Tuesday, January 15, 2013

EXCITING THINGS and If on a winter's night a traveler

Guess what, everybody!  My niece was born on Sunday!  Her name is Ella and she is adorable and I love her so much.  It's kind of amazing - I now have four nieces and one nephew and it never gets any less exciting.  There's still that furious race to the hospital, the plotting to get as much baby-holding time as possible, and even the willingness to help with those first dirty diapers.  She wasn't supposed to be born until this coming Friday, when I'll be out of town (which I was very sad about), but I think that she wanted to come early so that she could see her Auntie on the day she was born.  I mean, can you blame her?  I already have plans of buying her Ella Enchanted when she's older (assuming that I approve, I've never actually read it).  Isn't she a cutie though?  That first day she just slept and slept.

As for blogging as usual...I haven't been doing a very good job of it.  Since I've been on winter break, I've been reading at an increased pace but my blogging hasn't caught up.  That is to say, today's review is of a book I read back in December and just haven't felt like writing about: Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler.  I've been waiting for a stroke of genius to write this review but since it hasn't come, I'll just keep this brief.

So, if you know anything about If on a winter's night a traveler, you know that it's written in the second-person, directly addressing the reader as such, and that it is composed of the beginnings of several books that you never get to read the end of.  And it uses the word "you" a lot, which I'm now going to put a stop to in this post because it's just annoying.  Being addressed by the author is uncomfortable, especially since I bear little resemblance to the MAN he is addressing.  Of course, it turns out that he's really addressing a fictional "you" but it still gets all mixed up in my head and I don't like it.  It feels gimmicky.

In fact, the whole book feels gimmicky.  It's somewhat entertaining, sure, and an easy read (which is probably the only reason I finished it), but every other page it prompted me to say "I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE."  Because Calvino tries so hard to be clever and this is a book about reading in which the main character never gets to finish all the books he keeps starting and therefore the actual reader doesn't get to finish said books and there's this whole dialogue about meaning in literature, and does the author bring it or the reader and it must be the reader so therefore I say "meh."

It's very meta and clever but the substance doesn't seem to be there.  All of what is said is so overt - it feels more like an essay interspersed with underdeveloped short stories than literature.  The novel beginnings that we got every other chapter didn't leave me with the sense of expectation that they were intended to (or that the reader character seemed to think they did).  They all felt like essentially complete short stories, which I think took a little from the novel's device.  I didn't hate it or anything, I just was underwhelmed - I think that I was expecting more.

BUT, reading this means that I get to check off book number 4 on my Classics Club list (not counting Ethan Frome, which I also have yet to review) so yay for that!  But more yays for Ella!

4 comments:

  1. Aww! Congrats to your and your niece's parents.

    I agree that "If on a winter's night" is gimmicky. Though I still like the second person narration, only because it proves 7th grade me right when I said it's another writing style and was shot down and told that didn't exist. TAKE THAT, MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER. Though I sorta want to re-read it cos it's been awhile and I keep get the feeling that there MUST be more to it than just gimmick.

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  2. How cute! Never read Calvino before, but I agree that 2nd person narration is super-tough to pull off.

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  3. Congrats on the birth of your niece! :)
    I have one nephew, who is two months old and I already think being an aunt is the best thing ever.

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  4. Congrats!! Babies are always exciting and so lovable. Very exciting news.

    I've had this one on my shelf forever and it's actually one of mine titles for the classics club as well. I'll have to re-read once I've finished since I don't much about it at all and want to keep it that way.

    Congrats, again!

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