Review: ‘The Venice Chronicles’ by Enrico Casarosa
The Venice Chronicles
By Enrico Casarosa
Atelier Fio/AdHouse, November 2008, $19.95
Sometimes it seems like people live in completely different worlds. For example, I live in an America where a guy named Andy can marry a girl named Chris, have a series of decent jobs in book publishing, and go on occasional vacations to theme parks.
But there’s also a world made up of people named Enrico – who have cool movie-industry jobs, like doing storyboards for Pixar – that marry equally cool-named people like Marit – a modern dancer – and go on long vacations to Venice with her parents, zoom across Italy to meet his parents, and have dinner with Hugo Pratt’s daughter along the way.
I’m thinking it’s the names: Enrico just goes with Marit in a way “Dave” or “Bob” doesn’t. If I’d been named Siegfried or Joao, my life might have been as interesting as Enrico Casarosa’s.
And, speaking of Casarosa’s life, we finally come to his new book, [[[The Venice Chronicles]]]. It’s a diary, in watercolor over pencils, of that trip to Venice (and other points in northern Italy) – which I think was in the summer of 2007. It has the look of a sketchbook, but most of the pages were drawn after the trip – though there are sketches and watercolors drawn at the time mixed in as well.
This was Enrico’s first vacation with Marit; their relationship was only a few months old at the time. (But clearly it went well, since they’re married now – but I’m getting ahead of the story.) They went to Venice to join her parents, who were house-sitting there, and stayed there for what seems like at least two weeks. (Casarosa isn’t very clear about the timeline of anything in Venice Chronicles, especially since he drew most of this book over the year after the trip.)
The Venice Chronicles isn’t really about that new relationship, though – as Enrico’s “pain-in-the-butt conscience” complains about, late in the book – but about his own reactions to everything: playing tennis, the scenes of Venice, meeting Pratt’s daughter, and (more than anything else) drawing, drawing, drawing. He worries that he’s not drawing enough, and he worries that he’s spending too much time drawing and not enough actually doing things. He drops in sketchbook pages after talking about a particular place, and sketches (probably) later comments on pages he seems to have done at the time, en plein air.
Along the way, Casarosa has a lot of cute drawings of himself and others – his people, in this book, aren’t quite superdeformed, but they’re definitely short (about three heads high) and big-headed, with stumpy arms and legs. He’s also good at defining spaces – he has several plans of apartments or other places, shown on an angle. He also throws in some sketches he (and Marit, and her family, even – they’re all good) drew at the time.
And he also flashes back and forward (there’s almost a frame story, of Enrico and Marit as he’s creating the graphic novel about their trip to Venice) to tell the story of his and Marit’s relationship, in a few quick scenes. It doesn’t all add up to much of a story, but how could it? It’s the chronicle of a vacation, and a good vacation is fun and relaxed and plotless.
Venice Chronicles is a small, light book – it couldn’t be otherwise. But it’s sweet, and Casarosa’s sketchy, loose lines and colors are undeniably enticing. This is a book for fans of Italy, of sketchbook stories like [[[Carnet de Voyage]]], and of storyboard-style art (since that’s clearly the way Casarosa works).
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
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