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Six Memos for the Next Millennium Hardcover – January 1, 1988


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Product Details

  • Series: Charles Eliot Norton Lectures
  • Hardcover: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (January 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674810406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674810402
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #586,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Italo Calvino cast his lofty thoughts toward the pending millennium long before the rest of us. Now that the zeitgeist has caught up with him, it seems a good time to revisit his Six Memos for the Next Millennium, an investigation into the literary values that he wished to bequeath to future generations. Calvino, the author of Invisible Cities, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, and other postmodern fictional works, was to deliver these five "memos" (there was to be a sixth) as Harvard's Charles Eliot Norton Lectures in 1985-86, but he died before doing so. These lectures are dense, rigorous, and seemingly full of contradiction. The first is a paean to lightness (though "light like a bird," as Paul Valéry wrote, "and not like a feather"). Lightness is followed by quickness (without "presum[ing] to deny the pleasures of lingering"), exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity. The perfect antidote to writerly laziness. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

At the time of his death in 1985, Calvino was preparing to give the Norton Lectures at Harvard; this volume collects the texts completed at the time of his death, which are delightful, penetrating examinations of the literary experience.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 21 customer reviews
Six Memos reveals to the reader the challenges of any writer to be able to capture the truth.
Martin J. Plax
While I think a lot of this was over my head, this was a really fascinating read and a really great way to get inside the head of an author whose work I greatly enjoy.
jim rice
In this short book of essays we learn much of the concepts and theories that Calvino uses in the development of his art.
C. B Collins Jr.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 16, 1998
Format: Paperback
Calvino offers us a bag of jewels with these five essays on the principle qualities that will carry great writing into the next century. The lessons learned from "Lightness," "Quickness," "Exactitude," "Visibility," and "Multiplicity" can be applied in any creative situation. They add strength to my own compositional efforts, but even more, the multi-faceted richness of Calvino's prose and Creagh's translation is something to savor and rejoice in. Even in his essays, Calvino is a storyteller, and as always his characters are the moods and motives of the people at large, as well as simply people themselves. Whether this is your first or fiftieth time reading this little book, the rush of inspiration that will sweep over you is not to be stemmed. Buy it, read it, write in it, draw lines and circle your favorite words and sentences. This is a book to imprint into your mind.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Mark Valentine on June 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
My interest in reading this collection of essays stems from a curiousity about narrative structure. I found that, while Calvino writes candid insertions about his own works, and while he writes with great fluency of ancient, medieval, contemporary world writers, the power of this short book lies in his erudite observations and keen, bits of wisdom. Here's a sample: "Saving time is a good thing because the more time we save, the more we can afford to lose" (p. 46), and this one, "Were I to choose an auspicious image for the new millennium, I would choose this one: The sudden agile leap of the poet-philosopher who raises himself above the weight of the world, showing that with all his gravity he has the secret of lightness, and that what many consider to be the vitality of the times--noisy, aggressive, revving and roaring--belongs to the realm of death, like a cemetary for rusty, old cars" (p. 12).
Calvino writes about five different qualities of literature: Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, and Multiplicity (he had intended to write a sixth chapter on Consistency, before his untimely death). He examines these qualities closely, using his own facile language as the medium.
Read it, by all means.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By eeeps on November 23, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
UPDATE 9/2013 -- they updated the ebook in March -- presumably they had a human read through it, this time -- and it appears to be entirely fixed. Rating updated!

***

A wonderful book, a marvelous book. This rating is all about the publisher.

The Kindle e-book has enough typos to make a fourth grade teacher weep. 1 have to believe no one at Random H0use Proofread this even once aHer chopping up a print- ed copy and feeding it through their "make an ebook" mach- ine? There are hundreds of these little distractions. The book ends: "Copyright © 1988 by the Estate of halo Calvino." halo and his wondrous ideas deserve better.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lee on October 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is truly one of the greatest books I have ever read. Inspires and helps generate new thoughts and ideas. Calvino was truly a master. This could be read over and over for a lifetime.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Werner on December 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
Writing, as a true art (a "techne" in Aristotle's time), has not always been a universally accepted idea. Even Plato regarded writing as nothing more than a neat little trick that helps a person remember what they already know (In his work "Phaedrus," I do believe). Obviously, times have changed since then, and the difficulties of the written word--the imperfections that plague the inherently flawed medium--are what drive it and the writer to imitate life in a manner that only art can. It is odd, then, that Calvino starts his book off with a single paragraph introduction, stating near the end of it that his "confidence in the future of literature consists in the knowledge that there are things that only literature can give us, by means specific to it." The segregation of different art forms is mainly decided by the particular, unique function that it serves. Calvino's introductory statement must be either the beginning of a defense of literature or a rallying of the literary troops to keep fighting the good fight. Of course, it's both.

(Grace Paley said that all good stories have two stories in them. Regardless of whether or not that's true, she's much smarter than I am, and I'm going to believe her).

I read this book after the constant gladhanding it was given by a friend of mine, and read it with such a close eye because I ended up doing one of those overly-academic rhetoric papers that are a right-of-passage for all English majors ("The Static and Evolutionary Qualities of Literary Theory from Aristotle to Calvino" just drips with snobbery).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Richard K. Weems on September 16, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a collection of talks on writing Calvino was preparing as a series of documents specifying some important keys of literature that he felt needed to be recorded as crucial elements of literary tradition. Indeed, in his essay "Visibility," Calvino brings up his concern for the future of imagination and literature in a world so full of prefabricated imagery, where images are provided rather than solicited. While his initial impulse was to write six lectures, he evidently reported at one point of his process that he had ideas for eight, but in the end he only completed five. In her introduction, Esther Calvino clarifies that she decided to keep the title true to Italo's original intention and publish the series under the original title, despite the missing sixth.

In the lectures themselves, Calvino provides the kind of insight and fascination with the making of literature that fuels so many of his best books. Rather than come across as a manifesto of his own brilliance, as the premise may sound, Calvino spends a lot of time in admiration of the work of other writers, from classics like Ovid and Dante to colleagues and contemporaries, like Francis Perec and Douglas R. Hofstadter. The lectures are of course sometimes punctuated with personal details about his own writing processes, but I found them very inviting and revealing about the ideas he was trying to point out.
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