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Difficult Loves Paperback – September 23, 1985


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

One of the warmest and gentlest collections of stories by Calvino, and one of the most grounded in the real world. Lovely and elegant prose that lolls in your imagination like a story whispered into your ear on late spring day.

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Brief, limpid, graceful, and surprisingly fresh. -- Peter Prescott, Newsweek

The quirkiness and grace of the writing, the originality of the imagination at work, the occasional incandescence of vision, and a certain lovable nuttiness make this collection well worth reading. -- Margaret Atwood, The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (September 23, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156260557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156260558
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #255,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By ewomack VINE VOICE on April 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
This collection of stories represents some of Calvino's best early work (the stories were originally compiled in two books from 1949 and 1958). Those who have read "The Baron in the Trees" (from 1957) will recognize the style at work here. The book burgeons with short stories, 28 in all divided into four sections, and each one includes a discovery of some sort as well as a reflection on the most bizarre of human emotions: love.

The stories contained in the book's first section, "Riviera Stories", seem to have political subthemes. Many deal with the haves and have nots and their interactions. "The Enchanted Garden" tells of two children that happen along a seemingly deserted villa to discover a utopia or a dystopia - are the people who live in such luxury happy?; "A Goatherd at Luncheon" explores the gaps between the rich and the poorer classes when the man of the house invites the goat herder to lunch; In "Big Fish, Little Fish" a very capable young diver comes across an astonishing motherload of fish along with a sobbing sunbather who says she's "unlucky in love", but every fish the boy pulls out seems to have problems - the downside of a bonanza; "Lazy Sons" traces a day in the life of two boys who refuse to work in spite of the fulminations of their hard-working parents.

The next section, "Wartime Stories", not surprisingly, contains the most violent and disturbing stories of the book.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By "chileanreader" on September 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
Calvino is a genius. I read most of his books and all are differents in style, thematic, lenght, etc; but all are similar in quality, humanity and sensibility.
This one is a collection of stories where love is only a component, an important one but not the only (as in real life). Even is not the usual love that it is important here. Reaction to love, moments before love, lonely love are the esential components of these stories.
Calvino knows that it is not possible write about love, we can only describe the environment of love, but not LOVE. But when you are able to write about it with the class of Calvino, you do not need anymore.
Excellent, excellent and excellent
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mark DeRespinis on November 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
Difficult Loves provides a comprehensive look at the art of storytelling, and its ability to expose the subtle emotions and personalities of everyday life. Calvino is particularly adept at honing in on a definitive moment, or succession of moments in the lives of his characters, and capturing the surprising shifts of relation and consciousness that occur suprisingly and spontaneously. The last section in the book, Stories of Love and Loneliness, shows Calvino at his most artful, examining the ways that certain types of people experience life and love. An earlier reviewer pointed out that everyone can find something to connect with in these stories. This is true in an even deeper sense, namely, that within the narration, sparkling moments of truth are revealed about the workings of the human mind, and they can only be read with a consistently deepening respect for the author and his art. There is a confessional quality to the work as well, and Calvino hints at his own obsessions and deviancies and shortcomings as a thinker. This authorial honesty conforms well with the subjects of the stories, all of which are betrayed in a state of almost disconcertingly fallible humanity. These are the anti-heros, the heros of everyday life and love. With Difficult Loves, Calvino maps out another essential area of human experience, and does it with a simple beauty that belies the complexity of his grand project.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mars Violet on December 15, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read Difficult Loves a month ago and found that the stories in this book have staying power. Italo Calvino conjures up vivid imagery to accompany magical and unsettling stories. His story telling abilities are such that he reminds readers of long forgotten sensations. We feel the marvel and anxiety of two children who happen upon a property that is both enchanting and disturbing. We experience the elation of a man who is new to glasses and his disappointment upon realizing he found only a temporary reprieve from his same old life. Another story that opens with a leathery old man warning a weary traveler against crossing a mountain pass is one of the most powerfully written tales in the book. Difficult Loves is worth rereading.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
Life is about stories. Italo Calvino has (had) a true ability to bring you "into the detail" of life. The stories are set before you to experience yourself. Many stories which we long for in our own lives, many which we would never wish to know.
This book enables you to feel the soil, smell the sea, sense the fear...the details that not so many other authors can bring to you.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sheetal Bahl on August 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
"Difficult Loves" is a collection of four sets of stories, each set revolving around a particular theme or setting. Calvino's perspective and style remain constant, however, as he navigates effortlessly between a disparate set of characters and situations. The hallmark of Calvino's perspective is his ability to take small "slices of life", understand them in great detail, and convert them into fascinating and gripping tales. The attraction to his stories is heightened by the occasional recognition of, and correlation to, the plethora of complex feelings aroused by these small and innocuous happenings. The fact that these feelings are so often buried in our subconscious and never played out recognizably indicate how acute an observer and analyst Calvino really is.

"The Adventure of a Soldier", a part of the last set of stories ("Stories of Love and Loneliness"), is a beautiful example of Calvino's keen observational faculties. In this story, a man embarks on a complex and courageous mental (and somewhat physical) journey, on the basis of a perceived physical contact with a fellow passenger on a train. Such is the honesty of Calvino's account of the soldier's emotions, that the reader can almost palpably feel the various contacts with the co-passenger, while sympathizing, if not empathizing, with the soldier's state of mind. This story is also a great illustration of the use of dramatic arc as a story-writing tool, especially to connect seemingly disjointed ideas or states.

The one serious drawback of this book is that while it manages to avert becoming platitudinal, it nonetheless becomes increasingly monotonous with the passage of each story. Calvino's disposition to simplicity and lucidity become his greatest failing as the novelty of his perspective wears off. Thus, overall, this is a book definitely worth reading, but best read in a piecemeal fashion to avoid weariness.
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