Emanuel E. Garcia is a Philidelphia-born psychiatrist and now writer, who has been living in New Zealand for ten years. He has written scholarly works on psychoanalysis and the psychology of creativity with investigations into famous composers. He has now written four novels, a collection of stories and four books of poetry.
This short fiction called Venetian Rogues, is a series of ten connected tales (“fairy tales for adults” the back cover advises me). The book also contains fourteen photographs of Venice – not tourist shots, but back streets and crumbling plaster walls, the things that people who live there would see all the time. And that is the point of this book, fairy tales about the modern inhabitants of the city.
The city itself is well evoked, helped by the photos, but the mixture of characters I found confusing. From one tale to the next the same person, having become enraptured by one beautiful woman, will leave his wife in pursuit of greater beauty, only to abandon this new fancy in the next tale for an even more beautiful (or different) apparition. The friend of the first man will take up with abandoned wife and the deserted girlfriend with another character, until battered and dazed you emerge from the ten tales confused about exactly who was who.
I wonder if we sometimes read a book too quickly, if we should linger longer on the poetry, the sound of the words or the names of the characters. Our minds take short cuts, skipping ahead after only a partial identification of the people involved. The disjointed nature of these little tales, sometimes including short dream-sequences to further muddy the waters, meant that I came away with too much of a muddle between Donato, Emilia, Cassandra, Marcello, another Donato, an Elena and an Olympia. They are a heady mix of poets, writers, musicians and muses. Only Giovanni remained clear in my mind, the aging lawyer whose death at the close brings much of the cast together for his funeral. On the positive side, there are some great passages of dialogue, and rich language, but perhaps I need to read it again more slowly in order to absorb some of the greater mysteries held in these fairy tales.