“… Venice is a state of mind. That is, the scintillating, kaleidoscopic, shifting colors of that watery realm remain alive inside me long after I depart the actual city.”
This from Frances Mayes’ Foreword to Dream of Venice, the 2014 book by editor JoAnn Locktov and photographer Charles Christopher. They’ve created a sumptuous and vibrant book that leads readers through Venice’s different moods, seasons, and emotions by pairing Christopher’s photos with quotes by Venetophiles.
Paging through Dream of Venice evoked all kinds of memories for me. Following the Foreword, the first photo shows the sculpture in the lagoon between Fondamente Nuove and the island of San Michele. Here’s my pic of it from 2011:
Seeing these two robed figures aboard their leaf-shaped vessel always tells me I’m approaching Venice. It is at about this time that my throat tightens, as I know for certain that I am arriving back to my city.
The facing quote by Alessandro Falassi calls Venice a “liminal space par excellence.” I recall first learning about liminal spaces when I was in a college anthropology course. To refresh my memory (college was some years ago!), I looked up liminality and found this:
The zone where this sculpture floats is a liminal space, an in-between moment for me as I arrive at this city that never fails to transform me. Locktov’s choice of Falassi’s quote here was spot-on.
Then there’s a poem by Rachel Dacus where she writes, “I have taken to wearing Venice on my wrist.” She has found out my secret! Whenever I make a presentation about Venice, I always wear something Venetian, whether it’s on my wrist, or earrings in my ears, or my strappy heels on my feet. This is my way of keeping Venice with me, present in those moments, like I’ve brought along the city as my date for that evening.
Then Dianne Hales tells the story of the older man who compliments her in Italian. I had to stop reading so I might relive the memory (the memories!) of the men I had kissed impulsively in Venice. It’s a city for kissing. Christopher’s photo of a lopsided archway and a ghost-like couple represents the fleeting sensation of these kinds of encounters.
Dream of Venice captures all those dreamy moments that are so hard to freeze with static words, words that have a limited power. The combination of poems and quotes paired with pictures brings the city rushing back into my veins. What is there to say when instead I can feel?
I could go on like this for a while to recommend the book, but you should get to experience it for yourself instead. I’ll just tease you with a few details:
–A phrase new to me: “In piedi come un veneziano”–to walk like a Venetian.
–Rich colors in photos of water, of ceilings, of boats, of dusk and fog and midnight.
–Insights into the making of The Wings of the Dove (which some of my gondolier friends worked on).
–Assassins transformed into cats? Read Erica Jong to find out.
–The delicious butt on the moor statue atop the clock tower.
–Venice compared to LSD!
Dream of Venice is not something to read in one sitting, but is something to be sipped like a good grappa. It made me pay attention to things like the possibility in the odor of mildew, or a fear of pilings for foundations. You can certainly transport yourself to Venice to enjoy some lovely moments with this book in your hands.