It happens in your life as a reader that you encounter a book that unexpectedly, and subtly, changes your literary taste. In your youth, you read anything that comes your way. As you grow older, you become more discriminating. You realize that there are authors that you like, and some others that you don’t; that there are genres that better suit your particular mood, and some you could read at any given time; that there are literary styles that you prefer over others. How you select which ones to read is based on your seemingly unshakeable and fully developed literary taste. You seem contented with the books that you allow to shape your own Weltanschauung, and discard those that don’t fit the bill. Then, you reencounter a book that you have previously tossed aside haphazardly; and the moment you read the first few lines, you realize what a moron you once were.
Such was my experience with Italo Calvino. I first encountered one of his works in college (Daughters of the Moon from the Cosmicomics series) – a selection that was part of a survey course in literature. I didn’t like it then. Probably I was turned off by the funkiness, his zany narrative that left a bad taste in my mouth. Some years later, I was able to read another Calvino short story, Adam, One Afternoon, which was included in another story collection, Difficult Loves (translated by William Weaver, Archibald Colquhoun, and Peggy Wright, 290 pages, Harcourt Brace) and I was suddenly in love I had to get a copy of that book.
Italo Calvino’s Difficult Loves (Gli Amori Difficili) was among his last books published during his lifetime. All the stories contained herein were first published in Italian between 1945 to the 1950’s, but this particular compilation didn’t see publication until 1984, about a year before his death. It has four thematic and chronological divisions: “Riviera Stories”, “Wartime Stories”, “Postwar Stories”, and “Stories of Love and Loneliness”. (more…)
Legend has it that when I was a child, I would read a book of Bible stories on one hand, and the Bible on the other as a reference to verify its accuracy. I can no longer remember doing that more than twenty years ago, but my mother would remind me about it whenever we talk about literature and reading. My lolo, while watching me read in that manner, took it as a sign of precociousness and supposedly wished to be alive long enough to see what I’d become. He would have wanted me to be a lawyer. Fortunately, he didn’t have to go through a major disappointment – he died when I was nine.
What remained constant and unabated, though, is the pleasure I get from reading. I read to know, to understand, and to feel. Well, sometimes just to kill time, but still. Literature became a major part of my existence, especially during my formative years. I remember having memorized Sir Walter Scott’s Lochinvar when I was ten. At around that time, too, I have read The Little Prince, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Peter Pan, and The Wizard of Oz and considered myself an expert in the Greek myths. I read when I wasn’t playing, or when I didn’t want to do the dishes.
When I went to college, I met many other people who read voraciously. That was the time when my predilection for poetry and literary fiction was developed. Though it seemed like a pretty good time to have an earnest and intelligent discourse, I was too shy, perhaps because I stammer because I wasn’t that confident. Or maybe, because of that too Filipino trait of not wanting to appear cocky and arrogant. Not being able to talk about what you want to talk about is frustrating.
That is why this blog is born. I want to write about what I read, share some insight, and exchange ideas with people who are passionate about literature. I know I have something to say, but I also know that there is a lot more that I don’t know about. (Take that, George Orwell!)
Every week, a short story or a poem will be featured and discussed. From time to time, I’ll throw in a book review or two, and on days in between, some news or commentary about literature. Suggestions on what will be featured or reviewed are welcome. Also, I’d like to know what you think, so drop a comment or two – that will be appreciated.
My next blog post will feature one of the stories by Italo Calvino, probably one from his collection, Difficult Loves.
Now, go read some.