The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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February 21, 2012

(Un)romantic Venice

All about them, at other tables exactly like theirs, sat other men exactly like Lord Wrench and Wheater, the Duke of Mendip and Gerald Ormerod, other women exactly like Joyce and Zinnia and Mrs. Lullmer.  Boyne remembered Mrs. Sellars' wail at the approach of a standardized beauty. . . . .Every one of the women in the vast crowded restaurant seemed to be of the same age, to be dressed by the same dress-makers, loved by the same lovers, adorned by the same jewellers, and massaged and manipulated by the same Beauty doctors. The only difference was that the few whose greater age was no longer disguisable had shorter skirts, and exposed a wider expanse of shoulder-blade. A double jazz-band drowned their conversation, but from the movement of their lips, and the accompanying gestures, Boyce surmised that they were all saying exactly the same things as Joyce and Zinnia and Mrs. Lullmer. It would have been unfashionable to be different; and once more Boyce marvelled at the  incurable simplicity of the corrupt. 'Blessed are the pure in heart,' he thought, 'for they have so many more things to talk about...'
      Out in the offing, the lights of the 'Fancy Girl' drew an unheeded triangle of stars, cruising up and down against the dusk. A breeze, rising as darkness fell, carried the reflection toward the shore on a multitude of little waves, but the sea no longer interested the diners, for it was not the hour when they used it.

from The Children, by Edith Wharton

Sigh. I'm about two-thirds of the way through The Children, and it's not that I'm not enjoying it, because I am. {How could I not like a book that has a character named the Marchioness of Wrench?}It's just not what I'd hoped for, in its setting, as a way to go to Venice in February. Instead, Venice is a gathering place -- a beach, a hotel, a pensione, and a Moroccan tent -- for the novel's funniest and most unlikeable characters, and except for a tour of fine works of art that one of them takes with her new lover, to spite her husband, romantic Venice does not interest the characters, because it is never the hour when they use it.  But more on this book later.

I still have some February left, and a Donna Leon audiobook, and that will  make everything right. :)

{1920s travel poster found on Wikipedia}


JoAnn said...

Part of the appeal of reading about Venice is the characters' relationship with/discovery of the city. Glad you like the novel, but hope you get to spend more quality time in Venice this month.

Karen K. said...

That's one of the Whartons I haven't read. I was thinking about a reread of The Buccaneers in honor of Downton Abbey. This one sounds good too!

Carolyn said...

Interesting! I own this one in a Virago edition and I've just gotten into Edith Wharton, so maybe I'll have to get around to reading it at some point.

Thank you for visiting!

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