Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsSentences

THE ISLANDS OF ITALY by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, photos by Sheila Nardulli (Ticknor & Fields: $40; 152 pp.).

February 16, 1992|Susan Reynolds

Some people have all the fun. Barbara Harrison, for example, gets to live the way Virginia Woolf wrote, but couldn't seem to live. She gets to float, suspended through life without logic, without fully parsed sentences, without Baedeker. At least that's the way it seems. "The Islands of Italy" is not a coffee-table book, despite the decorous colors and spectacular photographs. It's more like the wardrobe that Lucy steps into in the "Narnia Chronicles" when she leaves gray, wartime England for a magical, colorful land that you can find only in your sleep, and only with a child's willing suspension of disbelief. This is tantalizing and frustrating all at once and easily worth the frustration.

Harrison travels the perimeter of Sicily with only a few forays inland, then to the Aeolian Islands, and then to Sardinia. Once in a while she'll tell you what town or village she's in, but you forget. You remember the quality of light, the food she eats and the people she glides by. Like Harrison's fragmentary sentences, the photographic tableaux of food and people and landscapes tell brief and mapless stories. Quotes from Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Italo Calvino, and Leonardo Sciascia help to peel you apart layer by layer until you are nothing but an unrecognizable mass of yearning to go to Italy. Disregarding the how, what, where and whens of typical travel writing, Harrison notices what she wants to notice. Her moods color the landscapes without apology. Back at the coffee table, I flip frantically through the Rand McNally Atlas, trying to see where she's been.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|