The Traces: An Essay by Mairead Small Staid (Deep Vellum / A Strange Object)

Tears in the Fence

Mairead Small Staid’s book is the kind of writing the term ‘Creative Non-Fiction’ was invented for. It is a travelogue, a memoir, a romance, critical literary exposition, art history, and a quest, all in one. It meanders, branches, follows its own diversions, conversing amiably with the reader as it reflects on time, memory and place, looking for and considering the nature of that most elusive of human conditions, happiness.

Staid’s book is ostensibly about a period of time spent studying in Florence, her friends there (one, Z, who she lusts after, flirts with and eventually beds), Italian art, architecture and culture, and trips from there to elsewhere in Europe, Venice and Paris included. It is also a commentary on Renaissance painting, and books, especially Italo Calvino’sInvisible Cities, the novel where Marco Polo invents or describes cities that turn out to be variations on Venice itself. Sappho, Anne Carson…

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