A mixed plunge into Venetian living.
Captivated by the delight that Venice casts over visitors—and ready for a change from all that is London—Weideger (Gilding the Acorn, not reviewed) rents an apartment in Venice for a month. What is an extraordinarily artistic and sensual city at first glance proves to be just the same on the everyday level for Weideger as she learns to find her way around the neighborhood she’s landed in. Drawn by the city’s beauty, she now wants its intimacy, to know its idiosyncrasies and peccadilloes. No shrinking violet, she fights for what she wants, be it a transportation pass, a chocolate pastry, or an apartment. Her living arrangements come in for ample description, but that’s no problem for the reader, since she winds up in an old palace with excellent views and detailing: “Two hundred years before, a master craftsman had been at work in this room. Clearly he had been a man with a light touch and an inclination to make inert materials dance.” Good, informal writing on the history of the family who owned the palace, and on Weideger’s rambles through the Jewish past of the city, bump up against stuffier material on the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation and art-preservation charities. Weideger is a journalist, and some of these sections give the feeling that she wanted to get extra mileage out of research for another project. Infinitely more appealing are her run-ins with her landlady (rather than the relationships she forms with Guggenheim’s heirs), and better by far is her story of a wicked car accident over her forays into flood-control planning.
Keeping on the level of the quotidian, Weideger’s work transports and entertains. But her journalistic endeavors are cobbled poorly to the personal, like awkwardly high new heels on comfy old shoes.