If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino
Read: 18 June to 21 June 2012
5 / 5 stars
recent tango with a David Mitchell novel reminds you that he wrote Cloud Atlas under the influence of "If on a winter's night a
traveler," a book you've been meaning to read since gleaning this
information. You're anticipating a slow week at work so you'll need
something to stave off the excruciating boredom you expect from the days
to come: You grab the book on your way out.
You arrive at your
job and are, indeed, greeted by a dearth of things to do. It looks like
your day is going to demand even less of your time and attention than
you thought. Excellent. You get as comfortable as you can in your office
and crack open your first taste of Italo Calvino.
A few pages in, you read: You
are at your desk, you have set the book among your business papers...
you seem to be concentrating on an examination of the papers and instead
you are exploring the first pages of the novel. Gradually you settle
back in the chair, you raise the book to the level of your nose, you
tilt the chair, you pull out a side drawer of the desk to prop your feet
The part of you that appreciates tongue-in-cheek
narcissism -- a rather large part of you, really (which is probably why
you'd enjoy a book written in the second person) -- snickers and would
deadpan a "How does a dead man know I'm reading his novel, published
five years before I was born, at work?" if you weren't certain that your
coworkers already harbor doubts about your sanity that would only be
exacerbated by overhearing you pose questions to yourself or, worse yet,
to a book from which you're clearly expecting an equally audible
You settle for keeping your chuckles to yourself and read on: But doesn't this show a lack of respect? Of respect, that is, not for your job... but for the book.
gives you pause. You wonder, with less self-congratulatory irony
coating your thoughts now: "Mr. Calvino, are you judging me beyond
You consider this. Ghostly criticism of your reading
environment is a fate better than seven hours and fifty-four minutes of
tedious inactivity, you decide.
You happily forge ahead.
you are drawn deeper into the tale that Calvino spins, you realize that
you've had an intermittent reading companion. Not an Other Reader and
most assuredly not a specter nearly made solid by his own judgments, but
your own dreamily intoxicated grin. The kind of unselfconsciously
foolish smile often found in the throes of puppy love, the kind you
reserve for the books that transport you somewhere magical.
find this book to be a celebration of reading, writing and creative
pursuits, all of which are things that you appreciate. It helps that
you're the kind of person who seeks a certain kinship with fictional
characters, especially those who steal your thoughts nearly verbatim
from your brain. You find many of them in this book, highlighting
passages and phrases and epiphanies that you recognize as your own.
you near the end of the novel, you identify the connection linking each
chapter. The dopey grin that nearly breaks your face grows wider as you
read the final word, flip back through the pages in reverse and notice
that your own handwriting and added notations are nearly crowding out
You find this fitting.