The Complete Cosmicomics
Where the section of early stories feels very immediate—a young Calvino experimenting with style and narrative—stories from his later collections feel more derivative, as they build on the early stories and pay homage to Calvino's vast array of influences. "The Origin of Birds" and "The Mushroom Moon," for instance, incorporate the structure of cartoons. And Calvino's interest in mixing logic into his writing—he was a member of the OULIPO collective of writers and mathematicians—comes through in stories like "t zero," a rewriting of Zeno's paradoxes, and "The Chase," which uses deductive reasoning to build tension around a car chase on traffic-jammed streets. In "The Count of Monte Cristo," Abbe Faria and Edmond Dante consider the best strategy for escaping Chateau d'If, weighing the merits of theory versus practice as they try to understand the labyrinthine prison.
While the stories often read like word problems, Calvino helps the medicine go down with playful intros and lighthearted tangents away from his weighty scientific reasoning. Where these stories are intentionally formulaic, the characters are all very human. In total, seven stories are translated here for the first time in English. Of these, two that were written specifically for a 1984 edition display the evolution of Calvino's literary interests. Using the same basic structure as the earlier Cosmicomics, these stories approach their scientific assertions with a more overtly philosophical bent. In "Nothing and Not Much," Calvino takes up the moment just before the Big Bang for the second time in the collection. Instead of simply playing with the assumptions of the theory as before, in this version he considers the totalizing consequences of believing in a universe spawned from nothing. While history has been unkind to some of the book's more outlandish conceits, stories like "Nothing and Not Much" show the prescience of Calvino's undertaking. As the known world becomes increasingly complex, storytelling must take the same path—to the very edges of the universe. (Sept.)
Release date: 09/01/2014