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Venice: Pure City (2009)

de Peter Ackroyd

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5171134,823 (3.44)18
A glittering, evocative, fascinating, story-filled portrait of Venice, the ultimate city, embracing facts and romance, history and artists, carnival masks and leper colonies, wars and sieges, and scandals and seductions.
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Es mostren 1-5 de 11 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Ackroyd knows his subject and he knows how to write. This is thematic rather than a chronological history. Full of detail and interesting reflections on how Venice has grown and developed and, now, seems to be dying. ( )
  Helenliz | Dec 19, 2015 |
What follows are more some thoughts on Venice: Pure City than a review. I was hoping it would help me understand some of the mystique surrounding Venice. When I visited there, I thought it was interesting, and sort of pretty, but I wasn't really transported by the experience. I liked wandering the streets aimlessly (on my first day trip there, I didn't buy a map, with the idea that getting lost was kind of the point), and I liked the glimpses of actual Venetian life going on around the tourists. But I wasn't enamored of it like people seem frequently to be. So, that was my motivation in picking up this title, and I think it helped me understand some aspects of the appeal. Some of the things to consider:

- it's unlike any other city in structure. This is perhaps obvious, but it takes a while of walking around to realize what's missing - not only cars, but any form of wheeled transportation. No bikes, no skates, no scooters. The only thing you'll see are strollers (with miserable parents carrying them up and down the steps of all the bridges) and delivery people yelling "Attenzione! Attenzione!"
- canals, and what they mean to the city. I was visiting from Gent, so I knew canals. Once you live around some, the romance dissipates. They are filthy things. However, they do make for nice reflections. One point that Ackroyd makes in the book is that these reflections give Venice a dual nature, with the whole city being twin to a more ephemeral version of itself in the water.
- speaking of water and ephemeralness, the fact that Venice shouldn't exist at all, and seems to always have someone panicking with fear that it will cease to exist. The city always seems to be balancing on the very edge of destruction, but somehow perseveres. It's a very romantic idea.
- community. Venice is quite a lot like a prison or a college dormitory - everyone lives close together, everyone has to see each other on a personal level (no getting into your anonymous car and driving to your anonymous supermarket), the houses face onto campi through which everyone will pass in the course of a day. Do your neighbors know your business? You bet.
- and conversely, secrecy. The obvious example is Carnival, giving people a period of relief from prying eyes. Even if people could tell who you were under your mask, it was the early version of "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." But even more than that, Venice has had a history of secrecy and subterfuge. Abroad, their diplomats were infamous observers and informers. At home, there were certain mailboxes throughout the city which could be used to anonymously inform on your neighbors. The streets (narrow and full of dead ends) can be considered a physical manifestation of the love of secrecy. The system of addresses is such that giving one to even a life-long Venetian is likely to result in a confused shake of the head.
- it's a place of sometimes frustrating traditionalism. In The City of Falling Angels, John Berendt talks about the rebuilding of the Fenice Opera House and how the rallying cry was "com'era, dov'era", which means "as it was, where it was." Well, that's been the case with everything for centuries upon centuries. If a building collapses, it's built in exactly the same form in the same place, often using as many of the same bricks and stones as they can salvage. This creates a timeless city, or perhaps one suspended in time.

There's more, including the history and mythology of the city's founding, the character of the Venetian people, the pilfered saints' relics all over the city, the role of art in society, and why Venice was never a literary hotbed (for natives; obviously plenty of foreigners wrote about Venice). A lot of it was really fascinating, but the way the book is structured (around ideas, rather than chronology) leads to repetition and made me feel like I wasn't intended to read it straight through. Also, sometimes Ackroyd lets his literary self have a bit too much free rein and says things that would sound pretty in a novel but seem out of place and overblown in nonfiction. ( )
1 vota ursula | Feb 17, 2015 |
Not really a history; not a travelogue; not a visitors guide; hardly a mention of individual personalities and then only in the sketchiest form. Yet, this book includes all these properties and succeeds in bringing to the reader the essence and character of the city of Venice. Ackroyd is not interested in the historical and technical details of the city - how it came to be, what it looks like, who lives and lived there and what major events shaped Venice - but seems to address all these in his magical and atmospheric descriptions. This must be essential reading for visitors to Venice who want to see just a little beyond the tourist attractions. ( )
  pierthinker | Nov 18, 2014 |
published-2007, summer-2013, tbr-busting-2013, venice, italy, nonfiction, under-500-ratings, art-forms, architecture, history, plague-disease, anti-semitic, conflagration
Read from August 29 to September 13, 2013

fileopenonlaptop = it'll take a while.

For Alison Samuel

Opening: They voyaged into the remote and secluded waters. They came in flat-bottomed boats, moving over the shallows. They were exiles, far from their own cities or farms, fleeing from the marauding tribes of the North and the East. And they had come to this wild place, a wide and flat lagoon in which fresh water from the rivers on the mainland and salt water from the Adriatic mingled. At low tide there were mud-flats all around, cut through with streams and rivulets and small channels; at high tide there were small islands of silt and marsh-grass.

It is lovely wandering through this history of Venice with the estimable Mr. Ackroyd thrilling the shell-likes with tidbits and trivia, making sure that we haven't walked past something that deserved a closer look.

Saint Theodore astride a crocodile,
St. Mark's Square.

Well, the verb I used up there ↑ was 'wandering' and yet this journey is brisker. At 8% I had already been in and out of the Basilica to view the sea-themed mosaics.

The human brain, according to psychologists, tell us that nuggets of information have to be heard six times before the brain stores it away complete, so when training, the trick is to pop those items in along the course but from contrasting angles, or couched inbetween differing verbal neighbours. Ackroyd's delivery is somewhat similar in construction: he doesn't repeat himself in entirety, yet he does endeavour to make sure the reader comes away with some facts under the belt.


Bucintoro: On Ascension day the Doge would climb aboard and marry the sea for another year.

So many lovely pictures and photographs that I have tried to find other visuals for the status updates.

3* Hawksmoor
4* The Canterbury Tales
4* Shakespeare the biography
4* Chatterton
1* The Lambs of London
5* Dickens
3* The House of Dr Dee
3* Poe: A Life Cut Short
2* The Plato Papers
3* The Fall of Troy
3* Venice: Pure City (2007)
5* Tudors (2013)

FMI - to go back through and add publishing year to the above titles
  mimal | Sep 13, 2013 |
I love Venice and I loved this book. It is not organized as a history or as a travelogue, but rather as reflections on the city and its past and its character and its problems, grouped within various subject headings. It's thoughtful and introspective and was a joy to read. ( )
  gbelik | Jun 1, 2013 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 11 (següent | mostra-les totes)
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A glittering, evocative, fascinating, story-filled portrait of Venice, the ultimate city, embracing facts and romance, history and artists, carnival masks and leper colonies, wars and sieges, and scandals and seductions.

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Mitjana: (3.44)
2 7
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3 24
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4 14
4.5 1
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