Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Venice, by Donna Leon

Despite its title, Donna Leon's My Venice and Other Essays doesn't consist of one essay titled "My Venice" along with essays on other topics: it is instead a collection of occasional articles for various publications, some of which deal directly with Venice while others deal with Leon's family, her house outside Venice, her love of opera, etc. One topic it deals with only indirectly is the writing of crime novels, though there is an essay on teaching writing.

But the book is rich in something that illuminates Leon's novels: her indignations at incivilities, hunters, and other topics and her experiences with the difficulties, pleasures, and annoyances of living in Venice. What her detective deals with in her books, she addresses more directly here, though seldom illuminating any specific incidents in the books. She is often very funny, not least when she is venting her anger or bafflement over topics like the tendency in the field of classical music to emphasize the sexuality rather than the talent of some performers.

For a glimpse into the thoughts and life of Commissario Brunetti's author, or into the experiences and opinions that lie behind the detective's stories, My Venice is quite interesting. But more important is that Leon is interesting and entertaining to spend some time with, and her voice here is open, illuminating, and engaging.

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