Yes, it apparently all comes down to Calvino. Yes, I did finish Six Memos for the Next Millenium some time back, but I have not felt that I finished with the book here. I think I shall not finish with Calvino for some time, however. For one thing, I'll be teaching a short-short workshop at the Gold Rush Writer's Conference at the beginning of May using Six Memos, so I'll be digging back into my notes and into the text in preparation before long.
The final chapter is called "Multiplicity." In it Calvino chiefly addresses the novel, its encyclopedic nature, its value as a vehicle for a "network of connections." Good if at times abstract reading, including excerpts from Italian, German and French authors! Then, a swift return to Ovid and Lucretius all in the matter of the first 10 pages. Then onward to more reflection, Henry James, Dante and Dostoevsky, and of course Borges. The novel considered here as a work of infinite possibilities, and Calvino seems to reach toward them all in pulling this concise yet potently expanding last chapter together. Well, go read it.
But here's the quote that stuck, last page of the book, in which Calvino defends against the notion that such movement toward multiplicity in a work of literature is an inevitable movement away from the vortex of the author's self, that the author must somehow surrender a degree of integrity in order to allow for such unbounded expression.
"But I would answer: Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combinatoria of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined? Each life is an encyclopedia, a library, an inventory of objects, a series of styles, and everything can be constantly shuffled and reordered in every way conceivable."
Who are we indeed?