Jump to content, Jump to navigation.

Amber Paulen

Temptation + Weight

8 November 2011


Yesterday I withstood the temptation of Granta’s fall issue staring me down in the Feltrinelli of Largo Argentina. I carried it around for awhile, that rare jewel, because I had never seen anything close to a literary magazine there before, or in any bookshop in Rome. But I replaced it, after bending back its pages, after convincing myself I already have way too much I need to be reading at home.

Way too many books.

Not possible. But I have been on a lengthy book acquisition binge that has begun to chastise me for not reading faster, for not being able to absorb every word, image and intelligence as fast as I can stack them on the shelves. The shelves are running out of space. The faster I read, the more my mind demands I slow down.

Yesterday, while working on a short short story, I found myself face to face with an inexorable heaviness in my writing. My hair was also very oily and needed a wash. After I washed my hair, unable to stand it, it felt as light as long thick hair can feel. As I washed my hair, I decided to throw everything I had worked on so far, out. Well, the pages are still sitting there: the reminder of unwanted petrification.

“Petrification” is an idea I picked up from Italo Calvino last night. It was the beginning of Lightness, out of his Six Memos for the Next Millennium, that spun me around.

After forty years of writing fiction, after exploring various roads and making diverse experiments, the time has come for me to look for an overall definition of my work. I would suggest this: my working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language. —Italo Calvino

There is a lot to think about in the above paragraph. Calvino goes on to argue for the ideal of weightlessness in the few pages I’ve read of the first memo. Six Memos for the Next Millennium is a book that invites the careful reader (and writer) some thought pillows to float on, probabilities and new experiments. Because the wonderful temptation whispered by unopened books are their endless possibilities inlaid on pages.

Also: Check out my article on The Millions: De-Romanticizing Rome!



Submit a Comment


·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·