cover image Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities

Italo Calvino, read by John Lee. Tantor Media, unabridged, three CDs, 2.75 hrs., $19.99 ISBN 978-1-4526-1448-9

At its most basic level, Calvino’s novel is a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, as the former describes the fantastical cities and landscapes he’s visited during his explorations. Of course, this is severely understating the scope of Calvino’s book, which at times feels like a novel, at times like a travelogue about a voyage to mysterious and imaginary places, and at times like a series of puzzles. John Lee is the perfect performer to depict the disorienting nature of Calvino’s masterpiece. Lee has become the go-to narrator for stories with unusual structures and ideas—he previously narrated China Mieville’s The City & the City and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. In this audio edition, Lee’s clipped, accented elocution encapsulates the mystery that permeates the novel’s numerous settings. But Lee also adds interesting details throughout his reading—for instance he beautifully captures Marco Polo’s charisma and showmanship as he crows about his findings to Khan. Despite narrating a book with no discernible plot, this is a truly entertaining and electrifying performance. A Harcourt Brace Jovanovich paperback. (June)