Sunday, January 25, 2009

Review: Seeing Venice: Bellotto's Grand Canal, Essay by Mark Doty

First, a shameful metaphor: imagine your favorite food in the whole world.  Now imagine a single, perfect, delicious bite of that food, mouth-watering in appearance.  You gaze at it; finally you consume it—not too quickly---not too slowly.  It tastes better than you even imagined.  It was a mere bite, but it was enough.

It was amazing!

That is exactly what Mark Doty's Essay Seeing Venice: Bellotto's Grand Canal was for me.

This tiny (15.5 x 14 x 1.5 cm) book puts giant coffee-table style formats to shame, making it perfect for apartment living, tucking into your luggage after seeing the real painting at the Getty Museum, and making a 'statement' in favor of a greener planet.  The cover of the book, carefully shrouded in a vellum fog, unfolds to reveal Bellottos' masterpiece in its entirety.  The pages of the book focus on details of the painting.

Doty's elegant, lean prose is all about the painting and not about showing off his own magnificent talent with words.  He manages to evoke rich sensory appreciation of the smells, textures, people's lives, the uniqueness of Venice in the world. 

I'll fight an urge to quote many lines in favor of just one about "Water":

" An odd hardness about it, a flat, impermeable look, Glassy, impenetrable, as if it strove to be part of the world of pavement."

In my utterly pedestrian life, prior to reading this book I had no desire to visit Venice, examine Bellotto's Grand Canal, nor read Doty's poetry.  Now, however, I hope to do all three!  (Well, if I can't make it to Venice, at least I can go to the Getty Museum).

With copious thanks to Getty Publications for this promotional reading copy.

"Reading….it's ALL personal."

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