Berendt does great justice to an exalted city that has rightly fascinated the likes of Henry James, Robert Browning and many...


An intriguing tour of mysterious Venice and its most fascinating residents, centered around a 1996 fire that destroyed the city's historic opera house.

Venice may be sinking, but in Berendt's capable hands, the city has never seemed more colorful, perplexing and alluring. The story focuses on the destruction by fire in 1996 of the famed Fenice Opera House, where Verdi first unveiled Rigoletto and La Traviata. Berendt, best known for 1995’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, decides to take an apartment to record the drama that ensues. What follows is part police drama, part cultural tour, with many pauses for comic relief along the way. While visiting some of Venice's ornate palazzos and their aristrocratic inhabitants, we encounter characters like the chameleon-like Mario Moro, whose wardrobe includes a different official uniform for every day of the week, and Massimo Donadon, “The Rat King of Treviso.” Eventually, two electricians are charged with torching the Fenice, but as is customary in Venice, the whole truth seems to lie hidden in the city's dimly lit alleyways and winding canals. Berendt also finds intrigue in unexpected quarters. We follow a vicious boardroom feud that ignites within Save Venice, an international fundraising group formed to help restore the city's old buildings and artworks. We also encounter Philip and Jane Rylands, caretakers of Ezra Pound's aged companion of 50 years, Olga Rudge, who are later accused of exploiting the woman's senility in a bid for Pound's Venice cottage and private papers. With the exception of the occasional wrong turn (Berendt lingers far too long over the apparent suicide of a local gay artist, for example), this is an engaging journey in which the author navigates Venice's shadowy politics, its tangled bureaucracy and its elegant high-society nightlife with a discerning, sanguine touch.

Berendt does great justice to an exalted city that has rightly fascinated the likes of Henry James, Robert Browning and many filmmakers throughout the world.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-59420-058-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2005

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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