Venice Observed

Mary McCarthy


Ever since I saw the film Dangerous Beauty about the famous Venetian courtesan, Veronica Franco, I have been obsessed with Venice. I read everything I can get my hands on about La Serenissima, the most serene republic.

This book, unlike the histories and other books I read, is an intensely personal reaction to the city. As we travel through the city, we share the keen observations of an articulate writer who has the gift of description.

I may never see Venice in this life, but this account is pure pleasure.


Death in Venice

Thomas Mann


I confess I’m obsessed with Venice. I have been ever since watching a movie called¬†Dangerous Beauty, set in the beautiful city in the 16th century. Ever since then, I have read everything I could get my hands on, fiction and non-fiction, about the city. If this book were called Death in Marseilles I wouldn’t have been interested.

There is enough of Venice to make it interesting, and it was a good movie. Unfortunately, on the page it loses it’s attraction. Add in the boring short stories that lead up to the final climax, and you have a lot of slog to get to the payoff. I simply don’t like Thomas Mann. I read Buddenbrooks and found it tolerable. Magic Mountain I abandoned about half-way through. I gave him his final chance in these short stories. It’s my failing, I’m sure, as Mann is considered one of the great writers, but he completely fails to speak to me.


The Mirror Thief

Martin Seay


I picked up this book because it’s set in one of my favorite cities, Venice Italy, in the 16th century. It’s also set in Venice, California, in the 1950s and in Las Vegas, at the Venetian Hotel in 2003. In spite of my expectations, I liked the Las Vegas sections the best. Curtis is a fascinating character. He blunders about looking for Stanley, without knowing quite why, as various other characters seem to know more than he does. Stanley,¬† in 1958, roams Venice Beach, looking for the author of a book called The Mirror Thief. Crivano in Venice in 1592, plots to kidnap a mirror maker and take him to Turkey.

Their stories weave in and out of each other, but never quite touch, until you are wrapped in mystery. This is a compulsively good book, one you are nearly unable to put down. The desire to find out what happens next and how these three stories are related keep you reading.

I confess that plot isn’t very important to me if the characters are memorable, and these are very memorable. All are three-dimensionable, and I forgot that originally I wanted to know how they are related. Mr Seay is an excellent writer and loved getting to know his people.