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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • April 27, 2006

     

    [40] If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler - Italo Calvino

    If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler is a rarity in fiction reading and writing in which the book boldly denounces the inveterate relationship between authorship and authority, proclaiming a revolution in which readers are to be liberated from the "tyranny of the author's single canonical meaning" and free to make their own interpretation.

    The Plot
    A certain reader is reading a novel that breaks off into another novel and the reader seeks to investigate the origin of such unpardonable publishing mistakes. It turns out that a certain translator Ermes Marana had proposed a stratagem in which he would break off the translation at the moment of greatest suspense and would start translating another novel, inserting it into the first through some rudimentary expedient. When translating literature of a moribund language, he got confused and the texts that he had translated was from another novel by a Polish writer. Such production defect in copies on behalf of his egregious blunder repeatedly forced readers to abandon reading.

    Through the help the very diabolical Ermes Marana, a Japanese firm plotted to manufacture author Silas Flannery's novels by computer and contrived to produce absolutely new ones in order to invade the world market. The books were re-translated back to English and none of the critics could have distinguished which from the true Flannerys. The books were really plagiarisms from little known Japanese authors of novels that, having had no success, were sent to be pulped. The art of writing and reading what an author means for a reader to read from the writing is brought forth to the full actuality through the reader's indefatigable effort to unmask the identities of translations.

    Writer-Reader Relationship
    The author addresses directly to the reader and shapes the story in the perspective of the reader-in other words, the author somehow deprives his authority and has to involve reader into decision-making. The book has left open to the reader who is reading the possibility of identifying himself with the reader who is read: this is why he was not given a name, which would automatically have made him the equivalent of a third person, of a character, and so he had been kept a pronoun in its abstract condition-suitable for any attribute and any action.

    Reading about Reading
    The book begins (and subsequently throughout which) asks the reader to reflect minutely on the very activity of reading, which most of us take for granted. The book itself is also about characters (readers) practicing such reflection so raptly (and so absorbed in their books) that the world around them falls away. The novel explores the complex relationship between reading (what is being read, what the author means for reader to read...), writing (what is being written and not explicitly written...), and publishing (how translation of text might have forfeited the meaning...).

    Stimuli Reading
    The most magnificent aspect of If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler is that the book explores the relationship between what the author has written explicitly and how what is being written down in the book stimulates, evokes, and obviates past experiences, memories, and thoughts. Reader might remember very well everything he has read, perhaps for whom each book becomes intensified with his reading of it at a given time, once and for all. As a result, reader might have preserved the books in the memory and prefers to preserve the books as objects, keeping them within proximity.

    Italo Calvino further explores this argument about reading a "different book" other than the one currently being read. Reader, in other words, might be reading another book besides the one before his eyes-a book that yet does to exist, but since the reader wants it, cannot fail to exist. Reading becomes some abstract idea through which reader measures himself against something else that is not present, something that belongs to the immaterial, invisible dimension, because it can only be thought, concocted, and imagined or it was once and is no longer attainable.

    If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler challenges reader to have seized on a thought that the text suggests to it, or maybe a feeling, or a question, or even just an image. The book encourages reader going off on a tangent and wandering from thought to thought, in such itinerary of reasonings that reader should feel to persue to the end.

    2 Comments:

    Blogger mingerspice said...

    I really liked this book. It was such a pleasure to read. Witty and not heavy-handed, even as it explored some otherwise pretty dry subjects.

    7/23/2006 4:34 AM  
    Anonymous pharmacy said...

    Alternating between second-person narrative chapters of this story are the remaining (even) passages, each of which is a first chapter in ten different novels, of widely varying style, genre, and subject-matter. All are broken off, for various reasons explained in the interspersed passages, most of them at some moment of plot climax.

    8/29/2011 2:45 PM  

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