Disclaimer: after being enamored of post-modern writing techniques over a decade ago, influenced by Molly Hite's Ideas of Order in the Novels of Thomas Pynchon, I have since adjusted my stance.
For the most part, the post-modern format has been played out, the genre, as wide as it is, has seen little innovation in the last twenty or more years. Finally, most books written in this style are arid, impersonal, and lack the type of deep, human connection which was once good writing’s main objective.
With this we come to Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler. Considered one of his most important, influential post-modern novels, it is hard to encapsulate this book in a concise review. Foremost it is a book about books, reading material about reading. It gives a primacy to books and reading which may have existed in 1979 (or maybe did not) which is no longer found today. This story of a story keeps unfolding itself, restarting itself, forming a twisted, even mangled narrative that is about, finally, narrative.
In the end, If on a winter’s night is about as informative about the human experience as mirror facing a mirror. We are meant to see that reading and writing are not transparent pursuits. That art is a construct. That perhaps our faith in art was misplaced and misinformed. That it cannot reach first causes.
So what? This conclusion no longer seems as profound as I once thought.