With a lack of sentimentality unusual for the genre, Venice Observed explores the history, art, architecture, religion, and cultural peculiarities of the City of Canals. Mordantly witty and legendarily wry, Mary McCarthy catalogs the impressions of such visitors to the city as Montaigne, Stendhal, Spencer, and Henry James, but paints her own wholly original depictions of the city. Her adoration of the immortal city enlivens her interest in everything from the Venetian preference for cats over dogs to Tintoretto’s paintings in the Scuola di San Rocco. Concerning Venice’s ubiquitous tourists, McCarthy notes, “The complaint against foreigners, voiced by a foreigner, chimes querulously through the ages, in unison with the medieval monk who found St Mark’s Square filled with ‘Turks, Libyans, Parthians, and other monsters of the sea.’ Today it is the Germans we complain of, and no doubt they complain of the Americans, in the same words.” Conversational yet deeply informed, Venice Observed is a classic travel narrative for the ages.
Mary McCarthy (1912-1989) was an American critic, public intellectual, and author of more than two dozen books, including her New York Times bestseller, The Group. After graduating from Vassar in 1933 McCarthy moved to New York City and garnered attention as a cutting theater and book critic, contributing to a wide range of publications, such as the Nation, the New Republic, Harper’s Magazine, and the New York Review of Books. She served on the editorial staff of the Partisan Review from 1937 to 1948. During the 1940s and 1950s she was a vocal opponent of both McCarthyism and communism. She wrote liberal critiques of culture and power to the end of her life, opposing the Vietnam War in the 1960s and covering the Watergate scandal hearings in the 1970s.
In addition to The Group, her other novels include The Company She Keeps and Memories of a Catholic Girlhood. McCarthy also proved herself to be one of literature’s greatest traveling companions with the publication of Venice Observed and The Stones of Florence.
For her work, McCarthy won a number of awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships. She died on October 25, 1989.
“Searching observations and astonishing comprehension of the Venetian taste and character.”—New York Herald Tribune
“Mary McCarthy…may be writing the most stimulating guidebooks of our time.”—The Nation
Price: $12.95 (paperback) | $9.99 (ebook)
Pages: 122 pages
Book dimensions: 5.25 x 0.31 x 8 in
Published: September 10, 2020