“The Baron in the Trees” by Italo Calvino

There are all types of writers. Writers who make you think. Writers who make you laugh, or who make you cry. Writers who show you another side of a world you have never considered. Writers who open their hearts to you to expose to you their soul with the hopes that you, and they, will find companionship in loneliness. And there are writers on a mission, who are so passionate about something that they were forced to put a pen to paper in order to lay down, if only for themselves, the lessons learned from a lifetime of living.

Yes, there are all types of writers just like there are all types of readers. Readers who want to lose themselves, or who want to find themselves. Who want to learn something or who want to unlearn a particularly pernicious lie. Readers who want to be entertained, enriched, impassioned, and even – yes sometimes – imprisoned.

Italo Calvino is a writer for writers; a writers writer. Those of us who spend a lot of time reading and writing find that our palates become somehow more refined, like those perhaps of a chef, who can taste the nuances of paprika and thyme and nutmeg in a large steaming bowl of soup. Who are no longer able to stomach the Mac and Cheese of their youth, the Hamburger Helper or the TV dinners – which are in point of fact such an offense to them that they inspire passion and rage. That’s how a writer feels about other people’s stories. It becomes increasingly difficult to enjoy a good book, the more you write. The more you control language, the more you seek to understand tense and nuance and beats and a dialogue that rings true, the more you realize that most writers cannot. Clancy, Brown, Cussler? TV dinner books which we can no longer read, and in point of fact make us angry.

treesCue Calvino – a writers writer. I just finished “The Baron in the Trees”. This was a lovely, at times haunting story about a boy, a lower Italian noble hundreds of years ago, who in that special adolescent age of rebellion against his parents and society adopted as his act of dissonance a life in the trees. A life he never denied, and as the revolt became the norm he realized he knew nothing else and he began to define himself by his life among the branches.

“The Baron” is a simple book, easy to read which means it was not easy to write. It is a book that seeks that one true thing that a novel should, to tell a story. Calvino is a wizard, and his incantations transport us and enrich us and enliven boring moments, filling them with magic. Italo Calvino, a writer’s writer.

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About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright, author of four novels. The most recent is "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps. Other works include "Lords of Misrule", "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio".
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