Saturday, July 10, 2004


I didn't see Isabella V (she's a flight risk) in Vienna, but having seen Vienna, as I was standing on the crowded Saturday-night platform waiting for the U-bahn back to the hotel, I thought, "Isabella really does feel right for Vienna." I'd figured her for somewhere northeast of here, really , but Vienna would do.


Now, what's remarkable is that Isabella has managed to create a sense of place without the usual tools. She can't simply stand in front of the place — the tool that worked so well for Dickens — because she's running away. She can't drop brand-names and businesses into the text, because she isn't supposed to give away clues that her father might use to.... well, I guess we have to imagine what her father might do.


But, you know, there were plenty of young women on that subway platform, headed to their second party of the night, who could once have been Isabella. Girls in ornate, elaborate tops and jeans -- doubtless incredibly expensive jeans, jeans with really interesting stitchwork in graceful arrows, girls with long, long, carefully-brushed blonde hair or short, short hair of incredible blackness, girls who like to tease the nice policewoman with the cool pony tail who doesn't want to be photographed.

I walked past a studio last night where lots of young people were practicing their dance steps, perhaps getting ready for the next Opera Ball, but not wearing white this summer night. I can see Isabella there, too.

I fumbled the secret mission she gave me, partially because I didn't see the point of it. Maybe that was the point of it. But I was reading The Third Man, and there are so many banks, and my active vocabulary in German is amazingly small.

Bottom line: this is really crafty writing.

It's still really crafty writing, Isabella, if you're real. Look how hard I have to work to convince my readers that I'm here. Pictures. Incidental details. Names and places. You seem to manage it without effort. New media people could do worse than to take a closer look, regardless of whether you're a 26-year-old heiress or an ad agency. Whoever you are, you're pretty good.