Place: Venice

Don’t Trip. “Sidewalks,” by Valeria Luiselli—in Review

A look at Valeria Luiselli’s excellent essay collection Sidewalks, translated by Christine MacSweeney for Coffee House Press

Prose and I are having a moment.

I don’t mean this in the glamorously ephemeral, André-Leon-Talley sense; I mean this in the emotionally fraught, tightlipped-dinner-party sense. I just can’t seem to enjoy it as much as I have in past twenty-odd years of my life. I find myself bored by the contrivances of exposition; I roll my eyes at narrative inventiveness, and quote-unquote characters and their grievances simply exhaust me.

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In Divisible Cities: A Q&A with Dominic Pettman

Asymptote catches up with a past contributor whose new book was released this summer.

How is In Divisible Cities related to Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities?

I would call it a primary inter-text. For twenty years or so I have been enchanted by this kind of genre, restrained, aphoristic magical metafiction, or whatever we might call it, including Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams. But Calvino’s book really inspired me in terms of its condensed, crystalline approach, concerned with what Bachelard calls “the poetics of space.” Some critics believe that all of these different cities in Calvino’s book are in fact the author’s beloved Venice, in various imaginative iterations. Rather than celebrate one single city in various disguises, however, I wanted to trace the connections or song-lines between different ones; since no city is completely foreign in the 21st century. So the writing strategy was a series of postcards from different places, which hopefully add up to a single holographic image—like a jig saw puzzle.

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