February 23rd, 2010
I was late for my rendez-vous with Italo Calvino but he didn’t get mad; time is after all an elastic commodity for Italians…
Seamus Heany talked to me at length about him and encouraged me not to despair but how could I? Calvino suddenly died before I got to know him.
Of the Italian Princes so far I only knew Umberto Eco and Primo Levi; I got to like Eco a lot after he took me to see the movie The name of the Rose about twenty years ago. Umberto and Primo each deserve their own blog post but let’s continue with Calvino.
I liked so much what Calvino’s said about reading that I need to share it with you; read it and judge for yourself:
“In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which are frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you…And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too. ”
The above image is that passage in wordle.
Gore Vidal wrote in 1985: “Europe regarded Calvino’s death as a calamity for culture.” and I agree. Italy is not just an operatic country with clowns like Berlusconi at its head…
A couple more quotes from Calvino:
“Novels as dull as dishwater, with the grease of random sentiments floating on top.”
“Only a certain prosaic solidity can give birth to creativity: fantasy is like jam; you have to spread it on a solid slice of bread. If not, it remains a shapeless thing, like jam, out of which you can’t make anything.”
Read about Calvino here
Vidal talking about him here