Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Complete Cosmicomics - inexplicable and wonderful

 One of my reading goals for 2020 was to read The Complete Cosmicomics, consisting of Cosmicomics, t zero/Time and Hunter and World Memory and Other Cosmicomics, along with a few miscellaneous bits. And I have finished the last story.

And, wow, is it weird to look back at starting this literary journey that started in February. The world has changed so much that is bewildering to remember reading the first section. (Yes, I like to wait months in between reading books in a series. Lets things sink in.)

Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomic stories involves taking a scientific theory (sometimes disproven and sometimes contradicting the theories used in other stories) and weaving some sort of domestic story around it. Most of the stories are narrated by Qfwfq, who has been around since before the universe began and who has been a mollusk, a dinosaur and possibly the god Pluto among other things. The stories are peppered with anachronisms to the point where even individual stories fail to have a coherent settings. 

You really have to just read them. It’s that kind of literature where words fail to do it justice.

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the stories are Calvino using the whole of the universe to comment on human nature but I don’t think that’s quite it. I think that Calvino explores the way that human nature and the cosmos reflect each other. He is definitely saying _something_, not just being silly.

I will say that World Memory and Other Cosmicomic Stories was weakest section of the series. The original Cosmicomics is whimsical and endlessly thought provoking. t zero/Time and the Hunter is darker but challenging. World Memory, on the other hand, didn’t feel like it was pushing me as much. I didn’t find myself thinking as hard. Still fun but I can see why it is the least republished book.

After years of meaning to give Calvino a chance, Invisible Cities really impressed me last year. The Cosmicomics stories continued that impression. The petty, whiny, occasionally mysogynisric voice of Qfwfq created a fascinating view of the universe or humanity or maybe both. I am not going to pretend that I understand what the books are ultimately about but they make me want to understannd.

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