Today as I entered Earls Court Tube Station District Line Platforms from the Picadilly Line from Heathrow Airport, I noticed a young man with a book under his arm. Two books actually. The novelization of the Dark Night, and Italo Calvino’s If On A Winters Night a Traveller. This seemed an odd pariring, surely, especially at first sight. One could dictate that the chap carrying the books, a university age male, actually wanted to purchase The Dark Night novel for pleasure and perhaps had to purchase the Calvino book for school reading. This young man can be viewed as that which this short essay will concern itself: the role of the reader in Calvino’s book, and the role of the reader and the ...view middle of the document...
The subsequent chapters of the book on which the Reader embarks on his search are alos lopped off after the first chapter. As with Oedipa’s paranoid search for meaning in clues, the Reader is in a similar predicament, which is the basis for a contention that IWN produces an anxiety for the Reader and perhaps for us as readers also.
Hume states the following: Those in power conspire constantly against the protagonists of the novel fragments, the reader, and ultimately literature. So this happens in both TCL49 & IWN. Oedipa is conspired against (or believes she is conspired against) by the WASTE system and the Trystero. It would appear to us that she is also somewhat conspired against by the male characters that seem to be
running in and out of her life. More on this later.
The Calvino text is similar in hti srespect as well. It only differs in that the Reader is conspired against by the text, which he is unable to finish due to the Text being always incomplete or chopped off exactly at the point where it starts to get interesting. He is unable to finish reading the Text of any of the novels to which he is directed to because those in power have altered the Text. We are led to believe that these persons in power would be the publishers, then we come to find (or read) that the culprit in the framing narrative is Ermes Marana. With similarity to TCL49, the text that Oedipa is reading, the “world” she is “projecting”, keeps changing. Both subjects (Oedipa and the Reader) are being subjected to the powers that be which also happen to be the powers conspiring against them.
Hume goes on to ask why the exploration of literature as a system in Calvino’s work provokes such a flood of anxieties. Is the Reader in IWN repressing anything? Is our friend Oedipa Maas repressing something, anything? Both characters, essentially readers, are both repressing the desire to stop reading. They both seem to be repressing the inclination to just let things be. Both the Reader and Oedipa do not let the system that the Text depends on exist as a system that does not require engagement and interpretation. They are repressing the casualness of the consumption of the text simply for pleasure. This may be for a number of reasons, but the Reader appears to be on a quest initially to get the girl by identifying with her through reading the same novel. It appears that Oedipa doesn’t plan on leaving well enough alone, and begins to read clues that her paranoia determines to be part and parcel of the Trystero conspiracy. More on this later.
“Pynchon blocks one source but opens another…textual sources of information proliferate…and Pynchon’s technique of inserting fictitious references into historic texts is observed.”
Here Pynchon is merging two worlds; transforming the epistemological into the ontological by placing erroneous refernces into actual texts, such as the footnote to Motleys ‘Rise of the Dutch Republic’. The significance of Pynchon’s...