The opportunity cost of reading Italo Calvino’s “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler” is huge. In the time that it took me to complete it, I could’ve run quite a few errands. But among the many thought-provoking perspectives I gained, this—on books and reading—is one of them:
The object of reading is a punctiform and pulviscular material. In the spreading expanse of the writing, the reader’s attention isolates some minimal segments … that prove to possess an extremely concentrated density of meaning. They are like elemental particles making up the work’s nucleus, around which all the rest revolves. It is through these apertures that, in barely perceptible flashes, the truth the book may bear is revealed, its ultimate substance. Myths and mysteries consist of impalpable little granules, like the pollen that sticks to the butterfly’s legs.
If the book is a “punctiform” (an adjective describing anything formed of or having the appearance of a number of dots, minute and circular) and a “pulviscular” (an adjective describing anything dusty or resembling a fine powder) “material,” it follows then that the truths hidden in it can only be in the shape of grains.
Sidelight: The word “pulviscular” doesn’t exist in the dictionary. It’s likely a coinage of the translator. He could’ve based it on the Italian word pulviscolo, meaning “fine dust.”