The uses of literature Essays

Italo Calvino

Book - 1986

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San Diego : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich c1986.
Main Author
Italo Calvino (-)
Item Description
Translation of: Una pietra sopra.
Physical Description
vi, 341 p. : ill
Includes bibliographical references.
  • Cybernetics and ghosts
  • Two interviews on science and literature
  • Philosophy and literature
  • Literature as projection of desire
  • Definitions of territories: Comedy
  • Definitions of territories: Eroticism
  • Definitions of territories: Fantasy
  • Cineman and the novel: problems of narrative
  • Whom do we write for? or the hypothetical bookshelf
  • Right and wrong political uses of literature
  • Levels of reality in literature
  • Why read the classics?
  • The odysseys within the odyssey
  • Ovid and universal contiguity
  • The structure of Orlando Furioso
  • Candide: an essay in velocity
  • The city as protagonist in Balzac
  • The novel as spectacle
  • Manzoni's The Betrothed: the novel of ratios of power
  • On Fourier, I: brief introduction to the society of love
  • On Fourier, II: The controller of desire
  • On Fourier, III: Envoi: a utopia of fine dust
  • Guide to The Charterhouse of Parma for the use of new readers
  • Stendhal's knowledge of the "Milky Way"
  • Montale's rock
  • The pen in the first person
  • In memory of Roland Barthes
  • The bestiary of Marianne Moore
  • Man, the sky, and the elephant
  • Cyrano on the moon.
Review by Booklist Review

The late Italian writer the author of Italian Folktales (Booklist 77:378 N 1 80) also functioned as a superb literary critic and reviewer, as these collected essays illustrate. Whether dealing with the classics of European literature or with the latest theory of critical discourse, Calvino injects a sense of history into his judgments, along with a sly sense of humor that can upend more pretentious opinions. A short autobiographical sketch closes the volume. JB. 800 Literature [CIP] 86-4753

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Italian novelist and short story writer Calvino has been accused of making protons, quarks and living cells talk as if they were people, but here he defends his approach as a kind of animism attuned to the way the universe works. His fascination with myth is evident in pieces on Ovid's Metamorphoses and the separate odysseys that make up Homer's Odyssey. Three intertwined essays on French utopian socialist Fourier present him as a precursor of Women's Lib, a satirist and visionary thinker whose scheme for a society in which each person's desires could be satisfied deserves to be taken seriously. In other pieces, Calvino brings a fresh, unpredictable approach to why we should reread the classics, how cinema and comic strips influence writers, and the cartoon universe of Saul Steinberg. His message is that writers need to establish erotic communion with the humdrum objects of everyday reality. First serial to New York Times Book Review and New York Review of Books. (October 22) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Written between 1966 and 1982, these 31 essays are divided into two parts. The first 11 essays deal with theoretical questions such as the relation of philosophy and literature, definitions of genres (comedy, eroticism, fantasy), and levels of reality in literature; the rest are introductions to or appreciations of specific works and authors, mostly classics ( The Odyssey, Ovid, Candide, Stendhal, Balzac), though there are also pieces on Montale, Saul Steinberg, Barthes, and Marianne Moore. One wishes that the work had been more judiciously edited to eliminate some of the repetitions and the more ephemeral pieces, but on the whole this is literary journalism of high qualitypersonal, jargon free, and rewarding to the general reader. Richard Kuczkowski, Dir., Continuing Education, Dominican Coll., Blauvelt, N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Apart from the oddly utilitarian-minded title, everything in this book by the Italian fantasist is lovable and worthy of attention. Calvino's affection for literature is visible on every page, and disarms the reader who might be inclined to disagree with some of his opinions. The first part contains thoughts on literary theory, criticism, and philosophy. Calvino, like Borges, cannot avoid quirky personal judgments, such as the notion that Galileo is the greatest Italian writer. In this first section, Calvino criticizes Roland Barthes for being a rather dry, overly scientific writer. This hardly prepares the reader for the second part of the book, where an adulatory essay is informed with stunned grief at Barthes' unexpected death. In this latter section, where Calvino deals with specific predilections, his warmhearted generosity is most appealing. His appreciation of Marianne Moore seems somehow just, as both writers were insatiable collectors of physical facts about the world. Calvino's thoughts on Ovid, Ariosto, and Balzac are all worthy of note here. Calvino was a littÉrateur without limits. From an Italian writer we might expect insights into Manzoni and Montale, yet Calvino was also a Francophile and had intriguing thoughts about Stendhal, Fourier, and Voltaire. His range even extends delightfully to an appreciation of Saul Steinberg. For a genial browse through world literature with a charming host, these essays could hardly be bettered. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.