Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Title: Invisible Cities
Author: Italo Calvino
Enjoyment Rating: 8/10
Referral: Required reading for my Creative Writing seminar
Source: Purchased from Amazon
Books I've read this year: 129

I really, really wish I had been able to attend my class discussion on Invisible Cities. I drove down to Provo, walked across campus to the building, and sat down at the seminar table when the phone rang. It was Isaac's school calling to say he was sick. And I was super-bummed, not just because I now had to walk back across campus and drive back to Salt Lake, but because I wonder what everyone else thought about the book.

I labeled Invisible Cities a book of short stories, but it feels more like a book of dreams. The premise is that Marco Polo is talking to Kubla Khan about the cities he has encountered in his travels. He recounts visits to dozens of places, but these places are all magical and mystical, and don't feel like places in the Orient in the 13th century. In fact, as Polo and Khan continue their discussion, it's evident that the places are much more in Polo's head than they are in any real place.

The language of Invisible Cities is exquisite-- it's more poetic than poetry. As a result, I felt like I approached it like I approached poetry. I tried to soak up the rhythm and the images, and didn't care too much if I didn't "get it." I think the book worked, and some of the cities were haunting (like the one where a mirror of the aboveground city existed underground and all of the dead were positioned in the underground city, engaged in the kind of work they did while they were alive).

Anyway, I wish I could have heard what other people felt about the book. I feel like 90% of it went over my head, but the 10% that stayed with me was pretty enjoyable.

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