I just finished reading Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, a book first published the same year I was born. There’s a blurb by Gore Vidal on that says, 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.
He is correct that a typical description of the contents of Calvino’s book is perfectly irrelevant . His use of the word invention is also interesting and resonates with my own feeling that this book is an Idea Machine.
Marco Polo is telling Kublai Khan of the different cities he has seen. Each chapter in the book is a one or two page description of more than fifty cities. Periodically there are accounts of the dialogue between the Great Khan and Marco Polo. […]