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The Haircut Book

Last year, I had my hair trimmed at a local place. The hairdresser was an Engilsh lit grad, and I'd just finished Karen Russell's St. Lucy's Home for Girls raised by Wolves. She's an impressive writer, but the joy in them, for me, was in the beauty of her language. The stories barely were, more vignettes than happenings. The hairdresser, a fan of short stories, hadn't read it, but did recommend a favorite of his to me over the course of my trim: Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveller.

If ever I had read Calvino - and I don't know that I have - it would have been an excerpted chapter in Survey of Italian Lit II. Or possibly my parents read me folktales he had written when I was young. I'm not sure. In any event, I knew I hadn't read this rather famous collection, and idly added it to my mental list.

Several months later, C. had his hair cut, at the same salon. He came home with titles written down on a scrap of paper, one recommendation for him, and one recommendation for me. It was the Calvino again. I knew I really needed to read it now. My hair needed trimming and, as accident would have it, someone else did the work that time. But surely, for the next time, I would need to have done my homework.

Months passed. Late spring of this year, and I'd been taking good advantage of interlibrary loan at the local public library to bring me the Hugo novel and BSFA novel shortlists. The requests were easy, habitual, convenient. I added the Calvino to the list. Several of us had. Months passed.

Three weeks ago, a letter came from the library. My book had arrived. Mission creep set in, and I came home with eight library books instead of simply If on a Winter's Night a Traveller. I read some of the others first, returned them, checked out others.

A few days ago, I began the book. It was fitful, intense, and after two chapters, I took a novella-reading break. I often feel that way about short stories: they are small worlds of intensity, to be dabbled in, one or two at a time. The day after I began, however, I found that I had a single library book due. I'd returned the others or they weren't due yet. No, inevitably, yesterday, the Calvino was due, and another reader had requested it. No extensions.

So today, my major task, fractious and piecemeal, is to finish the Haircut Book. This forthcoming trim now costs me 10p extra in late penalties.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 20th, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC)
Oh! St. Lucy's Home for Girls raised by Wolves! I just heard that on NPR's Selected Shorts. It's a brilliant story, and it worked amazingly well read aloud.
Aug. 20th, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)
The whole collection is worthwhile. It might even improve on being read aloud, however, given how much of its strength is in the beauty of words and sentences.
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:42 pm (UTC)
I so love Calvino... he's just an amazing writer. Traveller didn't blow me away but it was interesting and fun. Cosmicomics though is whimsical and amazing. Invisible cities strange and brilliant. Short stories like "Baron of the Trees" and "the cloven viscount" are the style of Dumas but translated into some strange visionary warped imagination. I love the way he blends a scientific viewpoint with very altered logic to provide a consistent yet skewed whole. Even in translation the beauty of his writing shines through.
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
Yes - you should read Invisible Cities, because it's about Venice. Jeanette Winterson references it in The Passion. I adored If On A Winter's Night A Traveller, too.
Aug. 21st, 2009 02:32 am (UTC)
Your account of The Haircut Book is practically a short story in itself. You just need one more plot twist (or braid).
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )