To say I’ve never read a novel like this one before would be a silly thing to write since there isn’t another novel like it; it’s unique.
And I’m not going to review it either, at least not in the traditional sense because to do so would require flowcharts, venn diagrams, and a bunch of other things that have nothing to do with books and reading.
As the point of the novel was to describe, artistically, the process of reading as you are reading it about someone who is a reader Calvino succeeds brilliantly in thoroughly exploring this rabbit hole. And I can see why some people may think this novel was an exercise in writers block, but I don’t see it that way at all since everything does eventually all tie together and each story within a story relates, somehow, to the larger idea of reading.
Anyway, it’s probably best that I’m writing this late at night, immediately after having finished the book and still a little punch-drunk with what I just read. The book is to be experienced (read) and is so clever, so full of every whispered thought you’ve fuzzily been dimly aware of at times when reading other books that the best way to explain the book is to take a cue from the book itself and say “It is reading”.
Make of it what you will, but it’s genius.
So earlier in the novel we get the image of the hand stretching through the prison and now we understand the author wishes to only be a hand and cut off everything else between the author and the page.
And that hand has now pulled the Reader into the story so that he can get the Other Reader alone with him.
I think. And it doesn’t even matter because I’m just along for the ride and the ride is a lot of fun.
Every so often you read a novel that makes you say to yourself, “I had no idea a writer was allowed to do that!”
Such is the case where the 2nd person perspective changes between characters: You the Reader also become You the Other Reader, Ludmilla.
Meanwhile the Other Reader is also a character in the books whom Marana (the falsifier of novels) is obsessed with.
That this all makes sense is amazing.
Maybe at this point in the novel I’m trying a little too hard to make meaning of what is happening.
First we get a noir-thriller about a dame and a dead body (fun read, too) that ends in a true cliffhanger. Next we are back at the publisher reading the letters of a man who relationship to the story I’ve sort of lost the threat to, but it doesn’t matter really because the fall into this rabbit hole is still fun.
I love the way of looking at a book’s author as only “an invisible point from which the books came …”
I never really thought of the novelists as a character themselves even thought it’s obvious.
The study group is great: hipster readings of half read novels. Bullshit, bullshit everywhere. Pure academics.
We all have a lot of books laying around we’ve never read. We all have books in mind we want to read but never get to.
With that in mind I think Calvino is having some fun with at our failings by saying with his incomplete stories, “if you’re not gonna read them, I’m not gonna write them.”
I do want to take note of the image of the writing hand contorting from the prison cell window. That really stays with me
I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around how Calvino put this novel together; it doesn’t even seem possible that this book actually exists. Yet, like schoeblintsjia, it does exist.
And now I want to meet professor Uzz-Tuzii and study dead literature written in a dead language for a dead university department because why not?
This has got to be one of the most original first chapters I’ve ever read.
I suppose what Calvino is doing here is trying to describe the process of reading, of immersing yourself in art, but he’s also interested in everything except the story. He describes all the books you pass in the bookstore to get to his book and his actual story, in the station, is told by showing all the people who ‘extras’.