UMBRiA—ℜEading italO CALvino ' digging sWine & tRuffles & sElf-reFEreNCing a hermitAGE LiBrAryrinth within the many-wor[L]ds interpretation


un altr° disCrete confeSSional enCore i forgeT wHere in umBRiA

yoU could say If on a winter's night a traveler [Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore] by Italo Calvino is a bunch of stories—or at lEast the BEginnings of a dozen o so «stories»—within a 10-storied book obje't | but it's e[Qually about the TE]LLING of these «stories» | that is ' it in[cludes ∀ functional spec to] the elevator that will get you from 1 fl°°r to aNEitHer | like in Being John Malkovich [whose mug we saw plastered all over Umbria as he's in some local theatre produzione] th∃ℜe are [for ∀ll wHole floors] 1/2-stories to Calvino's build[ing—wedged in be]tween ∃∀ch stor[e]y ||

[a «story» in ITALiano is a racconto but a STor[e]y is a piano | a piano in ITALian is ∀ lot of cose—{ your KITchen counter | the fl°°r of your build[ing | a mount]ain plain o plateau | qualcosa flat o smooth | a plan | qual[cosa easy | to do qual]cosa slow[ly o quiet]ly } | a PIANO piano [a heavy obje't in fumetti] is a pianoforte | the type of stor[e]y a piano is is nØt = that tYpe of story | nor = [this] type of story ] ||

& RE:gardeless of cosa you call it ' my take on what it is Italo Calvino is doing in If on a winter's night a traveler is he's DEMOnstratING that story is irregardless & to prove it he starts 10 stories & nEVEr fINishes tHem beCause what's the point of fINishing | yoU don't FINish a book—a book FINishes yoU | you don't FINish an objet d'art—an objet d'art fINishes you |  that is if it's «ART» other[Wise it's come un build]ing a ho[Use o a ho]rse sTable | trUE books & art are obje'ts that doNØT ∃Xist & that use yoU to get into this worLd without yoU eve(n) k[nowing it | CAL]vino preSSes ∀ll the ele[vator butt]ons ma only gets off on the 1/2-stories in be[tween to deSCRIBE the be]ginnings of what's on the discrete fl°°rs ||

& in ogni modo «story» is aPEN[na an eX[cuse for a writer] to write [a book] & an ex[cuse for a reader] to read [a book] so they can easily u[n|d]derstand it & say cosa [it] is a]BOUT if askED ||

the story i'm riccounting to yoU [here] is about our giro QUESTo finE settimana passato to the Umbria regione of Italy | [this] story has no releVa[le]nce ℜeallY to anY 1 eXcept j & i & forse anY 1 che potrebbe visit[are] la region[e] in qualcosa there could be use[ful INFOrmazioni to glee[n about w]here to stay & cosa to eat & cosa to see | if t]here were ¶ITfallS i would mention dem anche there are no ¶ITfallS in UMbria | eXcept forse dem cracy italian drivers ||

yoU sh[ould ∀Lways k]now in che cosa state entrando whi[ch is to say k]now the hyStorical etymoLOGy of eve[ry word] yoU use:

ORIGIN late 16th cent [deNoting a PHantom o gHost]: from Latin LITerally ‹shade› o ‹shadow› [see also umbrAGE] | [g]astronomical ¢ense of ‹shadow cast by the earth o moon during an eClipse› is first reCorded c.1670 | the meaning of ‹an uninvited guest acCompanying an invited 1› is from c.1690 ||

[i've been into shad[ows of late]ly | i find my[self reg[u]arding them rather than the obje't casting t]hem | like in this VIDayo i saw on the new Montevidayo site [along[side some awe]some aniMAL hair hats]—if only ∀ll fashi[c]on sHows could be like [this]:

ma come [ital]O CALvino i'm getting off t[Rack be]fore i FinISH the stor[e]y—i'm suPPosed to be telling yoU why yoU're [here]—[th[is] A WEB]bed page] & for whateveR reaSon yoU are REading [this] | what i'm doing & GOiNG to do [here] is talk aBout [Italo] CALvino & other reFlections on self-referential writ[h]ing & art in GENEral & sHow you some imAGEs i CaptURED whilst j & i were in UMBRiA this past weekend wHereIN i was REading CALvino & starting to thINK the[se th]OUghts ||

loGISTically che cosa abbiamo fatto was rent a car [my 1st time driving in Italy] | we had to walk up to Via Veneto to get the car as 90% of Rome is on vacateon | from tHere we drove up to Assisi which is ℜeallY not that far from here (0, 0) | Assisi sembrato come il disneyland di provincial italian villages a me—at least coming from R(0, 0)me everYthing seemed maniCur[at]ed & cLean & calCULated & reFURbished | not that i necessarily like cose sporche ma i like when things feel ℜeal ||

driving up to Assisi is Ascenic but dificil to CaptURE whilst. yoU're driving [at 150 km/hr & italiani impazzati are tailgating & running yoU of the road for going troppo lento] o when yoU are IN Assisi [here's a pic of Assisi Asscene from perHaps a nearby hill & here's j's pics quale sono better than mine] | Assisi is famous most[ly for St. Francis who was born] tHere & built a church & talked to uccelli o qualcosi | some peeps might feel spiRitual o qualcosa going into the church there | all i felt was molested by annoYing tourists & babystrollers & the monk on the intercom who had to say «silenzio» everY 15 seconds & tell people «NO PHOTOS» & i was feeling a bit like CALvino amidST. it ∀ll:

«It's all very well for me to tell myself there are no provincial cities any more and perhaps there never were any: all places communicate instantly with all other places, a sense of isolation is felt only during the trip between one place and the other, that is, when you are in no place. I, in fact, find myself here without a here or an elsewhere, recognized as an outsider by the nonoutsiders at least as clearly as I recognize the nonoutsiders and envy them.»

Assisi alley

alley in Assisi asScene thrU a polarizer


Assisi Umbria

Umbria[n sky aS]Scene from Assisi


Assisi bell tower

Assisi bell tower

If on a winter's night a traveler ALTernates betwine chapters of the BEginnings of these fictitious novels [each by a different fictitious author] preceded by chapters [told in 2nd person] prepping yoU [the reader] on how to read [the overARChing story aRound the cirCUMstances of the WRITING of the novel | these exposés on] the process of reading & writing sia che cosa ispirato me più ma just as in physics it's necessary to have THEorists & EXPerimentalists ||

«"Reading," he says, "is always this: there is a thing that is there, a thing made of writing, a solid, material object, which cannot be changed, and through this thing we measure ourselves against something else that is not present, something else that belongs to the immaterial, invisible world, because it can only be thought, imagined, or because it was once and is no longer, past, lost, unattainable, in the land of the dead..."»

[of course what i'm offering here are TRANSlations of CALvino paSSages as i read tHem]

aftER Assisi we [back]tracked down toWards the town of Spoleto | then we cont.inued up this hill over[looking Spoleto on the road] to Monteluco to some hermitage-cum-hotel [Eremo delle Grazie] that was founded by some hermit friars in the 5th century A.D. & subSEQuently was a hideout for Michelangelo in 1556 & was then evidently occupied by Napoleon's army in 1806 [who scribBLed on the walls in spots] | in 1918 it was bought by a Jewish dentist [Professor Arrigo Piperno] whose patients included Pope Pius XII & Mussolini | during WWII Mussolini tipped him off that the Germans were coming allowing Prof. Piperno to hide out at the hermitage | così è un posto with some hiSTOR[e]Y yoU could say | there's a maZing cavernoUS wine CELLar carved into the li[mestone & the maze of rooms were in f]act «cells» for the hermit friars | ma the best room is the LIBrary of book obje'ts cullected by Cardinal Cybo who also evident[ly lived t]here | here's a sort of driving-to & walk-thru VIDeo of the hermitAGE & surrounding umBRiAn sites:



spoleto bridge at night

bRidge sPanning Spoleto with the hill our hermitage reSided on

riconoscente loro LIT the bRidge & didn't cLose it AFTer hours as 1 notte CAMmINatO attraverso to have dinner & then CAMmINatO indietro dopo ||

indice bridge

sum sort of print on the wall at hermitage i alREady alluded to in dailies


grottoesque wine cellar

grottoesque vino CELLar


hermitage hall runner

benvenuto all'eremo delle grazie

questo tipo che we met at a dinner party in Rome [Max Brunelli] was the 1 who tipped us off aBout this place [& he warned us to aVoid touristY Assisi] | if yoU are interested in photography & seeing the ℜeal Italy & whatnot Max does these photography tours of Umbria that seem cool—yoU dovreste provare ||


hermitage library

piano[forte] in the hermitage LiBrAryrinth


hermitage book shelves

shelf upon shelf stacked deep


papal document

some sort of papal  [Gregorio XVI] writing on the wall


birds on a limb

birds on a branch from the book «Animali Viventi»

through one of his fictitious narrators CALvino says: «the author of every book is a fictitious character whom the existent author invents to make him the author of his fictions.» & «since for him artifice is the true substance of everything, the author who devised a perfect system of artifices would succeed in identifying himself with the whole.» | ... speaking of IDentity—the subje't of my last post | yoU [the writer] can try to DistANCE yoursELF from your narrative ma it's still yoU—inevitabl[y yoU are] proje'ted ||

footfucking the sun

autoritratto del mio piede nel cielo


Spoleto, Italy

Spoleto as sceen from the hermitage

i should mentION that il cielo di UMBRiA er a cauldron of cuRRents & cLoud format[IONs the air charged] with QUAlcosa we couldn't SEE ||

Hermitage greenhouse

life in in the glasshouse


gear box orologic

orologic gear bo[x sTICKing cameRA inside grandfather cLock to SEE how it fUNCtioned]

quale knØt to say [all these personages are] yoU & ∀ll the[se personages BEcome the] reader & ∀ll the hermits that inHabited this HERMitage became absorbed by us |  in CALvino's parole:

«I'm producing too many stories at once because what i want for you is to feel, around the story, a saturation of other stories that i could tell and maybe will tell or who knows may already have told on some other occasion [ ...] In fact, looking in perspective at everything i am leaving out of the main narration, i see something like a forest that extends in all directions and is so thick that it doesn’t allow light to pass: a material, in other words, much richer than what i have chosen to put in the foreground this time, so it is not impossible that the person who follows my story may feel himself a bit cheated, seeing that the stream is dispersed into so many trickles, and that of the essential events only the last echoes and reverberations arrive at him; but it is not impossible that this is the very effect i aimed at when i started narrating...»

dying sunflower field

bowing sunflower field


Umbrian forest

lo[st in Italo's fore]st


mystical creek near Norcia

a creek near Norcia [photo is not doctor[ed—yes the water was a glow]ing & steaming]

now we have departed the hermitage & are driving about on back roads after going thrU a 5 km tunnel thrU a mountain that took us to the next valley over | we s[topped in a p]lace called Norcia | the guidebook we were following was The Food of Italy by the aptly named Waverly Root | j would read to i'driving aBout what towns & regions were known for cui foods | Norcia is famous for it's pig-products & black truffles [tartufi] & also little lentils [lenticche][i'm cooking up some as we speak] | we also brought back some truffles & truffle oil & wild boar salami | we didn't have much luck eating in o around Norcia though—it seems italians were flocking from all over Italy to pork out on porchette & procini & tartufi & they had the HINDsight to make reservations | we finally found a place that gave us the last tavola & it was near the kitchen door & a waitress came out & dumped a plate full of oily eggplant down j's back & didn't offer the slightest word in apology so [after being ignored for 5 more minutes—j simmering in oil] we walked out—j with a ruined shirt | we sampled plenty of swine & truffles elsewhere in the region though cooked up in all sorts of yummy ways ||

San Lorenzo Madonna

Madonna in San Lorenzo [Norcia]


swine products & dude with feathered hair

displayed swine products & some italian dude whose hair was so perfectly feathered
i was wondering whether he might be a Vice DOn't


Norcia swine

more botched swine taxidermy & butchered pigs [that is supposed to encourage yoU i think]


church & lion Norcia

polarized lion prowling under church in Norcia

after Norcia we took some other back roads past all these other quaint hilltop villages & scenic views looping back a different way to Spoleto & inStead of sTopping at our hermitage we cont.inued up the road to the top of Monteluco & then got out & hiked around some & found an abandoned castle & lots of trees & flowers & stuff ||

font-in candlesticks

font & candlesticks in [some church in some village i forget where in] UMbria


monteluco umbria

on the summit of Monteluco

CALvino got me to thinking some about the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics [that views the universe as a sort of infinitely-branching tr∃∃ whereIN ever(y) possible outCome is just as ℜeal as the 1 ℜealized by yoU o i inStead of a single enveLoping uniVerse that kills ∀ll other possible outcomes with each interval of time t | anch∃ ℜeally it's the «many-worlds interpretation» in reVerse [wHereIN da 10 stories conVerge to [SPOILER ALERT] 1 singularity—name[ly a para]graph inSpired by 1001 Arabian Nights SEQuenced from the titles from each chapter:

«If on a winter's night a traveler, outside the town of Malbork, leaning from the steep slope without fear of wind or vertigo, looks down in the gathering shadow in a network of lines that enlace, in a network of lines that intersect, on the carpet of leaves illuminated by the moon around an empty grave—What story down there awaits its end?—he asks, anxious to hear the story.»

this holoGraphic paraGraph contains ∀LL the INFOrmation of the whole book & each title [making up the paraGraph] enCompasses the chAPTer [& if you want to drill further each word contains information about the sentence & each letter to the word just like you can IDentify an organism from a uniQUE snippet of their DNA] ||


hermit writer's block

hermit THEONAS back at the hermitage


autobiography of the U.S.

the book in the middle is «Autobiografia degli Stati Uniti»
though who was AUTHORized to write an autoBIOgraphy of the U.S. non lo so


chameleon spread

chameleon spRead [in «Animali Viventi» which i was tempted to steal but refrained]

CALvino also got me to thinking more aBout self-reference which at this poin(t) in time might be worthy of BEing a genRe into itSelf [apart from postmodernism which has tried to absorb all that is self-referential & self-reflexive & basically any other literary DEvelopment in the past 100 years rendering it vaguely saturated & deVOID of meaning] | If on a winter's night a traveler was written in 1979 beFore most authors [with the eXception of Borges & Beckett] were bold enough to step outside of the books they were writing o bold enough to ask the read[er to step out]side of the book & see it for what it was | forse CALvino was 1st chi sa at least so DIREct[ly in 2nd per]son unaFrayed to adMit his role as author—that possib[ling the book was in & of it]self greater than «he» | some L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets were around perhaps BEfore CALvino but i'm not sure who was speaking so blunt[ly in f[a|i]ct]ion or verse at risk of full disClosure of the man behind the curtain of TEXT | eve(n) as far back as Lucretius writers [poets mostly] were writing about writing & including themSelves & were letting in on their COGnizance of the fAct but i'm talking aBout qualcosa differente ℜeal[ly i'm talking a]Bout when an author in a narrative refers to h[im|er]SELF in the conTEXT of the narrative obje't itSELF & now that i think of Cervantes deFinite[ly beat]s CALvino to the punch with Don Quixote & yoU could say Don Quixote jousted open this 4th wall for certain but it was still fictional story-telling & CALvino goes even deeper in deConstructing this windmill & blowing it oPEN eve(n) wider questioning this ridiculous preTense of story-TELLing & susPENsion of disbelief | we're all adults here & kNow [though if the book o movie is good enough we often forgeT] there is a writer writing the book & tHere are people right off the set of the movie so why not just speak dire[ctly to the audie]nce?

when i think of self-referential films Woody Allen comes to my mind 1st | if he was not 1st he definitely perfected the art in my mind | & of course Fellini | & more recently the aforementioned Charlie Kaufman is taking self-reference to new levels enough to make your head hurt | in fine art of course Magritte infamously declared «ceci n'est pas une pipe» but i'm thinking beyond that to as Lee Krasner infamously said: «Pollock—you've blown it wide open» | what Jackson Pollock blew open i think was this 4th wall of painters TRYING to paint things & reducing himSelf to someone that was just slinging paint on a canvas | in music i think self-reference is EMbodied in the feedback of Sonic Youth & other noise bands—noise for the sake of noise feeding back on itself into snake-eating-tail loops of self-perpetuating beauty | & of course there's Art Brut's self-referential [if ironic] anthem: Formed A Band & in a synchronistic postmodern coincidence as i'm writing this [on shuffle] Bauhaus is singing to me [from Spirit ]:

The stage becomes a ship in flames
I tie you to the mast
Throw your body overboard
The spotlight doesn't last

I could be with you
Or waiting in the wings
Lift your heart with soaring song
Cut down the puppet strings

I may tap you on the shoulder
And whisper "go" in red
Strip your feet of lead my friend
Strip your feet of lead
Call the curtain
Raise the roof
Spirits on tonight
We love our audience



hermit ID

perhaps a letter from a hermit who stayed at the hermitage in 1925


hermitage library stacks

another room full of books


gustav klimt madonna

madonna [inspiration to Gustav Klimt perhaps][from Vatican art book]


madonna titty sucking

more creepy baby Klimt inspiration [from Vatican art book]

abbiamo rinviato all'eremo per un siesta then went back out to Spoleto walking across the aqueducting bRidge to get there | we ended up on some road that circumNavigated the hilltop below the castle which was turned into a prison for many years & only recently was restored back to [more o less] it's original state ||

2 kings spoleto

more gold-leafed art [not from a book but the museum in Spoleto castle]


ceiling & window in Spoleto castle

ceiling & window in Spoleto castle


Spoleto Umbria

shady streets of Umbria [Spoleto]


hexagonal well arches

hexagonal well & arches in Spoleto castle

to further quote CALvino as it relates to our Umbrian flâneuring & CALvino imPosing drama on the scene to lure yoU further:

«As in a kaleidoscope, the hypothesis I would like to record in these lines break up and diverge, just as before my eyes the map of the city became segmented when I dismantled it piece by piece to locate the crossroads where, according to my informers, the trap would be set for me, and to establish the point at which I would get ahead of my enemies so as to upset their plan in my own favor.»


bridge spoleto

aqueduct/bridge leading from the castle of Spoleto the hermitage to where we were staying


roman theatre Spoleto

Roman theatre in Spoleto


Spoleto alley

Spoleto alley


shady arches Umbria

shady arches in Umbria


Spoleto's Duomo

Spoleto's Duomo

& then we woke up & drove home a different way past lake Trasimeno [where Hannibal killed some 15,000 Romans on it's shores before he pressed on to Spoleto only to be stopped in his tracks] & then into Tuscany to Montepulciano [now made famous as the site where Twilight: New Moon was filmed] & we stopped at some wineries & bought back a bunch of wine [of the Nobile variety—not to be confused with Montepulciano d'Abruzzo which comes from the Abruzzo region [& Montepulciano refers to the type of grape]]


Twilight New Moon town

Montepulciano [looking down on piaza where the finale of New Moon was shot]



little car big wall [Montepulciano]


Montepulciano view

view from top of Montepulciano

& a final quote from CALvino:

«It is only through the confining act of writing that the immensity of the nonwritten becomes legible, that is, through the uncertainties of spelling, the occasional lapses, oversights, unchecked leaps of the word and the pen. Otherwise what is outside of us should not insist on communicating through the word, spoken or written: let it send its messages by other paths.»


crow skull

crow & skull [from «Animali Viventi»]




(©omPostED) 2010 Derek White