Calvino's non-introduction

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Props to Calvino for introducing his book in "chapter 1, and then starting the actual book 7 pages later....I was freaking out when I started reading, because I thought my book was missing it's introduction... "Oh woes me, what can I do?" So, in response to my minor catastrophe, I used the first few pages of chapter 1 as what I would call an introduction. It seems to me this part of the book is leading up to the actual book anyway, because it was....

You're the sort of person who, on principle, no longer expects anything of anything. There are plenty, younger than you or less young, who live in the expectation of extraordinary experiences: from books, from people, from journeys, from events, from what tomorrow has in store. But not you. You know that the best you can expect is to avoid the worse. This is the conclusion you have reached, in your personal life and also in general matters, even international affairs.

--Calvino 4

I like the way he thinks. At times, I can definitely agree with Calvino here. It's not that I don't have high expectations for anything--it's just that I've learned to hold higher expectations for myself than for others. People are people. Nobody's perfect, and if you set your sights too high, they're bound to let you down. But where does this leave books?
I'm not sure I see eye-to-eye with Calvino on this one. Well, actually, I'm not sure how I see this one at all. On the one hand, I've always felt that books open so many doors for me. From the opening sentences of this book, I felt a strange pull from the description he provided about where you should read a book. Sometimes I really do need to be left alone to concentrate, but other times, I can get completely lost in a book, even in a crowded and noisy room.
At the same time, I do hold high expectations for books. I know they always say you can't judge a book by its cover,  but boy do I do that a lot...It's really a shame to admit that some of my favorite books were chosen based on the image and even texture of the book's cover. The Time Traveler's Wife is an excellent example of this. I loved the cover, and as a result, the book was phenomenal as well. I'm not saying this is always the case, but I hold some pretty high expectations for my books' covers as well as the content within them. If a book doesn't grab my interest within the first chapter or so, I'll lose interest pretty quickly, which is unfortunate, because I know I've missed out on some great books as a result.
I'm not really sure where I'm going with this entry anymore. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, while I do agree with Calvino that my standards have dropped, I still have some optimism left. I try really hard not to become a complete pessimistic person.

3 Comments

Tiffany Gilbert said:

Jessie,

I laughed when you said you "have high expectations for books." Expectations mean standards and Calvino certainly doesn't meet any typical standards in this book. He's not afraid to bend the rules or act out of line. It sure interests us, so I guess its working.

I have high standards for everything. So I was actually disappointed when Calvino said the quote you mentioned because it made me think that this book (much like many others I've read) will not hold up to my standards. This so far, has proven true for Calvino.

Jessie Author Profile Page said:

That's one of the things I initially liked so much about Calvino. He doesn't set up any standards for his book, and I really think that if we held him to certain expectations, it would make us appreciate the book a lot less. One of the great things about his book is its originality, but then again, I guess that's an expectation too, isn't it'?

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