Once there were cities

Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino

May 2019 Bookclub read


                Once upon a time, there was a guy called Macro Polo, and he invented a very cool pool game.


                Yeah, I know.  But he did talk to Kublai Khan about cities.


                Or was it one city?  Or women?


                Calvino’s book isn’t so much a story but a mediation.  The question is what he is mediating on.  Is it simply how a city can be so many things?  Any city can be.  Each neighborhood of a city is like a minor city.  The rhythm of city differs not only from events – Philly celebrating the Super Bowl win is different than the Mummers which is different than Taps in the Park.


                Of course, you could say that people are cities too.  All our cells, organs, and what not.  Our veins and arteries are the freeways.


                Then, are the cities also women?  Does Polo see the city as a city of women because he had a wife and three daughters?  Or because there was a woman in every district for him?


                Every city in this book is contains a woman’s name, and the names can be seen as symbolic, whether or not they are supposing to be symbols, well its’ Calvino.  So, anything goes.


                The small descriptive pieces transcend space and time.  There are doubled cities. Cities above and below.  It is impossible not to think of the City and the City when reading this.  Mielville’s later novel deals with class and crime, something that haunts Calvino’s work but is not dealt with in the same way.


                The strange thing is that thinking of Calvino’s work which also seems to refer to the death of cities, and that is prophetic considering the effect of climate change on some cities, including Polo and Calvino’s Venice.