Cover Image: The Written World and the Unwritten World

The Written World and the Unwritten World

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Member Reviews

This book is a remarkable glimpse into Italo Calvino's thoughts on words—but, without a lot of context surrounding the Italian literature he is celebrating, I was left feeling a little out of the loop.

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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Mariner Books for an advanced copy of this collection of essays on literature, the world of writing and magic of imagination by Italio Calvino.

Writers read a lot. That's one of those things that writers always share as advice. Read and read often. Writers read for inspiration, great words have a habit of making a day seem better, or for some writers make them want to match these great words with great words of their own. Writers read for research, to learn from those who took the path earlier, learn from their mistakes, or find the path that leads out of that forest of impasses that blocks one from writing. Writers also love to write about writing, what makes them write, what others writers write and what they think about it. Sometimes with sarcasm, sometimes with a knife typing the words, but many times with love. Italio Calvino read thousands of books, and commentated on just as much. This collection The Written World and the Unwritten World, translated by Ann Goldstein, is a collection of all sorts of writings about writing, from over fifty years.

The book is divided into themed chapters well as themed as they can be. There is a section on reading how to read and when to read. A selection on translating, the perils and trials of reading translated books, how meanings can be lost and suggestions inserted. Which is funny to read in a book that is translated. A section on publishing, where books are going and what is happening to both the novel, and the selling out of ideas. And of course the imagination. Where do these crazy ideas come from? What makes one idea work, what makes another not? The importance of characters' names in a story and the effect it might have on the author and later on the reader.

The selections range in size depending on what they were needed for. Some are short, almost like a bit of marginalia, some are the length of forwards, or introductions to other works. And others are essay length, usually looks at authors, works, themes. Some authors will be familiar, some will not be either lost to time or to changing fancy in literature and publishers. There is a lo of humor. I enjoyed the first essay the most as it reminded me of the times I would travel, and spent more time picking out books than I did picking out outfits or even planning where to go. There are two essays about translating that I also found interesting, and raises points from I would say about 40 years ago possibly, that are still relevant today. A collection like this will have some pieces that won't be for everyone, but I enjoyed this collection quite a bit.

Recommended for fans of Calvino who like myself never learned his language and know him only through translated works. Also for people who enjoy reading books on writing, and the ideas and inspirations behind writing and creating any kind of art.

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