Aside from a hand-drawn picture of the Colosseum we purchased from a street vendor in Rome and a boatload of postcards and photos, a copy of If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
just this week) was pretty much my one souveneir from our incredible honeymoon this summer. (Now I just have to teach myself Italian so I can read it.)
How great, then, to see one of my all-time literary heroes praised by another of my all-time literary heroes
in the The New York Times
Sunday Book Review this weekend. Here's the crux of Lethem's piece:
Italo Calvino never wrote a bad book. Yet an author of such diffusion, without a single, encompassing magnum opus to embrace (some readers will argue for "Invisible Cities," but that ineffably lovely book shows too narrow a range of Calvino's effects, too little of his omnivorous exuberance) needs a beginner's entry point, as well, perhaps, as a compendium to point toward posterity. Does it seem sacrilegious to propose a fat volume called "The Best of Calvino"? Does it seem to do violence to choose from linked pieces, or from books long since enshrined in reader's hearts in their present, inviolate state?
It's an idea I both love and hate. Whatever helps introduce readers to Calvino is, of course, a good thing.
But part of me feels as though we should
leave Calvino sacrosant, give the uninitiated a copy of If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
, Invisible Cities
, or (my choice for most unfairly neglected Calvino title) Mr. Palomar
, and let them find their way from there. It was good enough for the rest of us, wasn't it? It'll be good enough for them.