Saturday, July 14, 2007

Venezia - Light and Dark Sides

I'm not quite sure what keeps drawing me back to Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti stories. I can't really call them "mysteries," though there usually is one. The plots are fairly simple to figure out so I don't really consider them "challenges." Yet there is something beguiling about the commissario, the laid back life style of the Venetians and the complicated politics of Italy, the Veneto in particular, that entices me. Perhaps it is the way Ms. Leon loves Venice, as anyone who's ever been there must, warts and all.

I was lucky enough to hear Donna Leon speak at the American Library Association in DC a couple of weeks ago and was reminded anew of how much I appreciate her politics which can be gleaned from the moral dilemmas with which she confounds Brunetti. She has tackled the sex slave trade, immigration and economic blackmail, environmental crimes committed by the glass factory owners in Murano, and in Suffer the Little Children, illegal foreign adoption and medical privacy issues.

Over an impromptu luncheon last week with co-workers I was asked if I could be comfortable with the European lifestyle. We had been talking about our travels in recent years. I didn't hesitate for a second! Are you kidding? Every time Guido Brunetti and his wife meet for lunch, order up their panini and several glasses of pinot grigio, I wonder what's wrong with us Americans. Most of us consider ourselves lucky to eat a salad at our desk while reading work-related material. Studies have shown that Americans work longer hours and take fewer vacations than most other workers in developed nations. Brunetti, Paola and their delightful children actually talk while eating their lovingly described dinners in the evening and, when the kids go to do their homework, Guido and Paola relax on the couch with their books and snifters of grappa. Ah, va bene! No wonder I keep returning to Donna Leon and her Venezia. Take a look:

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