Capturing a Space

Invisible Cities coverThese days I have been rereading Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. I remember first reading it at fifteen, speeding through each city without much thought to what it meant, finishing it in a day or so, and wondering what the point was. This time, my approach is slow, observant. I read, perhaps, two cities a night… stopping between each one to let the image build up in my mind of the place that Marco Polo is describing.

I am looking for better ways to write scenery and setting. I have been working on a piece for almost a year now (referred to these days just as “the fairy story”) and ended up stuck when trying to describe certain aspects of the fantastical fairy realm. Reading the Calvino has brought me new insights into both how to describe the world I want to create as well as new ideas for world-building details.

Picture me, sitting on my porch, finishing Cities & Memories 2 and then rushing back inside to my notebook muttering “But what about the violins??” as I went. Or today, reading Cities & Memory 4 and then sitting outside reflecting until the mosquitoes began to bite, rethinking the idea of travel around my fairy city not as Point A– Point B but as all the shops and houses and lives that live in between these two spaces.

Of course, then I reread that section and replaced every reference to the town name of Zora with Pittsburgh– a city that similarly is described in its “succession of streets”. Without a straight line in the whole city, and with maps that fail to convey the topographical reality of a city composed of many valleys, Pittsburgh’s secret, like Zora’s

lies in the way your gaze runs over patterns following one another as in a musical score where not a note can be altered or displaced.

But this has nothing to do with the fairy story, it is just homesickness.


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