Spousal Unit was recently in Venice for work. When he came back he said that he couldn’t figure out how a place built like Venice could possibly exist. I said, it’s no wonder Italo Calvino wrote Invisible Cities; Venice almost seems to demand it, and he happened to be the person who could do the job.
(I had requested a copy of Le città invisibili as a souvenir of his trip, but alas, it was not doable. I hope that just means I’ll get to pick out my own copy on an Italy trip in the distant future: Rome, Florence, and Venice. Spousal Unit’s contribution to this discussion: “Yeah, you need to visit Northern Italy–it’s all the parts of the Frick you liked, only everywhere and all the time.”)
I’m taking a break from SFF reading and scanning my bookshelves for something else. It will likely be “period” literature–perhaps something Italian or Japanese. Something that lovingly renders silken embroidery, gilt wood, etc.
Jeanne talked about books, mostly urban fantasy ones, having or lacking “sensaplace”, a favorite feature of mine in stories. An urban fantasy story, to me, is a love song to cities, and they must have foundations in solid bedrock as well as scrape the sky. That’s why I don’t seek out a lot of contemporary literature. They assume their default is the reader’s default and so the resulting book feels ungrounded. I am uncomfortable, physically, reading a book that I can’t visualize. One gets motion sickness when the inner and outer perceptions of movement clash; it’s the same feeling but with text on a page. This also applies to SFF. I had an incredibly hard time getting through Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand because it was impossible for me to envision.
There’s a trick to minimizing the amount of set-dressing for maximum sensaplace–the semiotics of ballet made me think of this the other day as I was dreamily perusing rehearsal pictures. A hairnet on the ballerina means Romeo and Juliet. Frenchiness means Sleeping Beauty. (Coppélia and Giselle can be hard to tell apart in the beginning! Peasant bodices everywhere. But of course they diverge wildly after Act I or so.) Mental macros, if you’ve got them installed.
Then again, I’m writing a historical fantasy set in fake-Florence, so maybe I should be reading history books instead. Haha.