Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Literature Machine: Essays” as Want to Read:
The Literature Machine: Essays
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Literature Machine: Essays

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  800 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
One comes away from this collection of intellectually playful Italy's foremost modern novelist...inspired to go back and reread the body of his fiction in the light of his reflections on literature. -- Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
Hardcover, First British Edition, 341 pages
Published 1987 by Secker & Warburg (first published 1980)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Literature Machine, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Literature Machine

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,543)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
بثينة العيسى
الحديث عن الكتابة شيء لا أمله. كنت في رأس كاليفنو.. حرفيًا!
Jan 22, 2013 Wilfriedhoujebek rated it it was amazing
Recently I ordered a copy of Moby Dick and I am anticipating reading it for the 1st time very soon and I thought: let's read Calvino again on "why to read the classics". I read the rest of the book afterwards. Very few people can write with such intelligence, style, originality, humour and an eye for the absurd as Calvino could and while I don't have much interest for many of the 19th century French novelist Calvino writes about the man never bores. The general essays are best. The opening essay ...more
May 11, 2015 Yasmeen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Starting school's-over-so-more-time-to-read reading with a guy that loves books so much is pretty great. Calvino has a lot of interesting things to say about books; The Hypothetical Bookshelf and Why Read the Classics? are two of my favourites in the collection, although there other really good moments. It's really nice to read stuff by a writer who knows the importance of the reader, and isn't pretentious and superior about his opinions.

I will admit that I tuned out a little in the second half,
Zöe Yu
Feb 06, 2015 Zöe Yu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italian
Having read Invisible Cities, I had a high hope of his essays, and he didn't let me down. His insights about literature involves politics, but hasn't been carried away too much. One could praise how brilliant he is in Literature and Politics, or his discussion about Fourier, but never would say he only cares about politics and lack of poetic sensibility (probably I would say that to Günter Grass...sorry)

He tries to "psychoanalyze" himself in the form of autobiography, which makes a lot of sense.
In these essays - selected from various papers & symposiums over the course of the 1960s/70s - Calvino examines the intersections of literature with philosophy, science, psychology, and politics. He’s blazingly insightful, incredibly well-read, and has an intensely logical, mathematical way of dissecting literature.

My favorites:
Why Read the Classics? - various definitions of what makes a piece of literature a “classic”, and the role of such classics in a reader's life. "A classic,” goes one
Mark Valentine
Jan 17, 2016 Mark Valentine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best essay in this collection is the title one. It is in the center of the book and it is the linchpin. Calvino had the perspicacity to remind why it matters to read the best of the best.

The rest of the essays I came in and out on and had different levels of engagement. But being a Calvino enthusiast, I highly recommend getting a copy of this for reading and for your library.
Mar 03, 2012 Wm rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The essays in Part I are more interesting than the ones in Part II. Otherwise it would have been four stars. And the advantage of the book as a whole is that all the essays are fairly short and they are written within the context of conversations and publications in Italy (and France and England) in the 1960s and '70s. Or in other words, this Calvino very much playing the role of public intellectual.

So if you are interested in reading work that's responding to the throes of literary theory, esp
Feb 28, 2016 Hélène rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Plus ou moins accessible selon les thèmes, mais les chapitres sur les classiques sont passionnants.
Jul 19, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As usual, Calvino does not disappoint. The writing is intelligent, and always dynamic, and he has this playful sensability which really comes through in his non fiction work. "Why read the classics?" I found especially resonent and gratifying since I'm in grad school at St. John's. He just brings such a fresh, lively perspective to everything he writes about, heck, he almost made me want to read Dickens again in 'the novel as spectacle'
Note: a lot of the pieces from section II can also be found
Aaron Cockle
Nov 16, 2011 Aaron Cockle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Essay on 'Cinema & the Novel: Problems of Narrative' is especially good, and can be found on Google Books. Important reading for cartoonists (Calvino is good for cartoonists to read in general I think). Discusses Robbe-Grillet, the nouveau-roman, Godard's 'essay films', inherent inferiority complexes, etc. Mentions comic strips at the end and the bearing they have had on his work, how 'a true study of the genre as an art in itself has still to see the light', which remains a fairly accurate ...more
Waaaahhhhh... Calvino is/remains so amazing all the time. This is my first foray into his nonfiction, after reading the majority of his novels in high school and college. Everything about these essays is so lucid, so intelligent, and so obviously linked with his elegant, mathematical fiction style. These essays in the vein of Sontag, Barthes, and Benjamin further confirm my belief that he created the most consistently impressive prose of the 20th Century that I've encountered.
Jul 18, 2014 GONZA rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Che anni che dovevano essere quelli a cavallo tra il 1960 e il 1970! Riletti attraverso questi saggi di Calvino che spaziano dalla letteratura all'educazione civica e morale degli italiani mi danno l'idea che fossero pieni di fermento e sempre "in movimento", proprio il contrario di adesso, dove tutte le testate di letteratura sono chiuse, i nostri scritori di punta sono volo e moccia e stiamo affondando in una palude dalla quale non abbiamo nemmeno piú voglia di uscire.
Isla McKetta
Dec 06, 2013 Isla McKetta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I feel like I've read some of these essays before, Calvino is always a welcome kick in the ass to remind me what I love about reading and writing. Some of my favorites were "Cybernetics and Ghosts," "Literature as Projection of Desire," and "Right and Wrong Political Uses of Literature." And the humble postscript essay "By Way of an Autobiography" is a lesson to all writers in how to talk about yourself and your work.
May 08, 2014 Marc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to appreciate essays about books which one has yet to read; thus, I enjoyed the pieces about literature and writing as a whole more than I did the selections about specific titles. But all of it was interesting. Calvino is my favorite author and his insights into literature are as wide-ranging and devoted as his fiction. Plus, I came across a number of words I'd never heard: mastodonic, gnosiology, and eudaemonism.
Mia -
Mar 09, 2011 Mia - is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Questo libro di Calvino è un insieme di scritti. Ho deciso di commentare piano piano, via via che vado avanti con la lettura.
A mettere tutto qui nel commento, di volta in volta, mi sembrava di esagerare. Lascio i link, allora, di volta in volta.

Nov 27, 2008 sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: started
Italo Calvino is my Number One MySpace Friend. It's an illustrious position to hold and one that I do not take lightly. These essays make my brain mushy in the best possible way. I think I want to have his posthumous literary metaphorical babies. Never mind N'Sync, where can I get a poster of Calv?

Really, though, any one of these essays is worth the price of admission alone.
the gift
this is a very good selection of essays by Calvino, the reason it is a four is my unfamiliarity with certain works and authors he examines in final essays, so it is part one preferred. even there, a certain amount of reading is helpful, if only to decide whether his claims make sense, but overall there is great pleasure in his explorations.
Jan 09, 2014 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Why Read The Classics?" --"Every rereading of a classic is as much a voyage of discovery as the first reading."
Dec 19, 2008 carolyn marked it as to-read
I've obviously been neglecting this book. It's a collection of essays so it's easy to stop and start. Why to Read the Classics was a great essay. I will give this more attention. It certainly deserves it...
Jan 26, 2008 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: joshbooks
I re-read his essay "Why Read the Classics?" every three or four months. It helps remind me why I love reading and re-reading.
(فجر)-أمل الشامسي
نحن ما أن نتمكن من تفكيك وإعادة تركيب عملية التأليف الأدبي، حتى تصبح اللحظة الحاسمة للحياة الأدبية هي لحظة القراءة
I was not prepared to read more than a few of these essays--I just haven't read the work discussed in many cases.
Jul 05, 2013 Anna marked it as to-read
Thought Provoking and interesting comments on Literature, Fantasy, Classics, Philosophy and more. :)
Oct 30, 2012 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'the great narrative game in the course of which writer and reader are challenged to understand the world.
Jun 30, 2008 Valerie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This collection of essays provides a major framework for how I view the act of reading/information networks.
Al Matthews
Aug 21, 2007 Al Matthews rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thesis
So far I'm a big fan of:

Cybernetics and Ghosts
The Hypothetical Bookshelf
Oct 26, 2008 A rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, non-fiction
This was a bit academic for me, but I read it a long time ago.
This should be required reading for anyone who studies literature.
Jun 12, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-theory
Loved it. He is humorous and pretty easy to follow.
Jul 07, 2011 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
one of my favorite reads so far
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 84 85 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • On Literature
  • Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature
  • Lectures on Literature
  • Classics for Pleasure
  • Selected Non-Fictions
  • The Anatomy of Bibliomania
  • The Common Reader
  • The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre
  • Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays
  • The Pleasure of the Text
  • The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays
  • The World Within the Word
  • Love and Death in the American Novel
  • Real Presences
  • 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
  • A Reader on Reading
  • The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts
Italo Calvino was born in Cuba and grew up in Italy. He was a journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952-1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If On a Winter's Night a Traveler (1979).

His style is not easily classified; much of his writing has an air of the fantastic
More about Italo Calvino...

Share This Book

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” 3591 likes
“The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner.” 128 likes
More quotes…