May 2004 Archives
The point of reading
Calvino makes You, The Reader the hero of his book. In large part, the book is a love letter to readers and booklovers everywhere. But it's not uncritical -- Calvino seems to be warning of a time when readers are sheep: He talks about people who read only to confirm or amplify what they already believe, like Lotaria (and quite a few bloggers), people who read for escape, people who read to discover, people who read to be reminded, people who read to analyze, etc. Then there's the people who break books down into lists of word frequncy, those who are create computer programs to ape a bestseller's style, etc.
At the same time, he describes and dissects that various ways people read, and implies that in the end, all reading is in essense solitary -- you can be reading the same book beside your lover in a double bed, but you're still alone in your book.
Do you believe that? Or do sites like this make reading a more shared experience? And how and why do you read?
The novel I would most like to read...
I think we've establish the book you do not want to read right now is Italo Calvino's "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler." What kind of books do you really want to read right now?
Ludmilla, the Other Reader, has very specific (and constantly changing) requirements for the kind of book she really wants to read. She doesn't concentrate on types of plots (a mystery, a western, a political thriller, a historical romance) but the sensations the writing arouses:
"The novel I would most like to read at this moment should have as its driving force only the desire to narrate, to pile stories on stories, without trying to impose a philosophy of life on you, simply allowing you to observe its own growth, like a tree, an entangling, as if of braches and leaves."
"I like books where all the mysteries and the anguish pass through a precise and cold mind, without shadows, like the mind of a chessplayer."
Tell me about the book you want to be reading right now -- about the plot, or the feeling you get while reading it, or the ideas you want it to uncover, or the sensations you want it to evoke. And have you ever encountered a book that does all that you require? If so, what is it? And do you require different things of different books at different times?
Hate, confusion or indifference
Oooooohkay, so the response to If on a Winter's Night hasn't been quite what I hoped. Let me ask this: How many of you read it? How many of you started and gave up? How many of you kept at it and hated every minute of it? How many, if any, liked it?
Fo those of you who hated it (cough, Marydell, cough) -- why? Did you not like the concept or the execution? The style didn't grab you? You resent being addressed as "you" when the Reader is a guy, and therefore not you?
For those who gave up -- why? Couldn't follow the story? Couldn't see the point? Couldn't care less?
For those of you (ok, apparently "for those of me") who liked it -- why? What did you like about it?
Here's what I liked -- that he managed to thread a plot through all the stopped and started stories of the books, that he had such a vast love of reading and respect for readers, and that he had a great time poking fun at the literary conventions of the day. Also, like I said, this was the first book that really engaged me in a non-linear, what-the-hell-is-going-on story, and I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for it because of that.
If you like the idea of the book, but not the execution, who do you think does it better? I agree with Diane, that Jeanette Winterson is another one who does amazing twisting things with books that you hardly knew could happen. Who else?
Style? Substance? Both? Neither?
Hey there, and welcome to the discussion on If On A Winter's Night a Traveler... by Italo Calvino. Or is it? Maybe it's actually a totally different book by an obscure Polish author...
Let's start with something easy: What did you think of the structure of the book? Did you find the starting and stopping stories in different styles engaging? Frustrating? Fun? Pretentious? Revelatory?
When I first read this book, back in high school, it blew my mind, It was the first book that ever made me think "Whoa, you can do that with words on a page? Who knew?" I'd always thought the purpose of a book, a story, was to have a beginning, middle and end, and to take you from said beginning to said end. This was the first book that challenged that and yet kept me engaged and reading from beginning to end.
This time, since that burst of novelty has worn off, was a bit different. I still love the book, and am finding new things that I hadn't noticed before, but I'm finding the prescriptive "You, the reader, are doing this" a little too.. cutesy? Pleased with itself? Something like that.
I'm also finding myself a little annoyed at points in the "chapters" of the various books where he stops presenting the words of the books themselves and starts talking about the style of the books -- for example, in "Looks down in the gathering shadow", "I'm producing too many stories at once because I what I want is for you to feel, around the story, a saturation of other stories...." He's having all the authors break the fourth wall, pointing out in the middle of the story that it is a planned, calculated story, that everything on the page is there to manipulate you in a certain way. It keeps coming up at a point when I'm getting sucked into the story itself, and don't want to think about the style.
What did you think?
more original ideas
So, speaking about novels and films...
The Stepford Wives makes its theatrical release on July 11, by the way, this isn't a digitally remastered version of the 1975 film.
(i wonder what that film will really be like...has anyone seen the previews??? a scene reminded me of The Cat in the Hat for some reason...)
One last note, there will also be a remake of The Manchurian Candidate...which opens on July 30. Don't count on seeing Old Blue Eyes in it...more like Denzel Washington.
Oh! I almost forgot...
The Da Vinci Code will also be made into a film.
Comes out sometime in the summer of 2006.
Steve's Formal Introduction
Hello to all. Marydell has graciously accepted my request to join the group as a bona fide member. I have definitely enjoyed the discussion on the last two books and look forward to May’s selection. My only regret so far is that the discussions do not last long enough. Unfortunately, my work schedule does not usually allow me to post everyday, and I actually have to sort of sneak the time in to write at all.
Marydell said that there were two requirements to joining: a love of reading and the ability to form a coherent sentence. The former is easy, as my book collection will testify, but the latter is subject to question. Writing has always been difficult for me, and remains so. However, in graduate school, I found that this was something that I actually enjoyed - the English language is so rich, and lo and behold, there is a perfect word for every feeling, emotion, thought, and idea. The only difficult part is finding those perfect words, then linking them together. I hope that you will be patient with me.
I look forward to learning about all of you from your words and the discussions and hope that you come to know me as well.