I have always been fond of fiction writers who are grounded in a certain place. Indeed, I think that their stories are often the best airplane and hotel reading material when visiting that place. That's why I always try to have a Donna Leon mystery novel featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti on hand when I'm headed anywhere near Venice. Now I have a book to keep me company when I'm at home and want to be reminded of that watery city. My Venice and Other Essays (Atlantic Monthly Press, $26) was published just last week.
In fairness, only about a quarter of the book contains essays about life in Venice, but they are so keenly observed that they almost make me homesick for a city I've only visited. Even the other essays on subjects as varied as men, America, books, and music have the same kind of keen observation that many expatriates cultivate. Although Leon grew up in New Jersey, she's spent most of her adult years overseas, fleeing to Venice from Iran when Khomeini came to power in 1979.
The essays are mostly short and mostly slight -- it is hard to be ponderous when commenting cattily about one's neighbor's penchant for throwing garbage in the Grand Canal -- but they have the kind of friendly intimacy of a letter from a friend far away. Like a poem, an essay is not between two pages, but between two people. Have a look at My Venice. It may speak to you as well.