If on a Winter's Night a Traveler By Italo Calvino
What relationship does the Reader have with What Is Being Read? For me, it is a very intimate one- I get so enraptured with What Is Being Read that What Is Being Read infiltrates my dreams, my conversations and my life. This relationship is unfolded in the secrecy of my room, the intimate details of What Is Being Read are unfolded and shared, as if What Is Being Read is the only thing I care about. I dare not cheat on What Is Being Read with other reads, because I fear that What Is Being Read will find out and somehow (as if What Is Being Read knows that I have wronged it) and it will change the ending to my distaste. This intimate relationship lasts for a day, a week or however long it takes me to finish What Is Being Read, and then continues on only in my memory, remembering key characters, specific stories, and the emotions attached to What Is Being Read. Usually remembering only the emotions, frustrations, and reactions more than the plot lines and specificality of the timeline of events. Just like in any "real" relationship, dates and times are skewed and memories of emotions only last.
If on a winter's night a traveler takes into consideration how people read, what they are looking for when they pick up a good book, where the reading takes place and who is more likely to read what than others. This philosophical, (and at times- metaphysical) journey tries to find the perfect match between Reader and What Is Being Read. It takes the Reader on adventures through the ruins of ancient languages, to far off primitive communities enveloped in rituals and storytelling, to a falsified land where perception deceives reality and every intuition is false, to an antiquated train station in which weary travelers rest their bodies, minds and their travels, to a quest to find the ultimate resting place for a newly-murdered man, to a narrator who is stuck between the fear of being followed by the endless telephone ringing and ends up fearing the result, and the list continues exploring the many stories of individual characters in this novel.
The structure of the book is broken up into the narrator searching for an unfinished book. The narrator starts reading a specific book which is then interrupted by the lack of an ending. What the narrator is reading are the subchapters- taking the Reader into the story of What is Being Read by the narrator. The other chapters take the Reader on the narrator's journey to find the conclusions of these unfinished stories. The narrator talks to Reader as if the Reader, too, is physically taking this journey with him/her; however, the narrator also gives asides to the Reader- telling the Reader related information.
The second half of If on a winter's night a traveler, explains the Writer's point of view in how the Writer takes the Reader on this journey. What and How does the Writer write to make the the Reader follow the text on a page and leaves the Reader wanting to read more of that specific Writer. Somehow Calvino intersects the stories of the Reader reading What Is Being Read with the Reader following the narrator on his journey to find the rest of What Is To Be Read with- the Writer writing What Is Being Read and the Writer trying to find What Is To Be Read. (Are you the Reader of this blog post- confused yet?)
If on a winter's night a traveler- reads, to me, like a dream sequence. Stories in a dream are often unfinished, skipping in time and place to past, present and future, combining characters from one story to another story- even if these characters have no actual ties in reality- and often leave the dreamer wanting more, wanting to continue this subconscious adventure. Dream people are faceless, but they have the characteristics of reality people. They are fictional, a created result of the dreamer's imagination- however, while dreaming- they are real. This book is fictional, a created result of Italo Calvino's imagination- however, while reading- everything is so real, so tangible, that the Reader forgets the fiction and believes Calvino's imaginative reality.
Are all good books like this?
What do you look for in a book? Chapter 11, (and this does not give anything away) explains what different people look for in different books. Are all books part of one giant text? Does everything we read lead us to something divine? Are all Readers linked together somehow in this giant world of text on a page? What relationship does you the Reader have with What Is Being Read?