Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Calvino & Millhauser in The New Yorker

The moon is old, Qfwfq agreed, pitted with holes, worn out. Rolling naked through the skies, it erodes and loses its flesh like a bone that’s been gnawed. This is not the first time that such a thing has happened. I remember moons that were even older and more battered than this one; I’ve seen loads of these moons, seen them being born and running across the sky and dying out, one punctured by hail from shooting stars, another exploding from all its craters, and yet another oozing drops of topaz-colored sweat that evaporated immediately, then being covered by greenish clouds and reduced to a dried-up, spongy shell.

What happens on the earth when a moon dies is not easy to describe; I’ll try to do it by referring to the last instance I can remember. Following a lengthy period of evolution, the earth had more or less reached the point where we are now; in other words, it had entered the phase when cars wear out more quickly than the soles of shoes. Beings that were barely human manufactured and bought and sold things, and cities covered the continents with luminous color. These cities grew in approximately the same places as our cities do now, however different the shape of the continents was. There was even a New York that in some way resembled the New York familiar to all of you, but was much newer, or, rather, more awash with new products, new toothbrushes, a New York with its own Manhattan that stretched out dense with skyscrapers gleaming like the nylon bristles of a brand-new toothbrush.

- from The Daughters of The Moon, by Italo Calvino, on

From the beginning we were prepared, we knew just what to do, for hadn’t we seen it all a hundred times?—the good people of the town going about their business, the suddenly interrupted TV programs, the faces in the crowd looking up, the little girl pointing in the air, the mouths opening, the dog yapping, the traffic stopped, the shopping bag falling to the sidewalk, and there, in the sky, coming closer . . . And so, when it finally happened, because it was bound to happen, we all knew it was only a matter of time, we felt, in the midst of our curiosity and terror, a certain calm, the calm of familiarity, we knew what was expected of us, at such a moment. The story broke a little after ten in the morning...

- from The Invasion From Outer Space, by Steven Millhauser, from last week's

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