Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Fear of Sounding Trivial

 FEB.07.2013 - 1:15 AM

last weekend we spent in Venice and had a wonderful time: the whole city was celebrating  the Carnival of Venice. We walked the streets surrounded by  grown- ups dressed in elaborated period costumes and covered in masks.

 When we got back my daughter asked me why I didn’t write about the visit. Usually when we go away we send mails to the rest of the family detailing our experiences. But this time I didn’t write, and her question made me wonder why. 

There could be several reasons,  the main one is that it was a short vacation, only 5 days and I preferred spending the time walking in the city rather than writing about it.  Another reason could be that after I had finished checking my mail and answering my students’ questions I had no mental leisure for writing a proper letter. But I was not happy with these explanations.

 My suspicion is that I was too self-conscious of sounding banal even in a simple letter to my own daughters. What can I say about Venice and how could I? The paralyzing fear of sounding trivial is always there when writing;  often after  researching a topic, when I finally sit down to write it I  wonder if after all I still  have anything new or interesting  to say.  But here it was Venice's fault, it caused me to avoid writing altogether.

As I am writing this post I remember Bill Bryson who always finds exciting insights about the places that he visits. A wonderful example is Notes From A Small Island (1995) which he  wrote after  touring  Britain as a student in the 1970s. He never sounds  banal and even the British people love  his writing and enjoy his sense of humor.

We visited Venice when my two daughters were thirteen and eleven. At that time we were not worried about how we wrote about the visit as  we asked the girls to be in charge of the trip journal and to write about their experiences.  What they chose to describe had nothing to do with the beauty of the city. They wrote about  the camping site where we stayed, the ice cream that we ate, the smell on the canal and how we got lost in Venice, and how Coke was more expensive than the wine that their parents bought. I guess that after all I cannot avoid the cliche about seeing Venice through the eye of a child.

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