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Lucky Seven

If on a winter's nightWill our Reader have literary luck in beginning number seven?

Nope.  He begins a book by Flannery but it’s a different title and different book.  Once again, the Reader thinks he knows what to expect but is fooled.  “In a network of lines that intersect” is about a successful kaleidoscope-collecting businessman who creates a cunning and complicated plan to avoid being kidnapped.  Meetings with false mistresses cover the meetings with his real mistress, Lorna, from his wife, Elfrida.  The decoy kidnappings do not protect the business man from being abducted.  By whom?

Chapter [8] from the diary of Silas Flannery

“How many years has it been since I could allow myself some disinterested reading?  How many years has it been since I could abandon myself to a book written by another, with no relation to what I must write myself?

Preach it Flannery.  I mean, Calvino.

“Style, taste, individual philosophy, subjectivity, cultural background, real experience, psychology, talent, tricks or the trade: all the elements that make what I write recognizable as mine seem to me a cage that restricts my possibilities.”

Could it be that Flannery, I mean, Calvino would disapprove of the WEM wrap-up questions?

Flannery has a lot going on in this diary of his:

  • two authors that write the same novel
  • a cameo by Snoopy
  • lines from the opening of Crime and Punishment
  • fake Flannerys in Japanese
  • the Koran
  • aliens
  • electronically transcribed novels
  • a visit from the Reader
  • The book idea for “If on a winter’s night a traveler…”

Flannery’s words or Calvino’s?

“I have pondered my last conversation with that Reader.  Perhaps his reading is so intense that it consumes all the substance of the novel at the start, so nothing remains for the rest.  This happens to me in writing: for some time now, every novel I begin writing is exhausted shortly after the beginning, as if I had already said everything I have to say.”

 

 

 

 

 

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For the sixth time

If on a winter's night check-in

If on a winter’s night a traveler… beginning number six: “In a network of lines that enlace”.

In this beginning we have a slightly unstable professor who is obsessed with the telephone.  He runs for his health and his nerves.  The professor is compelled to answer the ringing telephone in a stranger’s home while he’s out jogging.  He learns of a crime that will be committed.  What will he do?

Did you read?  Do you know?

[7]  Setting: Ludmilla’s home
Point of View: Other Reader–Ludmilla  and Reader

After a perusal of Ludmilla’s home by the Reader, Irnerio enters, the man who makes art of books but doesn’t read.  It is revealed that Marana translates from a room at Ludmilla’s.  The Reader also learns that the Other Reader is an acquaintance of Silas Flannery’s.  While Ludmilla and the Reader are in bed the copy of “In a network of lines that enlace” disappears.  Irnerio is suspect.

Ludmilla is the perfect reader “always ready to follow [authors], in the fickle, carefree relations one can have with incorporeal persons.”   Marana wants to break that trust.

Up next?  Take seven.

 

 

 

 

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Give Me Five

If on a winter's night check-in

How’s your reading of Calvino’s classic coming?  Making your way through the maze?

 

If on a winter’s night a traveler: Beginning number five!  and it starts with a man trying to get rid of a dead body.  Native Son anyone?

In “Looks down in the gathering shadow” the main character Ruedi and his sidekick Bernadette are living their version of Weekend at Bernie’s.  When dead Jojo doesn’t fit nicely in a plastic bag, they put him in a convertible and ride around town.  Cops prevent them from dumping the stiff in the river.  An empty gas tank uses up all the fuel for the bonfire cremation they were planning.  They can’t seem to get rid of him.  Ruedi has a shady past that can’t be escaped.  His daughter performs a nightclub show with crocodiles.  He has been/will be blackmailed.  Finally they throw the dead body off the top floor terrace.  As the elevator doors open on the ground floor, Jojo’s mob sees their “boss’s” (father’s?) shoe in the bag and the chapter ends.

It is in Cavedagna’s office in Chapter [6] that I learn why The Trial irked me so much:

“…you are gripped by the fear of having also passed over to “the other side” and of having lost that privileged relationship with books which is peculiar to the reader: the ability fo consider what is written as something finished and definitive, to which there is nothing to be added, from which there is nothing to be removed.”

Cavedagna shares publisher intel (and letters) with the Reader.  It seems that stories are written by the Father of Stories who consumes hallucinatory mushrooms and weaves tales that authors record.  Wait.  That’s not correct.  Stories are written by computers that analyze an author’s style and then complete the story, much like the writing machine at the Academy of Lagado in Gulliver’s Travels.  Perhaps writing machines are the way to go.  Unlike author Silas Flannery, computers don’t resist product placement in their stories.

CCOM is a big fan of abbreviations, but OEPHLW takes the cake– Organization for the Electronic Production of Homogenized Literary Works.

Within Chapter [6] we (the Reader, you, and I) are swept into a story about Marana and a Sultan’s wife.  Marana (or Calvino) shares a classic that “is a trap-novel designed by the treacherous translator with beginnings of novels that remain suspended…”

Random note #1: Who knew that an author can write what he sees on the face of a reader and in doing so plagiarize?

Random note #2: Are you a person of “strong eyesight and nerves”  are you willing “to be subjected to the uninterrupted reading of novels“?  Contact the OEPHLW to volunteer to be a test reader.

Like “Looks down in the gathering shadow”, Chapter [6] also has an elevator scene.  This one doesn’t involve a murder, a plastic bag, and the mob.  It involves tricky translator Marana and a manuscript-stealing boy.  Which brings us to the next beginning of our next beginning.

Take six.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beginning number four

th“Without fear of wind or vertigo”

Ack!  Military vehicles and propaganda slogans?  It’s 1984 all over again.  1984 with an ungrateful, dizzy woman, a revolt, an artillery soldier and a weird threesome relationship.

Anyone else have to look up what lazaretto means?

Our main character, Alex Zinnober must expose the identity of a spy.  Is it Irina?  At the end of the chapter Calvino twists the plot and has Alex find his own death sentence in the pocket of his friend.

Next!  One chapter is all we get.

Chapter [5]

Ludmilla and the Reader reject Lotaria’s in-depth analysis of “Vertigo”.  They (and I) “dream of putting behind you pages lacerated by intellectual analyses, you dream of rediscovering a condition of natural reading, innocent, primitive…”

How?  By having the Reader go to the publisher to find the rest of “Vertigo”.

Two shout outs in this chapter: 1. Dostoyevsky: spelled just the way I like it.
2. scatological: you know true classic literature must contain this theme.

Mr. Cavedagna is likeable but too overwhelmed at the publishing house to be much help in the Reader’s quest for “Vertigo”.  There’s discussion of a fake translator, Ermes Marana: one who believes a shake of the dice determines if a story or author becomes classic.  “Who knows which books from our period will be saved, and who knows which authors’ names will be remembered?”  Let’s revisit these two questions at our wrap-up, shall we?

Cavedagna shares yet another tale with the Reader and we are ready for…

Take Five!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Third Beginning

If on a winter's nightI feel like I would have benefited from reading this book in one or two long sessions.  When I’m forced to set Calvino’s classic aside for a few days (or a week), I come back discombobulated.  What am I reading now?  How many beginnings have I read?

Three.  This is the third beginning.
“Leaning from the steep slope”

What does the main character of this begininng want?  To meet Miss Zwida.  What’s standing in his way?  He tells us in a most orderly fashion, laying out the obstacles one by one.

The main character takes a brief interest in Mr. Kauderer’s meteorological hobby when he realizes it will help him in his goal of meeting Miss Zwida.  Once again I’m reminded of The Trial when men in heavy coats show up saying things like “It’s not important”.

Artist Zwida knows a prisoner.  She insists she visits the prison to draw, but it’s difficult to make pretty pictures when you leave your pencil box at home.  She wants the main character to get her a grapnel with rope attached.  Ummm hmmmm.  That’s not suspicious at all.  She might as well have asked him to bake her a cake with a file inside.  Requsted a lovely gift of a dozen sheets tied together.

It seems that Kauderer is more than a weatherman; he’s a prison break plotter.  His plan was successful.  During a dark and stormy morning, the main character spies a convict who begs him to inform someone at the hotel of his escape.  This must be Miss Zwida’s prisoner.  “Do not betray me.”  And why not?

The end.

Chapter [4]

Prof. Uzzi-Tuzii shares that “Cimmerian books are all unfinished”.  Resolution?  Logical Exhaustion?  No need to decide for this story.

We’re not surprised by another book switch.  We’re familiar with Calvino’s trick.  This time the variation has Lotaria and her companions divvying up assignments to decode  every part of “Without fear of wind or vertigo”.  Their analysis is very 1984-ish.  When Lotaria begins to read aloud, the two Readers find themselves listening to another beginning. surprise-surprise.

Take four.

 

 

 

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The second beginning

if-on-a-winters-night-a-travellerJean commented that a list of characters might be helpful for this title.  I’m now wishing for some sort of flowchart to help me keep the novels within the novel straight.

On to the second beginning!

“Outside the town of Malbork” is supposed to be written by the Polish author Bazakbal, but I didn’t get my hopes up. Remember what happened in the first beginning.

Gritzri and I could have gotten along.  He feels the same way about names as I do with Russian novels: “…the sum never works out properly because different names can belong to the same character, indicated according to the circumstances by baptismal name, nickname, surname, or patronymic, and even by appellations…”

In “Outside the town of Malbork” I found Gritzri and Ponko being swapped by their families.  The ruse is that they’ll learn other parts of the business.  The truth is that Ponko is in danger from a Hatfield and McCoy type of dispute.

Just when I started wondering if Gritzri was in danger… if Ponko really would be safe… Calvino shakes things up again and gives me blank pages.  I’m beginning to pay attention to the number of times Calvino leads me to expect one thing and then gives me another.  The old bait and switch.  Clever, Calvino.

So, “Outside the town of Malbork” is not Polish.  It might be Cimmerian.  Fortunately love-interest Ludmilla knows Professor Uzzi-Tuzii–just the man to translate a Cimmerian novel.  I confess that I looked up Cimmerian to see if it was real.  The Reader’s experience finding Prof. U-T’s office reminded me of Joseph K’s (The Trial)  frustrating search for a courtroom without an address.

I’m going to keep an eye on Irnerio, the man who has taught himself not to read and yet sees everything.  A by-choice illiterate in a book about books must be important, right?

Listening to Prof. U-T read “Outside the town of Malbork”, the Reader and I quickly recognize that the character names are the same but the plot is different.  Here we go again.

Get ready for take three.

 

 

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The first beginning

If on a winter's night check-in

While reading If….  I sometimes get the feeling that I’m not reading a book but that someone is telling me about a book he has read.

In this chapter a traveler is waiting at what may be an old or new train station with luggage that he might or might not need to give to someone.  Certainty?  Hah.  This chapter is noncommittal about everything.  I did enjoy the Traveler giving away the author’s secret of hiding him in long paragraphs without dialogue.

Mme Marne reveals that she sold a suitcase identical to the main character’s.  Shortly after that the chief of police whispers code words to the traveler and tells him to dump the suitcase and run away on another train.

Was he part of the mob?  Was he a spy?  Will we ever find out?

I’m not sure because Chapter [2] tells me that the printer has made a mistake and I’ve been reading the wrong book.  You, me, the reader… what we need to get our hands on is a Polish book instead.  As a possible love interest, there’s a girl at the bookshop that’s had the same experience the reader (plus you and I) is having.

“I prefer novels,” she adds, “that bring me immediately into a world where everything is precise, concrete, specific.  I feel a special satisfaction in knowing that things are made in that certain fashion and not otherwise, even the most commonplace things that in real life seem indifferent to me.”

Oh, bookshop girl, me too!  Me too!

Did you notice the paper knife? :)

It looks like we’ll never know what happened to the Traveler.  …the novel you are holding has nothing to do with the one you were reading yesterday. 

Get ready for take two!

P.S.  Is anyone keeping a list of characters?

 
 

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