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» » The City Of Falling Angels

The City Of Falling Angels by John Berendt and Holter Graham

The City Of Falling Angels
The City Of Falling Angels
John Berendt and Holter Graham
Size fb2:
1925 kb
Size epub:
1524 kb
Random House Audio (2005)
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It was seven years ago that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil achieved a record-breaking four-year run on the New York Times bestseller list. John Berendt's inimitable brand of nonfiction brought the dark mystique of Savannah so startlingly to life for millions of people that tourism to Savannah increased by 46%. It is Berendt and only Berendt who can capture Venice--a city of masks, a city of riddles, where the narrow, meandering passageways form a giant maze, confounding all who have not grown up wandering into its depths. Venice, a city steeped in a thousand years of history, art and architecture, teeters in precarious balance between endurance and decay. Its architectural treasures crumble--foundations shift, marble ornaments fall--even as efforts to preserve them are underway. THE CITY OF FALLING ANGELS opens on the evening of January 29, 1996, when a dramatic fire destroys the historic Fenice opera house. The loss of the Fenice, where five of Verdi's operas premiered, is a catastrophe for Venetians. Arriving in Venice three days after the fire, Berendt becomes a kind of detective--inquiring into the nature of life in this remarkable museum-city-- while gradually revealing the truth about the fire. In the course of his investigations, Berendt introduces us to a rich cast of characters: a prominent Venetian poet whose shocking 'suicide' prompts his skeptical friends to pursue a murder suspect on their own; the First Family of American expatriates who lose possession of the family palace after four generations of ownership; an organization of high-society, party-going Americans who raise money to preserve the art and architecture of Venice, while quarreling in public among themselves, questioning each other's motives and drawing startled Venetians into the fray; a contemporary Venetian surrealist painter and outrageous provocateur; the master glassblower of Venice; and numerous others--stool-pigeons, scapegoats, hustlers, sleepwalkers, believers in Martians, the Plant Man, the Rat Man, and Henry James.Berendt tells a tale full of atmosphere and surprise as the stories build, one after the other, ultimately coming together to reveal a world as finely drawn as a still-life painting. The fire and its aftermath serve as a leitmotif that runs throughout, adding to the elements of chaos, corruption and crime, and contributing to the ever-mounting suspense of this brilliant audiobook.Bonus feature includes an exclusive interview with the author!From the Compact Disc edition.
  • Ericaz
An interesting book about the town of Venice and the people who actually live there- as opposed to the tourists. The people and places you meet in the book are interesting, but he just couldn't find the quirkiness and the mystery that he found in Savannah. Sorry, John. "Midnight" is one of my favorite books- next time, try New Orleans.
  • Goltikree
What a great book. The author relates everything that is great and not so great about Venice. Its history, its greats, its eccentrics, its social history, what Venice was, is and what it hopes to be. A fantastic book. A pleasure to read.
  • Yozshubei
I read this book when it first came out, and I remember it as being one of the best books I ever read. It married a mystery with quirky characters, with history - all of the components that made "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" truly great. I recently bought the book and read it again, with hopes of recommending it to my book group. But alas, I remember it better than it was. I would recommend this book - but not for a book group. There really wasn't enough there for discussion. I personally got a lot out of it, because I read it right before taking a trip to Venice. It formulated my travel plans in the city. Some high points of my trip were going to a concert at La Fenice Opera House, and viewing the church that gave the book its title.
  • Forey
The book never seemed to take off or really finish. I would not recommend this book to a friend to read.
  • Jox
It's inevitable that readers of Midnight will have high expectations for Berendt's latest, and I, too, wanted to be charmed when I began Angels. Berendt failed to fire my interest in the first chapters, but I continued on and after plowing ahead found myself fully engrossed. I was rewarded for my perseverence.

Berendt has managed to write vignettes that fall together in a theme of decadance amid beauty. Angels falling, indeed. An arrogant people resting on very old laurels, the world's most beautiful city requiring a league of wealthy New Yorkers for its preservation, and no particular thrust by its citizenry to rise up from the muck into which it's been sinking for centuries.

There are juicy scandals. bits of glamor and frivolity, and sad glimpses of a city that is falling apart in more ways than the physical. The place is a fascinating mess. That's Venice: an agonizingly proud and crippled city held up only by its glorious past which remains in full evidence to its many visitors.

Berendt makes a textual thread of the tale of the fire at the Fenice Theatre and the legal machinations to find blame, but it's more a book of short works that would stand alone. As such, it sits well with everyone's favorite works about Venice.
  • Kaghma
I find Berendt's style of writing engaging and his story telling an enjoyable way to explore history from a unique perspective. His access to people who had a front seat to noteworthy events gives a front row seat as mysteries unfold. I'm getting ready for a trip to Venice and this book added to my excitement. Only wish I could meet some of the people he had access to.
  • Dusho
I bought this book in the mistaken belief that it was a novel. In fact, it is a work of non-fiction, but its rich cast of characters might provide enough material for several novels; they leap off the page in all their obsessions, follies, and foibles with an intensity that seems to belong more to fiction than to sober fact. But then Venice, which is the setting of John Berendt's book, has always seemed a place of fantasy; perhaps that is why it has attracted so many expatriate artists over the centuries (Robert Browning, JMW Turner, Henry James, Richard Wagner, Claude Monet, Igor Stravinsky, and Ezra Pound, to name but a few), besides producing such great art of its own.

Berendt arrives in Venice in January 1996, a day or two after the city's famous opera house, La Fenice (the phoenix, aptly named), had been completely gutted by fire. He decides to stay in the city for a long time, and the story of the investigation of the fire, raising the money for the theater's reconstruction, selecting between competing plans and bids, and the Byzantine process of gaining approvals and managing the rebuilding forms the major connecting thread of the book, ending with the theater's reopening in 2003. But there are other stories as well, often with strong novelistic overtones. One in particular -- an account of shady dealings in the disposal of a large cache of documents left by Ezra Pound -- Berendt sees as a virtual replay of the plot of Henry James' novella, THE ASPERN PAPERS, in the same Venetian setting.

Berendt shares a nineteenth-century novelist's fascination with internecine feuds. There are two main ones in the book. The first details a split between the sons of the last great master of Venetian glass-making, Archimede Seguso, whose final works were created out of a personal response to the Fenice fire, which he watched from his apartment. Berendt has a way of making one brother seem an angel and the other the villain -- until he interviews the other, allowing the reader to see the situation from the opposite perspective and to make up his own mind. He uses the same technique in describing the feud between the Americans Larry Lovett and Bob Guthrie, the successive presidents of the Save Venice foundation. Here the dealings get a lot more unpleasant and leave a nasty taste in the mouth even after the book is finished. I think this is partly because these people occupy a social stratum far above that of most readers; I find myself asking of these and several other characters in the book: "How can you use your privileged position to behave like THAT?"

For there is one quality that I do not like in this excellently-structured and well-written book: Berendt writes from the perspective of a superior gossip columnist and social snob. The whole book has an implied put-down of tourists and ordinary visitors. Berendt claims to write about the real Venetians, the people who live there the whole year round. But a high proportion of his characters are the movers and shakers, the Venetian contesse and marchesi, foreign royalty, captains of industry, millionaire expatriates, film stars, and a few powerful members of the city administration. Even his historians and connoisseurs have to be world experts. There seems to be little room for ordinary travelers and art-lovers who approach this special city with respect and wonder. Berendt takes delight in visiting the rich and famous in their palaces that others cannot penetrate, but the effect on this reader at least is one of exclusion, not access. Having spent many weeks in Venice as a student of art history, then a musician, and then on my honeymoon, I feel a sympathy with the place; but instead of extending my admittedly partial understanding, this book makes me feel that I do not belong there at all.

My title, opera buffa, is also the title of one of Berendt's chapters; there is indeed a comic-opera quality through the entire book, the extended spirit of the Venetian Carnival, though I think less of opera than the crazy excess of a Fellini movie. But there is a softer side to the comic vision, verging on pathos, which Berendt handles especially well in his brief portraits of Venetian loners. Early on in the book, we meet Capitano Mario, an eccentric who dresses in a different uniform every day to perform perfectly useless tasks of splendid busy-ness. Then there is the Rat Man of Treviso, an industrialist who has made a fortune selling country-specific rat poison which tastes of typical leftovers from human food, only better. And a very moving chapter near the end tells of the apparent death by suicide of a well-known gay poet, who wanted to be known as "the man who loved others" but who had nobody truly to love him. Here, as the human comedy shifts into tragedy, Berendt touches a note that validates the underlying seriousness of his book, despite the baroque excesses of its upper crust.
Great read on the fire at the Venice Opera House. The author provides in depth insights into the modern day “aristocracy” of Venice and details some in-fighting among the elite of Venice society.