Read any good books lately?

Sometimes you just get lucky. Getting ready to go on a flight down south I found not one, but two Donna Leon books. That I hadn’t read! They are not heavy reading, always set in Venice and perfect for a day at the beach or a day in the air. Guido, the police commissario, is so erudite and engaging, as is his family.

And the author has many nice turns of the phrase. Well, I like the stories. Harmless entertainment.

book james joyce trieste

DonnaLeonBook

Particularly, when it happened in my own post-Joycean world. Go ahead, paint me a Philistine. I tried. I wanted to like old James. He and I both love Trieste. So, my first choice on our last flight was “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” Written early in the century in Dublin and then started over and finished in Trieste, ten years later. Clearly Mr Joyce was miserable times seven when he initially wrote it. Hopefully, finishing it in Trieste, he was crying on the outside, on the pages of the manuscript but laughing it up on the inside, having survived and escaped Catholic boarding school in Ireland to sunny Trieste!

Beautiful Ruins is a surprise. I bought this book for my wife awhile back. We both like books set in or about Italy and it had a cool Cinqueterra-looking cover so that was enough for me to want it for her. Mid way thru our trip she said “I’m almost done with this, I think you will like it.”

Half way thru it I’m ready to break a Cardinal Red Rule which is “don’t brag on a book until its over.” Which is just what I’m doing. I like it a lot. It has complex, interesting characters, over laid with each other in surprising ways, lots of specific “voices,” just a myriad of things to like. I’m already plotting to try more of Jess Walter’s books.

Speaking of books: What good books have you read lately? Either set in Italy or about Italy or by an Italian? Anything, even marginally Italian-oriented, would be considered. If I get a lot of responses, I might like to share them here. Which will drive me to update my Favorite Italian Books List on the web site.

Thinking about our upcoming September trip to Venice, Umbria and hopefully Trieste already. Which makes me want to keep repeating

See you in Italy! See you in Italy!

Stew Vreeland

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