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My Venice and Other Essays - Donna Leon

It can be either an interesting or a tedious experience to read a book from an established novelist in which he/she resorts to non-fiction to expound upon themes touching upon life, men and women, poverty, family, home, books, and music.


In "My Venice and Other Essays", the celebrated mystery novelist Donna Leon speaks with an unflinching honesty on subjects as varied as her beloved Venice (which she has made her home for the past 30 years), animals, men, music, her native land (the U.S.A., which she looks upon with a decidedly critical eye, which is not unlike any expatriate who has become fully acclimated to his/her adapted land, yet still retains a curiosity in the home country), and books.


There was one story Leon relates in one of the essays that made me chuckle. It concerned a woman in a fur coat who took her dog out one day for a walk. At some point, the dog took a dump in front of a man's house, while he was at the window of said house, taking his coffee. The woman, for her part, set some set between herself and her dog so as to give the impression to passerby that she had no connection to the dog. Well, the woman lets some time pass and walks back in the direction of her dog when the door to the man's house opens.


"He looked down, saw what was directly in front of his door, looked at the dog, looked at the woman, and asked, 'Excuse me, Signora, is this your dog?'


"She threw up her hands in offended innocence and said, 'No, of course not.'


"The man smiled, called to the dog in a gentle voice, and, when it came, he picked it up and delicately turned it upside down, then used the fur of its back to brush up the s--t. Just as carefully, he set the dog back on its feet, said a polite 'Buon giorno' to the woman, and walked away.


"We five erupted in joy, as though Venice had just won the World Cup. Two pounded the table in their happiness, one cried out 'Vittoria,' and then we lifted our glasses in a toast to the genius of our Venetian Terminator."