I reach into my long-lost university studies to recall that his thought is indeed inductive--building "up," rather than working "down." It is also true that Mr. Palomar seems to wish to work from pure observation, as opposed to preconceived cultural notions. (These established social/cultural/political notions do find their way into his thought at times. Much of the humor in the Human Bosom piece appears to be a lampoon of contemporary notions of political correctness and the intention to avoid objectifying others, particularly women.)
I enjoyed much of it, although despite his comments in the "Index," I found there to be little narrative in the book (novel?). Those "2" designated sections that he claims to be narrative seem to have little more narrative than any other section, despite being perhaps somewhat more associated with socio-cultural issues. The characterizations of the chapters that he describes in the Index seem to me less rigidly differentiated than he claims.
I have never been able to read philosophy with pleasure (aside from Plato's dialogues). My interests tend to avoid the abstract, and my attention wanders when prose spends too much time away from the concrete truths of human life. I also can only appreciate description in small doses. I find that I am mostly interested in people. (After all, I started life in the theatre as an actor/director. Theatre is the most human-centered of all the arts. I then became a psychologist--studying human behavior.) It is a measure of Calvino's skill that he managed to maintain my attention as well as he did with a book so distant from my own tastes and interests.
: This is what I think of Mr. Palomar (in my Spanish
: translation it is simpley Palomar):
: Mr. Palomar, married with children, observes the world
: around him. Immediately, that is: Palomar is not
: attentive to political, social, economic or cultural
: affairs, but to concrete persons, animals, plants and
: objects around him. His thought is inductive: he
: reaches abstractions and metaphysical questions,
: instead of building down from them. He approaches
: things with the least possible burden of prejudice, in
: order to observe them, as it were, for the first time,
: just like they are revealed to him.
: The book has three parts, each one divided in three
: chapters rigorously ordered. The first consists only
: of the description of a visual experience. The second
: unfolds as a narration and incorporates
: anthropological, cultural, symbolic, semiotic and
: linguistic elements. The third moves onto the cosmos,
: the infinite, the I and the mind.
: In part 1, "Mr. Palomar's vacation", he
: observes the beach, the sky and the garden.
: "Palomar in the city" puts him on the
: terrace, shops, and the zoo. And "Mr. Palomar's
: silences" touches his travels, society and his
: meditations. Chapter 3.2.3 "The model of
: models" is a systematic description of his
: thought and of how he discovered the falseness of
: Marxism and how he ended up leaving it. It can be said
: that these texts are philosophical essays inasmuch as
: he applies an organized method, coherent and logical,
: to ascend from the particular to the general.
: Palomar reflects on science starting from observation,
: but he does not just dwell on facts, but proceeds
: philosophically on to their implications,
: correspondences and meanings. The reading of a wave
: carries him on to physics and to the dilemma of
: generality-individuality. The sight of a naked bosom
: provokes reflections on manners and human
: relationships. Turtles' lovemaking takes him to sex,
: eroticism and love. There's the mirtle's whistling and
: communication. The infinte grass and the cosmos. Moon,
: planets, stars and dimensions. The belly of a
: salamander, morphology and evolution. Starlings'
: migration and conduct, group connections and the
: behavior of matter. Geese, cheese, meat: suffering,
: hunger and consumism. Giraffes, gorillas and reptiles:
: freedom and biology. Serpents and skulls in Tula
: (Mexico), and a lost slipper: history, truth, remote
: connections between humans. Youth and society; Mirrors
: and death.
: A slow but magnetic book, full of suggestions and
: points for research and reflection, written with a
: subtle humor and a conversational prose.
: --Previous Message--
: I did finish it last hight. I need to be at work in a
: few minutes, so I'll write about it later. Since it
: is so short, my attitude towards it actually improved,
: even though I agree that the most entertaining
: sections were early. One doesn't need the
: conventional elements of story as much for something
: so brief. More later.
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