Another Impetuous Review: If on a winter’s night a traveler

6 Dec

I’m only 42 pages in (42! HA! Anyway…) and I’m maybe a little beyond obsessed.

I know that I have a tendency to decide I ADORE songs thirty seconds in, only to get to the bridge and wish maybe I hadn’t been so hasty with the cut and paste of the YouTube link into my Gchat window with Polly. And my praise for How to Be a Woman on this very blog was perhaps a bit precocious. However, I think between the critical acclaim and my own fascination with the writing, this book is deserving of my stamp of approval. (And I do not say that lightly as I am currently very conscious of my tendency towards stamp trampiness, thanks HIMYM.)

I don’t want to talk too much about it because, at least so far, part of the fun is figuring out the structure (which is… experimental, to say the least) and I don’t want to ruin your fun. If you want to read a synopsis, here’s the Goodreads link. Otherwise, take my word for it! This one is a winner.

Instead I will leave you with this very long passage on bookstores from Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler and you can draw your own conclusions about my tastes and Calvino’s talent:

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 were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the 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 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. Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out:
the Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages,
the Books You’ve Been Hunting For Years Without Success,
the Books Dealing With Something You’re Working On At The Moment,
the Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Handy Just In Case,
the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer,
the Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves,
the Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified.
 
Now you have been able to reduce the countless embattled troops to an array that is, to be sure, very large but still calculable in a finite number; but this relative relief is then undermined by the ambush of the Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time to Reread and the Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them.
 
With a zigzag dash you shake them off and leap straight into the citadel of the New Books Whose Author Or Subject Appeals To You. Even inside this stronghold you can make some breaches in the ranks of the defenders, dividing them into New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for you or in general) and New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to you), and defining the attraction they have for you on the basis of your desires and needs for the new and the not new (for the new you seek in the not new and for the not new you seek in the new).
 
All this simply means that, having rapidly glanced over the titles of the volumes displayed in the bookshop, you have turned toward a stack of If on a winter’s night a traveler fresh off the press, you have grasped a copy, and you have carried it to the cashier so that your right to own it can be established. (4-6)

Cover Art: If on a winter’s night a traveler

Right?!

Brilliant. This is exactly how I feel when I walk into a bookstore. I go in for a particular book and I come out with five, not one of which is necessarily the book I originally intended to purchase.

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