I Don't Know If I Like It Yet

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"Well, precisely because you have denied it in every other field, you believe you may still grant yourself legitimately this youthful pleasure of expectation in a carefully circumscribed area like the field of books, where you can be lucky or unlucky, but the risk of disappointment isn't serious."

--From page four of Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler


I have never read anything quite like what this books seems to be before, and this far into it, I am not sure how I feel about it, which is really unusual for me.  I am not a very picky reader, but I can usually tell right away if I will love a book, like a book, or dislike a book.  I usually finish all of them, but I still have a decided opinion from the start. 

However, Calvino's book is really different for me.  At parts, I can identify really well with what he is saying.  As Maddie mentioned on her blog about this introduction, I too walk into a bookstore wanting to buy nearly every book I see.  When I moved into my dorm this year, a freshman stopped me as I was carrying a rather large clear plastic container of books into my room.  She asked, "Is that how many books I have to buy for this semester?!" I told her not to worry, none of these were school books.  Calvino seems almost to know that I am an avid reader and that I love the presence of books around me.  Then there are times that he goes on about things I cannot relate to at all, such as the hierarchy of books to be read or purchased that I cannot identify with at all.  I either want them or do not want them and don't worry too much about putting them into categories.  As in this example, my agreeing and disagreeing with Calvino occur almost simultaneously.

When I read the quote above, I had a similar reaction.  I do feel that books allow me to explore.  I also often reread books that I loved in my childhood with "youthful pleasure."  However, at the same time, I don't do so because I cannot do so in other fields.  I am fortunate enough to be able to work with children daily and from a variety of age groups.  Although I do so with professionalism and with the agenda of education in mind, I still am able to play at a sand table, to draw flower gardens, and to be excited about what students brought in during show-and-tell.  Aside from my profession, I still love to watch Disney movies, I listen to the music from the Parent Trap more than anything else, and I find joy in the creative and innocent aspects of life.

I also think that I enjoy taking risks in the real world, not just in the world of the book.  Although I haven't gone on any grand adventures yet, I will definitely travel internationally in the future, and will probably have to move away to get a job at first.  I am usually positive about any experience that I have and don't worry too much about future disappointment.

In thinking about these ways that I agree and disagree with Calvino, I can see that he is an effective story teller.  Although I cannot yet decide if I am going to enjoy the book, I can see that he is able to answer Havelock's question, "Can Text Speak?"  As Calvino wrote about certain ways that people prepare themselves for reading, and even as I agreed and disagreed with the examples above, Calvino was able to invoke an emotional response in me, the reader.  I could almost hear him "talking" to me, telling me how to sit, to put my feet up, to tell everyone around me to be quite, and so on.  I think that this introduction shows that, whether I like the book or not, I have to say that Calvino is able to use a literary voice that relates to many types of readers and draws them, not only into the story, but into a experience and dialogue with his novel.


See what others have to say about Calvino’s introduction.



Maddie Gillespie said:

Erica, you really hit the nail on the head when you mention Calvino bringing mixed reactions out in people. I really like how you directly applied the quote you used to your everyday life, but when I applied it to mine, I thought "Wow. I basically live in books!" And that's not just because I have tons of books to read for classes, but because I feel safer taking a random chance on not liking a book rather than picking a destination on a GPS and figuring things out as I go. I shudder to think of my paranoid brain's possibilities for such a road trip! lol. But I definitely agree with your assessment of Calvino's literary voice in the text. I think his strong ability to project through the text is one of the reasons that I was so willing to keep reading and trust him, even though I really had no idea what was happening at points.

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