All stories must come to an end. Even the most unconventional ones, like If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler.
The last section of Calvino’s book was shorter than the others, but it wrapped everything up nicely. There’s a lot of commentary on reading, like when Arkadian Porphyrich talks about how he reads everything twice: once to pick out the main ideas for professional reasons, and once to actually enjoy reading the texts. I related to this idea because when I read texts for class assignments, I find that I’m reading in the more “professional” way, trying to pick out main ideas and themes. There are books I read in high school and college that I liked, but I had to read them again outside of school to simply enjoy them for what they are and not worry about analysis.
Another phrase that stuck out was something that Marana said to Arkadian:
“‘In reading, something happens over which I have no power.'” (240)
In essence, reading is powerful. No matter how much we try to control how we read, we cannot control what we feel or what we might find when we read.
The final few pages of the book are pretty intriguing too, as the different readers in the library comment on their styles of reading. The first reader said, “‘Don’t be amazed if you see my eyes always wandering. In fact, this is my way of reading, and it is only in this way that reading proves fruitful for me'” (254). This reader reminded me of my blog response titled Our Online Habits Affect How We Read. I thought of how we have a tendency to skim texts as readers and let our minds wander instead of forcing ourselves to really focus on what we’re reading.
The second and third readers also reminded me a lot of previous assignments in our course. The second reader said “‘I read and reread, each time seeking the confirmation of a new discovery among the folds of sentences'” (255), while the third reader said “‘…at every rereading I seem to be reading a new book, for the first time'” (255). When we first started reading The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, we discussed how the difficulty of the book forced us to reread and close read to better understand the novel, something I talked about in my first Eco blog post. However, in Calvino’s book, it’s interesting to think about how we can never really read a book the same way more than once.
It was also clever that all of the titles of the books the narrator read could be combined to form a sentence. Calvino continued to push the idea that a lot of books are similar, which the sixth reader said:
“‘The trouble is that once upon a time they all began like that, all novels.'” (258)
In the end, the narrator gets both of his wishes: he marries the girl and finishes the book. It’s a nice way to show that the narrator is happy, but I also think the narrator is so obsessed with endings that he forgets to enjoy simply reading the book and having experiences with a girl he loves. I think this can be a good reminder and lesson for us; we should enjoy the experience of reading and the experience of life instead of worrying too much about where it will go.
Source: Calvino, through Ch 12