Friday, October 21, 2011

The Calvino Catalogue System

I'm reading If on a Winter's Night a Traveller, by Italo Calvino. I can't think of any other book which pokes so much good-natured fun at books, not to mention the people who read them and those who write them.

Right off, Calvino imagines a reader, befuddled in a bookshop. Picking a single title has left him paralysed. Maybe it's best to settle first upon a category. These are Calvino's categories, and I challenge any librarian or cataloguist to improve upon them.

  • Books You Haven't Read
  • Books You Needn't Read
  • Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading
  • Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
  • Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days are Numbered
  • Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
  • Books Too Expensive Now and You'll Wait Till They're Remaindered
  • Books Ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
  • Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
  • Books That Everybody's Read So It's As If You Had Read Them, Too
  • Books You've Been Planning to Read for Ages
  • Books You've Been Hunting for Years Without Success
  • Books Dealing with Something You're Working on at the Moment
  • Books You Want to Own So They'll Be Handy Just in Case
  • Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
  • Books You Need to Go With Other Books on Your Shelves
  • Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
  • Books Read Long Ago Which It's Now Time to Reread
  • Books You've Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It's Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them
  • New Books Whose Author or Subject Appeals to You
  • New Books by Authors or on Subjects Not New (for you or in general)
  • New Books by Authors or on Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to you)
The reader in Calvino's novel naturally leaves the book shop with -- what else? -- Calvino's novel. 

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