Wednesday, 24 October 2012

[Review Reaction] If on a winter's night a traveller - Italo Calvino

4 Questions about If on a winter's night a traveller

Colin and I have decided that the review reactions we've been doing have mostly been some strains of "I agree with the other person" and nothing super substantive. As a result, we've decided to instead ask each other a few questions about our views on the book. It should be more interesting. Here are my responses to Colin's questions for me. You can read Colin's reactions to my questions here.

1) What was the most enjoyable "novel" and the least? Why?

I'm going to cheat and pick two for my most enjoyable because there were two that I honestly would have loved to have kept reading. The first was In a network of lines that enlace, the story of the college professor that breaks into a house to answer the telephone. I think I liked that one because it felt like the kind of book I would read anyway, the book I would pick up at the library because it looked intriguing. My other favorite was Around an empty grave, the story of the cowboy that goes to find his mother. I really enjoyed that one because it wasn't the kind of book I would pick up randomly but by the end, I really wanted to know what was going on. I thought it had created a really interesting premise and I wanted to keep reading.

As for least favorite, I'm also going to have to go with In a network of lines that intersect. The main reason I have is that I honestly had no idea what was happening in most of it. It was one of those experiences where you're reading words and you think you're following along but you put it down after a paragraph and realize you have no idea what happened. I think this story had kaleidoscopes in it. Maybe.

2) As a female reader, how did you feel about the second person narrative when The Reader was clearly male?

To be honest, it really didn't faze me. When you pick second person narration in a fictional narrative, you're going to have to pick a gender at some point and as the author is male, it makes more sense for him to go with male. I understand how second person of a different gender seems odd but it never really mattered to me. I mean, this was a book written in 1979 in Italy. Clearly, even if it had a female narrator, it was going to be a foreign perspective. Sure, some things happen that wouldn't have happened had the narrator been female but The Reader was always a character, even if it was in second person, so I never really felt bothered by it.

3) What makes this book a classic?

I think what makes this book "a classic" is that it tackled difficult ideas in fiction in an original way. It dealt with ideas of reading and writing in highly metaphysical ways which was something that was just coming into vogue at the time of publication and he wrote it for a mass market audience. I bet this was the first time a lot of people actually sat down to think about the process of reading and what it could mean. Nowadays, the whole meta aspect of media is explored all the time and so I think some of the ideas in Winter's Night aren't as groundbreaking as they were when the story had just come out. However, it marked the beginning of a trend that still continues and that's why I think it's a book to be read by anyone who considers themselves "a reader" or "a writer."

4) Sum up this book in six words.

Man reads, explores meaning of reading.

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