Venice for the vacationer: Links's guide long on pleasures, short on treasures

Venice for Pleasure, by J. G. Links. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux. Fourth edition. 272 pp. $9.95. An incident recorded by J. G. Links unintentionally explains his own rather extraordinary approach to Venice in this guidebook:

Having waited eagerly to share the joy of the first view of Venice with his granddaughter, Links found that she was far more intrigued with her Dick Francis novel than with the timeless monuments rising over the city's lagoon.

Links shouldn't have been surprised. His travel guide gives an indication that his own view of Venice's marble revetments, gilded ogee tracery, open squares or campi, and multiform campaniles was conditioned essentially by the superb Canaletto re-creations of Venice that hang in English collections -- paintings that have been studied by Links in three other books on the 18th-century painter.

Although Links's lack of care in identifying the secondary buildings and his cavalier dismissal of the art inside the buildings are exasperating, this book is a creative and stimulating way to get a sense of the topography of Venice before a visit or to feel at home when actually in the city.

The guidebook's fine annotated bibliography to the books on Venice for the general reader, from J. H. Hale's ``Renaissance Venice'' to Deborah Howard's recent comprehensive history of Venetian architecture, points to further, more historically interesting ways to understand Venice before, during, or after a visit.

Margaret Muther D'Evelyn has done graduate work in the history of art and architecture at Princeton University and the University of California at Berkeley.

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