Guilt by Association

Reading over my last letter from Venice, I spot the word "improbable," which has somehow slipped in through the barbed wire fence of watchful Russianness I have been building in order to keep all manner of tripe out of these monthly communications. I am sorry, and promise that nothing of the kind will ever happen again. Never again, in the fortified, hermetic space that is this column, will anybody come across anything that will so much as suggest, for example, that

Everything that happens in Venice has this inherent improbability, of which the gondola, floating, insubstantial, at once romantic and haunting, charming and absurd, is the symbol.

Come to think of it, what I am in a position to offer here is a whole list of specific promises, which may at first sound difficult to fulfill but are perfectly realistic. I promise not to exploit the simile of trompe-l'oeil when speaking of "this painted deception," meaning Venice. I undertake never to allude to the "friend of Byron's, the Countess Querini-Benzoni, la biondina in gondoleta." And, of course, I will make no reference whatever to the story of the city's founding,...

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