Saturday, 22 February 2014

Merchants of Venice and the jewels of fairy tales

"She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean,
Rising with her tiara of proud towers
At airy distance, with majestic motion,
A ruler of the waters and their powers:
And such she was: - her daughters had their dowers
From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless East
Pour'd in her lap all gems in sparkling showers...."
Byron/Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Mary McCarthy asks how merchants, commercial people, the inhabitants of Venice, managed to create such a fairy tale city. Because  - perhaps - images of richness are at the heart of fairy tales (is she right? Fairy tales lift the spirits - I have kept my Fairy Liquid bottle from 2011 and the Royal Wedding. Aren't - mainly  - fairy tales about dreams coming true? Kate Middleton
got her balding prince.... But there are also such scary, weird and sinister fairy tales  - Sleeping Beauty in her glass coffin amidst a dense thicket of brambles, pricking a finger and living/dying ....Bluebeard and his murdered wives....)

"Gold, caskets of gold, caskets of silver, the miller's daughter spinning gold all night long, thanks to Rumpelstiltskin, the cave of Ali Baba stored with stolen gold and silver, the underground garden in which Aladdin found jewels growing on trees, so that he could gather them in his hands, rubies and diamonds and emeralds, the Queen's lovely daughter whose hair is black as ebony and lips are red as rubies..."

Just look at the way those Madonnas dress.

"Florentine madonnas wear transparent veils and genteel 'old stuff' = faded blue and old roses with dulled gold trim- that have been handed down for generations in a miserly Tuscan family. This will not do for the Venetians.... No Venetian saint or secular figures is permitted to dress drably."

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy