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Calvino's Cosmicomics - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
November 25th, 2001
10:34 pm

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Calvino's Cosmicomics
veryty, when I first met her, warmly recommended Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics. I noted her recommendation, mentally adding it to my neverending to-read list.

When we met again, last week, she asked whether I've read it already. I laughed at her wild optimism. I haven't even gotten around to buying it, and that usually takes place (if you make a statistic study of the books on my bookshelves) about three years before I read the book.

So veryty had no choice, and she dug up a sample story from Cosmicomics on the net, and made me read it. Now it's your turn. Read it!

(It's good. Really. I'm not just saying that.)

Current Mood: busy
Current Music: Meir Ariel - Sdot Goldberg

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From:bram
Date:November 25th, 2001 06:20 pm (UTC)
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Yes, if you like Stanislaw Lem you will also like Calvino. Cosmicomics and tzero are similar. And the interview with a Neanderthal in Numbers in the Dark cracks me up.

Also, I've noticed that all livejournal users who list Calvino as an interest are interesting.
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From:ijon
Date:November 26th, 2001 12:25 am (UTC)
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It's not my very first exposure to Calvino. I have read his The Castle of Crossed Destinies, and its sequel, The Tavern of Crossed Destinies. They are experimental narratives based on tarot cards. A good idea executed only moderately well. The prose is too thick, but I grant that it may be William Weaver's fault.

Oh, I just realized I wrote a Bad Excuse For A Review about it, a long time ago:

In The Castle of Crossed Destinies, a book containing a story collection by the same name, as well as a similar collection called The Tavern of Crossed Destinies, Calvino tells stories via interpretations of tarot cards, using the pictures on two antique tarot decks (one in each collection; the cards are reproduced in the book).

The stories are often classic myths and tales retold by Calvino using interpretations of a sequence of tarot cards. Calvino shares his hesitations with us, and ponders which way to interpret this card and that one. Some of the stories are from Calvino's imagination, but most are adaptations of well-known stories, or at least strong allusions to classic masterpieces. The author cleverly weaves Shakespearean characters into interlocking tales, for instance, and tells the story of Roland and Astolpho.

I found Calvino's technique interesting, and his storytelling compelling. However, I felt some stories did lack focus, and sometimes even a point. Perhaps William Weaver's translation (which reads like Weaver's translations of Eco) does injustice to Calvino's style.


NB: I like Weaver's translations of Eco. I just guess Eco and Calvino's writing styles (in Italian) are not all that similar, and it's Weaver's translations that make them so.
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From:bram
Date:November 26th, 2001 01:21 am (UTC)
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If you want to read another underwhelming experimental Tarot card novel by another really great author, check out Milorad Pavic's Last Love in Constantinople. (Or are you into Pavic already? You're a Perec fan, right? Done all the Oulipo?)
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From:ijon
Date:November 26th, 2001 01:33 am (UTC)
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Oh, I'm a lot more ignorant than I sound. While I've heard a lot about both Pavic and Perec, and can perhaps even say something intelligent about them, I haven't actually gotten to reading any of their works (although I already own, in preparation, Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars [no, I don't know whether it's the male or female version -- I'm not sure how to find out]).

I also know what OULIPO means (thanks to an old, old entry on avva's neglected static (but English, dammit!) homepage), but haven't seriously sampled any OULIPO prose.

I have a weak spot for Constantinople, though, ever since I read Mika Waltari's Dark Angel. Read it, if you haven't (I can back that up, if requested).

Regarding tarot-based prose, there's also Jostein Gaarder's The Solitaire Mystery, which I think cinamon has read, but I haven't.


P.S. I'm way too parenthetical (got to do something about that).
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From:gaal
Date:November 26th, 2001 10:15 am (UTC)
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Coding LISP might cure you.

<manic laughter>
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From:cinamon
Date:November 26th, 2001 05:38 pm (UTC)

Funny you should mention that...

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Just bought "Dark angel", and began to read it...
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