Nate D's Reviews > t zero

t zero by Italo Calvino
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's review
Sep 01, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 60s-re-de-construction, stories, italy, read-in-2011
Recommended to Nate D by: X
Recommended for: Y
Read from June 15 to 23, 2011

Italo Calvino is just a really good storyteller. As in, someone able to make any seemingly incongruous or dead-end idea come alive entirely through the telling, through the details he brings in. Here, somehow he's able to take all these very conceptual scientific-fact seeds and turn them into often oddly affecting personal dramas with neat formal tricks and thrilling narrative cartwheels. Cosmicomics worked on similar lines, okay, bascially exactly the same, but these are a little later and a few of these outshine much of that material.

The Soft Moon: drawing from some abortive 18th-century theory that the Earth's continents were fallen moon chunks, Calvino dives into the implications of a moon pliable enough to spill matter onto us, making it sound totally disgusting. And sets this cleverly at odds with his fictional earth origins and just runs and runs with this. It's great, economical, weird, lavishly described, totally surprising.

Blood, Sea: The circulatory system allows us to take saline blood, our ocean origins in miniature with us. This is a love story whose long sentences flip acrobatically between primordial waters and automotive present. It's hilarious and reads aloud excellently.

The Chase: a car chase in stalled traffic based on, I don't know exactly, field theory or something. It's pretty great.

And so on, the mathematics of the universe and the human heart. Calvino typically manages to write about real things through his games, which tethers these despite about the most playful touch that I can handle in fiction. But it totally works, marrying this to almost Borges-like post-modern cleverness at times. Only the middle section lags a bit.
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