Over the horizon of the lagoon

After I finished my morning coffee with my wife, I looked at Twitter. I found a link to this essay by Craig Mod: Walking Venice.

Venice is cursed. It’s also beautiful and astounding and I walked up and down its alleyways.


I made a mental note to look it later in the day.

Now the admission. My cerebral reading list is a leaky bucket. So many articles and posts get poured it. So few get ladled back out. Most drip out the bottom and evaporate in a wisp.

Untroubled by this sad fact since it’s a daily occurrence, I scrolled on through my timeline. I soon saw the darkly glowing reply from Sebastiaan de With.

@craigmod What an agonizingly beautiful read. I really, really loved this. Thanks, Craig.

I stopped what I was doing right there and read Craig’s essay. It’s wonderful. I won’t spoil any of it. I suggest you go read it right now just like I (eventually) did.

Then come back and enjoy this partial footnote from Consider The Lobster, the essay by David Foster Wallace*. In his piece about visiting the Maine Lobster Festival in 2003, Wallace wrote about what it was like to be a tourist in America near the turn of the 21st century. His comments are about traveling inside the USA, but they are a suitably apt addendum to Craig’s contemporary experiences in Venice, which, it seems, doggedly lives on in the imagination of so many as La Serenìsima Repùblica Vèneta.

As I see it, it probably really is good for the soul to be a tourist, even if it’s only once in a while. Not good for the soul in a refreshing or enlivening way, though, but rather in a grim, steely-eyed, let’s-look-honestly-at-the-facts-and-find-some-way-to-deal-with-them way. My personal experience has not been that traveling around the country is broadening or relaxing, or that radical changes in place and context have a salutary effect, but rather that intranational tourism is radically constricting, and humbling in the hardest way — hostile to my fantasy of being a true individual, of living somehow outside and above it all… To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience. It is to impose yourself on places that in all non-economic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing.

Excerpt From
Consider the Lobster
David Foster Wallace
This material may be protected by copyright.

* I enjoy DFW’s nonfiction so very much, and of course, I need to tell you about it in a footnote. At moments like this, I can’t specifically describe why I enjoy Wallace’s essays because it’s everything. So smart. So geekily baroque. So many unrestrained and overelaborated footnotes. Writing so good that it inspires me to write, and yet is despairing too since there’s no way I can hope to approach his level. But I digress.

Ken Kocienda @kocienda