"Reading," he says, "is always this: there is a thing that is there, a thing made of writing, a solid, material object, which cannot be changed, and through this thing we measure ourselves against something else that is not present, something else that belongs to the immaterial, invisible world, because it can only be thought, imagined, or because it was once and is no longer, past, lost, unattainable, in the land of the dead . . ."
"Or that is not present because it does not yet exist, something desired, feared, possible, or impossible," Ludmilla says. "Reading is going toward something that is about to be, and no one yet knows what it will be . . ." (72)
God, how fucking beautiful both of those ideas of reading are, how true! Italo Calvino's If on a winter night's a traveler, despite pushing me more and more away by jumping narratives and genres every other chapter, is drawing me more and more toward it. There are some writers that you know you should have read, should be reading, and sometimes when you read them, you realize that you were right to not be reading them, that it was overblown, not for you. Calvino, however, is turning out to be one of those names I am wishing I would have read earlier. It is very clear that David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas must have been influenced by this novel and I am wondering how much better my reading of that novel would have been I had read this stuff long ago.
Parts of the novel are a bit much in their meta-ness and there are times when the direct addresses to me, the reader, seem a little forceful, a little hostile, crossing a barrier that I like to keep between myself and a text. But by jumping around between these various narratives and framing them through two readers a lot is being said about what it means to read and also what it means to write. I am enjoying this book far more than I had thought I would.
The sun is shining very brightly, creating lovely shadows in my kitchen. Last night, I kept waking up because I knew I had to wake up early this morning, and the full moon was also casting brilliant shadows in my kitchen. Every time I got up to pee, I was amazed by how much light the moon was shining into my kitchen. I sat on the roof outside this kitchen for a while last night watching that moon when it was not full, when it was not shining, when it was a total eclipse, and the sight was very beautiful and made me feel very lonely, aware of my precarious and slight position in this large universe of ours.
I had to wake up early this morning to go meet this guy I have seen a few times. I saw him at his hotel in Times Square, fucked him, and then listened to him talk pretty much nonstop for a couple of hours. The man seems to be falling apart at the seams. He is pretty crazy. The way he talks, nonstop and without even a need for me to actually be listening, is the clearest sign. The things he says are other signs. And his self-destructive behavior by blowing through his money on hustlers and drugs yet another sign. Since there was no lull in his monologue, I finally had to make an abrupt departure, got on the train, and read more of this book.
In two weeks time I am going to London. I will be there March 6-21 and I am quite excited. I spent hours yesterday looking at this Time Out book, daydreaming, thinking of things I wanted to see, and getting really giddy. I am drinking some really good coffee right now and that is making me giddy all over again. Maybe you want to get giddy also - well, let me share with you some songs that sort of make me lose my shit lately: