Italo Calvino, why?

by Gimpei | 00:10 in |

I tried to read If On a Winter's Night a Traveler over the summer and found it intolerable. I'd like to think that it just doesn't translate well, but that probably isn't the case. The basic problem with the book is that it reads like a series of postmodern cliches strung together not so much by a plot, but by a narrative voice with the uncanny ability to irritate and bore simultaneously.

I know, I know. Calvino is challenging the traditional narrative and pushing the boundaries of the "novel" by questioning the very nature of the author/reader, text/world distinction. Calvino is not so much interested in the self or being or thinking in and of itself, but rather with all of the wonderful combinations between these words like "thinking thought" or "thought thinking". Even more important is being-in-the-world, being-becoming, and Dasein: being that is constituted as a temporality.

Which is exactly why I'd like to toss the book into the garbage, but that would be a waste of some perfectly good paper. In the spirit of saving world-in-itself, I'll use Calvino's book as kindling the next time I start a fire.

Editor--You don't seem to like postmodernism very much--Well I like a few people like J.G. Ballard or Burroughs because they write well and make me laugh...


  1. John Barrdear on 3 December 2008 at 10:31

    My brother has been trying to get me to read this for a year and a half. He tells me it's awesome, but my mother (the librarian) thinks it's awful.

    Can I quote you in justifying my literary laziness?

  2. Gimpei on 3 December 2008 at 14:02

    Yeah. It's really terrible. If you must read some metafiction, go with Paul Auster's New York trilogy. At least it's entertaining.

  3. Anonymous on 8 December 2008 at 13:57

    So am i an idiot for liking it so much? Points in its favor:

    1. It is funny. I laugh every time the book tells me to yell at my kids to shut up so i can concentrate more fully on the

    2. A lot of the fake stories are told as well as they would be if they were real stories, especially if those are genre stories. I'm thinking in particular about the guy trying to dump the body of his friend.

    3. Some of the stories are some of the best illustrations i know of theoretical matters that most people can't explain, even those who are a paid a lot of money to do so. For instance, the novel being a bridge over the void. That ranks with Stendahl's mirror being passed alongside the road.

    4. It ends happily and nicely.

    5. For the first two thirds, when ever Calvino realizes he's getting boring, he snaps to and changes the scene. Very few other writers of his ilk are that attentive.

    6. It pays a lot of attention to details about the wya we read -- especially the role actual, physical books play in the whole process -- that are familiar to everyone, outside the realm of theory. It's practically a work of reportage.

    7. I finally tracked down a copy of Literaria Biographia and the section I'm most eager to read -- the one about STC's relationship with Wordsworth -- is mysteriously missing from that print. I went mad for about a month figuring out why this should have happened and how I could fix it. This shit really does happen!