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Books as Food

· Donna Leon,Venice,Frederic C Lane,Mysteries,Reading Rules

I have been a very active reader since before I started school. I used to have “reading rules”, two of which were and 1) if you start a book finish it and 2) read one book at a time. I have matured, somewhat, and I scrapped both of those rules. I have so many books to read, and am always acquiring more, that I no longer waste time reading books that I don’t look forward to reading. With novels, my acid question is “Do I really care what happens to the protagonist?” If the answer is “no” then the book is tossed aside, gently of course.

So, this musing is all about reading more than one book at a time. Although, I should say that I did not do away with the rule entirely, I modified it. I still won’t read two novels at the same time. Couldn’t handle plot clutter!

I find reading one book end to end gets tiresome. Just like doing yard work, a change is as good as a rest. I do most of my reading in bed at night. I always have three books on the go; a novel, a history and a lighter themed book such as an art or illustrated book, often one that has to do with books. I have settled upon the notion that reading my three books is like eating a good meal – there is an appetizer (the novel), the main course (the history) and dessert (the art book). I always read them in the same sequence. And I allocate time to each book. For the novel, it is usually one chapter and sometimes two. For the history book, it is often so many pages, since chapters are often long. And then I read and look at the art book until I start yawning or dozing. And to be honest sometimes I have to skip dessert!

The one downside to this analogy is that I would hate to have the same meal for dinner day after day. But books tend not to be finished at the same times so there is some variety on a regular basis.

Here is what my late-night meal looks like right now.

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Earthly Remains, Donna Leon, William Heinemann, London, 2017.

I did a musing on Donna Leon in my “Found Authors’ series. The current book is #26 in the Commissario Brunetti series. Here is some of what I said in my Donna Leon Musing: “So back to the book. Here are some snippets from the Blurb – “With Acqua Alta, Donna Leon’s award winning series of Venice-based mysteries reaches its high water mark, as suave, determined police commissario Guido Brunetti strives to end a string of violent attacks during acqua alta, the winter floods that submerge Venice.” (I should note that just after I finished reading this book the acqua alta floods created mass destruction in this beautiful city, now becoming a common occurrence – how sad!) “In addition to its taut, intricate plotting, Acqua Alta boasts poignant eventful daily life. The book also offers fascinating insights into the “real” Venice.

The author’s style and use of the language is so great that I often reread a paragraph because it is so beautifully written. I will have to read fast because since her first book published in 1993, she has written another 28 in the series with number 30 scheduled for 2020.”

Donna has now published her 33rd book in the series. She writes one a year, so I am catching up.

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Venice – A Maritime Republic, Frederic C. Lane, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1973.

From the blurb - Frederic C. Lane is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the history of Venice and he has published a number of books about Venice. The present volume culminates a lifetime of distinguished research and writing. Dr. Lane is professor emeritus of history at The Johns Hopkins University, where he taught for thirty-five years. He is a former president of the American Historical Association.

This book, 505 pages of small print, provides a great overall, very-detailed history of Venice. And for an academic the book is very readable.

There is no connection between this book and the Donna Leon book. I visited Venice for all of half a day in 2016, while in Europe for my son’s wedding in Austria. I took my daughter and grandson to Venice so that they could catch a train to take them to Milan to catch their flight to get back home to Hawaii. I was fascinated with the city and have read numerous books about it.

Some were of the “dessert” category full of glorious pictures. The Donna Leon book was part of a book lot of books I acquired at an auction in 2015 but I did not read it until 2019 when I was scrounging around looking for a novel to read.

BUT – a link was made two weeks ago! Commissario Brunetti’s wife Paola’s maiden was Falier. Her father came from a legendary family that had been in Venice for centuries and she grew up in one of the grand palaces facing the canals. I often wondered if the family name was made up or if it was real. There he was in Lane’s book on page 181. Marino Falier was had been a very successful commander of fleets and armies and in 1354 he became the 55th Doge of Venice. He was executed a year later for attempting a coup d’état. One assumes that the family died out and so Leon was comfortable using a “real” name.

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The History of Mystery, Max Allan Collins, Collectors Press, Portland Oregon, 2001.

A very informative book and extremely well illustrated as you can see.

The author credits Eugène François Vidocq with publishing the first modern detective tome, his “Mémoires” in 1828. He had been a criminal, became an informer, and finally converted to a policeman, eventually becoming chief of the Sûreté in 1812. He published his book shortly after he retired. He claimed to have solved more than a thousand crimes. With this publication. Vidocq inadvertently created the first crime narrative, so fictionalized it can be classified as either fact or fiction, essentially making him the innovator of both mystery fiction and true crime.

And one more titbit from two nights ago, when I got to page 112 of the book. Louis Joseph Vance was born September 19, 1879, in Washington, D. C.. He wrote short stories and verse after 1901, then composed many popular novels. His character Michael Lanyard, known as The Lone Wolf, was featured in eight books and 24 films between 1914 and 1949 and also appeared in radio and television series. In 1914, one of the series books was called The Lone Wolf.

Now, you too know the origin of the term “lone wolf” a term well ensconced in our lexicon.