The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.
The word “Apocrypha,” has meaning
here: Ancient writings from men disposed to provide their testament, their take, if you will, on Jesus Christ and
his teachings. The interpretation by, the writings of these ragtag mendicants
and eccentrics about the Man and His lessons—not fitting nicely into what the
honchos of the Christian movement at the time believed to be in their best
interests—were thus not included in the New Testament and are what comprise “Apocrypha.”
Beginning in Venice, circa 1560, we
find the Inquisition in full bloom presided over by Dominicans who certainly
believed in the worth of unconscionable torture to extract truths and repentance from perceived enemies of The Faith. In this
case, the enemies of The Faith have knowledge or possession of a diary of sorts
that provides evidence that one of the Great Mysteries of the Roman Church was,
um, contrived. (To go any further with this component of Saracen’s storytelling
would be unfair, an egregious give-away of the plot’s conclusion.)
The storytelling moves to circa
1970, where Tadzio, later changed to Sara, is a transgender who is fired from
her job for transitioning from male clothing to female, and becomes the main
protagonist within the storytelling. Sara finds a new job with Joanna, an
academic, who needs an assistant who is fluent in Italian and can accompany her
to Venice where the object of her research is believed to reside. Sara and
Joanna hit it off, and the storytelling begins in earnest.
Let’s pause here for a moment.
Tadzio/Sara, through the administration of those drugs that provide the
requisite effects for the transitioning from male to female, have given her
perky little breasts, a smooth face and an all-in-all satisfying female mien.
She is quite ambivalent about her penis, and—in my reading—has no intense
interest in undergoing the ultimate “cut.” Joanna, on the other hand, is
vaguely lesbian and finds Tadzio (as she interviews him to fill a translator
position on what is called the “Venice Project”) quite alluring, in spite
of—or, perhaps, because of—the fact he unabashedly admits he is a
“…transvestite.” Joanna hires Tadzio who soon becomes Sara…quite striking as a
The storytelling proceeds with the
premise that an ancient diary—actually published in renaissance Italy
(Venice)—tells a tale that rebuts (the Apocrypha) one of the most valued
Mysteries of The Church. The essence of the Saracen’s storytelling revolves
around, in, through the efforts of these two ladies, Sara and Joanna, to seek
the truth contained in the long-lost
diary of another lady, who, at the time of Jesus’ travails, apparently had the
inside scoop on what really occurred in the last days of The Savior’s
life/death on this earth.
Saracen’s storytelling reveals a
depth of knowledge, experience with the delights of Venice. It also reveals the
perspicacity of Sara, a transgender, in applying her sublime intellect in
assisting Joanna to solve the mysteries of the lost diary that may, or may not
(I wont, I swear I wont reveal the upshot of Saracen’s storytelling!) call into
question age-old perceptions, beliefs with regard to the Roman Church.
I must admit if I’d know the
subject matter of this book I’d probably not have spent much time sifting
through it. But such is the fate of a reviewer who is given books to read, for
better or for worst, with the expectation that he, the reviewer, will bite the
bullet, read on, and report on his/her conclusions.
My conclusions: This is a charming
venture into the world of, not only the transgendered, but the charisma of
Venice itself. The storytelling is ultimately a “…riddle, wrapped in a mystery,
inside an enigma…” (Thank you, Winston!)
And, yes, once you’ve read this
book your conclusion may be that, And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
the Mysteries of the Church fade likewise…empty fables, empty promises.
Reviewed by George Seaton