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TraveLit--A blog about travel literature. 

     Even with the best of maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys.

Review: Venice is a fish

Venice is a fish: A sensual guide

By Tiziano Scarpa.  Translated by Shaun Whiteside.  Gotham Books, 2008, 160 pp.

 

Is there any city more written about than Venice?  The city is "encrusted with imagination" writes Tiziano Scarpa.  "There isn't another place in the world that could bear all that visionary tonnage on its shoulders."  Venice, he says, "will sink under the weight of all the visions, fantasies, stories, characters and daydreams it has inspired."

 

Scarpa nonetheless seems quite happy to add to that "tonnage" in this love letter to his native city.  His "sensual guide" addresses ways the visitor can take Venice in through the senses and is organized around various parts of the body. 

 

Under "feet," for example, he says: "Feel how your toes turn prehensile on the steps of the bridges, clutching at worn or squared edges as you climb…Wear light shoes, soft-soled…"  Under "legs," he observes, "You're forever going up and down, even in the calli.: Venice is never flat, it's a continuous unevenness, all lumps, bumps, hump-backed bulges, dips, dents, depressions…"  Heart disease is not a problem in Venice, he remarks.

 

As these quotes suggest, this is a very playful book.  "Heart" leads to a discussion of where, in a city without cars, youngsters can find a place to make love when their parents are home.  Read More 

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Review: Don't Make Me Pull Over!

Don't Make Me Pull Over: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip

By Richard Ratay.  Scribner, 2018, 288 pp.

 

Most of us who took family road trips as children will instantly recognize Richard Ratay's title and the car scenario he describes: parents up front, kids squabbling in the back, Dad, who is driving, reaching back with one hand to grab a misbehaving youngster while yelling, "Don't make me pull over!"—and nearly taking the car off the road.

 

It's amazing we survived.

 

In this entertaining book, Ratay takes readers on a tour of the American family road trip, from its origins to its surge after World War II and finally to its decline in the eighties, when it was largely supplanted by air travel.  Drawing on his own childhood experience of car trips with his parents and three older siblings, he enlivens his narrative with personal anecdotes, while delving into the many factors that made this peculiar form of travel both possible and popular.  Read More 

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