Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Italo Calvino, Difficult Loves, 1994 (this collection).

I find it onerous to try to write anything sensible about a book by Calvino, even after reading slowly and carefully. This difficulty troubles me all the more because I greatly enjoy Calvino’s ethereal writing that both reveals and obfuscates, that shares inner motives and outer details but hides an essential and unnameable aspect of the stories and draws me in yet deeper. I could cheat, and quote the happy text on the back of the book:
an almost miraculous balance between the real and the imaginary, the familiar and the fabulous. Calvino transforms the lives of ordinary people into brilliant explorations of intricate interior worlds. Blending reality and illusion with elegance and precision, he weaves into his writing instants of recognition in which he cherishes deceptions and illusions of love swept away.

The jacket captures some of the appeal of this collection of nine short stories, one longer story, and one novella that all revolve around love un-attained, or love overpowered by a love from self rather than a love for other, or… Two of the short stories are, to my mind, pure genius: the adventure of the reader, and the adventure of the photographer. In both tales, the protagonist is unable—though desirous—of leaving behind a passion for an action in favour of a passion for a person, in differing ways that are brilliantly honest.

I’m going to stop trying to write about this book, now. It’s very good, and I strongly recommend it. The photographer’s adventure is the perfect compliment/antidote to anyone currently wrestling with Baudrillard; but the book is fun, and well-worth the slowness of reading stories by Calvino.

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