cover image Vaporetto 13

Vaporetto 13

Robert Girardi. Delacorte Press, $19.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31938-6

With mystical elements of Catholicism planted within the harsh ground of reality, Girardi's fiction never fails to bear fruit. Here, he creates a strong, fast-paced plot in which his characters, searching for their true callings, invariably lose parts of themselves. Jack Squire, a foreign exchange trader, finds himself in Venice with his company in order to learn about Italian politics. Once he's in Italy, however, business comes second to love as Squire becomes obsessed with Caterina Vendramin, an elusive, secretive Venetian whose stories are as old as the city itself. Girardi's Venice rocks and sways in the wake of the vaporetti (motorized canal buses), and he soon finds that everything he encounters reminds him of his deceased mother and her cat, which he had put to sleep only because it had become an inconvenience to his efficient, money-making lifestyle. Though the book moves at a swift pace within its evocative setting, Girardi's metaphors don't sing as sweetly as in his first novel, Madeleine's Ghost, and his dialogue can be tiresome (upon giving a valuable antique necklace to Caterina, Squire whispers in her ear a line straight out of a romance novel: ""Of course no present is free... I want something in return for this necklace."" The novel goes flat at the conclusion, as if Girardi were eager to end it; it seems unworthy of this gifted and imaginative writer. Perhaps Girardi has become temporarily complacent--like Squire, who, having completely discarded any semblance of his earlier existence, proclaims ""Now my life is beer."" Film rights to Warner/Di Novi; author tour. (Oct.)