Monday 17 November 2008
WARNING: I have nothing good to say about Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, so if you love it and feel personally involved in how others feel about it, you probably want to stop reading now.
I haven't enjoyed Italo Calvino at all in the past, but I decided to give Invisible Cities a try for several reasons:
1) A few people I really like and whose reading tastes I respect recommended it highly.
2) I was trying to be open-minded because, after all, tastes change. I read Mr. Palomar and thought it was the most boring shit I'd ever read but that was 10 or more years ago; I thought that maybe I'd been too young to appreciate it and figured this would be a way to find out if my tastes had changed in favour of Calvino. (It's true that I've tried approximately 5 times to read If on a Winter's Night a Traveller and can't get past page 15, but I generally love Orhan Pamuk and yet can't get page 10 of The New Life, so that doesn't necessarily mean anything.)
3) I liked the idea of this book, of Marco Polo and Kublai Khan sitting together and discussing the cities of the world, all of which turn out to be Venice.
I must not have been thinking, for if I'd considered more seriously what the book's premise implied, I probably could have guessed that this novel would be too preciously post-modern for my tastes. I should have guessed that it would be exactly the kind of book that I hate. And hate Invisible Cities I did. It was only 165 pages long and yet it seemed interminable. It was just so earnest and "deep" and humourless that it made me want to tear Calvino's hair, and rend his cheeks, and make him gnash his teeth. (Yes, I know he is dead. Just go with what I'm trying to convey here.)
The only good thing that I can say about Invisible Cities is that it was so uninteresting that I won't be plagued by memories of its details; I found it to be so forgettable that I've already forgotten most of it and I finished it 20 minutes ago! Indeed, I forgot most of the chapters immediately after reading them which was sort of a blessing but also made continuing even more painful than it already was, for I knew with increasing certainty that the book wasn't going to all of sudden surprise me with some awesomeness.
So, I now have come completely to terms with the fact that no matter how many people I like love Calvino, and no matter how much I might like the ideas behind his books (as ill considered as that admiration may be), I can't stand the execution. Calvino and I just were not meant to be friends, which is okay - both of us have lots of other friends to keep us happy.