The New York Times has an interesting article about John Berendt's book, THE CITY OF FALLING ANGELS. A follow-up to Berendt's wildly success MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL, it's set in Venice and is supposed to be the story of tracking down the arsonists responsible for the destructive fire at La Fenice in 1996.
According to the article, Venice is not amused by the book. "He took the fire, an event that was critical for the city, and told it from a narrow point of view," Mr. Chiarot [the director of marketing and communications for La Fenice] said. "It was a serious story and he reduced it to gossip."
I have mixed feelings about the book. In the end, its seems that Berendt was more interested in collecting a bunch of weird characters," then he was in investigating the La Fenice fire. That said, I want to end with a quote from the book. It's my favorite part:
"I don’t know why Americans can’t come to Venice and just have a good time, instead of coming here and beating their breasts. You know what I mean? It’s this thing of having to come here on a mission. Why must they come to Venice to save it? It’s nice, of course, the money they give. But it doesn’t have anything to do with generosity. It means they want to look important. And, really, it’s just a drop in the ocean. They should come and have a good time. Period. Right? Walk around. See some paintings. Go to some restaurants, like they do in other cities. Americans don’t go to Paris to save Paris, do they? Right? When you see a five-hundred-year-old Venetian building, it may be a bit shabby and possibly even in danger. But you can’t describe it as ‘decaying.’ It has endured five hundred years! The ‘decaying Venice’ is all a big myth. That’s what I mean about Save Venice. Forget it. Venice will save itself. Go save Paris!" (From THE CITY OF FALLING ANGELS, by John Berendt, The Penguin Press, 2005, pg. 328-329)