Whenever isobars descend from Greenland
(damn you, high pressure!), we
indulge in two forms of escapist Internet window shopping: first for summer clothing,
and second for airline tickets to someplace far away, and warmer. Thanks to a stripy-gondolier-shirt revival*,
a Venn diagram charting both of our guilty habits would show a single point of
In his study of St. Mark’s Square, Fenlon shows that the evolution
of the space Napoleon is supposed to have called “the finest drawing-room in
Europe” from marketplace to parade ground to tourist haven has been a
barometer for Venice’s fortunes. Like the other books in the Wonders of the World series, Piazza San
Marco peels back the varnish
conferred by landmark status to reveal the complex, colorful, and noisy
evolution of an iconic place.
Venice from the Ground Up (no,
you’re not the first to think it
should be …from the Water Up) offers another close-up view of the city. An installment in our From the Ground Up series, it guides readers through the history of the city by way of its canals and landmarks.
In a literary vein, Tony Tanner’s
gorgeous Venice Desired
charts the encounters of writers including Ruskin, Byron, Henry James, Proust,
and Pound with what Ruskin called “this amphibious city—this Phocaea, or
sea-dog of towns,—looking with soft human eyes at you from the sand, Proteus
himself latent in the salt-smelling skin of her.” If the striped shirts didn’t
seduce you, surely Ruskin will. (Note that Tanner’s similarly warm, elegant,
and fascinating Prefaces to Shakespeare —including of course, reflections on The
Merchant of Venice—will be out this spring.)
“Whatever roughness rage, some
exquisite sea-thing/ Will surely rise to save.” That’s Byron, in Don Juan. And Tanner
says: “The lines suit equally well whether you believe in Venus, or Venice. Or, of course,
There are worse places to daydream about on a winter’s day.
* Here at HUP, we get all our fashion news from the Wall Street Journal.
Photos from Venice from the Ground Up