If On A Spring Morning A Student

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Italo Calvino continues to surprise me in If On A Winter's Night A Traveler.  Even more than that, he continues to make me think on another level, perhaps on his level of writing.

"I'm producing too many stories at once because what I want is for you to feel, around the story, a saturation of other stories that I could tell and maybe will tell or who knows may already have told on some other occasion, a space full of stories that perhaps is simply my lifetime, where you can move in all directions, as in space, always finding stories that cannot be told until other stories are told first, and so, setting out from any moment or place you encounter always the same density of material to be told," (109).

What amazes me is that this is the first book where I feel like it would not be good for me to skim or read ahead because of what new plot I might be missing.  Calvino is clever in getting the reader interested in the story.  I get confused in some areas and that makes me want to just jump ahead a little but I know I can't because I would probably be lost in even more confusion, and I do not want to be confused more.  This is a knew way of reading a book.  Mostly because in class we talked about books allowing us to jump ahead and skip around as we like but he is really writing this book like it's a story being told vocally.

"...The sign of real wealth, solid and vast, in the sense that if, we'll assume, I had only one story to tell, I would end up botching it in my range to show it in its true light, but, actually having in reserve a virtually unlimited supply of narratable material, I am in a position to handle it with detachment and without haste, even allowing a certain irritation to be perceptible and granting myself the luxury of expatiating on secondary episodes and insignificant details," (109-110).

Does this mean he is trying to "get to the point" of his stories without having any other insignificant details like other book plots?  If so, then I haven't seen that yet.  If I dissect the book and weed out his chatter to the reader, and look at the actual stories being told, then maybe I would see that he is not boring us with details that don't matter.  Actually, I can probably now see that its true.  

Calvino is dropping the sense of oral culture into this book.  He is layering his stories with the normal interruptions and annoyances that normally might happen if someone were telling a story to you; or to me.  I find myself telling the book to "get on with it" the way I would tell someone in person when they have trailed off into something else.  However, he is showing the difficulty of reading something like this, because the book doesn't listen to you when you are telling it to get back to the story the same way a person would listen.  In this case, we just have to keep reading and hope that Calvino finds his way back to one of the stories he is in the middle of telling.  I might not read this book again.  In fact, I think once is enough.  But I would recommend it to anyone else because of his unique style of writing.  This definitely is not a normal book and that's why I kind of like it.  It's like a tough class in school that you absolutely hate when you're going through it but years later when you look back you think, "wow, I did learn a lot and I hope lots of people can experience it and learn from it."  That's how Calvino is making me feel:  A little bit in pain, but I'm sure I'll leave the book with a new sense of writing for the reader.

1 Comments

Erica Gearhart said:

You bring up a lot of great points, Megan. I agree that it is difficult to follow at times and prevents skimming and things like that. I've also been thinking about how much oral culture he is using in his book. Even just by using second person he is doing this. I also think that with this oral culture comes a lot of other stuff. I can actually compare it more to what I know of digital culture. I know we haven't really talked about it yet, but I think Calvino's book is moving beyond the communication cultures that we have discussed already. The story is not linear. Technically, we could read each of the titled chapters and never read anything else, or we could only read the numbered chapters sequentially. There is more than one story here, and potentially more than one story for each person. This definitely makes the writing interesting, but like you, I'm thinking I probably won't read it again.

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