I was deeply enthralled by this book. I was reluctant to start because the cover of my copy appears to be so dark and dreary. However, one of the posts on this group mentioned the humor.
The book finally percolated up to the top of my TBR pile and I began. Laughed out loud during Chapter 1 when Calvino writes about how "you", The Reader, feel when you come into a book store. All those books! The burden! Exactly the way I always feel in a large bookstore, library, or working on the Shelfari catalog. All those books!
Then the "story" begins at the train station. The way you are addressed by "I" made me immediately think of Pirandello. I was completely drawn in. From that point, I was looking for that suitcase. Were you?
Each chapter (not the stories) resonated deeply with me. Each would bring certain "Aha!" moments making me think of situations about reading that I have encountered. The stories, themselves, were always good too. I found that to be incredible that I, as much as The Reader, became more and more despairing as, inevitably, the story would abruptly end. (I laughed out loud at the first abrupt ending, though.)
Throughout the read, I was constantly challenged with the language - a dictionary had to be next to hand because I found so many words new to me.
I mentioned Pirandello but "Carpet of Leaves" made me think of Anais Nin. The style of each story was both unique and, yet, had a common feel with all the others. I was truly impressed by that fact. I plan to go back and write some notes about each chapter. Some of the thoughts on censorship both amused me and make be reach for that nearby dictionary. Some of the academic scenes also made me laugh. Been there, done that with jealousies in academe.
At the end, when The Reader is shown that all the titles read as a sentence together was very cool. I kinda wish I had not seen that in discussion before reading the book but, at the same time, I am trained to read a TOC first and to interpret the structure of a book before beginning the reading of it. I like to think that I would have come to that myself. The Reader, though, should also have noticed this when he wrote the list to begin with.
Doubtless due to my own gender but the small epilogue meant little to me. The thread tying the whole thing together was Reader's search for the woman but, really, seems after a while as if any woman would do, didn't it? Could the whole thing be boiled down to cherchez la femme?
I read almost constantly and have almost all my life. Finding something absolutely unique such as If On a Winter's Night a Traveler is a moment to be marked in a personal diary and on a calendar. This was a completely new reading experience for me. A very pleasant and enjoyable one! (Pynchon is unique, IMO, as well but enjoyable? Not in my world.)
That being said, a unique experience by definition can not be replicated. Therefore, I am afraid to even open the other two Calvino tites that came in a boxed set with Traveler. Would I be expecting that same result? Is it possible to experience yet another unique novel from the same author? Isn't disappointment a foregone conclusion? Would that disappointment taint my first dearly held joy of Traveler?
For Pete's sake... now I'm starting to sound like The Reader!