“elsewhere is a negative mirror”

I’ve wasted many a happy hour trying to imagine how on earth I could replicate the ‘Calvino effect’ in music (and I’m still trying). One time I thought about making an album where each track segues into the next after only an intro and a first verse (to mirror “If on a winter’s night a traveller” and it’s wondrous ‘book within a book within a book within a book’ times 100 mechanism) but I simply haven’t the songwriting chops to carry it off.

Trapdoors, that’s what it is. As a verb.

You’re getting used to the ‘world’ of a book, but then he trapdoors you into some previously unsuspected viewpoint. And when you’re getting used to that view, he trapdoors you again, down into another one. And so on.

“Invisible Cities” is a tour de force, a display that is so elegantly crafted and graceful it becomes almost brutal. There’s not a single wasted sentence in the thing – you could read it in a day but spend years thinking about it.

Ostensibly it’s presented as a series of recollections or reports by Marco Polo, to the chinese ruler Kublai Khan, about the cities of his empire that Polo has visited. But for me it’s like the best dreams you ever had compiled. It plays wonderfully with the idea of memory, as something that may seem solid and factful, but is much more transient and as hard to pin down as a cloud of smoke.

(I don’t know why it also reminds me of the nightmarish beauty of Gaudi’s upside down flourbag models for the Sagrada Familia)

Also it reminds me of a strange feeling I sometimes get wandering around a new-to-me city. I used to notice differences, but now I more often notice resemblances – I imagine one huge endless metropolis where a street from one city leads into an avenue from a different city.

The old town from one capital edges up on the park from another.
Bridges from X cross rivers from Y, which lead to the canals of Z…

(It’s a nice feeling by the way)

Anyways I could quote sentence after sentence, but instead read some

then go and get it if you’re into it. Or borrow it from the library


posted by magic


One Response to ““elsewhere is a negative mirror””

  1. hello magic,
    thank you for jogging my memory, i’ve been meaning to return to that book ever since i first had the pleasure of reading it : ) what does it mean? what does it mean?

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