligraphy font in favour
of that chunky olde-printe look.
pavement-pounders around town will be well aware of the
phenomenon of stopped clocks - old clocks in public places and on
buildings that have stopped and have never been repaired or
rewound. Well, now there's a
website, campaigning to restart them, with photos, although
you have to take it on trust that the clocks in the photos are
stopped because, well, you know.
(and a flipping wonderful film it is too)
Canon Blue Colonies
went, I did it, I came back with just over four hundred
photographs on my memory card. No, I can't believe it either.
Thanks to all who commented, encouraged and passed on weird fruit
and cool Venetian ska band recommendations.
Accademia gallery catalogue
New season Heroes
Band of Horses
off to Venice early tomorrow morning and, technology willing,
should be doing daily updates to my October
2007 Trip Report
time next week I'm off to Venice and, well, you remember what it
was like waiting for Christmas as a kid? I'm hoping to do a
daily bloggish thing, so fans of cats, cakes and churches should
Christi Phillips The
Jim White Transnormal
the world is divided into pigeon-haters and pigeon-feeders I
suppose I'm with the feeders. The authorities in Venice, though,
like city authorities everywhere, look upon the flying rats as a
big problem, and have now banned the throwing of rice at weddings
in the city as it encourages scavenging flocks. They say that the
birds are also damaging buildings by pecking for bits of food
that blow into cracks, which sounds very like a self-justifying
exaggeration to me. Not sure where all this leaves me and my
chucking little bits of my lunchtime panini to them from church
steps when I'm there. I'm a man who likes to feel solid pavement
under his feet, but the presence of contrasting flashes of
chaotic nature is good too.
Sarah Waters The
the 2nd time
Go Smear the Poison Ivy
House Weekend Day 2
luck with the pot-luck method this morning, and the churches were
all closed for services. But we'd booked to visit the Government
Art Collection, where they store and administer the art that's
used to decorate embassies abroad and other UK government
buildings. Pretty darn fascinating. It's near Tottenham Court
Road but only after I'd booked was its exact whereabouts
revealed, and I can't reveal this secret location because if I
did I'd have to...etc.
House Weekend Day 1
city churches were visited which can't help but be a little dour
when compared to Venetian
Churches full of Bellini and Titian, but they can be handsome
nonetheless, and very calming places it must be said. We also had
a look around the Vintners' Hall, admiring its wood panelling and
chandeliers, and using its very plush toilets. Then on to the
Unilever Building (the curved building at the North end of
Blackfriars Bridge) recently gutted and rebuilt inside and
now called 100 Victoria Embankment, or
for short. Views from the roof terrace were really spectacular
It's still owned by Unilever, though, and the very generous free
cup of tea and Walls ice cream for each visitor are both their
products. But still...better than a box of washing
House Weekend looms, and neither of us are working or on
holiday, so a full weekend of pavement pounding and door
darkening is in prospect. This year the weekend also features
trips by tube train down Brunel's
Thames Tunnel. The increased popularity of the event and the
increasing need to pre-book weeks in advance is making the event
less fun with each passing year I think. But hey, I'm an old
Jim Crace The
would think that receiving for review yet another novel featuring
a 17th Century Venetian courtesan as the heroine (The
might fill me with, well, not exactly keen anticipation and joy.
But you might be surprised to learn - I was - that the most
popular search term input in August by people who end up at this
site is 'courtesan'. So every time I mention the word courtesan,
I'm increasing my hit rate. And that's three times in this
paragraph so far.
Arnaud Delalande The
IT crowd series
news of the death of Magdalen Nabb, writer of the Marshall
Guarnaccia mysteries without which fictional Florence would be a
very much poorer place. She was just 60 when she died of a stroke
whilst out riding. At her funeral last Monday carabinieri in full
ceremonial dress formed a guard of honour. She had just finished
a new Marshall mystery called
which will be published next year.
There was a
fine obit in The Guardian.
lean year for Venice-set fiction seems to be perking up a bit.
I've managed to cadge a copy of
by Arnaud Delalande out of the publisher, and am hoping to also
get a review copy of
Christi Phillips. It's good to see titles still subtly trying to
sound a bit like
Da Vinci Code,
even after having decided to drop the somewhat obvious use of the
There's also The
Belinda Jones which is chick-lit and hence, ahem, beyond my
new interview with Donna Leon here
(with a somewhat strange photograph) which you can even listen
to. And there are links to a map and a list of location to guide
you to Brunetti-related spots. Also a German
Venice blog by a new friend has some rather good photos of
the new Calatrava Bridge.
Scarlett Thomas The
end of Mr Y
talk on the Venice sites is all about the new bridge over the
Grand Canal - the forth, and first new one in 73 years. It's all
red and spindly and modern and so is causing a bit of a ruckus,
but it's up by Piazzale Roma bus station where the competition
for the description 'eyesore' is pretty fierce. It looks more
like eye balm in the photos and there's a good one with the
report in the New
Rupert Thompson Death
of a murderer
Amy Cook The
Sky Observer's Guide
just started the new and last Michael Dibdin and it is, as
reported, very full of food. In chapter two Zen
unenthusiastically tucks into a southern pasta dish which he
describes using the word 'gloggy' - a new word on me and an
unappetising word. But when you're describing pasta cooked in
mutton fat unappetising is really the most you can hope for.
Michael Dibdin End
the nation catches its breath after finishing
to dry out, hopes for some summer soon, and waits for
film one can only say: interesting times. To the right is me as a
Simpsons character, courtesy of simpsonizeme.com.
I'm not convinced.
Michele Giuttari A
The Antlers In
The Attic Of The Universe
so maybe a grown man shouldn't really be looking forward so much
Harry Potter (tomorrow!), but it's a big deal for lots of people,
a big event involving a book, and that's not a common occurrence,
especially for a work of fiction. And I can't see it happening
again, soon or maybe ever, except maybe for the sequel to
Da Vinci Code
how depressing a thought is that?
tally of new novels set in Venice published in any given year
usually easily outstrips those set in Florence, but as the second
new novel set in Florence published this year plops onto my
doormat the Tuscan town easily pulls ahead. It's called
by Michele Giuttari, who's a former police-chief in Florence.
I'll be reading and reviewing it soon, but I've a reading group
book to finish first, and the new Harry Potter of
book will save your life
Scott Walker Scott
1, 2, 3 & 4
what do you know - there's a PC computer game called Venice
Deluxe. It's a bit like Breakout, as you control a gondola at the
bottom of the screen and shoot pieces of treasure up to be caught
by wheels and see-saws, and you also catch stuff coming down. The
idea is to stop Venice sinking. The Venice styling is bit vague
and mostly just olde and stony looking, with lions, but let's not
carp. You can download a free trial here.
Yiddish Policemen's Union
Season 1 -
Cherry Ghost Thirst
happened in February last year, and now it's happened again - all
the chocolate machines on the London Underground have been taken
out of service, and have been so for a few weeks now. Why?
Also Adam and Eve - should they have belly buttons as they
weren't born in the usual way?
site has been smoke-free from the beginning, but from today
smoking is banned in all enclosed public spaces in England. I
cannot think of a law that I have been waiting for more avidly,
or one which makes me happier. No more will I have my meals out
spoiled by noxious fumes from selfish smokers, and no more will I
come home from an evening out and have to put every item of
clothing in the wash before I go to bed. And then get out of bed
to wash the smoky smell from my upper chest hair before sleep. In other and sadder news - the final Aurelio Zen novel from
Michael Dibdin is published this week. There was a
fine piece about him in Saturday's London Guardian.
Frederick Rolfe The
desire and pursuit of the whole
Josh Haden Devoted
of my self-indulgent and cake-infested trip reports will know how
much time I spend in Venetian churches - they being the places to
find peace, the best art and some of the most impressive
architecture in Venice. But I've long been disappointed at the
lack of good books on the subject and the poor quality of the
information available on the subject on the internet. So, I
thought, why not plug that latter gap, with the help of someone I
know who knows more than me? We are now in the process of making
something fine, comprehensive and entertaining. More news soon.
I lay dying
around the Venice blogs - I really must make a links page one of
these days - I note that there are plans to allow discrete
advertising on the sides of vaporettos for the first time, and
also on scaffolding on buildings on the Grand Canal. This last
idea could fall flat methinks, as most scaffolding on buildings
in Venice is up so long the average product would be long
superseded by the time it comes down!
Robert Louis Stevenson
in the house
Sissy Wish Beauties
recently been getting a lot of pleasure poking around this
web site. It has interactive maps of Venice with little
arrows that you click on to see the photographic view in that
direction and some good suggested walks. It's a joy to explore
favourites spots and find new views. And the photos are excellent
Also over at Slow Travel a Google
map has been made of Venetian churches.
Alan Campbell Scar
Candie Payne I
Wish I Could Have Loved You More
been adding bits of text and screen captures over on the Venice
films page, mostly brought about by rewatching
saw her die?
latter's memorable chase through a misty derelict warehouse turns
out to have been filmed in the Molino Stucky, which was then
derelict, and had been for ages, but which is now - following a
suspicious fire, of course - a luxury hotel, which opened this
Haruki Murakami After
Open University TV programmes on renaissance art
coincide with an Anthony Gormley exhibition at the Hayward
Gallery in London statues of the man himself have been placed on
many nearby roofs, and several far-off ones. It's a weird
pleasure spotting them and there are rumours that some people
have thought that the statues are real people about to jump. A
couple of pics I took yesterday are to the right.
March I went to the Canaletto exhibition at the Dulwich Picture
Gallery in London and saw an exhibition of artists'
self-portraits from the Uffizi in Venice, and raved
and ranted about it. And now, by spooky
coincidence, the Uffizi exhibition has come to the
Dulwich. Go see them if you can - they'll probably be
better-presented than in Venice, and there'll maybe be a better
Don Delillo White
End of season
Simpsons, Lost, Heroes,
and Brothers &
Darkside by Tom Becker makes we
ponder, and not for the first time, why the Brit tendency is to
write such stories of lone heroes with very few living (or well)
parents (see also Harry Potter, Philip Pullman, Dr Who, Frodo,
etc.) and the parents are also almost always not what the seemed;
while the American way is usually strong on the family unit (see
Steven Spielberg, Six Feet Under, The Simpsons, The Sopranos, 24,
Alias, and most recent 'serious' US fiction).
Patrick Hamilton The
slaves of solitude
Modest Mouse We
Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank