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Invisible Cities Paperback – May 3, 1978
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"Kublai Khan does not necessarily believe everything Marco Polo says when he describes the cities visited on his expeditions, but the emperor of the Tartars does continue listening to the young Venetian with greater attention and curiosity than he shows any other messenger or explorer of his." So begins Italo Calvino's compilation of fragmentary urban images. As Marco tells the khan about Armilla, which "has nothing that makes it seem a city, except the water pipes that rise vertically where the houses should be and spread out horizontally where the floors should be," the spider-web city of Octavia, and other marvelous burgs, it may be that he is creating them all out of his imagination, or perhaps he is recreating details of his native Venice over and over again, or perhaps he is simply recounting some of the myriad possible forms a city might take.
Of all tasks, describing the contents of a book is the most difficult and in the case of a marvelous invention like Invisible Cities, perfectly irrelevant. -- Gore Vidal, The New York Review of Books
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That said, the Kindle edition is an embarassment. The publisher rushed a part-time intern into a room with a scanner and an OCR program and made sure they clocked out on time. Maybe they should have thought about proof reading? Italicized words appear randomly throughhout the text, obviously not intentionally. Perhaps that's supposed to be a tribute to the author's first name? But the words that are simply mis-recognized by the OCR software are the worst: "faces" becomes "feces" tipping us off to the standard of quality the publisher had in mind for this edition. Come on you cheap bastards, just hire someone to proofread it before you throw it out there as a Kindle edition.
Since then, I've purchased and finished the entire book and loved it. I've recommended it to anyone who I think might enjoy it. While it is a deep read, with short chapters inspiring torrents of thought and discussion, I wouldn't caution anyone away from Calvino.
I love this book, it's become a constant travel companion, and I look forward to reading it again.