Book review: "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler"

I've held off writing this review for nearly a month now, for a couple of reasons. First, I didn't finish the last few pages until the other day, even though I had read nearly the entire book more than a month ago. Second, I really didn't know how to rate this book. And unfortunately, I still don't.

"If on a Winter's Night a Traveler" by Italo Calvino takes the reader on an interesting journey though a gambit of initial book chapters. Every other chapter is devoted to opening a new story, and each of these chapters is thoroughly interesting. Meanwhile, the "story" within the story concerns the main character, labeled as "the reader," who is trying to determine why the book is disjointed in this fashion. The lead individual has to weave his way through random beginnings and also other characters to determine what is going on.

The idea behind the story is easy to grasp nearly immediately. The philosophies discussed concerning reading and the reader are more than just interesting ... they are stimulating to a certain degree of fascination. "What happens outside of the book?" and "When does the reader know when one book stops and another starts?" are the types of questions asked. The reader finds himself/herself perplexed during these even chapters, and even more estranged when starting yet another seemingly new story.

I think the best parts are the first chapters that are scattered throughout the novel. I enjoyed the book, but I would have appreciated it more if the story concerning the reader would have been developed a bit differently, maybe as more of a backdrop to begin. Regardless, I recommend "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler" to anyone who wants to read something unique and has the ability to change the notion of what a book really is on a whim.