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Florence: A Delicate Case (2002)

Florence: A Delicate Case (2002)

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3.07 of 5 Votes: 2
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1582342393 (ISBN13: 9781582342399)
bloomsbury usa

About book Florence: A Delicate Case (2002)

Re-read (bought & read it in Florence in 2006 when I was staying there for a summer course) of this charming little ‘refreshing antidote to the average city guide’ as the cover says. Not always fairly judged though, just because it is not a city guide and you will be disappointed if that is what you expect. Surely a book that opens with the sentence: ‘Florence has always been a popular destination for suicides’ will give you a particular view of … a popular destination. The author lived in Florence (and as far as I know still divides his time between Italy and the US), knows a lot about the history and more about the ‘petit-histoire’. So he pays homage to Florence's Renaissance, but also tells about the flood of 1966 and every day life. Above all he wonderfully depicts the Anglo-Florentine colony that desperately tried to make Florence ‘hers’ and seasons his story with references to famous authors who wrote about Florence or in whose work the city left her traces: John Ruskin, Walter Pater, E.M. Forster, Henry James… From the latter Leavitt derived the title of this book: ‘The little treasure-city is, if there ever was one, a delicate case – more delicate perhaps than any other in the world save that of our taking on ourselves to persuade the Italians that they mayn’t do as they like with their own.’ A interesting read with nice references and interesting ‘notes for further reading’.

A small, thin book, like those one finds in boutiques---usually about cats, small dogs, and/or Paris, and mostly filled with pictures. This one could use pictures, if only for relief. Only five chapters, and almost none of them on Florence. Chapter five seems to explain why the book exists: David Leavitt is a gay author, and while he was in Florence, the last three "monuments" (his term) of the nearly century and a half existence of an expat Anglo-American Florentine community died. Gossips all, and well populated with gay men and women, these folks were notorious for trying to have the last word on their contemporaries, so what gay writer could resist attempting the last word on them?The book's opening is very smart, and its first pages draw the reader in, but before the first chapter has closed, we're already on recycled gossip from this lamentable lot of rich and wannabe rich backbiters. The gossip swirls on, unabated, through chapters three and four, with a break for a rather dry explanation of the whys and hows of moving the statue of David from the piazza to the Academe, and then chapter five resumes the gossip and runs with it to the end of the book. Given that the opening seemed to promise a Florence that was about as far from the Forrester/Merchant Ivory image as the moon itself, the realization that the book is not really about Florence at all was a most bitter disappointment. Bah!

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Ugh. If I were a graduate student who thinks a tedium of examples of one thing will increase the reader's interest in my subject, and if my subject were 'the meaningless examples of British writers living in Florence, being homosexual and not accomplishing much' then I would love this book.But I'm not. So I didn't.I read it because it's part of The Writer and the City series and another book I've read of this series was great: 30 Days in Sydney, by Peter Carey. Also it was written by a UF professor so I was curious.I've got another book of the series on my bedstand but the Florence one is making me hesitant to pick it up.

I don't know if it was me being ignorant in the "classics" or what, but this book was just so nose-in-the-air that I just couldn't do it anymore. I got it out as a way to introduce myself to Florence (Italy) before my trip in a few weeks but it was nothing like I thought - hoped - it would be. I snuck a peek at another review on here when I was deciding if I should stop reading or not (I try not to read reviews of things until after I've read or watched them), and it called the author pretentious, which is exactly what I mean by nose-in-the-air. I've started many books with the intention of finishing them *one day* but this is the first time I'm saying that I'm officially done with a book.

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