“If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller” by Italo Calvino
(First publication: 1979 / This edition: Vintage Books, Vintage Christmas 2015)
Taken with a pot of tea at Greyhound Cafe, while waiting for Mom to go to our Christmas dinner
Strike three… and I’m done with Italo Calvino.
Okay, I still have “The Complete Cosmicomics” somewhere on my shelf waiting to be read, but now… it’ll probably be a long time before I get to it.
I read his “Invisible Cities” some time in 2014. I got about halfway through and gave up. I just found it very boring and I just didn’t like the style. It was a shame because I was living in Tokyo at that time and I had asked my mom to find it in Bangkok for me, and she had to bring it all the way to Tokyo. It was just disappointing because I really was so excited for it.
I got his “The Castle of Crossed Destinies” a few months ago at a used-book sale. I was ecstatic because I was rummaging through hundreds of books before I found this one—and it was still in such a nice condition and the price was like, 1/5 of what I would’ve paid if I bought it firsthand. I read probably 30% of it and decided that…. NOPE. Not understanding any of this. Just drop it and move on with life.
So with two strikes, you can say that I’m not too pleased with Calvino’s works. But I understand why people love his works and I understand that he’s a legendary author… I accept it that it’s probably just me that can’t seem to sync up with him.
I ordered “The Complete Cosmicomics” after that, thinking I should try his more “popular” book. It’s been sitting on my shelf for months, untouched.
Now… “If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller”. Probably only bibliophiles will feel me when I explain why I got it… It was Christmas Day (so just one week ago) and I got off of work early. There was this urge in me—or more of like a “I need to do this” obligation type of feeling—to get a Christmas book. I felt that a special day like Christmas deserves a new book dedicated just for it. (But then again, I consider my birthday, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Friday, and all the other days “special days”.)
So after work, I went straight to Kinokuniya without a clue in mind of what “Christmas Book” I should get.
I looked up some Christmas titles online and was interested in getting Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory”. I decided to check out that one first. Unfortunately, the bookstore didn’t have it in stock. And for some strange reason, my hand drifted a few books over on that same shelf to a typical classic red Vintage Books spine: Italo Calvino’s “If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller”. I pulled it out… and ta-da! There’s a picture of Santa Claus on the back cover! (in the picture below) I felt like it was just pure destiny and just went to pay for it straight away.
Now about the book… (finally)…
I was intrigued when I read the first chapter or so. I remember I sat at Greyhound Cafe and was even chuckling out loud at some parts—it was different, how the author “narrated” and kind of “puppet” you (as the reader).
But after a third way in, the “puppeteering” thing got on my nerves and it became a nuisance—I felt like I was being commandeered to think or receive the story in a certain way.
And because of the structure—it’s like there’s one main story (involving you as The Reader), but then there’s shorter stories (all unrelated) interwoven in every other chapter. I didn’t like that and found it frustrating. I found it difficult to grasp what was going on—and I was annoyed at the “interruptions” (by the short stories).
I guess the concept is very unique and it is interesting. I’m still intrigued, despite not enjoying it. But it’s just not for me.
About halfway through—I pushed myself to read a little over a hundred pages—I decided to just put it down and leave it for another time. Maybe I will enjoy it better next time.
On another note… HAPPY NEW YEAR! 🙂
2015 was a fun ride. Can’t wait to see what’s in the cards for 2016. 🙂