Ok, let’s get real here. If on a winter’s night a traveler is a collection of short stories interspersed by second-person vignettes featuring the world’s unluckiest reader desperately trying to finish a book. Any book. Reviews claim it’s “not one novel, but ten,” but what do you call a novel that’s only 10 pages – one chapter – long which ends arbitrarily and abruptly? A short story. The short stories are supposed to be written by different “authors” within the context of the overall novel, but their tones are so similar the idea that they’re all chapters from completely unrelated books by authors from different countries and cultures is wholly unbelievable. From the back cover blurb I get the impression these novelettes are supposed to be examples of different types of literatures, so maybe this book is really impressive if you’re an English professor? (I am not an English professor.) Calvino discusses some interesting ideas about reading, and some of the short stories are fantastic, but by the fifth short story and chapter of pretentious litero-babble I was just irritated. The characters got progressively more unlikable, the gratuitous sex scenes were flat out creepy, and the few times Calvino tried to write from the female reader’s point of view he wound up objectifying her and insinuating that she only existed to fill out the male reader’s story (198). I had really high hopes for this book, and watching them trickle away chapter by disappointing chapter has left me pretty grumpy. The title is great. The beginning is excellent. The last page is cute, and everything between I would just as soon have had stolen out of my hands in some unlikely series of events so I never had to watch those dreams wither and die. And no, I don’t think I’m overreacting. That’s ridiculous. It’s not just a book; it’s never just a book. I’m going to go console myself with some tea and Arabian Nights. At least those nested stories make sense.