Sunday, February 18, 2007


Well, I have had a bit of a reading binge in the last few weeks. I finished John Berendt's 'The City of Falling Angels' the other week, which was interesting. Not interesting in terms of content - although probably made more interesting by the fact that we are off to Venice in a few weeks, but interesting in terms of how it reads.

Basically, it is a journal-style view of Venice, documenting a period of time when Berendt was living there. But it feels like a cheap, gossipy view. It is very 'high life' - these are not people you are ever going to meet, nor are you likely to see many of the buildings (at least from the inside). Probably this is just a personal dislike of style thing - nothing actually wrong with teh book, but I would have preferred more about Venice & its history and less of the bitchy gossip of who did what to whom.

Then I had two days without a new book! Gasp! I read some journal articles instead, which I guess is probably good.

Then after a quick trip to the local second-hand book shop, got my hands on a copy of Umberto Eco's 'Baudolino'. I had bought a hard-cover copy of this for my mum a few years ago, as she really liked Name of the Rose (like me), but never got round to reading it. I am glad in a way that I waited as this was a great book to wallow in and take time over. It is much more 'readable' than NotR, with notably fewer sections in languages other than English! There is also a lovely aspect of the 'newness' of English. Even better, however, was reading this having previously read Mandeville's Travels (also known as the Travels of Sir John Mandeville) . I would say that if you are going to read Baudolino, read Mandeville near to it (before, during, after - shouldn't matter much), it really gave alot of it a more honest resonance. I think it would be pretty easy to label much of the book as odd or fantastic, without the knowledge that people were told and believed much of it in the 1300's. According to Wikipedia, Christopher COlumbus had a copy of Mandeville's Travels on his boat as a reference book! The book is like the original Lonely Planet for travellers to the east, except it was even less factual than good old LP (think unicorns, men with only one foot that they hop on and use as an umbrella, phoenixs, anthropophagi (men with no heads but mouths on their stomachs) and all sorts of wonderful stuff (there are some prints at this museum of hoaxes site). A must read in itself, but irresistable when read with Baudolino. Highly, highly recommended, this book rocks. Eco at some of his most accessible and fun!

For more info & reviews see Wikipedia , Powells , and Reviews of Books.

Unfortunately, finishing this once again leaves me bookless. Time for some re-reading I think.

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