Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1978)

Blurb from Amazon: Imaginary conversations between Marco Polo and his host, the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan, conjure up cities of magical times. “Of all tasks, describing the contents of a book is the most difficult and in the case of a marvelous invention like Invisible Cities, perfectly irrelevant” (Gore Vidal). Translated by William Weaver.

Whipped cream is excellent on Mayan spice cocoa tea.

The sky was excessively blue today and I had a sinking feeling.

When in doubt it is best to leave a laying chicken to her business.

Invisible Cities is like that. From one section to another, they are not particularly joined by anything other than the paper binding and Italo Calvino's name. Lady Darkcargo over at YOBC said it very well in her post: this book is like a choose-your-own-adventure novel.

Marco Polo (1254 - 1324) and Kublai Khan (1215 - 1294) are having a conversation off and on throughout this book. I get the impression that the Great Khan doesn't get out much these days and is quite entertained by Polo's descriptions. The book is divided up into 9 sections and each section has a few cities described - titles like: Cities & Names 3, Cities & Desire 2, Trading Cities 1, etc. All the cities have female names. Each prose on a city is only a few paragraphs long, making this a quick read.

There was no plot. You can open this book to a random spot and enjoy the prose and imagery. SPOILER ALERT I know, how can I have a spoiler, if there is no plot? Eventually we learn that Marco Polo is describing different facets of the same city, Venice. Which doesn't really matter. END SPOILER.

Pluses: There was no plot; imagery was beautiful; unlike anything else I have read.

Minuses: There was no plot; the first part of the book can be interpreted to be within Khan's life (which I like), but then we start getting modern images thrown in here and there (underground trains) and this spoiled the illusion that Polo and the Khan are having a chat. Not that it really mattered.