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1. Invisible Cities
2. The Castle of Crossed Destinies
3. Italian Folktales
4. The Baron in the Trees
5. If on a winter's night a traveler
6. Cosmicomics
7. Complete Cosmicomics (Penguin
8. The Watcher and Other Stories
9. Difficult Loves
10. t zero (A Harvest/HBJ BookH)
11. Mr. Palomar
12. Numbers in the Dark: And Other
13. Why Read the Classics?
14. Marcovaldo: or the Seasons in
15. The Nonexistent Knight and The
16. Adam, One Afternoon
17. Il Barone Rampante (Oscar Opere
18. Fantastic Tales: Visionary and
19. The Road to San Giovanni
20. Le Citta Invisibili (Oscar Opere

1. Invisible Cities
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 165 Pages (1978-05-03)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$7.55
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156453800
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

Imaginary conversations between Marco Polo and his host, the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan, conjure up cities of magical times. “Of all tasks, describing the contents of a book is the most difficult and in the case of a marvelous invention like Invisible Cities, perfectly irrelevant” (Gore Vidal). Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
Amazon.com Review
"Kublai Khan does not necessarily believe everything MarcoPolo says when he describes the cities visited on his expeditions, butthe emperor of the Tartars does continue listening to the youngVenetian with greater attention and curiosity than he shows any othermessenger or explorer of his." So begins Italo Calvino's compilationof fragmentary urban images. As Marco tells the khan about Armilla,which "has nothing that makes it seem a city, except the water pipesthat rise vertically where the houses should be and spread outhorizontally where the floors should be," the spider-web city ofOctavia, and other marvelous burgs, it may be that he is creating themall out of his imagination, or perhaps he is recreating details of hisnative Venice over and over again, or perhaps he is simply recountingsome of the myriad possible forms a city might take. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (96)

5-0 out of 5 stars Amazing Book
I love this book. It has so many profound moments and beautiful prose. It's an easy read and definitely a book you can continue to read over and over again without getting tired of the plot. Each time you read it, you'll find more symbolism and more things to appreciate in Calvino's writing.

5-0 out of 5 stars A powerful lesson in conceptions of physical space
Invisible Cities provides an abstract if not surreal vision into the many perspectives of the city.Set as conversation between the infamous Marco Polo and Kublai Khan Invisible Cities documents Marco Polo's vivid and imaginative descriptions of the cities that he has seen.Author Italo Calvino provides many philosophical musings regarding the nature of Marco Polo's travels and brings to question the very essence of existence and our conceptions of place.

Marco Polo's descriptions of cities are remarkable.He tells of each city not only through the lens of his own personal perspective, but he goes to great lengths to describe how the residents in each place understand the city and what emotions they attach to their location.As he recalls each city Marco Polo manages a certain detachment through which he describes the movement of each city's residents as if they were ants occupying an ant hill.

Calvino creates a complex mental puzzle in the conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan that forces the reader to come to grips with the transient nature of physical space.As Invisible Cities progresses the reader becomes aware of the different emotions and conceptions that we all attach to cities and places and how our feelings can transform the physical manifestations of those places into an entirely different existence than what others experience.

Calvino is poetic in his descriptions of splendor and ruin.Invisible Cities is worth reading for the descriptive language alone.Marco Polo's descriptions make his places come alive and create a truly immersive experience through the use of Calvino's powerful imagery.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of my all time favorite books
This book has bean my absolute favorite since reading it last year. It captivates my imagination unlike any other story I've read. The descriptions of the cities drew me in and completely captivated me. I am still in awe of Calvino's ability as a writer, even a year later.

5-0 out of 5 stars Teaching Invisible Cities
This book has been my favorite piece of fiction for well over ten years now. I recently taught segments of it to a freshman English class at a State university and it stimulated a generous amount of conversation. The first thing one notices is that although the book does contain a linear narrative (the italicized portions)the rest of the text functions almost as a sort of hypertext; this makes reading the book more interesting because unlike a "normal" book, the reader can enter wherever she pleases and end in similar fashion-- but be forwarned: although a slight book, with equally slight "chapters", the reader will invariably find himself reduced to a wonderful crawl as the detail and thought packed into these narrow spaces is undeniably rich. However, what initially intrigued me (and still does) is that the book takes something concrete and then reverses the process until what remains is an abstract idea that can now be reapplied to various situations, or viewed through a variety of circumstances--Olivia, that city of beauty/ugliness becomes a meditation on the inability of metaphor to carry absolute meaning (or, more importantly, the meaning that the speaker intends) which leads to discussions (or, if you are alone,moments of pondering)about why humans cannot and yet are compelled to push aside Babel and finally be understood.In art terms, Calvino succeeds in depicting an object by describing/ filling in the negative space surrounding it. One student was so captivated by Calvino's prose (via William Weaver) that she actually attempted to write an essay about it. Although she failed in her effort, the process only made the book that much more endearing to her. On the other side of the spectrum, one can also simply take the book at face value and read it as a travelogue on weird and fascinating cities. I suggest that if you are the more cerebral sort, and you love to contemplate, then this book is for you.

1-0 out of 5 stars Boy do I feel stupid
Gore Vidal loved the book and so do almost all the other reviewers here. What a bore (hmm, the towns all have female names, significant?). I also just read "If On A Winter's Night A Traveler..." More engaging but.... A clever but, for me, an insubstantial author. I hesitate to read his "The Baron In The Trees".

You lovers of his work: Can you actually recall more than three descriptions of the cities? And are the descriptions anything like what you'd apply to cities you've known?(Yes I know its fantasy but they have no ring of truth to them.) ... Read more

2. The Castle of Crossed Destinies
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 144 Pages (1979-04-16)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$2.32
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156154552
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

A series of short, fantastic narratives inspired by fifteenth-century tarot cards and their archetypical images. Full-color and black-and-white reproductions of tarot cards. Translated by William Weaver.A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
... Read more

Customer Reviews (11)

4-0 out of 5 stars Dense with meaning & well written
Efficiently written, very good prose, but can be dry. The book is short so that shouldn't damper any efforts to read. The book, as the title suggests, is about a place where the many characters in the book get together and tell each other their stories. The castle itself is the place where these destinies cross, in the form of stories told by each character via tarot deck. The means of intersection between each story is allegoric to events in everyday life, each card having multiple meanings to different characters and stories.
The stories themselves are at turns interesting and complicated, sometimes dull and obscure.
The Castle of Crossed Destinies is a book that has many strengths and even more layers to it, and would make for strong rereading material (hopefully getting better then), but be forewarned that one should be ready to interpret a grapeshot of heavily themed stories, virtually without rest. Do not read when tired.

3-0 out of 5 stars Unbridled creativity
Calvino is one of the most creative writers I've ever had the pleasure of reading.The concept alone of this book is jaw-dropping in its possibilities--a group of strangers come together and tell their adventures through tarot cards.Each tarot combination is illustrated and interpreted by the narrator with ties to several mythological tales.It is all extremely subjective and extremely ambitious.

All of that aside, the concept proved to be more than Calvino could adeptly handle.(He admitted to never being completely satisfied with the book and finally published it as a way to put it to rest)However, I don't think I've ever read another author who could have handled the subject matter better than Calvino.All in all, I would only recommend this to Calvino's most devoted admirers.

3-0 out of 5 stars Crossing "Castles"
Italo Calvino was a master of surreal storytelling -- he was, for example, one of only two authors I've seen who could manage a second-person narrative. But his gimmick falls flat in "The Castle of Crossed Destinies," a book that is intriguingly laid out, but never manages to be more than a curiosity.

In the first section, a traveler comes to a castle full of other guests, but for some reason no one there is able to speak. To tell each other about their histories, they use a pack of tarot cards to communicate their stories -- tales about love affairs, ancient cities, and Faustian pacts.

The second is pretty much the same, except that it takes place in a tavern, where mute people are still using tarot cards to describe their pasts. The stories -- evil queens, fallen warriors, even an Arthurian tale -- get darker and stranger, especially when the narrator himself began to describe his own past to the people who are watching him and the cards.

As an idea, tarot cards being used to tell a story is brilliant. Especially since the stories that Calvino spins out are not necessarily the only interpretation -- each card used to tell the story can be interpreted differently. The problem is, in the first half of the book, Calvino tries to apply this to some very boring, straightforward little stories. They tend to stop suddenly, without much of a finale.

The second half of the book uses this gimmick more skilfully, with Calvino writing in greater detail, and using more ornate, atmospheric writing. It feels less like stories wrapped around some cards, and more like stories with cards as illustrations of what might have been. He also adds a more eerie, macabre tale to this half, making it even more engaging.

The first half sags in a big way; it's almost tiring to read. But the second half of "Castle of Crossed Destinies" is where Calvino's tarot gimmick starts to pay off. Interesting, but not all that it could have been.

5-0 out of 5 stars cult novel that is a literary masterpiece
Just as the tarot card reading unfolds in the story, this book has innumerable levels that beg for thought and interpretation:it is part historical novel, part fortune-telling, and part a history of the great classics of western civilization.It is also a fascinating experiment in expanding the literary vehicle, adding the dimension of the cards - functioning as kind of symbolic building blocks as well as a springboard for association - that creates a parallel narrative to the gorgeous descriptive power of the work.Calvino, I feel, has created a work as complex and rich as the best of Nabokov.As with all truly great novels, there is a great deal left unsaid, that the reader can mull over if she so chooses.While the vocabulary was very difficult for my primitive Italian, it was as beautifully written as Calvino's other work.

Warmly recommended.

3-0 out of 5 stars I find the writing a bit dry...
... but I'm such an avid Tarot fan that I still recommend this to others who want to see his treatment of the subject.
Naturally, the Tarot is interpreted differently by almost everyone who indulges; but, hey!... that's the point of studying it as far as I'm concerned.

Definitely check this one out! ... Read more

3. Italian Folktales
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 800 Pages (1992-11-15)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$12.15
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156454890
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Chosen by The New York Times as one of its best books in the year of its original publication, this treasure trove of 200 lively Italian folktales has won a cherished place among fans of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. In this collection, Calvino combines a sensibility attuned to the fantastical with a singular writerly ability to capture the visions and dreams of a culture. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (23)

5-0 out of 5 stars Italian Folktales
Via Amazon - Excellent service, prompt delivery, excellent condition
as described, packaged well.
Would use again.

5-0 out of 5 stars Italian Folktales
This is a huge collection of some really fun stories. Most stories are a few pages long and this book is filled with many great stories. I recommend this to anyone that loves folktales and fairy tales.

5-0 out of 5 stars Good heritage book
I bought this for my grand daughter who is half Italian. She enjoys having stories read to her and this is a good book to aquaint her with her Italian heritage.

5-0 out of 5 stars Forever Favorite
This was a childhood favorite, and it remains today.
As my family's old copy fell apart, I bought this new one to keep it for the generations and children to come.
I love the virtue and morals behind each story.
It's a beautiful book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed this.
I have an older edition of this book. I quite enjoyed reading it. Of course, I more or less collect compilation of folktales and fairy tales. ... Read more

4. The Baron in the Trees
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 228 Pages (1977-03-28)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$2.79
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156106809
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Cosimo, a young eighteenth-century Italian nobleman, rebels by climbing into the trees to remain there for the rest of his life. He adapts efficiently to an arboreal existence and even has love affairs. Translated by Archibald Colquhoun. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (41)

3-0 out of 5 stars One brilliant idea. Is that enough?
The concept behind The Baron in the Trees is brilliant. I'm not so sure that the story itself is.
Readers will find the idea haunts them and follows them around. Could a man really spend his whole life living in the branches of the trees? And what does that mean? Is it a metaphor for a life of intellectualism? Does it mean he died on the day he left the Earth? Is it a rejection of Earthly and mortal matters for the spiritual?

This is left open, and I expect that I will spend years turning the story over in my head and again and again changing my mind about which suits my tastes best.

But I think that the book does have a major flaw. Throughout it's 217 pages we follow the life of the Baron with the eyes of his brother. Most of the events are not exciting, not really. They are not memorable. I won't turn them over in my head. I don't even expect to remember them in a year, with the possible exception of the Baron's final poetic death scene.

The story could have been 20 pages. And I'm sorry to say that, but we have an example here of an author having one brilliant, transcendently brilliant idea, but sadly only the one. I felt that I was meant to spend the rest of the book basking in that idea, and I suppose I did... But any story told in 217 pages which would be no weaker if told in 20 is flawed.

Again, I expect to remember the beginning and the end of this story many years from now, but the middle is fading even now....Wait! Wait!.... and I'm afraid it's gone......

5-0 out of 5 stars Fanciful and touching literary delights
One of the things I love about reading Calvino is that (so far) every story has been different, every literary experiment has yielded insights that are unexpected, witty, and touching.

I found this book no different, though clearly not as deep and brilliant as If On a Winter's Night a Traveller, it is nonetheless worth your time. The story follows Cosimo, who decides, at the ripe age of 12, to live in the trees; he sticks with this whimsical notion for his entire life. It's set in the last half of the 18th century, and the Cosimo character, for all his bizarre behaviour, becomes a representative of the times. Definitely worth a read, though if I could have given it 4 1/2 stars I would have been happier.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Real Change in Perspective
In addition to his other skills, Italo Calvino had a real knack for hiding serious themes under light and quirky tales.That's a good way to attract readership; most of us shy away from heavy, dull stories that teach moral lessons, and while we can all enjoy simple entertainments, we sometimes want something more substantial.No one can enjoy being restricted to either oat bran or cotton candy - you need both.So this kind of mixture is a real gift, and "The Baron in the Trees" presents itself as a good example of the type.You get the feeling somehow that there's more here than just a silly joke, but what might it be?

The title, of course, tells us all we need to know about the surface plot.It's about a young nobleman, just entering adolescence in 1767, who one day balks at a nasty supper.Upon being scolded he races outside, climbs a tree in the garden and refuses to come down.He spends the next 50 years or more up there, moving from tree to tree in the family's garden, then to other gardens and then to the forest, and he never touches the ground again.

The jacket blurb correctly advises that Cosimo, in the course of his life in the trees, manages to help with the crops and winemaking, puts out forest fires, goes hunting with the help of his dog, studies philosophy, befriends solid citizens and underworld figures alike, draws the attention of his age's great men like Voltaire and Napoleon, and conducts various love affairs.This is all well and good, but what's the point?

Let's take an obvious one first.This story takes place during a time when perspectives were changing very fast - although the events seldom get a mention in this novel, Cosimo's tenure in the trees covers the American and French Revolutions, the Catholic Church's decline in power and the various Napoleonic Wars.Cosimo's change in perspective is a little more obvious than that, and leads him at one time to discard all the trappings of civilization, at another to compose an elaborate plan for a new society, and just about everything in between.All of this makes sense, considering that his new life begins with an act of rebellion against parental authority and continues to question other kinds of authority from then on.So if you like, you can consider "The Baron in the Trees" a sort of metaphoric retelling of the Age of Enlightenment.

Well, sort of.Remember how I said that Calvino was good at mixing the serious and the silly?If this novel were only an allegory of something else, we could do quite well without it, thank you very much.Fortunately, it works on other levels too; Calvino chooses his details with care for maximum entertainment value.It's probably not an accident, for instance, that just about all of the plot occurs during Cosimo's youth and young manhood - we see little of his middle years, and his old age only in the last chapter.Like most young men, this one can seem a little ridiculous sometimes, particularly when it comes to young women.It's one of this book's joys that for all his noble bearing and adventurous spirit, Cosimo falls flat on his face at times.Another such joy is the fact that Cosimo never quite loses the ability to show up authority figures, either by out-arguing them or by simply ignoring them.

Calvino frequently used some very effective narrative strategies in his work, and "The Baron in the Trees" is no exception.Our narrator is not Cosimo himself, nor the usual unidentified third-person narrator, but Cosimo's younger brother, who stays on the ground, lives a normal life and watches the whole thing from a distance while remaining involved to one extent or another.It's from him that we learn of Cosimo's impact on the rest of the world, why we should care about him at all, and why a story like his could only have occurred at that precise historical moment.And it's not just because there are few trees in the modern age, either.

To my mind, it's that last point that makes "The Baron in the Trees" a special story.The rest of it is a lot of fun, but it's the closing that provides its poignancy.I won't say much more, but ask yourself this question - if you were telling a story about a man who lives his whole life in the trees, how would you end it?For that matter, if you were the brother of a man like that, what would you hope for?I maintain that you wouldn't want him to climb down after all that time, but he couldn't very well stay up there, either.Wait until you see Cosimo's solution.

"The Baron in the Trees", short as it is, can make you laugh out loud, but its ending is a sort of farewell to past times unlike anything you're likely to find except in Calvino's other work.This story was at one time published with a couple of the author's similar tales, "The Nonexistent Knight" and "The Cloven Viscount", under the title "Our Ancestors", and as that name implies, they all have something to say about the vanished past.So goodbye to Cosimo, and on to our other two ancestors.

Benshlomo says, Changing perspectives is only useful if you do something useful with it.

1-0 out of 5 stars Original Concept; Same Cliche
While the concept of deciding to live on trees is very clever and original, this is another book (do we really need another one?) about a boy who discovers what life is really like outside of his home and grows up out of it. I have the italian anthology that includes the "Nonexistant Knight" (a clever story with a forced and rushed ending) and the "Cloven Viscount" (the best one of the three) all together in a book, and I seriously think that "Baron in the Trees" is the least interesting one. I got to chapter 10 (out of 30) and decided not to read it anymore. Never-ending descriptions trying to make the main character come off as a cute, brave hero with a mind of his own, made it impossible for me to keep on reading it. I skipped a few chapters to see a little of what was ahead and I read how Cosimo discovers his love for books (really? I didn't see that coming! Every single coming of age book I have read includes this same cliché). Alberto Moravia, Elsa Morante, Halldor Laxness and Hermann Hesse, among a lot of other writers, have covered this topic over and over: discovering life outside home and refusing to be another sheep in the herd.

5-0 out of 5 stars Magnificent novel
This slim novel is so well worth reading.Magnificent.Calvino tells a story, that is the reader's for interpretation - kind, generous, wise and real.Can't do it justice in a review.I read it and, throughout, felt it was about all of love and life.I don't know if he brought this in only at the end, but it seems that one could read the entire book again with the thought that he is describing history (in a profound, parable kind of way) as much as anything else, and a reader could probably track the story differently then.Wonderful book. ... Read more

5. If on a winter's night a traveler
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 260 Pages (1982-10-20)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$6.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156439611
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

Calvino shows that the novel, far from being a dead form, is capable of endless mutations. If on a winter’s night a traveler turns out to be not one novel but ten, each with a different plot, style, ambience, and author. Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
Amazon.com Review
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler is a marvel ofingenuity, an experimental text that looks longingly back to the greatage of narration--"when time no longer seemed stopped and did notyet seem to have exploded." Italo Calvino's novel is in one sensea comedy in which the two protagonists, the Reader and the OtherReader, ultimately end up married, having almost finished If on aWinter's Night a Traveler. In another, it is a tragedy, areflection on the difficulties of writing and the solitary nature ofreading. The Reader buys a fashionable new book, which opens with anexhortation: "Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Letthe world around you fade." Alas, after 30 or so pages, hediscovers that his copy is corrupted, and consists of nothing but thefirst section, over and over. Returning to the bookshop, he discoversthe volume, which he thought was by Calvino, is actually by the Polishwriter Bazakbal. Given the choice between the two, he goes for thePole, as does the Other Reader, Ludmilla. But this copy turns out tobe by yet another writer, as does the next, and the next.

The real Calvino intersperses 10 different pastiches--stories ofmenace, spies, mystery, premonition--with explorations of how and whywe read, make meanings, and get our bearings or fail to. Meanwhile theReader and Ludmilla try to reach, and read, each other. If on aWinter's Night is dazzling, vertiginous, and deeplyromantic. "What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each othermost is that within both of them times and spaces open, different frommeasurable time and space." ... Read more

Customer Reviews (147)

1-0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I was bored and disappointed with this piece.Calvino may be a brilliant man but if he wanted to discourse on reading and writing I believe he would have done far better using a more straight forward and formal approach.I can't wait to read the last few pages and get on to another author.But why read in the first place?As I grow old I often wonder if I haven't wasted my time with my face pressed into one book after another.My ancestors in Ukraine had no use for books.They awoke at night and took care of their animals. They sowed and reaped with the seasons. And thus they were "in" life and not "outside" it as I seem to be. In any case, I'll stick with Moravia, Bassani, Gadda and Fenoglio and their ilk when I want to rave about Italian literature.Perhaps I'm too damn concrete to enjoy Calvino.It may be. I find great story tellers like Tolstoy, Dickens, Dostoyevsky and Balzac much more to my taste and perhaps to my abilities as a reader, for they put the story right in your face.They do not beat around the bush.

To summarize, I was frustrated and irritated with this book.It was nonsense and more nonsense, which just goes to show that a brilliant man can produce nonsense.I wondered if Calvino wrote this piece just to thumb his nose at reviewers that he knew would favorably review anything that he produced. This book was a waste of time.

2-0 out of 5 stars You can find better
I really wanted to like this novel.After all, Umberto Eco had recommended it in one of his essays (but that was before I read Queen Loana and quit trusting him as well).It's a novel approach at story-telling, but that's about it.

Ultimately, If on a winter's night a traveler lands on me as a monument to navel gazing.Who would ponder that deeply about reading when they could just read instead?And what of the concept that being a writer had spoiled reading?I don't know any musicians who hate listening to music.It is all so much wordplay and not much else.

As to the numerous claims by the novel itself, and by many reviewers here, that you - the reader! - are the main protagonist:BS.The novel was written 30 years ago and you aren't going to change it.

2-0 out of 5 stars some bits were compelling, but mostly boring and mechanical
"If on a winter's night a traveler" is a story about stories.I usually love meta, but this attempt didn't work for me.It felt like Mr. Calvino was trying to be clever by using self aware device, and it wasn't that clever.Partway through the book, he uses one of his (many) ramblings to talk about how the beginnings of novels are so fresh and portent and how might one evince that throughout?Since at that point, we've already read 5 first chapters of 5 different "fake" novels, I think we know one way already.

I was uninterested in the male reader, or indeed any of the male characters, who keep getting the girl, though I can't see why (Mr. Calvino thinks if he points this pattern out, we'll clap our hands and slap his back.Um, not).The female reader/character was always this beautiful mysterious inaccessible person.Also not interesting.

Some of his treatises were extremely compelling - what reading can mean to different people, how writing and reading might interact, how a literary world can reflect, affect, replace, negate, create the real world and vice versa -- all provoking ideas.But I'd rather he write a whole book on that and bunk the farce of writing a novel, or just have 10 or even 20 first chapters of novels (I liked most of them quite well), and do away with the meta-stuff in between.But the interleaving in IoaWNaT was not effective, IMHO, and I got bored and struggled to finish the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Meta-meta-fictional!
One definition of metafiction is "Fiction that deals, often playfully and self-referentially, with the writing of fiction or its conventions." That could pretty much describe Italo Calvino's "If On A Winter's Night A Traveler," a gloriously surreal story about the hunt for a mysterious book.

A reader opens Italo Calvino's latest novel, "If On A Winter's Night A Traveller," only to have the story cut short. Turns out it was a defective copy, with another book's pages inside. But as the reader tries to find out what book the defective pages belong to, he keeps running into even more books and more difficulties -- as well as the beautiful Ludmilla, a fellow reader who also received a defective book.

With Ludmilla assisting him (and, he hopes, going to date him), the reader then explores obscure dead languages, publishers' shops, bizarre translators and various other obstacles. All he wants is to read an intriguing book. But he keeps stumbling into tales of murder and sorrow, annoying professors, and the occasional radical feminist -- and a strange literary conspiracy. Will he ever finish the book?

In its own way, "If On A Winter's Night A Traveler" is a mystery story, a satire, a romance, and a treasure hunt. Any book whose first chapter explains how you're supposed to read it has got to be a winner -- "You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, "If On A Winter's Night a Traveler." Relax. Concentrate." And so on, with Calvino gently joking and chiding the reader before actually beginning his strange little tale.

As cute as that first chapter is, it also sets the tone for this strange, funny metafictional tale, which not only inserts Calvino but the reader. That's right -- this book is written in the second person, with the reader as the main character. "You did this" and "you did that," and so on. Only a few authors are brave enough to insert the reader... especially in a novel about a novel that contains other novels. It seems like a subtle undermining of reality itself.

It's a bit disorienting when Calvino inserts chapters from the various books that "you" unearth -- including ghosts, hidden identities, Mexican duels, Japanese erotica, and others written in the required styles. Including some cultures that he made up. Upon further reading, those isolated chapters reveal themselves to be almost as intriguing as the literary hunt. Especially since each one cuts off at the most suspenseful moment -- what happens next? Nobody knows!

It all sounds hideously confusing, but Calvino's deft touch and sense of humor keep it from getting too weird. There are moments of wink-nudge comedy, as well as the occasional poke at the publishing industry. But Calvino also provides chilling moments, mildly sexy ones, and a tone of mystery hangs over the whole novel.

At times it feels like Calvino is in charge of "If On A Winter's Night A Traveler"... and at other times, it feels like "you" are the one at the wheel. Just don't put this in the stack of Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First. Pure literary genius.

4-0 out of 5 stars Conceptual and self-absorbed
Italo Calvino is well known for his idiosyncratic style and quirky themes and narratives. In this novel he takes it to a whole new level. This is a novel about the novel - its writing, reading and communicating its meaning with others. Calvino experiments with points of view and deliberately and consciously tries to bridge the narrator-reader gap and create a unique reflection on this relationship. There are many stories-within-stories here, and the entire novel doesn't seem to fit any single narrative. At points this can become rather wearisome, but true Calvino fans will be happy with this book. This is definitely not a leisurely read, but if you are willing to invest the time to understand all the meta-narratives it can be a very enriching experience. ... Read more

6. Cosmicomics
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 153 Pages (1976-10-04)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$5.52
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156226006
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Enchanting stories about the evolution of the universe, with characters that are fashioned from mathematical formulae and cellular structures. “Naturally, we were all there, - old Qfwfq said, - where else could we have been? Nobody knew then that there could be space. Or time either: what use did we have for time, packed in there like sardines?” Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
Amazon.com Review
An enchanting series of stories about the evolution of the universe. Calvino makes characters out of mathematical formulae and simple cellular structures. They disport themselves amongst galaxies,experience the solidification of planets, move from aquatic to terrestrial existence, play games with hydrogen atoms -- and have time for a love life. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (39)

5-0 out of 5 stars humbling, dazzling
i am humbled and blessed to have read this. i thank my lucky stars i held on to this book for over a decade before finally getting around to it. it's a marvel of intelligence, ingenuity, wit and heart. 12 stories built around a scientific conceit, then fashioned through the voice of one named Qfwfq into a dazzling vision of consciousness, being and universe. these are creation myths on par with ovid or hesiod, adapted brilliantly to our times. some are challenging, some soar, some move you with suprising poignance and melancholy.

5-0 out of 5 stars For inspiration
Calvino's "Cosmicomics" is nothing less than a daily source of inspiration for anyone interested in the ties between science and art, and the possibility of writing about science in a creative, imaginative way. Calvino is probably best known for his other works of fiction such as "If on a winter's night a traveler" and "Invisible cities," but it is in Cosmicomics (and some of the associated "T-zero" stories) that Calvino is at his best. The son of botanists, Calvino's work always, in some dimension, has a nack for description of the natural world (it's the most clear in an equally powerful work, "Mr. Palomar").

In "Cosmicomics," Calvino does something new, something lost in many a work of nature writing or popular science. He takes fact, spins it, twists it, gives it character and life, and yet still retains that core idea. Each begins with a brief paragraph of "objective" scientific language, into which Calvino injects the subjective visions and thoughts of his characters; indeed, most of the stories are told from a first-person point of view, and most of them are musings, involving monologue of some sort, some deep inner reflection.

Some of the stories he presents in the book are drawn from mathematical concepts, while others are biological. Together though, they tell the story of the universe's creation. "The Aquatic Uncle" describes the evolutionary transition from water to land, "Dinosaurs" speaks to the creatures' final die-off, and "The Spiral" touches on the changing of organismal forms and the evolution of sight.

To anyone interested in the ways in which scientific concepts can serve as inspiration in any form of art, "Cosmicomics" is one of the best places to look, at least in terms of literature. I know of very few other writers who have done this sort of "science fiction," something both telling of Calvino's status as a fantastic writer, but also something sad, because so much opportunity lies in the genre that Calvino has seemingly opened. Below is one example:

"When you're young, all evolution lies before you, every road is open to you [...] If you compare yourself with the limitations that came afterwards, if you think of how having one form excludes other forms, of the monotonous routine where you finally feel trapped, well, I don't mind saying that life was beautiful in those days"

My favorite quote above, from the final story, "The Spiral," serves as an inspiration to me, and I hope that those who pick up a copy of "Cosmicomics" too find some part of it that speaks to them.

3-0 out of 5 stars no book, but god business
after ordering the book i was sent an email within a couple days and informed that the book was no longer in stock. so, unfortunately, i have yet to read the book. but these guys gave me a 2 dollar credit. im sure its no skin off of theyre backs and none off mine either. oh well. these things happen.

4-0 out of 5 stars Uneven but several super stories
Some of these stories were too based on a subjective idea rather than any story itself to be interesting. Calvino takes scientific principles and takes great liberties with them, so his exploration of the just principles behind the science is not that interesting. However, there are several stories in this collection which do have compelling plots and imagery, and for them the collection is worth while. The stories I liked were "The Distance of the Moon," "The Dinosaurs," "The Light-Years," and "The Spiral."

5-0 out of 5 stars cosmic astonishment
A perfect exposition of science fiction, Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics is a tender and dreamlike weaving of stories that touch upon the sheer wonder both the universe and consciousness itself. Calvino begins each story with an established scientific conjecture, thereafter placing an anthropomorphic and wildly fictitious annotation of the universe at various stages or for lack of a better word, times. Narrating from entities personified through equations and representations, predominantly through the central character Qfwfq, Calvino wistfully describes the universe through fleeting instances of love, attraction, loss, creation and change.

The stories range from the concrete to the fluid, including a time when reaching the moon is as simple as climbing a ladder, the astronomical paranoia induced from simple messages sent from distant observers and millennia, where a dinosaur ponders the significance, perhaps even the power of its own extinction, to the familial colloid particles, uncertain of their new inertia, being torn apart in the creation of matter and planets. Though all have a human feel, it is a joyous exposition of the unfathomable, alien events we cannot ponder enough.

The sentience that Calvino gives to the entities persisting and changing throughout Cosmicomics is an appreciation not only of the scientific beauty of the universe, but of the beauty of his fiction. ... Read more

7. Complete Cosmicomics (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Italo Calvino
Hardcover: 432 Pages (2009-05)
-- used & new: US$62.48
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1846141656
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Before the universe began to expand, when all of everything existed in a single point in space, Qfwfq was there. And afterwards - through the millennia, across galaxies and in different, shifting forms - he persisted. He has some stories to tell. This is a collection of enchanting stories, in revised translation, about the evolution of the universe. The characters, fashioned from mathematical formulae and cellular structures, disport themselves amongst galaxies, experience the solidification of planets, move from aquatic to terrestrial existence, play games with hydrogen atoms, and have time for a love life too. 'Naturally, we were all there, - old Qfwfq said, - where else could we have been? Nobody knew then that there could be space. Or time either: what use did we have for time, packed in there like sardines?'. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars At last
At the time of this writing you still have to order this from amazon.co.uk and pay the shipping fees, as American copyrights have not been ironed out. If that's too expensive, most of the contents are available elsewhere, in the HBJ and Vintage volumes called Cosmicomics, T Zero, and Numbers in the Dark. Some of the newly translated stories were published in Spring '09 in Harpers and (I think) The New York Times. These new stories are one main selling point of the collection; the other is the ability to access them all finally together.

The "cosmicomic" stories are some of the best, most fun, most wildly fantastical and least describable works by the great Italo Calvino, and this is the much belated first English collection of them. They were his running start toward Invisible Cities, one of the finest books of the century--and he wrote several more after to cool down. Like those city fables, the various cosmicomics tend to retell a single story of a lost opportunity, usually lost love. The heart of Calvino's genius was always to keep this situation paradoxically upbeat, perhaps by implying that the very immensities we always find ourselves losing bespeak a world overflowing with worlds. There will be others, different from but not always unlike the ones we miss. Including this one last batch by Calvino. ... Read more

8. The Watcher and Other Stories
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 192 Pages (1975-10-22)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$4.44
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156949520
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The three long stories in this volume show the range and virtuosity of Italy’s most imaginative writer. “Like Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez, Italo Calvino dreams perfect dreams for us” (John Updike, New Yorker).Translated by William Weaver and Archibald Colquhoun. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars Dealing with problems
Italo Calvino's specialty was magical realism -- treeborne nobility, tarot stories, and noblemen chopped in half. But "The Watcher and Other Stories" displays his talents in grittier, more hopeless stories and characters.

The title story involves Amerigo, a rather naive young Communist who is employed as a "Watcher" at a hospital; he keeps an eye on the patients to make sure they are all aware enough to vote. (He spends most of his spare time feuding with his pregnant girlfriend)

As he watches during the voting time, the nuns bring by people who are mentally retarded, deformed, horribly ill, or all three. Some make the best of their dreary lives (like the handless man), and some aren't aware enough to. And what he sees changes Amerigo's way of thinking.

"Smog" is about a pitiful young man who arrives in the city, and immediately becomes pathologically freaked out by all the smog, dust and grime. Even when his elegant celebrity girlfriend spends weekends with him, he can't think about anything except the dust.

And finally, "The Argentine Ant" has a young couple and baby arriving in a country cottage -- only to get invaded by ants that evening. They try desperately to eradicate the pests (which are in every house in the area) but the ants may have an unlikely ally.

Compared to Calvino's warm, slightly surreal stories, "The Watcher and Other Stories" seems like a rather bleak book, without any solid endings to the storylines. The first two are simply dark and a bit depressing, more in the vein of his "Path to the Spiders' Nests," while the third is just tragicomic.

But Calvino's rich, slightly dreamlike writing style is very much intact here, and the more optimistic tone can be found in the socialite, who sees beauty where her boyfriend sees only squalor. And while the descriptions of the sick, deformed and mentally retarded are disturbing, they're also quite sad -- Calvino never forgets that these are all people, who need love, and who were simply unluckier than most.

The main characters vary a lot -- Amerigo is naively Communistic, and rather irresponsible, while the "Smog" guy is rather stagnant (and clearly has OCD as well). But the couple in the last story are rather nice, especially since everybody has had this sort of harrowing situation.

"The Watcher And Other Stories" is a look at Calvino's darker, more meditative stories. This is realism, not magical realism.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not his best
The Watcher and Other Stories is a collection of three of Calvino's stories put together in a single volume for no obvious reason other than they are by the same author.As a fan of Calvino's work, I have to admit that this is the closest I've come to describing one of his books as "tedious."However, in each story Calvino still wields his pen with an imagination that few can even come close to matching.Each narrative effectively brings the reader to a different world filled with well-rounded characters and unique circumstances--most notably an ant-infested neighborhood.

While not the most engrossing of Calvino's works, The Watcher and Other Stories is still worth picking up for fans of the breathtakingly creative author.

4-0 out of 5 stars Nice Collection
The Watcher and Other Stories is a collection of three different but thematically interlinked stories.I personally thought that the title story was the most intriguing.The Watcher deals with our protagonist "watching" the voting procedures in a home for invalids/deranged/etc.The home is a mini city and becomes a type of microcosm of Italian society.Smog deals again with the futility of human life through pollution.The Argentine Ants is a type of mock horror story.All of the above are extremely well written and executed.Although I did enjoy this book, I would suggest that readers unfamiliar with Calvino try some of his masterpieces first, and then move onto the minutiae of works such as these.

4-0 out of 5 stars How humanity copes
The three long stories that comprise this book at first appear to have been slapped together without much concern for whether they work well with one another.Not only were they written at different points in Calvino'scareer -- "The Watcher" is from 1963, "Smog" from 1958 and "The ArgentineAnt" from 1952, but they don't even get the continuity that a singletranslator might have been able to provide.That's why it's so surprisingthat a common theme in these works emerges anyway -- namely, that existenceis futile and farcical and yet also must be cherished because, in the end,what else is there?

The protagonists of these stories are allseeking ways to somehow make the futility bearable or even meaningful. "The Watcher" portrays Amerigo Ormea, an election observer assigned to apolling place that is actually a mental institution.Amerigo's long-heldpolitical convictions are, if not wavering, then at least punch-drunk fromhaving been slapped around so much.The momentous changes once foreseen byhim have not materialized, and as a result he is trying to believe thatchange is a gradual and even mundane process, a matter of "doing as much asyou could, day by day." Calvino uses the asylum and its inhabitants ametaphor for democratic society and its odd creatures.In doing so hedisplays a keen talent for showing up grand arguments like whetherdemocracy is viable for the absurd squabbles they may be at their core --like whether a ballot sheet has been properly folded, or whether an armlessman's vote counts if someone has to go into the voting booth with him. Amerigo struggles to accept that such grotesque banality is the very stuffof democracy.This struggle is sometimes involving and insightful andsometimes not.The force of the story is somewhat blunted by too manyphilosophical musings on Calvino's part.He may mean to send up thediehard's tendency toward philosophical musings, but they are droning andoften repetitive and not particularly exciting to read.Nevertheless, "TheWatcher" has a lot to offer.In the other two stories, the maincharacters also must persevere in the face of circumstances they cannotcontrol."Smog" demonstrates an acute awareness of environmental perilthat seems somewhat ahead of its time.But as in "The Watcher," Calvino'schief concern is how humanity copes.The main character has just moved tothe city and is overwhelmed by its filth.He washes his hands compulsivelyas he observes how the urbanites deal with a dirty fog that is intensifyingits grip on the city.One man simply makes the filth a part of himself,living and breathing it with hardly a thought.Another, a factory ownerand the worst polluter in the city, tries to redeem himself by funding "TheInstitute for the Purification of the Urban Atmosphere in IndustrialCenters."A worker in one of his factories "didn't try to evade all thesmoky gray around us, but to transform it into a moral value, an innercriterion."

Smog is substituted by ants in "The Argentine Ant." A young couple moves into a new home only to find that it -- and the homesof all their neighbors -- infested with millions of the unstoppableinsects.The young husband goes neighbor to neighbor in search of asolution.One has a garageful of insecticides and chemicals, and achuckling anecdote explaining the failure of each one.Another man rigselaborate deathtraps out of string and gasoline.The woman who rents thehouses out simply denies that the ants are a problem even as they bite heron the buttocks and crawl up her back.The town regularly sends out anexterminator, but the residents are convinced he is actually feeding theants as a way of keeping his job.In both "Smog" and "The Argentine Ant,"no one thinks to simply leave.There seems to be a tacit agreement amongthem that moving would only exchange one problem for another.Calvino'scharacters are inescapably grounded where they find themselves, learning tolive with that which they find unbearable.

This book providesample evidence of Calvino's skill and vision.It is definitely aworthwhile read. ... Read more

9. Difficult Loves
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 300 Pages (1985-09-23)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$4.54
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156260557
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Tales of love and loneliness in which the author blends reality and illusion. “The quirkiness and grace of the writing, the originality of the imagination at work,...and a certain lovable nuttiness make this collection well worth reading” (Margaret Atwood). Translated by William Weaver, Peggy Wright, and Archibald Colquhoun. A Helen and Kurt Wolff BookAmazon.com Review
One of the warmest and gentlest collections of stories byCalvino, and one of the most grounded in the real world. Lovely andelegant prose that lolls in your imagination like a story whisperedinto your ear on late spring day. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars Stunning detail, description...
Calvino is a genius who paints with words. For anyone lost, consumed, or dulled by the noise of today, take a break and read this guy. Stories range from charming to chilling, always with humanity in mind.

4-0 out of 5 stars Laudable observations of life
"Difficult Loves" is a collection of four sets of stories, each set revolving around a particular theme or setting. Calvino's perspective and style remain constant, however, as he navigates effortlessly between a disparate set of characters and situations. The hallmark of Calvino's perspective is his ability to take small "slices of life", understand them in great detail, and convert them into fascinating and gripping tales. The attraction to his stories is heightened by the occasional recognition of, and correlation to, the plethora of complex feelings aroused by these small and innocuous happenings. The fact that these feelings are so often buried in our subconscious and never played out recognizably indicate how acute an observer and analyst Calvino really is.

"The Adventure of a Soldier", a part of the last set of stories ("Stories of Love and Loneliness"), is a beautiful example of Calvino's keen observational faculties. In this story, a man embarks on a complex and courageous mental (and somewhat physical) journey, on the basis of a perceived physical contact with a fellow passenger on a train. Such is the honesty of Calvino's account of the soldier's emotions, that the reader can almost palpably feel the various contacts with the co-passenger, while sympathizing, if not empathizing, with the soldier's state of mind. This story is also a great illustration of the use of dramatic arc as a story-writing tool, especially to connect seemingly disjointed ideas or states.

The one serious drawback of this book is that while it manages to avert becoming platitudinal, it nonetheless becomes increasingly monotonous with the passage of each story. Calvino's disposition to simplicity and lucidity become his greatest failing as the novelty of his perspective wears off. Thus, overall, this is a book definitely worth reading, but best read in a piecemeal fashion to avoid weariness.

5-0 out of 5 stars These Stories Stay With You
I read Difficult Loves a month ago and found that the stories in this book have staying power. Italo Calvino conjures up vivid imagery to accompany magical and unsettling stories. His story telling abilities are such that he reminds readers of long forgotten sensations. We feel the marvel and anxiety of two children who happen upon a property that is both enchanting and disturbing. We experience the elation of a man who is new to glasses and his disappointment upon realizing he found only a temporary reprieve from his same old life. Another story that opens with a leathery old man warning a weary traveler against crossing a mountain pass is one of the most powerfully written tales in the book. Difficult Loves is worth rereading.

4-0 out of 5 stars Glimpses of exceptional ordinary lives...
Difficult Loves provides a comprehensive look at the art of storytelling, and its ability to expose the subtle emotions and personalities of everyday life.Calvino is particularly adept at honing in on a definitive moment, or succession of moments in the lives of his characters, and capturing the surprising shifts of relation and consciousness that occur suprisingly and spontaneously.The last section in the book, Stories of Love and Loneliness, shows Calvino at his most artful, examining the ways that certain types of people experience life and love.An earlier reviewer pointed out that everyone can find something to connect with in these stories.This is true in an even deeper sense, namely, that within the narration, sparkling moments of truth are revealed about the workings of the human mind, and they can only be read with a consistently deepening respect for the author and his art.There is a confessional quality to the work as well, and Calvino hints at his own obsessions and deviancies and shortcomings as a thinker.This authorial honesty conforms well with the subjects of the stories, all of which are betrayed in a state of almost disconcertingly fallible humanity.These are the anti-heros, the heros of everyday life and love.With Difficult Loves, Calvino maps out another essential area of human experience, and does it with a simple beauty that belies the complexity of his grand project.

4-0 out of 5 stars Most of us can identify with at least one of these stories
This collection of stories represents some of Calvino's best early work (the stories were originally compiled in two books from 1949 and 1958). Those who have read "The Baron in the Trees" (from 1957) will recognize the style at work here. The book burgeons with short stories, 28 in all divided into four sections, and each one includes a discovery of some sort as well as a reflection on the most bizarre of human emotions: love.
The stories contained in the book's first section, "Riviera Stories", seem to have political subthemes. Many deal with the haves and have nots and their interactions. "The Enchanted Garden" tells of two children that happen along a seemingly deserted villa to discover a utopia or a dystopia - are the people who live in such luxury happy?; "A Goatherd at Luncheon" explores the gaps between the rich and the poorer classes when the man of the house invites the goat herder to lunch; In "Big Fish, Little Fish" a very capable young diver comes across an astonishing motherload of fish along with a sobbing sunbather who says she's "unlucky in love", but every fish the boy pulls out seems to have problems - the downside of a bonanza; "Lazy Sons" traces a day in the life of two boys who refuse to work in spite of the fulminations of their hard-working parents.
The next section, "Wartime Stories", not surprisingly, contains the most violent and disturbing stories of the book. "Hunger at Bévara" explores the desperation of a village caught between two fronts and the hero Bisma who helped save the village, at least temporarily; "Going To Headquarters" plays with expectations as the tensions between two men, one who might be a spy, and the other who may be his executioner, heighten; "One of the Three Is Still Alive" probably qualifies as the book's most disturbing story. A man thrown into a deep pit by the enemy discovers that the dead bodies of his comrades broke his fall, he then tries to escape from the pit; "Animal Woods" is both comedic and tragic. A man tries to shoot a looting German soldier but the livestock of his village keeps interfering.
The third section, "Postwar Stories" deals with a desperate world, one with limited resources and where almost anything goes. "Theft in a Pastry Shop" tells the hilarious story of criminals who suddenly find themselves on a gluttonous rampage during a robbery; "Dollars and the Demimondaine" explores a couple's quest for dollars amongst a crowd of rather lusty American sailors. This section deals with the desperate climate of a postwar country. As people suffer some take a no holds barred approach while others find themselves giving up or asking what's it worth.
The book's final, and longest, section, "Stories of Love and Loneliness" is probably the most intriguing. It presages somewhat Calvino's later book "Mr. Palomar". The style in this section is deeply character driven, and the thoughts and motivations of characters get explained with amazing detail. "The Adventure of a Soldier" follows a soldier's conquest of a woman seated next to him on a train. He cautiously explores her body to gauge her reaction. Did she pull away? Is she acquiesing? "The Adventure of a Bather" explores how some see nakedness as a humiliation, so much so that they risk death rather then being seen unclothed. "The Adventure of a Photographer" depicts a seemingly non-obsessive man's all consuming obsession with capturing life through photographs. He's too engaged to even notice the interest of the beautiful woman acting as his subject; "The Adventure of a Nearsighted Man" shows just how much a pair of glasses can change one's life. The character can now recognize many things, but other people no longer recognize him. Even the woman he yearns for, and who he's known for years, doesn't recognize him with his glasses on.
"Difficult Loves" provides a suitable umbrella title to package these stories under. Many deal with love in its various forms: physical, emotional, spiritual, self, political, material. In nearly all cases the characters in the story have difficulty defining or requiting the love they have for others or things. The book explores the nebulous nature of desire and attraction to others and the inevitable hardships of bridging one's desires with reality. Throughout the book, Calvino's writing mesmerizes (even in translation) and pulls the reader in without mercy. The character studies of the final section are incredible in their detail and ambition. It's amazing how much Calvino can cram into a ten page story. The range of emotions is also incredible. The stories evoke laughter, disgust, pity, shame, and of course love.
If you want a good read or want to study the art of the short story, look no further than this book by Calvino. It won't disappoint. ... Read more

10. t zero (A Harvest/HBJ BookH)
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 152 Pages (1976-10-04)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$3.76
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156924005
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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A collection of stories about time, space, and the evolution of the universe in which the author blends mathematics with poetic imagination. “Calvino does what very few writers can do: he describes imaginary worlds with the most extraordinary precision and beauty” (Gore Vidal, New York Review of Books). Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars outrageously funny, and deep enough to wash your hair
the notion of remembering back to when we were all dry inside and it was wet outside, before we turned ourselves inside out and carried the wet within us in a dry world is enough to recommend this book to any and all - the bit about how birds got in the world is icing on the cake.

4-0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly imaginative, if somewhat tedious.
To the people who hate this book, I grant you the freedom of your opinion, but I have to say, "You don't get it!"This isn't a narrative in the traditional sense of the word.Instead, Calvino has taken complex scientific principles and turned them into stories.Its true that there is a certain lack of character development, as the main character is a one-dimensional atomic particle (pun intended), but even so, Calvino makes him(it?) come alive in his tales.The true feature and attraction of these stories are the situation and worlds that Calvino creates.All that being said, I read this in the same day that I read Cosmicomics, which is a prior collections of similar stories featuring the same character (and, I think, a better book overall), and the artist's conceit wore a little thin.However, if you can give these books sufficient time and space(pun intended again), they are truly fun and beautiful.

4-0 out of 5 stars I liked it but.........
Not surprisingly the two early reviews give it 1 and 5 respectively: a book about which it is impossible to be neutral. Confusing,dense, boring writing there is - but also some amazing mathematic/scietific concepts whchCalvino masterly spins into stories - the logic/illogic (which are probablysimultaneously both the same and opposite) outcomes baffle and amaze. Thefinal section was more rewarding (being more time-space maths based) -couldn't get a handle on the evolutionary/biological stuff.I also suspectI want to read more about the text and continually get beneath its skin.Will read bits again and again and again. (Not a tour de force of narrativeanalysis compared to "if on a winter's night..." and castle ofcrossed destinies)

1-0 out of 5 stars Could not finish.
Qfwfqu, an immortal being, guides the reader through the evolution of Earth.Highly repetetive with no character action.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the finest works of post-modernist fiction.
Calvino is one of the masters of post-modernism, and his tales fiction highlight one of the most fundamental concerns of the movement: challenging notions of a "reality".t zero reigns as Calvino's finest, most compelling work ... Read more

11. Mr. Palomar
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 144 Pages (1986-09-22)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$4.76
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156627809
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Italo Calvino's last fictional work is a witty, elegant, fantastic rendering of the ultimate observer, whose name, Mr. Palomar, deliberately evokes the famous telescope. "Beautiful, nimble, solitary feats of imagination" (The New York Times Book Review). Calvino is the acclaimed author of Difficult Loves and Invisible Cities. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (15)

3-0 out of 5 stars Italo Calvino, Mr. Palomar; Reflections on life, death, Daisaku Ikeda, sports, hookahs and the eternal sea
Revered experimental fiction author Italo Calvino is new to me, although he has been writing and winning honors since long before I was born. Mr. Palomar is one of his landmark novels. What's it about?

In one chapter, the protagonist goes to the beach; not to watch the waves, but to completely isolate and analyze -- dissect almost, with his intellect -- a single wave. The task he has set for himself is impossible to accomplish. So, "Mr. Palomar goes off along the beach, tense and nervous as when he came, and even more unsure about everything."

Poor Mr. Palomar. How many people fall victim to the "scientific" mindset and end up as stressed out and unhappy as Mr. Palomar? It brings to mind the writings of musicologist Christopher Small. From his book Music, Society and Education I learned that Rene Descartes philosophically chopped up everything, the mysterious whole, into categories; humans divided from nature, individual cut off from community, mind severed from body, and spirit divorced from intellect. And most of science acts as if these categories are true. When really they are about as useful as the self-imposed task of Mr. Palomar to analyze a single wave on the vast sea.

Calvino's descriptions of the waves brought to mind a writing of SGI Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda, Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth & Death: . . . And Everything in Between, A Buddhist View Life. He uses the ocean as a metaphor for the eternity of life. We in our individual bodies in this life are like waves on the ocean. When we die, it is as if our wave has crashed and reunited with the whole mysterious ocean, or cosmic sea of life, only to rise again as another wave. As Mr. Palomar observed at the beach (much to his chagrin), there truly is no separation between one wave and another. No separation between one life and another. No separation between you and me.

In another section of the novel,

"Mr. Palomar decides that from now on he will act as if he were dead... The gaze of the dead is always a bit deprecatory. Places, situations, occasions are more or less what one already knew, and recognizing them always affords a certain satisfaction... The dead should no longer give a damn about anything, because it is not up to them to think about it anymore; and even if that may seem immoral, it is in this irresponsibility that the dead find their gaiety.

The more Mr. Palomar's spiritual condition approaches the one here described, the more the idea of being dead seems natural to him."

This brings to mind a character in Colin Riggins' screenplay Harold and Maude. It pre-dates Mr. Palomar by almost two decades. In particular I'm thinking of the following bits of dialog from the transcript.

We see 19-year-old Harold in a psychiatrist's office, sent there by his ostentatiously wealthy mother after he staged one-too-many fake suicides to try and let her know how he suffered and to freak her out.

Tell me, Harold,
what do you do for fun?
What activity gives you a different
sense of enjoyment from the others?
What do you find fulfilling?
What gives you that special...

I go to funerals.

Later, Harold meets Maude, a 79-year-old survivor of a WWII Nazi concentration camp, who decided to embrace life with every molecule of her being. In the scene where they recline in kimonos, smoking a hookah in Maude's parked railcar, converted into sumptuous bohemian domesticity, they reflect on death and life.

I haven't lived.
I've died a few times.

What was that?

Well... The first time... these two policemen...told (my mother)
that I was killed in the fire.
She put one hand up to her forehead,
the other one she reached out
as if groping for support,
and with this long sigh,
she collapsed in their arms.
I decided right then
that I enjoyed being dead.

I understand.
A lot of people enjoy being dead
but they're not dead really.
They're just backing away from life.
Reach out and take a chance,
get hurt even,
but play as well as you can.
Go team, go!
Gimme an L, gimme an I,
gimme a V, gimme an E.
L-I-V-E, live.
Otherwise you got nothing
to talk about in the locker room.

Colin Higgins said he believes his movie has endured because, "We're all Harold, and we all want to be Maude."

Mr. Palomar, in these sections of Calvino's novel, does not seem to have met his Maude, or Daisaku Ikeda, to show him another way. He seems stuck as pre-Maude Harold, chewing on the concept of living death like a dog worrying a bone.

([...] by Lynette Yetter, author of the novel, Lucy Plays Panpipes for Peace

5-0 out of 5 stars Great buy! Mr. Palomar
The book was received on time and in great condition. I am very satisfied with this company's service.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great for Writers
If you want to write or improve your writing, this book will teach. Calvino's descriptions riff into philosophical meanderings where he draws fantastical connections, charming conclusions. At times indulgent, his writing is refreshing, funny, sharp. Throughout the book we follow Mr. Palomar as he observes. His gift is taking a seemingly inconsequential observation and making it unique, perplexing, and grand. No small feat.

3-0 out of 5 stars Ok Book
This book traces Mr. Palomar's thoughts about various events.As the events or places that Palomar passively partakes in become funnier so do the thoughts of Mr. Palomar.The book isn't really totally conventional, or emotionally sweeping or anything but it evokes a certain feeling associated with a fictional train of thought, and then moralizes about this fictional line of thought at the end.

From what I could tell Mr. Palomar was meant to be sort of a banal character, with a topical knowledge of many subjects.I wonder what his thoughts would've been like reading books?So in conclusion I'm not really sure I got the point of this book, and the moralization that somehow Mr. Palomar is sort of dead.Or perhaps it's one of those meta-books, but meta-books aren't so good and mostly get by on font choice like some of this author's other books.

I think The book raised some interesting points in passing is what I can say about it.

5-0 out of 5 stars When Aristotle Met James Thurber
The 27 reveries of Mr. Palomar are filled with paradox; in them we find gently profound ruminations on the cosmos as well as the embarrassments of ordinary human interaction.This is a book that makes us see the world around us in a different way.

Mr. Palomar, who shares the name of the observatory, is the emblem of the person as observer.Whether it is the ocean or the heavens, a cheese shop or an Aztec ruin, Mr. Palomar attempts to see and to comprehend what he sees.But the general theme of his attempts at observations is ultimately the failure, or at least the inadequacy, of his attempts.

Much of the book has an Aristotelian quality, which perhaps is not so surprising, considering that Mr. Palomar's enterprise, the attempt to understand the universe through careful observation, is Aristotle's approach at well.Much of the contemplation follows Aristotelian lines.Mr. Palomar is often immersed in Aristotelian efforts of categorization, of conceptually separating a part from the whole, and facing the question that looms so large in Aristotle: When can we derive the properties of the whole from the part, and when is the opposite true?Then again, the reader is reminded of Aristotle's "Parts of Animals" when Mr. Palomar describes the running giraffes and how each part of the giraffe's anatomy appears to be suited to a separate species, or when Mr. Palomar watches through his skylight as a gecko captures, ingests, and digests an insect.

But counterpoised with this, you have genuine "Walter Mitty" type moments when the real world interrupts the reverie.Mr. Palomar, waiting in a line in a cheese shop, is inspired by the actual cheeses he sees to construct a model world of cheese, and becomes so absorbed in this enterprise, that he at some point crosses over and mentally inhabits the model world.As in Thurber, the humor derives from the person who inhabits the imagined world having to deal with the sudden demands of the actual cheese shop.

One thing I recommend to a reader is, in reading through the sections (I guess one can refer to them as essays), to consider what causes Mr. Palomar to break off the contemplation.Sometimes, it is the intervention of the outside world.Sometimes it is that Mr. Palomar is overcome by a sort of vertigo at the immensity of space or time.Sometimes, Mr. Palomar hits upon a dualism, yes, we can view the object in such and such a way, but equally well in another way, and is unable to move beyond that point.By tracking these closing moments, one can best come to terms with Mr. Palomar's experience of failure.
... Read more

12. Numbers in the Dark: And Other Stories
by Italo Calvino
 Paperback: 288 Pages (1996-10-01)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$3.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679743537
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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For the first time in paperback--a volume of thirty-seven diabolically inventive stories, fables, and "impossible interviews" from one of the great fantasists of the 20th century, displaying the full breadth of his vision and wit.Written between 1943 and 1984 and masterfully translated by Tim Parks, the fictions in Numbers in the Dark display all of Calvino's dazzling gifts: whimsy and horror, exuberance of style, and a cheerful grasp of the absurdities of the human condition. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Postmodern, Italian analogs to Aesop's fables.
At their best, Calvino's stories center around a twist that captures the essence of our times, or society or our humanity.The stories are not pure entertainment but rather ways of communicating something that defies simple statement in language.

Once read, I find I remember a moment or a sense of how our world is, yet can't quite put it in words.I suppose that's why Calvino had to express them as stories.I remember a couple such moments now, years after reading Numbers in the Dark and the other short stories in the book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great book, mediocre kindle iPad edition
This is a wonderful collection of little gems.
Unfortunately the Kindle to iPad edition is filled with "typos"--- I suppose representing failure of the OCR used to create the file?

2-0 out of 5 stars Not a great intro to Calvino
Although this collection of short stories had some really nice moments, I was ultimately unimpressed.I had heard great things about Italo Calvino, how he's an Italian version of Borges, and I can certainly see the similarities to the great Argentine author, but Calvino does not benefit from the comparison.

The collection is organized chronologically, as far as I can tell, and it begins with promise.There are a few pedestrian extended jokes and adolescent musings on love, but there are some fascinating fantasy/fables (in one story, a military regiment takes over a library to read every book and determine which ones should be censored, but their involuntary education changes their lives, and in another, a military parade takes a wrong turn and sheds pieces of itself as it winds through a town) and allegories that are impressive when I know the context (I didn't comprehend Becalmed in the Antilles at all until I read the note at the end that reminded me that it was written in, essentially, a Cold War period).No story is "leave you gasping for breath" good, but they're the kind of thing you might read in a high school or college literary magazine from an exceptionally talented student.

As he aged, though, Calvino didn't really live up to the promise of his early stories, as far as I can tell in this collection.His later work is twisted around intellectually complicated but unengaging musings on the romantic journey of water on its way to a shower head or the path a long-distance call takes or a series of "interviews" that made me feel like I was trapped in college in an intro-level philosophy class again.There is a retelling of the Eurydice myth that hints at spectacular imagery but creates such a distance with its inhuman tone that I couldn't even finish it.

I may just not get Calvino.Maybe I need to read If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (Everyman's Library (Cloth)), his best-known work (in the States), and re-evaluate.But if the rest of his work is fairly characterized by this collection, then I don't understand his appeal.

5-0 out of 5 stars Far out.
If you see polka dots as round stripes (as I do) then this collection will appeal to you. This guy has a really off beat take on the world.

3-0 out of 5 stars Crafted but more political than I care for
When I read "If On a Winter's Night a Traveler" I was completely pulled in and engrossed by the creative, crafted nature of the story and of Calvino's abilities. So, years later, I picked up this book of short stories. Since "Winters Night" is really a collection of related short stories, I expected ,uch the same. UNfortunately, I didn't like it as much. This book represents a real cross-section of his work. I found that most of his political allegories were a little too heavy for me. What I found most interesting were the stories that focused on relationships. Mother to son, lover to lover, friend to friend. This is where I was most interested. Since I seem to prefer Calvino in certain types of fiction, this may not have been the best collection for me. If you are a fan of Calvino & are looking for a good overview, this book may be better for you. ... Read more

13. Why Read the Classics?
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 288 Pages (2001-01-16)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$5.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679743499
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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From the internationally-acclaimed author of some of this century's most breathtakingly original novels comes this posthumous collection of thirty-six literary essays that will make any fortunate reader view the old classics in a dazzling new light.

Learn why Lara, not Zhivago, is the center of Pasternak's masterpiece, Dr. Zhivago, and why Cyrano de Bergerac is the forerunner of modern-day science-fiction writers. Learn how many odysseys The Odyssey contains, and why Hemingway's Nick Adams stories are a pinnacle of twentieth-century literature. From Ovid to Pavese, Xenophon to Dickens, Galileo to Gadda, Calvino covers the classics he has loved most with essays that are fresh, accessible, and wise. Why Read the Classics? firmly establishes Calvino among the rare likes of Nabokov, Borges, and Lawrence--writers whose criticism is as vibrant and unique as their groundbreaking fiction.

Amazon.com Review
Why read Italo Calvino's book on the classics? Because it passes his owntest for what a classic is, and its brisk prose can blast your concept ofthe word clean of the dusty associations that cling to it. Calvino gives 14offbeat definitions of classic, my favorite being "a work whichconstantly generates a pulviscular cloud of critical discourse around it,but which always shakes the particles off." His sharp essays on Conrad,Dickens, Diderot, Flaubert, Ovid, and others constitute an act ofself-criticism too, a novelist's imaginative autobiography. In 1955, whenrave-reviewing Robinson Crusoe,he called Daniel Defoe the "inventor of modern journalism." In 1954, heovercame his disgust with Hemingway's life "of violent tourism," coollyassessed his dry heights and sodden depths, and called himself Papa'sapprentice. And the 1984 piece on Borges shows who influenced Calvino mostonce he'd become a master himself.

From both the American and the Argentinian, Calvino learned to be concise,and his quick sketches of books like the "unqualified masterpiece" Our MutualFriend provide a contact high--one wants to drop everything and headstraight to a library, so infectious is his enthusiasm. "How many youngpeople will be smitten" by Stendhal's recently, brilliantly retranslatedWaterloo-era adventure TheCharterhouse of Parma, he writes, "recognizing it as the novel theyhad always wanted to read... the benchmark for all the other novels theywill read in later life." Like a great teacher, Italo Calvino distills awriter's essence in a vivid phrase: money, for instance, serves as "themotive force of Balzac's narrative, the true test of feeling in Dickens;but in Mark Twain money is a game of mirrors, causing vertigo over a void."--Tim Appelo ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

3-0 out of 5 stars helpful
WE HAVE TO READ THE CLASSICS to understand the heart of the issue. We cannot get that by reading abridged versions or self-help books. If we take the time to read the classics, the story and it's moral stays with us through thick and thin times.

5-0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Anthology
An inspirational collection from an excellent essayist. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in literature.

5-0 out of 5 stars A personal antology
The answer to the question sophisticatedly raised by this little anthology, is given in the essay which opens the collection.The basic reason lies in forming a personal scale of values that help you individualize the real artistic elements in new works. The second one is that reading increases the quality of living in usual and unusual situations, as well. But the quality of school anthologies and their presentations is still an open problem.

5-0 out of 5 stars Calvino get you inloved withliterature!!
What makes a book a clasic? Borges once said in a conference, thatthe fact that a whole generationlives with the idea of a book makes it a classic, Calvino involve you in that idea.. ... Read more

14. Marcovaldo: or the Seasons in the City
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 128 Pages (1983-11-16)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$3.48
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156572044
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Marcovaldo is an unskilled worker in a drab industrial city in northern Italy. He is an irrepressible dreamer and an inveterate schemer. Much to the puzzlement of his wife, his children, his boss, and his neighbors, he chases his dreams-but the results are never the expected ones. Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book ... Read more

Customer Reviews (20)

3-0 out of 5 stars On Being Poor and Stupid
On the back cover of this book is a quote from the New York Review of Books, claiming that Italo Calvino is, "... one of the world's best fabulists." For the life of me, I just cannot understand what's so great about Italo Calvino's writing. True, this little book of 20 short stories, entitled "Marcovaldo," was entertaining at times (as was his "The Cloven Viscount") and funny at times. At the same time it was also depressing and derisive. Virtually every story ends downbeat. But, Calvino is a good writer, often showing a clever turn of phrase and offering clear picturesque descriptions, especially of nature and common phenomena. The translation is adequate.

The story of the rabbit is charming, funny and cute in the beginning, but horrible and not at all funny at the end. Same with the story about mushrooms. The tale of the cows marching through town to pasture in the hills (and followed there for the summer by one of Marcovaldo's sons) is another example. It was clever in the beginning but excruciating at the end, a dismal, biting, unpleasant commentary on the ordinary life of farmers. The funniest story involved Marcovaldo falling asleep on a river barge which floats downstream. It was mostly mischievous.

Calvino walks a fine line between ridicule and humor.While reading these little stories about his title character, Marcovaldo, I felt that Calvino despised the fictional man he created, while admiring his simplicity and naiveté. Marcovaldo had the ability to appreciate even a row of ants marching nowhere, for instance, but his life was one disaster after another.

Marcovaldo lives a somewhat miserable life in which he dislikes his wife, barely tolerates his too-numerous children, and works at a meaningless, mindless job, above which he will never rise. Hope for Marcovaldo is futile.

Marcovaldo obviously has a below average IQ and is a man easily duped by not only others but also himself, his urges, his thoughts and his wife and children - all of whom seem even less capable than he. Thus Calvino wrote a scathing -- though ironic -- set of essays about how awful life was in mid-20th Century in Italy to be someone who is not very smart, someone who suffers from a lack of education, and someone must live a life of near poverty and vast ignorance. Marcovaldo teaches his children false ideas about everything that completely baffles him. Calvino really not only disrespects and disapproves of his character but makes great fun of him. Throughout almost every story, ridicule and indirect abuse is heaped upon the poor, hapless Marcovaldo.

While Marcovaldo shows a nice sensitivity to nature and his very ordinary surroundings. He never masters his environment, that mysterious world around him, even though he rises from a one room flat to a two room flat in time - his primary life accomplishment.

The stories degrade Marcovaldo's character and simplicity, showing him as the unwitting victim of his own and others crazy beliefs, ignorance and folly.The primary flaw in Marcovaldo is his inability to foresee potential consequences whatsoever to his actions. He simply plunges forward in life, irrespective of possible bad results to his idiotic ideas and schemes.Is this the substance of a fable?
Calvino makes strong political statements in many of the stories, but without subtlety or nuance.In addition, there is a foreboding eeriness to most of these little fables which removes them from being bedtime reading for children. At best, these stories, (allegories, fables and metaphors -- to be generous to Calvino), might make good reading for a young teenager, whose sense of humor often borders on the bizarre and twisted, thus making the youthful reader quite possibly a fitting audience for these unusual tales.There is little in most of the stories for thinking adults, however, no matter how persistent Calvino is in forcing a message about Capitalism, Commercialism and Corporate greed, all of which apparently are at the root of Marcovaldo's fate.

Collectively, the stories raise more questions about Calvino than they provide an enriching literary experience or coherent social commentary for a reader.Does Calvino simply hate everyone who isn't as clever as he?Are people who are poor and uneducated a fit subject for ridicule?Does Calvino truly believe that the life of average people is ultimately doomed by a terrible social structure and will inevitably end in the kind of overwhelming despair found in the person of Marcovaldo? Are there life lessons provided in these stories not better learned elsewhere?

In sum, giving credit to Calvino's baffling positive reputation, I reluctantly rate "Marcovaldo" 2.75, but round it up to a 3.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great environmental story
Calvino's ability to capture topics of humanity is relevant for people of all ages.In this story of a man in a poor industrial town, Calvino conveys eloquently the timeless struggle between nature and civilization.

4-0 out of 5 stars Seasons go by
It's hard not to admire the people who enjoy simple things... as long as they don't get out of touch with the reality. That seems to be the idea behind Italo Calvino's "Marcovaldo: Or the Seasons in the City," a warm little novel that shows the joys of life -- and the weird truths behind them.

Marcovaldo is an unskilled laborer in a rather dreary Italian city, with a stressed wife and a bunch of somewhat dopey kids. He also has an eye for beauty and an idealistic love of natural bounty. A stray rabbit, a blanket of snow, a peaceful park bench, a hidden stash of mushrooms, a trip to the countryside with his children, and a bus on a foggy night.

Marcovaldo revels in the natural beauty and good fortune that come to him on these occasions. Unfortunately, they aren't quite as wonderful as he thinks -- every time, something bizarre and unlucky happens to him, whether it's the noises of urban nighttime, the realities of farm work, diseased rabbits, a plane to Bombay, a minor avalanche, or a bad case of food poisoning.

Popping little idealistic dreams seems like a pretty mean-spirited thing to do. Yes, even to a fictional character like Marcovaldo. But somehow Italo Calvino's charming little book manages to be mocking and funny without being nasty about it. He's an airhead, and somewhat selfish, but amusingly and likably so.

The book is made up of little short stories, each focusing on one "season in the city," and a new problem for Marcovaldo. In a way, each amusing little story feels like a joke, with the punchline only coming at the end. For example, a walk in the fog and boarding a bus becomes a disaster, when Marcovaldo discovers that the "bus" is actually a plane heading for Bombay.

Here and there, Calvino also adds a bit of magical realism to the otherwise prosaic stories, such as one scene where Marcovaldo sneezes away every flake of snow in a large area. Even if this could never happen in the real world, his lush, almost conversational writing makes it come alive and seem plausible.

Its simple stories keep it from being among Calvino's best, but "Marcovaldo: Or the Seasons In the City" is a charming, offbeat book that takes a slightly more cynical look at idealists.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good Translation of Marcovaldo
For any translation, the book ought to include the original text.Although the translation of Marcovaldo is very good, it is a little disappointing that these stories, originally written in Italian are not included in this book.Despite what is described about the book in the editorial review, this product does not include the Italian text.Having said this, the stories are very enjoyable.There are twenty stories divided under themes on seasons.The main character, Marcovaldo, is a simple country man who is experiencing culture shock after he relocates and works in the industrialized part of Northern Italy during the 1950's, and the stories center around his problems of adjustment.One of the funniest stories in the book is titled, "The Wasp Treatment."People may recall something called "bee therapy" where bee venom is used to cure various aliments.Marcovaldo comes up with an idea that is a variation on the bee therapy, but things do not turn out the way that he expects.The book guarantees many laughs and enjoyment, even though it lacks the literary beauty found in the original language.

4-0 out of 5 stars A pleasure to read
This is a work that is simply magical to read.A collection of stories dealing with the imaginative dreamer, Marcovaldo, the book weaves a dreamscape around the protagonist's city life.Sometimes surreal, often funny, and sometimes poignant, Marcovaldo is a book that can work its way into your heart and remain with you.In the words of another reviewer who summed it up quite nicely: "There is a little Marcovaldo in all of us." ... Read more

15. The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven Viscount
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 264 Pages (1977-03-28)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$3.04
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156659751
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Two novellas: the first, a parody of medieval knighthood told by a nun; the second, a fantasy about a nobleman bisected into his good and evil halves. “Bravura pieces... executed with brilliance and brio”(Chicago Tribune). Translated by Archibald Colquhoun. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
... Read more

Customer Reviews (22)

4-0 out of 5 stars Perfection - Who Needs It?
First of all, I have no idea why these two short novels are published together and "The Baron in the Trees" is published separately, except possibly that "Baron" is a little bit longer.Other than purely practical considerations like that one, the three stories go together quite well, and some years ago some smart guy did indeed publish all of them under the title "Our Ancestors".We, however, will simply have to live with what we've got.

Which brings us to "The Nonexistent Knight" and "The Cloven Viscount", both of which in some way concern living with what we've got.They have a lot of other things in common, too - unlike "Baron", which takes place during the Enlightenment, these two stories take place in the Middle Ages and deal with men who go to war against the Turks.As the titles imply, one of them gets cut exactly in half by a Muslim cannonball, and the other has no such worries because he doesn't exist in the first place.

Furthermore, like "Baron", these two stories have narrators with seemingly irrelevant points of view.The narrator of "Viscount" is the title character's nephew, and the narrator of "Knight" is a nun with a certain interest in the story.You might say, indeed, that these aren't really stories about the nonexistent knight or the cloven viscount, but rather about their impact on the people around them, including the narrators.What, after all, can you say about half a man or an empty suit of armor?

Well, you can say a few things about those characters, of course.Turns out, for instance, that Medardo, the viscount, survives as two half-men, one of them evil and one of them good.The people of his town don't really like either one of them very much, and eventually you know they'll have to confront each other.As for Agilulf, the empty suit of armor, we learn that he finds his state even more unnerving than you might think; to maintain his relationship with the existing world, he dedicates himself to organizing everything around him perfectly until he becomes quite insufferable.

In other words, these stories begin with the very romantic notion of knightly heroism in war and gradually devolve into much more realistic, banal tales.Only to be expected from an ironic postmodernist like Italo Calvino.

The novels are far more than mere games, however.Good thing, too, or they'd be impossible to read.As I said earlier, they both examine in different ways what it means to live with what you've got.Generally speaking, that idea here has to do with the fact that seeking perfection only makes us miserable.

Agilulf, for instance, seeks perfection wherever he goes, and therefore his fellow knights can't stand him - he's always interrupting their leisure time to organize sentry duty and kitchen supervision and whatnot.Eventually, to prove that he deserves his knighthood, he has to go on a long and pointless journey to prove that the woman he rescued years ago was a virgin.In doing this, he somehow fails to notice that a young woman has fallen in love with him, and that a young man has fallen in love with her.Considering that this guy isn't even there, he causes an enormous amount of trouble just to maintain his own status, never mind seeking perfection.

Similarly, both the good and bad halves of Medardo insist that the elimination of the other half has purified their perception of the world.More importantly, the bisection makes them anxious to introduce everyone else to a like sense of purity.Pretty soon, no one can stand either one of them, including the good half, who preaches goodness whether anyone wants to hear him or not.None of this does Medardo's young nephew any favors, needless to say, and it's even worse news for the young woman both halves of Medardo fall in love with.Evidently, perfection is nothing more than a pain in the rear.

Mind you, although the two stories have these elements in common, they are more than distinct enough to make both worth reading.This is largely a matter of what they emphasize as being the advantages of imperfection.The nephew-narrator of "Viscount" comes to realize that the perfection his uncle seeks leaves no room for exploration or learning, and the nun-narrator of "Knight" realizes that perfection eliminates all adventure - in fact, eliminates the future.Needless to say, it's the manner in which these narrators come to their realizations that make the stories so interesting.I'll say no more about that, except to observe that the nun and the nephew are both social outcasts, which probably isn't an accident.

In some ways, then, "The Nonexistent Knight" and "The Cloven Viscount" come to the same truth from opposite directions, "Knight" from the cleanliness of pure theory and "Viscount" from the dirt of battle wounds.Meanwhile they are both clever, funny and thought-provoking.Combined with "The Baron in the Trees," these stories prove that weird tales can and do cover material that more mainstream novels require pages and pages to deal with.So much for those who consider weird tales to be a waste of time and insist upon realism.I've said it before and I'll say it again - you need both.For the weird stuff, by all means start with "Our Ancestors".Won't take you long and will probably give you a few laughs along the way.

Benshlomo says, Life is strange - your reading should be, too.

3-0 out of 5 stars Phantasmagoric, Gruesome Medieval Tales
These 2 stories, bound in one volume, are impossible to review as one. Thus, I offer 2 separate reviews but one composite, compromise rating.

"The Nonexistent Knight:" Mental Illness in Medieval Times

Whether he knows it or not, Italo Calvino has written a handbook on Medieval Neuroses and Psychoses. All of the characters in "The Nonexistent Knight" are borderline or actual lunatics, and they all suffer from a lack of a firm grip on reality. Of course, since that is Calvino's purpose - to mix "fantasy" with "reality," at times this style is called Magical Reality. Well, there really isn't anything "magical" about the overabundance of crazy behavior in this story, and one has to search long and hard to find any "reality" also.

Charlemagne, the chief historical character here, suffers from alcoholism, poor decision-making, indecisiveness, visions of grandeur and a whole host of other out-of-touch conditions and symptoms. He is characterized by Calvino as "prancing along towards the coast of Brittany" (page 128) as if he was really no longer the manly, the erstwhile conqueror of Europe.

Agilulf (the nonexistent one) suffers from an acute identity crisis, and a curious but persistent demand to be allowed to dwell only in his own world of denial and super-fantasy. He lives perpetually inside his coat of armor, claiming he does not exist and therefore it would be useless for him to remove the armor. All are simply required to "believe in" his nonexistence. Query? Is his presence in this story a subtle commentary on the leap of faith required in Christianity to become a believer?

Bradamante, the Amazonian damsel-in-distress here, is naïve to a fault, pursuing an obviously impossible objective, undaunted by any shred of evidence that her imaginary lover actually exists.She and the nonexistent one actually spend a night together (one of the few humorous episodes in this dreary story). The Knight (Jesus, perhaps?) actually persuades her that their joining was ecstatic.

Guarduloo (who goes by other improbable silly names as well) suffers from an undiagnosed and untreated case of ADD or ADHD.He is a classic attention deficit disorder victim if there ever was one. The funniest scene in the entire story involves his digging a grave, then trying to bury himself in the hole before being rescued by others from himself. This episode is both hilarious and pathetic. The reader begs for the ability to give him an adderall pill.

Rraimbaut, the hapless suitor of Bradamnte, so completely lives in a state of denial as to cause the reader to simply shake one's head in dismay. Other characters, such as Torrismund, suffer the bad effects of poor mental health and rather odd coping skills.

Calvino's only really clever structural contribution is found in the character of Sister Theodora, who actually writes the story while living in a nunnery, thus providing the reader with a running commentary about the story as one reads along. She also plays another role.So, what's the point?None!The "Nonexistent Knight" is a weird fairy tale, hard to follow, difficult to maintain interest in and rather boring. But.............it's a fairy tale (but not for children). It's just isn't very interesting. It's barely a 2.

"The Cloven Viscount."Gruesome and Simple

"The Cloven Viscount" is a simple story about why it is important for every human being to integrate into one whole person the various and competing aspects of his or her personality and driving forces. While the story is too simple and too black-and-white, and while it fails to account for the absolute complexity of human nature, Calvino nonetheless creates an interesting (but not compelling) story/allegory about the time-worn concepts of good and evil.

The reader knows all along (there is no mystery here) exactly what is happening and what will happen. The lack of suspense does not ruin the tale. On the contrary, for the average reader (perhaps a teenager in the throes of self-discovery and self-absorption), the story actually "works."

The primary problem, however, for a reader of any age, is its gruesomeness, its overabundance of gory detail, and its overemphasis on the nature of evil. "Good" gets fewer words and fewer pages than "Bad." The potential for evil is explored with relentless in-depth horror. Thus, Calvino's clear penchant for the ugly side of existence is revealed. Writing about the "good Viscount" apparently was not nearly so much fun for Calvino. The reader is left wallowing in evil, at times cringing at the depictions. Giving Calvino credit for his reputation and status, this story is a 4 at best.

Thus, all told and in an uncomfortable compromise, acknowledging Calvino's curious positive reputation, I rate this book a 3.

4-0 out of 5 stars entertaining fantasies with subliminal messages
These two novellas are fairly slight but still manage to be entertaining. They fall into the category of "magic realism" or perhaps historical fantasy. In the first,we meet a knight fighting for the Christian King Charlemagne against the Muslims. The only problem is the knight doesn't exist. His armor is empty. It functions like a knight would but there's nobody there.
We learn that war must be fought according to arcane rules invented by bureaucrats, that knights bring interpreters on to the battlefield with them to translate their insults, that the knights of the Holy Grail are a bunch of killers who enter a religious trance and then go around slaughtering innocent peasants and that legends of feats of arms are no more than drunken boasting.
There's also a nice description of the problems of being a writers: "One starts off writing with a certain zest but there comes a time when the pen merely grates in dusty ink, and not a drop of life flows and life is all outside, outside the window, outside oneself, and it seems that never more can one escape into a page one is writing, open out another world, leap the gap."
That's a familiar feeling.
"The Cloven Knight" is about another warrior who is split in two by an enemy broadsword. One half of him becomes absolutely evil, the other absolutely good. Both are intolerable.
This is a good introduction to Calvino, who is in notably playful mood in these two stories. More weighty works remain to be explored but this is not a bad place to start.
For more on me and my novel, Nazi Hunter: The Wiesenthal File go to [...]

4-0 out of 5 stars To be halved or not to be halved...which is better?
The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven Viscount were my first reads of Calvino's.These two novella's in one book made a fine interlude into a long series I have been reading and one in which I needed a break from. As in the Viscount in The Cloven Viscount, the book has two halves...one of which I really enjoyed and the other I only partly enjoyed.

The Nonexistent Knight was superb!I absolutely loved it and found myself laughing out loud in hysterics.It was brilliant!However, I found it difficult to get into TCV.It didn't move as fluidly, didn't catch my attention and wasn't until about halfway through that I began to rather enjoy it and its philosophical underlinings.I highly recommend both, but I didn't feel TCV was at the same caliber as TNK.

4-0 out of 5 stars Early Calvino
I can't share the same enthusiasm for these tales as so many other reviewers have expressed. These stories are only hints of the brilliance Calvino exhibits in his later tales. The two parable-like novellas are based on far-fetched premises (a Calvino trademark) -- the first an empty suit of armor that acts as the exemplary knight out of sheer will power; the second a viscount halved in combat into two surviving entities. It is fun to ponder the implications of these stories, particularly the story of the perfect knight who is physically non-existent but coheres through act of will, yet who lacks whatever it is that we call humanity. The Cloven Viscount is a more mundane and predictable tale that employs the old good-evil, id-ego, left-brain-right-brain paradigm. These stories offer an interesting glimpse into the developing genius that manifests itself more fully and artfully in Baron in the Trees, Cosmicomics, and Invisible Cities. ... Read more

16. Adam, One Afternoon
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 192 Pages (1992-08-20)
list price: US$14.45 -- used & new: US$9.73
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Asin: 009928703X
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Editorial Review

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This collection of playful, deadly fables is populated with waifs and strays, a gluttonous thief and a mischievous gardener. The grimly comic story "The Argentine Ant" moved Gore Vidal to declare 'if this is not a masterpiece of twentieth-century prose writing, I cannot think of anything better'. ... Read more

17. Il Barone Rampante (Oscar Opere Di Italo Calvino) (Italian Edition)
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 263 Pages (1990-08)
-- used & new: US$18.90
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Asin: 8804370858
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18. Fantastic Tales: Visionary and Everyday
Paperback: 608 Pages (1998-10-27)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$9.54
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Asin: 0679755446
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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With this posthumously published anthology--a successor to his bestselling Italian Folktales--Italo Calvino, a contemporary surveyor of the otherwordly, pays homage to twenty-six of his nineteenth-century precursors. The resulting volume is both an education in the history of fantastic literature and a rollercoaster ride of wonder and terror, vampires, ghosts, and the rebellious creatures of our own psyches.

Selections include:

E.T.A. Hoffmann--"The Sandman"
G&#233rard de Nerval--"the Enchanted Hand"
Nikolai Gogol--"The Nose"
Edgar Allan Poe--"The Tell-Tale Heart"
Hans Christian Andersen--"The Shadow"
Ambrose Bierce--"Chickamauga"
Robert Louis Stevenson--"The Bottle Imp"
Henry James--"The Friends of the Friends"
H.G. Wells--"The Country of the Blind"

Comprising stories of the supernatural and narratives of the everyday uncanny, Fantastic Tales is a gallery of enchantments, deliciously entertaining yet more disturbing than our most persistent nightmares.Amazon.com Review
The brilliant Italian writer Italo Calvino (1923-1985)compiled Fantastic Tales: Visionary and Everyday, a historicaloverview of great fantastic literature of the 19th century. Many ofhis 26 selections are from well-known authors (Sir Walter Scott,Honoré de Balzac, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, CharlesDickens, Ivan Turgenev, Guy de Maupassant, Robert Louis Stevenson,Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, and H.G. Wells), but Calvino largelyavoided their best-known stories; the only inclusions likely to befamiliar to many Americans are Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown,"Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," and H.G. Wells's "The Country of theBlind." The remaining contributors range from moderately well-known toobscure. So the reader who purchases Fantastic Tales gains notonly an intelligently annotated anthology of superb fiction, but, inone pleasant sense, a collection of mostly new stories.

Interestingly, some of the finest stories are by authors least knownin America. Théophile Gautier's beautifully written,wrenchingly ironic "The Beautiful Vampire" establishes the traditionsfor romantic vampire fiction. Mérimée's "The Venus ofIlle," a tale of culture clashes (Parisian and rural, ancientclassical, and contemporary Christian), is sharp, well-written, anduncommonly horrific. With the gorgeous "A Lasting Love," the solewoman contributor, Vernon Lee, paints the most vivid portrait ofobsessive, transcendent, destructive love.

Caveat: Calvino'sintroductions sometimes reveal more of the plot than readers willlike. --Cynthia Ward ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

3-0 out of 5 stars Hoping to be swept away...
I was instead disappointed.I enjoyed Italo's Italian Folktakes so much that I thought this would be another endless read.Instead, I found it dry and methodical.While some of the stories were intriguing, the majority were immature works created by talented authors.Meaning, many of the stories just didn't have the direction, plot, or moral I expect from a "fantastic tale."

5-0 out of 5 stars The Literary Fantastic According to the Master Himself
The stories collected in this volume span through some several hundred years and many languages.The authors represented wrote not only in the genre of the fantastic, they are recognized masters.But here we findtheir finest, eeriest, most bizarre and phantasmagoric tales.Readingthrough the book provides a real sense of the development of the ghoststory and the fantasy through the years.

Perhaps of even greaterimportance, for those of us who are Calvino fans, we can see what storiesthe Italian fabulist cherished most, what he read and what influenced him. He places each book in a historical and literary context, and the openingessay is truly key to understanding Calvino's theories of the fantastic,which in themselves make this book worth buying! ... Read more

19. The Road to San Giovanni
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: 160 Pages (1994-11-01)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$3.94
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Asin: 0679743480
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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A major testament by an essential 20th century writer composed of five strikingly elegant "memory exercises" about his life and work--now available in paperback. With visionary passion, the author traces pieces of his childhood and adolescence, his experiences during WWII, and more. "Storytelling at its best."--Chicago Tribune. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Favorite Books
The deprecated article on garbage is absolutely one of my favorites and a reason that I include this book on my short list of memorable books, even ahead of Invisible Cities or Six Memos for the Next Millennium!To each his own, I guess.

3-0 out of 5 stars Downhill
This collections starts off with a bang--the title essay BLEW ME AWAY.It was beautiful.Unfortunately, subsequent essays shrivled in it's shadow.I crapped out before finishing the whole book, second to last essay I think, the one about garbage.If you buy this, do yourself a favor--read it backwards.Probably the way it should have been organized in the first place.If you don't buy this book, do yourself a favor--find the title essay somewhere else.

3-0 out of 5 stars surprise
Hmmm, reading the editorial reviews, I had to wonder if it might be timeto go back and read this one again.As I consumate Calvino fan, I have tosay I was completely dissapointed by the title essay the editors are ravingabout here; the one about Calvino's old-school agragarian father trying tospark cinema-going Calvino's interest in hauling veggies.The same storyis told under the guise of fiction in Difficult Loves under the title ofLazy Sons, and, in my opinion, it was ten times better.I never thoughtI'd say it, but I was bored.Bored reading Calvino?Can you imagine? Neither could I.The other four essays were delightful and charming. (Personally I was rather fond of the one about the trash.)Thewriting/memory excercizes reminded me of work that Calvino's long-timefriend George Perec put forth in Species of Spaces.They made me think, orrethink, or be intentional about thinking about, memory and space andexistence.That's the sort of thing I want and expect from Calvino.MaybeI'm just sulking about that first essay, but I wanted something better,something more like the other essays there.Maybe, since this book was acompilation of Calvino's unpublished work that was printed posthumasly itwas merely and editing mistake that allowed such disparate pieces to appeartogether.Maybe I would have liked that title essay better on it's own.Idunno.While I certainly wouldn't say don't read The Road to San Giovanni,I might caution Calvino fans to let go of some of their expectations beforedelving in. ... Read more

20. Le Citta Invisibili (Oscar Opere Di Italo Calvino) (Italian Edition)
by Italo Calvino
Paperback: Pages (1993-12-31)
-- used & new: US$22.98
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Asin: 8804425547
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