Sunday, March 02, 2008

Reading about reading

"You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought."

That is how Italo Calvino's novel, If on a winter's night a traveler, begins.

And this strange beginning starts an even stranger journey of the Reader through this oddly beautiful novel. The novel is told in the second person where the Reader (you) begins a novel called If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino only to find that the novel is misprinted and cut off after the first chapter. The Reader (you) goes back to the bookstore to get a complete copy of the novel and meets the Other Reader who has the same novel, also misprinted. The novel then progresses with you and the Other Reader (Ludmilla) acquiring what they think is the full novel only to find it is another novel which has also been cut off after the first chapter.

This goes on again and again through ten different novels cut off after one chapter. The story of the Readers and their journey through the beginnings of these ten novels is told between novels and is surprisingly easy to follow, as the story gets very complicated and the Readers speculate on the nature of reading and (to a lesser extent) writing. It is a delightfully thoughtful book that somehow managed to be a page-turner.

It's also surprisingly difficult to write about this novel...

While it is an odd book to read, it is still compelling and the various novels' beginnings provide a great backdrop to the story of the Readers and their quest.

In the end, it's all about readers. And reading. So read it!