To fall asleep last night, I grabbed my phone from the nightstand and read some of Italo Calvino’s letters. A massive collection of them is coming to market, and The New Yorker has run five days of excerpts. The connection to sleep? Calvino, to me, is never boring. But his writing relaxes the brain — gently opening the head, tossing out the detritus of the day, massaging the synapses, and, as you put down the book or phone, refastening the lid.
The passages I like the most from the excerpts so far…
Day 1: “And I see art as communication.”
Day 2: “… I could write short stories for the rest of my life. Stories that are nice and spare, that you can finish off as soon as you start them, you write them and read them without drawing breath, rounded and perfect like so many eggs, stories that if you add or remove a single word the whole thing goes to pieces.”
Day 3: “A quarter of America is a dramatic, tense, violent country, exploding with contradictions, full of brutal, physiological vitality, and that is the America that I have really loved and love. But a good half of it is a country of boredom, emptiness, monotony, brainless production, and brainless consumption, and this is the American inferno.”
Day 4: “Basically, I am convinced that not only are there no ‘major’ or ‘minor’ writers, but writers themselves do not exist — or at least they do not count for much. … What counts is whether in the work that he is doing at a certain point there is something that can relate to the present or future work done by others, as can happen to anyone who works, just because of the fact that they are creating such possibilities.”
Day 5: “It is no accident that I’ve gone to live in a big city where I know nobody and no one knows I exist.”