March 31, 2015

JoAnn Locktov on the enchanting new book, 'Dream of Venice'

JoAnn Locktov, principal of Bella Figura Communications and editor of 'Dream of Venice,' answers our questions on the book's conception and her love affair with Venice, Italy. Photographs by Charles Christopher.

by New York Spaces

"Dream of Venice"

NYS: What led you to work on the book Dream of Venice?

JL: When I met Charles Christopher and discovered his remarkable photographs, I felt they deserved to be immortalized in a book.

NYS: Can you explain the concept behind the book to us?

JL: The photographs speak to an intimate, sensual and mystical Venice. We wanted to meld these less obvious views of Venice with the contemporary experience of the city.

NYS: Where and how did you find the various writers, books to excerpt, etc.?

JL: I just had to peruse my bookshelves to find Erica Jong, Frances Mayes, Judith Martin, David Hewson, Roger Crowley, Dianne Hales, Jane Turner Rylands, Matthew White, Alberto Toso Fei, and Adam Van Doren.

Marcella Hazan.

We knew that beloved cultural virtuosos like Marcella Hazan, Sylvia Sass and Giampaolo Seguso had deep connections to the city. Marcella lived in Venice for 20 years, Sylvia performed at Teatro La Fenice and Giampaolo is the patriarch of a family that has lived on Murano since 1397.

My interest and writing on Carlo Scarpa led me to the architect Guido Pietropoli. Several contributors were as close as my address book, having shared Venetian escapades with friends who are poets and journalists.

Charles is greatly influenced by the work of Nicolas Roeg and so it was natural to ask the artists associated with the legendary thriller Don't Look Now. The lovely surprise was that so many extraordinary talents graciously shared their thoughts.

NYS: What began your fasciation with Venice?

Claire Bloom.

JL: My first visit was in 1996. Captivated by her serenity, as soon as I left, I wanted to return. The cape lunghe helped too.

NYS: What do you think about this grand architectural city on the water draws so many people to fall in love with it?

JL: It is an improbable city that defies our imagination. Venice is an intoxicating liminal place that seduces all five senses.

NYS: From the sonnets, to songs, to movies, Venice is constantly the elusive lover that inspires so many dreams and creative output. Does one ever tire of it?

JL: Apparently not. Venice just celebrated her 1,594th birthday!

NYS: What is Venice like during their Acqua Alta (high water) season, which usually takes place during winter time?

Guido Pietropoli.

JL: Acqua Alta now takes place throughout the year, so it is always a good idea to pack your wellies. The water is high for the length of time it takes the tide to recede, about 4 hours. It is an inconvenience only if you must get somewhere in a hurry, and that somewhere is covered in water. The Piazza is the lowest elevation so during Acqua Alta it will always be flooded. The Venetians are prepared and will set up elevated passarelle, so that you can walk above the puddles. My recommendation to avoid sloshing around is to duck into a delicious museum or eat your way through a glorious multi-course lunch. Neither choice is a terrible affliction. Acqua Alta is a reminder that Venice rose from the sea; the water and the city are indivisible.

Frances Mayes.

NYS: What is a must-do for someone visiting Venice?

JL: Get lost. Turn off your navigation, fold up your map and walk. Turn blind corners, traverse bridges, meander by canals. Listen to the echo of your footsteps. Rather than focus on where you would like to end up, enjoy where you are.

NYS: What do you think makes the San Giacomo di Rialto so special?

JL: I'll let the maritime historian Roger Crowley answer this question with the wonderful narrative he wrote for the book:

"In quiet back alleys beside still canals you can lose all sense of time; you feel you might slip between centuries and come out in some other age. The clock on the merchant's church of "San Giacomo di Rialto" reminds me it wasn't always so.

Venice grew rich on trade and its people lived with a hard-headed sense of time. Public clocks set the pattern of the daily round; auctions were timed on the life of a candle; the ringing of the "Marangona," the carpenter's bell, from the "campanile" in St Mark's square called the shipwrights to their work.

Time was a commodity. It could make the difference between profit and loss, riches and ruin. Venetian people counted carefully the dates for repaying debts, for the return of the spice fleets from Alexandria and Beirut, for trade fairs, festivals and religious processions.

The merchants of Venice became the richest people in Europe in the presence of this clock. For hundreds of years the rotation of its golden rays brought pepper, silk, ginger, glass, furs and pearls, frankincense and carpets – anything that the world might contain—here to the Rialto. This was the souk of the Western world."

Jane Turner Rylands.

NYS: It is known as one of the most romantic city's in the world. What is so enchanting about a Gondola

ride in the Grand Canal?

JL: Venice needs to be experienced from the water, preferably in a boat without a motor. A gondola has the romantic legacy, but a sandalo, a batelina, even a short ride on a traghetto all offer the essence of "floatingness," a concept originated by Peggy Guggenheim, and elaborated in the book.

To glide on the canals and witness the steps of moss and patina of stones so close that you can reach out and touch them, is enchanting, no matter the vessel.

NYS: About a champagne in San Marco Square?

Matthew White.

JL: To sit in the Piazza and sip a glass of prosecco or a Titian hued spritz is to take part in a tradition that started in the 12th century. There is romance in medieval nostalgia but I suspect that the enchantment has more to do with the beguiling beauty of the gilded Basilica San Marco, the majesty of the Ducal Palace, the statuesque campanile, and the elegance of the classical renaissance arches. The architectural integrity of the Piazza can drown out even the most rambunctious tourist.

NYS: What did you want readers to take from Dream of Venice?

JL: I would like to inspire the discovery of new writers, poets, artists and films that illuminate Venice. I hope that when the last page is read, Venice becomes more than a cherished novelty, it will become a visible city.

NYS: What made you decide to donate a portion of the books proceeds to Save Venice, an American non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the artistic heritage of Venice?

JL: Dream of Venice and every book in the series (Architecture, Design and Art come next) will raise money to strengthen the city. There are countless masterpieces (paintings, mosaics, sculptures, libraries) that will fade into oblivion if they are not protected and restored. There was never any question about using the book sales to support this critical work; for me, it is the only sustainable way to love Venice.

Marina Fiorato.

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