B.O.S.S. Allegoric Anthem #00000008
Dearest Humans of Some Substance,
As the book turned your page, tense in elated anticipation of the path you were to inscribe in the soft, malleable, endless surface of the future, she sighed. For, while a voracious reader of an endless supply of tomes, be it the predictable page-turner of a Stock Broker, the encyclopedic precision of a Physician, or, her favorite, the erratic bursts of an Artist, she had not yet made even a mild dent in the classics. There were Firemen and Marine Biologists and Composers! And what about Teachers and Social Workers and Gas Station Attendants? How was she ever to read them all, especially since some were over 100 years long? But with a mere thirteen hardcover-ed chapters of existence, if only there was one work, a bestseller perhaps, on which she, the book, could focus. And then, with the greatest of luck and the most circumstantial of pomp, she came upon:
Italo Calvino by If on a winter’s night a traveler.
For are we not a book club, but a human club? Each hour and day and week adding to the intricacies of own fictions, weaving the struggles and jubilations into actions that rise and fall, forever in pursuit of the unobtainable denouement, until it is recognizable as only an event that has since come to pass. And in our journey of exploring our relationship with writing and writing’s relationship with us, reading Calvino will be cool for the following reasons:
Calvino’s early work displayed a fabulist lean, managing to mix the warmth of fantastical elements with darker allegories of the loss of individualism and rise of political fanaticism in the mid-Century Italian machine of fascism (see The Nonexistent Knight and The Baron in the Trees from the late 1950s). While “the more things change the more they stay the same” might be tracked back to a French proverb, there’s definitely an undercurrent of it running throughout much of Calvino’s work.
As Calvino’s writing progressed, he often adopted strict mathematical structures to guide his story lines. His collection of twenty short stories, Marcovaldo, used a short story for each season, with the total arc encompassing five years. Invisible Cities outlined small prose pieces on 55 individual cities, often with magical realist elements that paralleled Borges, leaving the reader to determine if the cities were in fact different, the same, or purely fabricated (surely the city where all of the air is dirt can’t be real, right?). If on a winter’s night a traveler pushes structural boundaries even further with ten stories, each prefaced with a depiction of how you (as in you, the reader) attempt to read the story that follows. It’s kind of like an adult choose-your-own-adventure for Nabokov fans.
Whether in the midst of clever fables or edging into post-modern forays (such as where If on a winter’s night a traveler resides), Calvino always tied his fiction back to eternally relatable modern themes and employed warm, witty prose – and in that respect, he secured himself a simple, but accurate title: master storyteller.
If on a winter’s night a traveler is looking like a mid-sized novel, albeit with some mind-bending elements, so let’s shoot for an early June mid-point meet-up and a mid-to-late July finale.
Post-script: Key word here being “some.”