When I approached this week’s blog, I was a little concerned in which direction I would take. The one idea that kept coming back to me as I was reading Mao II was how I saw it compare to Italo Calvino’s novel, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler.

            The first thing I noticed when I was reading Mao II was how the content in chapter one pertained to books. On page 19, DeLillo puts his character in a bookstore, and the way that he was talking about books, reminded me of the scene in the bookstore in Calvino’s novel. DeLillo writes: “He was a young man, shrewd in his fervors, who knew there were books he wanted to read and others he absolutely had to own, ones that gesture in special ways, that have a rareness or daring, a charge of heat that stains the air around them.”

            I saw this paralleling the text in Calvino’s introduction where he writes: “Books You’ve been planning to read for ages, Books You want to own so they’ll be handy just in case, Books that fill You with sudden, inexplicable curiosity, not easily justified” (5).

           However, in Calvino’s novel, the character was called “You,” whereas DeLillo’s character is referred to as “he.” I think that even though Calvino was speaking in third person, to me, it felt more like the second person tone, with the text directed at me, and DeLillo made it clear that he was referring to another person and his view on the books. I could really relate to Calvino’s character, partly because of the tone of voice.

            I also saw somewhat of a comparison of manuscripts, in Calvino, and photographs, in DeLillo. In Calvino, manuscripts were the sought after object, by You and Ludmilla, where You goes above and beyond to find manuscripts of stories to find the endings and why they got put together. In DeLillo, photographs of writers seemed to be the main object of appeal in the beginning of the novel. It was like who gets their pictures taken, where do the pictures go? It seemed a parallel to me in the sense that the photographer, Brita Nilsson, didn’t seem concerned with “he’s” questions about her pictures or where they ended up, just as the editor in Calvino’s novel didn’t seem too preoccupied with “You” and his adamant worries about the manuscripts.

            Although it was just the beginning chapters that I developed parallels from, I look forward to seeing if any more will be able to be drawn throughout the rest of DeLillo’s novel.

One thought on “Resemblances”

  1. You bring up an interesting parallel between the treatment of photography in DeLillo’s novel and the treatment of manuscripts in Calvino. It makes me start to think about how we can examine photography as text–certainly as art pieces, they become things that we can “read,” each with an author-photographer and a subject…and therefore, a narrative. They are also equally ‘dangerous’ from a political standpoint. Photographs can be revealing. Maybe we should keep in mind the way that photographs have become easy ‘tools’ for the crowd (think about the way, in the first chapter of DeLillo, the crowd in Yankee Stadium unleashes an endless stream of camera lights on the married couples on the field).

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