This non-fiction book is a colorful presentation of the city of Venice, its history, culture, and personalities, beginning with the depiction of the 1996 fire at the historic La Fenice Opera House. It is written by John Berendt, who coincidentally happened to be in Venice at the time and decided that the city was worth further investigation.
explores Venetian history, its environmental problems, and its culture. He
introduces us to some of its famous past and present visitors such as Henry
James, Robert Browning, and Woody Allen, and expatriate residents such as the
poet Ezra Pound and his mistress Olga Rudge, and the American Daniel Curtis who
purchased the Palazzo Barbaro, and whose descendants remained there. Other
intriguing residents are presented. One is Archimede Segus, a renowned Venetian
glassblower who creates a collection of glass based upon his impressions of the
fire; we also meet the entrepreneurial developer of rat poisons, a writer of
erotic poetry who commits suicide, a couple who become indispensable to elderly
and wealthy individuals so that they can appropriate their literary and art
collections, and more.
follows the investigation of the fire, at first thought to be an accident, then
a case of arson. Was the Mafia involved? Berendt also follows the fundraising
adventures of the American Save Venice
Foundation whose efforts to raise
money for rebuilding the opera house became tainted by the petty squabbles
between its members.
also is the author of Midnight in the
Garden of Good and Evil and wrote and edited for New York and Esquire