I’m a bit behind on book reviews, so I’m just going to jump right in and start posting about some of the books I’ve read recently.
We might as well start off with If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino, because I’ve never read anything like it before.
I had heard good things about this book, and then read a great review that Amanda posted. Once I read her review I was sold – I needed to get a copy and read it soon. $5.95 and a trip to Strand later, it was in my possession.
As Amanda says in her review, this is a very odd book. For many reasons. You (the Reader) are a character. The story is about Your experience reading a novel. For many various reasons, the novel You are trying to read gets cut off after the first chapter. I’m not going to attempt to describe everything that happens, but in short You end up reading the first chapter of ten different novels. It’s amazing and it is incredible that it works so well.
This book can be maddening, at times, and confusing at other times. But mainly, it’s captivating. And interesting. And so unique that you don’t want to stop reading because you must find out everything. There are parts that are incredibly beautiful; lines that make you happy to be a reader. It’s very good.
I’d like to post my favorite passage from the book, even though it’s quite long. It’s from very early in the book (since You, the Reader, are just purchasing the book in the store), page 5. I love this because it so perfectly sums up the experience of being a bibliophile in a bookstore. I instantly related:
In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too. Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out:
the Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages,
the Books You’ve Been Hunting For Years Without Success
the Books Dealing With Something You’re Working On At The Moment
the Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Handy Just In Case
the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer
the Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves,
the Books That Fill You With Sudden Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
Now you have been able to reduce the countless embattled troops to an array that is, to be sure, very large but still calculable in a finite number; but this relative relief is then undermined by the ambush of the Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread and the Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them.
(This post was brought over from emilyw.vox.com. Click here for the original post and comments.)