If on a winter’s night a traveler… by Italo Calvino
This book is probably the one that makes its way into more discussions in all of my classes than any other, and for a whole variety of reasons. First of all, what’s not to like about the famous introduction, where the narrator congratulates you, the reader, on purchasing Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveller… and urges you to get comfortable while reading it. This isn’t a preface. It’s the first chapter. Then the real weirdness begins. The next chapter is the first chapter of another novel called “If on a winter’s night a traveler” that someone else wrote, which aims for a climax and then abruptly halts. The following chapter finds you back in the seat of the protagonist, frustrated in finding that the story that you were just reading did not have any conclusion, so you return to the bookshop to exchange your book for a new copy. In the following chapter, the novel restarts itself again. The book is one of the most bizarre structures I’ve ever read, and yet it doesn’t get in the way of enjoying the dual story. And a careful reader will start to realize that he himself is being read by the novel, and that there are some unusual connections between the sections where he is the protagonist, and the ones where the novel keeps restarting itself.
This book is fun, and I promise that you will never run across a book like it for as long as you read.