December 1st, 2007
Comments Off
Part III -The ghost of Calvino strikes again

By now you must certainly be thinking that I am making this up, but I have had yet again another encounter with “he who cannot be named” (though I did just name him in the title of this excerpt.) the newest addition goes something like this.
My husband has lunch with a writer/musician he admires and during an excited conversation about literature he mentions my fondness for all things calvino these days. The said writer then mentions his favorite calvino book and states adamantly that it is the one book he wishes he had written, (the highest form of compliment one writer can give another, though often iterated with a sigh of defeat and a hint of jealousy.)
Upon hearing this bit of information I immediately know that this is one of those literary “signs” that I don’t take lightly and decide that I must not hesitate to find this volume, that in fact it should be the next book I read. Not to mention the fact that the book sounds to be completely appropriate and of a similar theme to the book I am currently working on. These “signs” happen to me often, the universe never fails to tells me what book I should read next. And so a plan is made.
1. Look up the book on the library database and see if they have it in stock. Title search: Mr. Palomar by Italo Calvino. Done. Check. One copy on hand. Catologue number PQ4809 .A45 (a number which is now committed to memory). I suppose that last piece of information counts as a bit of foreshadowing.
2. While making a trip to the farmers market, check in at the used bookstore on the off chance that they have a previously read edition of the book as those are the ones I prefer the most. (Previously read books have more life to them than new copies.) Done. Negative. The “c” section is devoid of any Calvino’s, but full of Cather’s and Coelho’s . It was worth a shot.
3. On the way home from the market stop in at the library to pick up the book.
Sounds strait forward enough. On a day when the wind chill is enough to shatter bones, my husband and I make our way through the frozen wilderness of the RPI campus (where there is not a soul in sight). Haul my pregnant (read:heavy) body up to the third floor, to the section that holds PQ, (I know it well by now as it holds both Calvino and Queneau). Find the calvino shelf, number 4809. scan the titles. Difficult Loves, Hermit in Paris, The Baron in the Trees, and a few others.
But no Mr. Palomar. I look again. I look on the shelf above, and the shelf below. I scan all the numbers on all the surrounding shelves. No sign. I check behind all the books on the shelf to see if it got pushed to the back, or in the case that it fell down the crack in between the stacks. Nothing.
I decide to go down to the desk and look it up again to see if someone had checked it out while I was at the market. I explain my plight to the woman at the desk and she informs me of three possible scenarios, either a) it has been shelved incorrectly, b) it is on the “reshelve” cart by the elevator, or c) it has been lost.
I make my way to the “re shelve” cart on the third floor by the elevator. I scan the PQ’s. Nothing. I go back to the shelf in desperation and look again in case I just missed it. Defeated, I pick up “Hermit in Paris” , a book of interviews (which I don’t really want to read right now because I am fixated on Mr. Palomar), and wander back to the front desk where my husband is talking to a friend he has run into. The librarian shrugs her shoulders and offers me no consolation.
For the rest of the day my brain is contemplating the conundrum. Most likely the book has been shelved incorrectly. But there is no way to actually go about finding it. You cannot look for it on purpose, but instead, it must be happened upon. By accident. Randomly. Pure happenstance. The irony makes my insides twist in frustration, and yet…
What a fascinating situation. A book that you know exists, but you cannot look for. Almost like a book that you find that you cannot read.
I am also fascinated by the prospect of a book whose narrative continues through your experience with/of it. Kind of a never ending story. But unique to each person who reads it.
So Mr.Calvino what are you trying to tell me now? Am I to give up the search for the elusive Mr.Palomar?
something tells me it is only just beginning. maybe the message is to be found in the mystery itself.

Comments are closed.

Ad Free