Cover image for Why read the classics?
Title:
Why read the classics?
Author:
Calvino, Italo.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Perché leggere i classici. English
Edition:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Pantheon Books, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
x, 277 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780679415244
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library PN81 .C25513 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

Italo Calvino was not only a prolific master of fiction, he was also an uncanny reader of literature, a keen critic of astonishing range.Why Read the Classics'is the most comprehensive collection of Calvino's literary criticism available in English, accounting for the enduring importance to our lives of crucial writers of the Western canon. Here--spanning more than two millennia, from antiquity to postmodernism--are thirty-six immediately relevant, elegantly written, accessible ruminations on the writers, poets, and scientists who meant most to Calvino at different stages of his life. Following the title essay, which explores fourteen definitions of "the classic," Calvino offers writings that are at once critical appraisals and personal appreciations of, among others: Homer, Xenophon, Ovid, Pliny, Nezami, Ariosto, Cardano, Galileo, Defoe, Voltaire, Diderot, Ortes, Stendhal, Balzac, Dickens, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Twain, Henry James, Stevenson, Conrad, Pasternak, Gadda, Montale, Hemingway, Ponge, Borges, and Queneau. At a time when the Western canon and the very notion of "literary greatness" have come under increasing disparagement by the vanguard of so-called multiculturalism,Why Read the Classics'gives us an inspiriting corrective.


Author Notes

Italo Calvino 1923-1984

Novelist and short story writer Italo Calvino was born in Cuba on October 15, 1923, and grew up in Italy, graduating from the University of Turin in 1947. He is remembered for his distinctive style of fables. Much of his first work was political, including Il Sentiero dei Nidi di Ragno (The Path of the Nest Spiders, 1947), considered one of the main novels of neorealism.

In the 1950s, Calvino began to explore fantasy and myth as extensions of realism. Il Visconte Dimezzato (The Cloven Knight, 1952), concerns a knight split in two in combat who continues to live on as two separates, one good and one bad, deprived of the link which made them a moral whole. In Il Barone Rampante (Baron in the Trees, 1957), a boy takes to the trees to avoid eating snail soup and lives an entire, fulfilled life without ever coming back down.

Calvino was awarded an honorary degree from Mount Holyoke College in 1984 and died in 1985, following a cerebral hemorrhage. At the time of his death, he was the most translated contemporary Italian writer and a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Although the title suggests that this posthumous collection was cobbled together to capitalize on the latest culture wars, the great Italian novelist who died in 1985 had himself planned to compile it. The book remains an uneven hodgepodge of essays and brief introductions. In the outstanding opening essay, Calvino begins with the lighthearted remark that "classics are those books about which you usually hear people saying `I'm rereading... ' never `I'm reading,'" then goes on to show a contagious passion for great literature of all types. Reading criticism of classics, he writes, is often a waste of time; reading, savoring, and rereading them is of much greater importance. However, many of these critical studies suffer from too much deference to the texts, and too few flights of critical fancy. The high points of the collection are the title essay and longer pieces presenting overviews of the work of great writers who were Calvino's contemporaries. He begins an engaging discussion of Hemingway (written in 1954) by remarking that there were times when "Hemingway was a god. And they were good times, which I am happy to remember, without even a hint of that ironic indulgence with which we look back on youthful fashions." His accounts of authors less known to a modern American audience will leave readers eager to sample the otherwise daunting works of Francis Ponge and Eugenio Montale. Still, this collection is on the whole surprisingly lackluster; the beloved postmodernist will ultimately be better remembered for such earlier, more spirited essay collections as The Uses of Literature. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

In 36 essays, CalvinoÄwhose works are classics themselvesÄexplores the importance of writers from Homer to HemingwayÄto Borges! (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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