Best to close the door…

I did what I rarely do this morning, and read while walking. It’s one of those urban habits that I don’t care for as I fix my sourest look, button up my coat, and march through the station, head down. However I found myself in the frustrating position of being just a couple of pages from the end of In Cold Blood, and I really wanted it finished. As it turned out, no major mishaps occurred and I ended the final chapter mere feet from the top of the upper Holborn escalator.

Which means that this lunchtime I commence a new book, this time an unknown quantity. I picked up Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller on spec, secondhand in Windsor. I’d not heard of the writer (although it’s clearly pointed out that he’s the “greatest Italian author of the twentieth century”) but the blurb sounded interesting, so I gave it a punt. I’ve been organising my books by edition recently, having discovered that the best of my library tends to be off-white spine editions from Picador, silver or orange Penguin classics, etc. This is published by Vintage, who’ve supplied several attractive piles on my bookshelf. At the very least, it’s £2.50 towards beating heart disease.

It actually seems a bit fascinating, so much so that my lunch break finished somewhat resentfully when I had to lay it down. The first chapter is on the art of reading, of choosing one’s book (Fragrant Flower summarises the categories he lists), of putting one’s feet up, of preparing oneself. The narrative itself begins in chapter two, but all conventional notions of linear narrative are questioned: a character is presented, but any preconceptions are soon stripped away, forcing the reader to sit back and analyse why he imagined what he or she imagined. The relationship between reader, writer and protagonist is like little else I’ve read, and I’m only a couple of dozen pages in, so I’m looking forward to the rest.

I particularly liked the idea of a “noise-killing machine,” be it a radio, a pinball machine, or whatever. Much is made in chapter one of the right position and environment to read, in fact it’s pretty much paragraph one. And I’m with Calvino here: every so often in this busy, noisy, saturated world, a bit of silence goes a long way, especially when reading a book.

Read about at…
3000 Books
Richard Recommends
David Mitchell in the Grauniad


2 Responses

  1. Italo Calvino sounds like a challenge. He turned up as an excerpt in my Italian learning book and was a puzzle to figure out. All the best reading him!

    yes, silence, blessed silence, such a rare commodity in our modern urban lives….

  2. […] carriage with my usual tube face,  sour, grudgeful, generally disinterested in anything other than my book. At Finsbury Park, seats become free. As usual, on the busy train there’s a melée: one girl […]

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