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Florence, A Delicate Case (The Writer and the City)
ISBN 1582342393 / 9781582342399 / 1-58234-239-3
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David Leavitt has long been a writer of rare distinction, and Florence, a Delicate Case is a compact and highly pleasurable book that functions on many levels. Firstly, there is the enjoyment of the prose: Leavitt's pithy, poetic style is immensely evocative, always erudite and unfailingly entertaining. Then there is the detailed and atmospheric evocation of one of the world's most beguiling cities. But most of all, Leavitt's book is a brilliant panoply of some of the most remarkable characters (literary and otherwise) who made Firenze their home.
Beginning by speculating as to why Florence has always proved such a desirable destination for would-be suicides, Leavitt's asks what makes the city (in the words of Henry James) such a "delicate case" for natives and incomers alike. Smoothly negotiating past and present, Leavitt details the history of the foreign colony from the middle of the 19th century until the dark days of the Mussolini era and, later, the last gasp of the Anglo-Florentine colony marked by the passing of such luminaries as Harold Acton and John Pope-Hennessy.
There are marvellously entertaining portraits of such talented visitors to the city as EM Forster, Tchaikovsky and DH Lawrence (Florence was always a centre for the sexual taboo-breakers--Leavitt is particularly perceptive when dealing with the many gay artists and writers who strolled down the Via Tornabuoni). But the author is just as diverting when discussing the wastrels and eccentrics. Who is the book aimed at? That's not quite clear--but if you're interested in the city, or its wildly disparate cast of characters, you're sure to find several tempting nuggets in this concise volume. --Barry Forshaw [via]