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

The Literature Machine: Essays

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  586 ratings  ·  24 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 1,736)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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...more
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...more
Aaron Cockle
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.
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
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.
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.

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.
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.
"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...
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.
Jul 05, 2013 Anna marked it as to-read
Thought Provoking and interesting comments on Literature, Fantasy, Classics, Philosophy and more. :)
'the great narrative game in the course of which writer and reader are challenged to understand the world.
This collection of essays provides a major framework for how I view the act of reading/information networks.
So far I'm a big fan of:

Cybernetics and Ghosts
The Hypothetical Bookshelf
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.
Loved it. He is humorous and pretty easy to follow.
one of my favorite reads so far
Ever insightful Calvino.
Includes the marvelous essay 'Why Read the Classics.' A wonderful perspective, especially held up against, say, Harold Bloom's more fixed and heavy view of what used to be the canon.

Also includes a great essay on the good and bad uses of politics in literature.
Armando is currently reading it
Sep 27, 2014
Nei Mustafaraj
Nei Mustafaraj marked it as to-read
Sep 27, 2014
Thomas Chacko
Thomas Chacko marked it as to-read
Sep 27, 2014
Ere added it
Sep 26, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 57 58 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 (Fiftieth-Anniversary Edition)
  • Selected Non-Fictions
  • Lectures on Literature
  • The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre
  • The Pleasure of the Text
  • For a New Novel: Essays on Fiction
  • Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays
  • A Reader on Reading
  • The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays
  • The Common Reader
  • The World Within the Word
  • Love and Death in the American Novel
  • Styles of Radical Will
  • The Theory of the Novel
  • Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World
  • The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel
  • 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
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
More about Italo Calvino...
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler Invisible Cities The Baron in the Trees Cosmicomics Il cavaliere inesistente

Share This Book

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” 715 likes
“The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner.” 100 likes
More quotes…