Hey all - I don't know if it's time yet to talk about "Castle of Crossed Destinies" by Italo Calvino (That's this month's book, right?)
Anyway, in order to get the discussion started, here are my thoughts:
First of all, it was a really fast read, which was great for me! - I read most of it on the train to NYC... I was a bit confused at first by the method of storytelling - it was a bit choppy, since he had to explain all the tarot cards, etc., but once I had the cards in my head, it flowed a bit more smoothly.
Personally, I think the "Castle" part was easier to follow than the "Tavern" part. The stories in "Castle" were pretty much in rows on the big grid at the end of that part of the book, while the cards were more mixed-up in the "Tavern" Grid. After a while, I just gave up trying to make sense of the "Tavern" cards at all... which was sad, because he tried to make more use of famous stories (Oedipus, Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, etc.), and I think they failed because you couldn't really read them in the cards (or at least I wasn't trying too hard, anyway).
Also, his notes at the end of the book were interesting to see his methodology, but I think it took away from the "mystique" that the stories had themselves. It seemed like he was working on a giant puzzle, whereas, I would've liked to keep thinking that the cards speak for themselves...
Finally, I think I was expecting a more "Rashomon"-esque effect from this book - I thought there would be more interpretations of the "truth" of the stories in the cards. But we only get the Narrator's point of view, and it's his stories that end up getting stuck in my head when I look at the cards. You don't really get the feeling that you can question the stories or see them in another way... This was more implied by the reviews on amazon.com than in the book itself.
Still, I thought it was a pretty fun read - I would love to hear your thoughts!
By the way, does everyone have the same translation of this book? Will that mess things up if we don't?
It's been a very long time since my reading of The Canterbury Tales, but off the top of my head I don't remember any parallels. I'm not familiar with The Decameron. (On a side note, the professor of my course on the Arabian nights has speculated that both of those story cycles might owe something to the Arabian ones.)
I too was surprised to see that we only got the Narrator's point of view.
I didn't end up finishing this novel, by the way; I gave up about half way through the Tavern section, when I was tempted to throw the book against the wall. I was continually frustrated by the feeling that I was reading story summaries rather than actual stories. The only parts that really engaged my attention, in fact, were the interactions between the storytellers (the tiny details we got about the fight over various tarot cards); the quick tales didn't do anything to engage my attention. It made me more aware of what I look for and take pleasure from in stories--a sense of place and time, depth of characterization--all of which were eliminated by the distancing effect of the tarot cards and the narrator.