Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Calvino does it again.

A friend lent me her copy of Cosmicomics in a book swap, which is the only reason I decided to break my rule of trying not to read an author twice in a short time period.

I'm very glad I did.

This books premise is unique: Calvino takes little snippets of science of the creation of the world, and in turn pulls out beautiful stories based upon these scientific ideas.  The results are enchanting and often startling.  One never knows exactly what Calvino is going to do when one first reads the italicized "science" portion.  A snippet about gravity, or the moon, or the dinosaurs tells nothing about how Calvino will interpret this for us in his piece.

All the stories are breathtaking and wonderful.  I found myself basking in the inventiveness of them, a little thrill of excitement running through me whenever I hit upon what he was doing.  But some of them I liked more than others.

"The Distance to the Moon" is about how people were once able to climb on top of the moon, be sucked in by its gravity and grab cheese from its crevices.  What was wonderful about this was the fact that he didn't just stop there, but also made it a strange story about unrequited love, with the narrator in love with a woman who was in love with a man who was in love with the moon.  It brought to mind the Chinese folktale of the woman on the moon for me.

"Without Colors" told of a world before the atmosphere filtered colors, and within this world, how one boy could love the change and anticipated colors whereas the girl he loved was frightened of it.  Really beautiful, as it made me think about a world washed gray.

"Games Without End" had children playing with atoms like they were marbles.  Really quirky and playful.

"The Dinosaurs" is about a last living "dinosaur" who goes unrecognized by new forms of life who take him in, and the questions for him that arise about the myth of his species.  Made me actually think a lot about history and legacy and how stories are shaped for the people telling them, and may actually have little reflection of truth.

"The Light-Years" is hard to describe.  Basically it's about someone whose actions are seen from light years away, but because of the time it takes for things to be seen, the protagonist is constantly being worried about how he will be perceived millions of years from now.  It raised some interesting concepts for me about how we think about how we're perceived by others.  What if there were a lag time between when you did something and when you could see what somebody's reaction to that action was?

Overall, this book cements Calvino for me as one of my favorite authors to read.  This book is simply wonderful.

1 drops:

Anonymous said...

Calvino is one of perhaps thirty authors I enjoy enough to have read every single book they've written. Not all of them are gems, but Cosmicomics, t-zero, Marcovaldo, Italian Folktales, The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven Viscount, and a few others mark him as one of the finest and most purely enjoyable writers of the 20th Century, in my opinion.

In any case, may I recommend that you try The Baron in the Trees next? It's my single favorite novel, not merely by Calvino but by anybody, and although you don't know me from Adam, I promise you I'm a reader of discriminating taste, and wouldn't it be interesting to know that you were reading somebody's single favorite novel?

You've broken your not-so-soon rule to read a second of his books, so why not a third?

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