Books I Loathed discussion

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Loathed Titles > Invisible Cities

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message 1: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
I was really drawn into the beauty of this book, at first. Then it dawned on me that he was just going to keep describing imaginary cities until the book ended, and nothing would actually happen. I don't get it: that sucks. one look at If on a Winter's Night a Traveler cemented my opinion that Calvino is just another show-off with nothing to say.


message 2: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
(It's just "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler".) Here is the first sentence in the book:

"You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler."

That was quite enough for me.


message 3: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments Seriously? That's the first sentence of the first chapter?


message 4: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
I fear so.


message 5: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments Wow. That would turn me off completely. It's kind of like the rule that says "never start a letter with 'I'm writing to....'" Do we really need to be told what book we're reading? Maybe the original cover had nothing on it or something. LOL!


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Oooh, now I agree with most of the posts in this group but don't be dissin' Invisible Cities ;-) I loved this book. Yes, on the surface, it's basically the re-description of the same city but the imagination that requires such diverse creations is amazing.

But there appears to be something much deeper here as well. There is a pattern to the cities - each of the chapters has a name ('natch) but the names of the chapters repeat in the various sections despite the cities being different (i.e. Cities and signs is in Section 1, 2, 3 etc.) Each chapter name also has a number behind it (1,2,3, etc.). A friend of mine and I, when we read this, thought it might be helpful to read the chapters with the same names, or the same numbers, to see if a clearer narrative emerges. I haven't had the time but this post reminded me and I just might tackle it.

It's certainly a challenging book but there's something playful about it as well. I suspect this is a book that requires repeated reading to get the full gist of it.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

I have to admit I'm a sucker for a literary challenge. I read for a lot of reasons, most often for none other than just a good laugh, but I feel the best after I've tackled something that required me to get the 'ole brain cells churning and allowed me to untangle a complicated idea or different way of thinking. I feel all smart and everything.

I realize, though, that not everyone wants to make such a major production out of reading (such as the one I've described in my previous post). On the other hand, I'm always happy to point the way to a brain bender :-)

So which books don't even warrant borrowed eyeballs?


message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 29, 2007 04:33AM) (new)

No Faulker nor Hemingway for me either. Faulkner because he's inscrutable (to me) and Hemingway because...well, just because.

Love non-20th Century stuff. Except the Russians. Unless someone provides me with a detailed character list that explains all the permutations of such names as "Ivan", I'm not reading War and Peace. Also am picky about 20th century American writing. To Kill A Mockingbird is my only American favorite from the last century. Do, on the other hand like lots of non-American 20th century stuff.

Did read Moby Dick and liked it (once I got past all the whaling info). Did read Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness and although it was okay, I honestly don't know what all the fuss about "evil" is about. Clearly I missed something. Shrug. On to the next book...


message 9: by Steve (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:42PM) (new)

Steve | 8 comments "Do we really need to be told what book we're reading?"

Alex, if you continue to read then Calvino describes a scene at station and how the smoke from the train is obscuring the words of the first paragraph. He then goes on to explain that you are a character in his book.

The whole point of If on a winter's night a traveller... is to explore the relationship between novels and their readers. That first line isn't him stating the obvious because he thinks the reader is an idiot.

Sorry, I get annoyed when people vilify novels based upon the first line without even considering why the author may have written it that way. Then again, I really enjoyed Ulysses even though I didn't understand what big lumps of it meant. I may just be weird.


message 10: by Jason (new)

Jason (gireesh42) If on a Winter's Night is a difficult book for lots of people, especially those used to or expecting a traditional novel. As Steve said, it is really a book about the relationships between readers and their books. I think Calvino has taught me single handedly more about this dynamic than any other writer. If you're interested in this, try Six Memos for the New Millenium--a non-fiction collection of talks he gave, and perhaps my favorite work on the written word ever.

It seems you've chosen perhaps his most difficult works. If Winter's Night is an anti-novel (some say), then Invisible Cities is hardly a novel at all. I would almost classify it (if you're into that sort of thing) as prose poetry. Again, you read this book for the ideas and the language (ah, if only I weren't an ignorant monolingual American!). For instance, I've been contemplating this idea for a while: "There is no language without deceit."

The pattern, Diana, is of course, no coincidence. This is one of Calvino's Oulipo books, I believe. So if you apply the strict Oulipo rules, it has to fall into a specific constraint that he developed and then the content has to be in some way ABOUT that constraint as well. This one is very subtle, and I haven't decoded it myself.

Kate: before you condemn Calvino entirely, you should really read his other stuff. Like I said, you've chosen his most difficult books, which are far from the norm. He's very famous for his Italian Folktales, which rank up there with the Brother's Grimm and all the other traditional collections. As for novels, I would recommend The Baron in the Trees. Good, traditional, quirky, and enjoyable.


message 11: by Jason (new)

Jason (gireesh42) Hmmm..."traditional" and "quirky." That doesn't make much sense on reflection. Clarification: traditional format and story design, quirky as only Calvino can be, so still a good sampling of his style.


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