Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review: 'If Venice Dies' by Salvatore Settis

Italian author Salvatore Settis not only writes books on art history and articles for journals and magazines – he is also an archaeologist and art historian, having directed the Getty Research Institute of Los Angeles and the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa as well as serving as chairman of the Louvre Museum's Scientific Council. He is considered the conscience of Italy for his role in spotlighting its neglect of the national cultural heritage.

Salvatore addresses concerns about the viability of Venice as a center of culture and architecture in this century of mass media influx and invasion by non-cultural hoards. ‘With Venetians coming out on the streets to protest the massive cruise ships that are overtaking their city, now's a good time to get an in-depth look at the issues that are transforming the Queen of the Adriatic from a cultural gem into a Disneyfied theme park.’

The scope of the writing in this book certainly merits all the numerous awards it has already garnered. ‘Salvatore credits his countryman for the notion of “invisible cities.” He uses this as a defining term for the city as “a living tapestry of stories, memories, principles, languages, desires, institutions, and plans.” If homo urbanus can go on weaving that tapestry, allowing for “human scale” rather than insisting we pay for it, then even the likes of Chongqing may yet serve as “reservoirs of moral energy we’ll need to build our future.”

As many of us mourn the passing of gentility and correspondence being substituted with Facebook ramblings, tweets, blogs, selfies, cell phone and computer addiction, this book demands we look at the bigger picture. Are we stomping on civilization and history and tradition and all of the past that matters in favor of the instantaneous need for entertainment by hand held games and ear buds that allow us to speak to people miles away while being annoyingly public? He raises so many fine questions while simultaneously connecting us with Italian culture and art and prose and philosophy – all as possible attendants at the conceivable demise of magnificent Venice? Extraordinary reading on so many levels – a very important book, this. Grady Harp, October 16
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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