...and then sent back missives about mist and madonnas and all kinds of anchovies. Because that got me missing and musing. Because it's been years since I indulged in a little Italo.
From a review by Richard Eder of Hermit in Paris, there are Calvino's thoughts on the City of Light:
The title piece is the finest in the collection. “Hermit in Paris” rambles about the city he moved to in his later years. Because it has been written about so much, it is no subject for him; yet precisely because of this — because it does not need him — he finds space to write. Paris is his “country home.” So far so good; and then he mounts into flight, and the responses to his interviewer edge into Calvinesque proto-fantasy.
In his maturity, he writes, the world has become a place no longer of discovery but of consultation. The rich individuality and variety of Paris make it a treatise, a newspaper, “a giant reference work.” For example, “we all read a city, a street, a stretch of pavement, by following the row of shops.” Take the cheese shops, each “a kind of museum or Louvre of cheeses.” Should he wish to refer to the subject, he “can go out and consult Paris like an enormous cheese encyclopedia.”
Much of Eder's review is itself delicious. He calls Calvino an “artificer of lightness and curved space” — to me that sounds like a kind of literary superhero (only better). At one point, he notes:
There are some excellent things to choose; in some of the pieces there is also the hobble that interviews and other forms of solicited response clamp upon the gait of an imaginative artist. It is the essence of writing, after all, to respond to your own questions, not those of others. It's hard to conceive of Proust getting out his “Remembrance” in the form of a Q. and A.
Calvino's Italian interviewers asked essay questions of an imprisoning refinement (“In your case creative activity has never prevented you from producing parallel theoretical reflections, both metafictional and metapoetic. . . . And confirmation would come from the powerful suggestions that semiologists and literary theorists have always derived from your oeuvre”). They were such as to suck the oxygen out of his verbal air.
An imprisoning refinement. Again. That superhero thing.
And from Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941–1985 (excerpted in The New Yorker), there are Calvino's thoughts on art and poetry:
Iíve read your poem. I too, if you remember, wrote a Hermetic poem in my early youth. I know that gives enormous satisfaction to the person who writes it. But whether the person who reads it shares this enthusiasm is another matter. Itís too subjective, Hermeticism, do you see? And I see art as communication. The poet turns in on himself, tries to pin down what he has seen and felt, then pulls it out so that others can understand it.
There are his (perhaps more specific) thoughts on modern art:
Do you know what I think? That when in the school toilets we said “I see Saturday as red, Tuesday green, and Thursday how do you see it?” we were unwittingly laying down the foundations of modern art. What is modern art but the attempt to pinpoint vague, incorporeal, inexpressible sensations? What is modern art, I would add, but the most solemn pile of nonsense that ever appeared on earth?
And on his stories:
Iím a regular guy, I like well-defined outlines, Iím old-fashioned, bourgeois. My stories are full of facts, they have a beginning and an end. For that reason they will never be able to find success with the critics, nor occupy a place in contemporary literature.
On the creative process:
All the ideas currently in my head are subject to a strange phenomenon: while I work on them and perfect them continuously from the philosophical point of view, they stay rudimentary and barely sketched on the dramatic and artistic side. In my creativity thought has the upper hand over imagination.
If I have some money left on my return Iíd come down to Rome: it would be handy also from the point of view of the trains, but in any case Iím sure Iíll have none left, and if I do, Iíd better buy some books.
In any case, Iím fed up writing stories. Iím beginning to develop a style, which is maybe a good sign: after having imitated others so much, I can now afford to imitate myself a bit.
And finally, on everyday life:
Here days that are perfect for bathing alternate with cloudy days. Weíre all shit-scared of the exams. Pasquale has gone to the country and wonít be back till July. A new gang is forming whose leaders are Verdun and Lanero. I think they want to collaborate with us. But it wonít work. Marisa is solidly chained to her books. Rosetta goes out on her own or with a man. My grandmother is like all old women.
I can't decide which is my favorite. The one about the books. Or the one about the grandmother.
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[mercoledž 30 marzo 2016 ore 17:04:05] [¶]
I don't know if you knew about how candlelight dims the edges of what you see.
Or if you knew what it is to feel like you could collapse under the weight of not wanting to see anyone you know.
And I'm not sure if anyone told you that even though the unbearable really is unbearable it is not unbearable forever. Even if they did, I don't know if you would have been listening, I doubt it.
But anyway I believe in this congregation of selves. Every year or so a couple more of me. And somehow too, of you.
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[martedž 29 marzo 2016 ore 13:28:15] [¶]
Last year I read a lot of what the folks at Brevity love so well—over on their blog, in pieces they mentioned, and just about anywhere else I could find it. One place I did find it—lots of it—was in a collection called In Short (edited by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones).
This is from a piece in there. It's called “Last Shot,” by Tobias Wolff.
Instead of remembering Hugh as I knew him, I too often think of him in terms of what he never had a chance to be. The things the rest of us know, he will not know. He will not know what it is to make a life with someone else. To have a child slip in beside him as he lies reading on a Sunday morning. To work at, and then look back on, a labor of years. Watch the decline of his parents, and attend their dissolution. Lose faith. Pray anyway. Persist. We are made to persist, to complete the whole tour. That's how we find out who we are.
I know it's wrong to think of Hugh as an absence, a thwarted shadow. It's my awareness of his absence that I'm describing, and maybe somethng else, some embarassment, kept hidden even from myself, that I went on without him. To think of Hugh like this is to make selfish use of him. So, of course, is making him a character in a book. Let me at least remember him as he was.
He loved to jump. He was the one who started the “My Girl” business, singing and doing the Stroll to the door of the plane. I always take the position behind him, hand on his back, according to the drill we've been taught. I do not love to jump, to tell the truth, but I feel better about it when I'm connected to Hugh. Men are disappearing out the door ahead of us, the sound of the engine is getting louder. Hugh is singing in falsetto, doing a goofy routine with his hands. Just before he reaches the door he looks back and says something to me. I can't hear him for the wind. What? He yells, Are we having fun? He laughs at the look on my face, then turns and takes his place in the door, and jumps, and is gone.
Almost every time I find something like this, I think about the one who is absent, of course. But I also think of someone I haven't lost—not this way anyway. And of how that someone does not read.
How he will never have this. This thing that happens.
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[lunedž 21 marzo 2016 ore 09:30:19] [¶]