rigid schedules. I missed my solitude andrnliberty to come and go as I pleased. Irnlearned how dangerous it was to surrenderrnyour freedom to a cruise operatorrnwho was indifferent to your needs. Therernwas a vast difference between my imaginativernidea of a journey to the Amazonrnand the dull, sometimes agonizing realit)-rnof this voyage. Americans being guidedrnby Greeks through Brazil was not a successfulrnformula.rnJeffrey Meyers, a Fellow of the RoyalrnSociety of Literature, has recentlyrnpublished biographies of EdmundrnWilson, Robert Frost, and HumphreyrnBogart. He has just completed a life ofrnGeorge Orwell for Norton.rnLetter From Venicernby Andrei NavrozovrnThe Road to II WellnessrnThe other day I remembered how thernLebanese, by far the most quaindy Europeanrnof all the social sets in London, usedrnto plav an after-dinner parlor game inrnwhich the guests won points by boastingrnof their innocence. For example, if arnguest said, “I’ve never been on a privaternplane,” or “I’ve never tasted Yquem,” andrnever’body else in the room has, he won arnpoint. He lost the point if just one otherrnperson present could make the same declaration,rnwhereupon it would be somebodyrnelse’s turn to try to brag in reverse.rnThe skill of the game is to appraise one’srncompetition, since in an audience of Sardinianrnpeasants one is unlikely to win arnpoint by claiming never to have beenrnaboard a Meridiana turboprop creakingrntoward Rome, to say nothing of a privaternjet winging its wav to the Bahamas. “I’vernnever eaten sheep cheese with live maggots”rnor “I’ve never seen ‘Beautiful’ onrntelevision” would be much likelier betsrnin that case. The beautv of the game is itsrnaristocratic, poker-faced egalitarianism:rn”I’ve never been on a commercial flight”rncan net the clever participant a pointrnamong princes as well as among paupers.rnBut the other big reason I liked to playrnit was because I always won, what withrnnot having gone to school, not havingrndone drugs, not having been to the Bahamas,rnnot having cheated on my wife,rnnot having seen, a basketball game, and sornon. Still, there were some dinner partiesrnwith vers’ stiff competition—young educatedrnpeople with houses in the south ofrnFrance who had never visited Naples, intelligentrnurbane men who had never tastedrnpork, beautiful unmarried womenrnwho were virgins — and it was at thosernthat I would reach for the ace up myrnsleeve. “I’ve never been to the gym,” Irnwould say, staring blankly into the middlerndistance just above my hostess’s head,rnand in all my years in London this neverrnlost me a point. Now I can no longerrnsay it. I’ve joined a gym. Yes, here inrnVenice.rnWhen I rang up a friend in London tornshare this news, he had me describe inrnprecise detail everything I had seen insidernthe building. I only realized that hernhad thought I was lying when he askedrnme point-blank if the purpose of my preposterousrnconfession was to conjure uprnsome sort of atmosphere of moral renewalrnas an ingenious prelude to borrowingrnmoney from him. I suppose he was halfrnexpecting that, when pressed, I wouldrnmix genres and tell him that inside therngym I had joined were exercise tablesrncovered with green baize, special machinesrnthat spun ivory balls, and fitnessrninstructors with voices like angels andrnwords of encouragement like “twenty-sixrnthirty-two, neighbors by two hundred,rngentleman in the back.” It was onlyrnwhen I used such place-specific terms asrn”stairmaster” and “treadmill,” addingrnthat I had drunk no more than two bottlesrnof ordinary table wine during the lastrnthree days and was actually thinking ofrnquitting smoking, that he let go of hisrnskepticism and began to wonder inrnearnest if the gentleman in the back hadrngone crazy. Well, the truth of the matterrnis that I have, and Venice is to blame.rnOf course, Venice has a big reputationrnwhen it comes to decadence. The reasonrnfor this is that most punters who havernbeen chewed up and spat out by thisrntown during the last couple of centuriesrnbelieved themselves to be in a state ofrngrace when they first arrived, with thernconsequence that the ambiguities ofrnVenice sooner or later made mincemeatrnout of their vain delusion. Consequently,rnif you believe yourself to be a rake or arnrogue to the marrow of your bones thernmoment you first feel the tender undulationrnof a gondola beneath your feet after arnlifetime of what you never thought wasrnparticularly steady ground, then the salutaryrneffect of Venice can only be comparedrnto the wheatgrass juice prescribedrnat the Optimum Health Institute of SanrnDiego to patients whose maladies do notrnyield to conventional medicine, exceptrnthat this treatment reallv works. In otherrnwords, Venice does not corrupt. It mere-rnTHE LU/ENGLISH NEWSLETTERrnAlthough Lagado University in Kafka, South Dakota cannotrnclaim the fame of a Yale, Stanford or Berkeley; its EnglishrnDepartment does claim to stay abreast of every slash, gash andrnlaceration of the Postmodernist cutting edge. Our motto says itrnall: “If it’s bleeding in New Haven, then it’s hemorrhaging inrnKaflca, South Dakota.” Subscribers inchoate verblobbage over suchrnto the departmental newsletter will pustules of coherent thought as mayrnfind it an unfailingly reliable entrfe erupt anywhere in the Americanrnto the outre. Our faculty stand ever- academy. Subscribe now for yourrnalert to decant whole hogsheads of libretto to the Kanondammerung.rnLU/Enghsh Newsletter, 11 Llewellyn Place, New Brunswick, NJ 08901rnOne year subscription, foiu” issues of seven pages each. $10.00 I IrnNAME:rnAUGUST 1999/41rnrnrn