Hello readers and welcome to the final entry in the 2022 Reading List (yes, I am aware it is now 2023). As mentioned in a previous entry, toward the end of last year I had been focusing on my backlog of “old white dude” authors since setting aside the Reading List in 2021. To that end I decided to read one more by picking up a collection I had heard about for years, the 2009 assembly of Italian postmodernist writer Italo Calvino’s short stories, The Complete Cosmicomics.
This was a very interesting collection of stories, all mostly centered around a scientific fact (some made out of date since many of these stories were published from the 60’s to the 80’s) and featuring almost always the same narrator Qfwfq as he tells the tale. While there were an abundance of varied and different tales within the collection I thought I’d start by mentioning some of my favorites. “A Sign in Space” features Qfwfq leaving a literal sign in space and being in competition with another strangely named character to leave better and better signs. This story was based on the fact of how often the sun revolves around the galaxy but is better understood (as the introduction to the collection puts it) as a rumination from Calvino both on the nature of signs themselves but also as a commentary toward his embarrassment over his earlier novel. The same theme of old replacing new can be found in “The Dinosaurs” in which the titular creature is supposed to have died out only to make a reappearance to the “New Ones” that have come to take his place. While the introduction delineates this story as a discursion on “the old writers who have failed to move ahead with the times and are still writing in the old, realist way” I found it to work as a fundamental allegory on immigration, with discussions of “Foreigners” and how they are not to be trusted. Finally I was amazed to read “The Light-Years” as a possible foreseeing of social media years before the fact, as the narrator witnesses someone hanging a sign “a hundred million light years away” that says “I Saw You.” The narrator struggles to discern what the act was that the other had seen, checking his diary and realizing it was something he’d rather have hidden. I thought the theme of this story could easily be applied to our current roving panopticon of surveillance that takes place online these days.
These three were my favorite in the collection, but there were many more that drew my interest. Whether that involved people collecting debris from the Earth (“The Meteorites”), ruminations on time and space (“t zero,” “The Chase”), evolution (“The Aquatic Uncle”) or even another astonishing presaging of technology such as the internet and search engines (“World Memory”) there were tons of stories here that were fascinating and very much ahead of their time.
I would highly recommend this full collection (others were published during the author’s lifetime but this one has all of the Cosmicomics together) for those looking for a far-out assemblage of science fiction-esque stories that, while ostensibly dealing with the scientific and astronomical realm ponder many more serious themes such as the nature of love and forms (“The Spiral”) and relationships (“The Night Driver”).
Up next, for the first time since I have begun reading novels for my website I am actually not sure what I’m going to be getting to next. For at least the first half of the year I plan on staying with my previously set parameters of reading more contemporary female and BIPOC authors, but I have not yet selected one. Rest assured I will know within the week and will be posting the first entry in the 2023 Reading List soon. Since I will be doing this for the rest of my foreseeable future I have decided again not to do a “reflections” post this year and to just continue on with the various series I’ve started over the past years. As always, thanks for joining me on this reading adventure.
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John Abraham is a published author and freelance journalist who lives in the Twin Cities with his wife Mary and their cat. He is writing a speculative dystopian novel and is seeking representation and a publisher.