I was introduced to Calvino in a creative writing class my sophomore year of college, so when I saw this book at work…
Marco Polo has been tasked by Kublai Khan to travel his domain and return to describe the cities he’s come across. Separated into several categories, the cities are presented to the Khan while he and Polo discuss their existence.
There was one specific chapter, Cities & the Sky 4, that didn’t sit well with me, specifically the descriptions of the ‘undesirables.’ Of course there were the three headed and six legged children, but saying that there’s something wrong with the city because there are bearded women? Obese men? A number of physical disabilities? Come on.
My favorite chapters are the Cities & the Dead. Cities & the Dead 3 was one of the stories I read before I got this book, and the twin cities that make up Eusapia are just fascinating. It inspired me enough to write several chapters of one of my novels, which punched through my writer’s block.
I just love the imagery of this book. I’m not one for philosophy in books, but I’m sure there’s a lot to be found in this one. Eventually I’ll probably discover it for myself, since I plan on rereading and annotating, but for the first time through, I’m not reading too much into it.
This book has plenty of re-read-ability, and I’m here for it. It’s a relatively quick read as well. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy traveling, discussions about existence, and who love imagery in their stories without a whole lot of plot. Fans of The Night Circus, World War Z and travel diaries would love this book.
Trigger warnings: fatphobia, grief, suicide, war, death, racism, sexism
Did I like it? Yes