If on a winter's night a traveler
How we cite our quotes:
You try to picture how the world might appear, this world dense with writing that surrounds us on all sides, to someone who has learned not to read. And at the same time you ask yourself what bond there may be between Ludmilla and the Nonreader, and suddenly it seems to you that it is their very distance that keeps them together, and you can't stifle a feeling of jealousy. (5.64)
What's happening here? Okay, you meet Irnerio in the hallways of the university, and he seems to already know you're looking for Ludmilla. Curious. You realize that there is some bond between them and can't help but feel jealous. After all, your bond with Ludmilla is based on the fact that you're both readers, but there's an innocence to Irnerio that might make him more attractive in Ludmilla's eyes. So for you, jealousy is usually rooted in the thought that some rival can offer a woman something you can't. Grrr.
"She's there every day," the writer says. "Every time I'm about to sit down at my desk I feel the need to look at her. Who knows what she's reading? I know it isn't a book of mine, and instinctively I suffer at the thought, I feel the jealousy of my books, which would like to be read the way she reads" (11.36)
Silas Flannery has been watching a woman read. Um, creepy. He tries to work on his own novels, but finds he can't go for long before he must return to his spyglass and watch her. We repeat: creepy. She's always reading and is always rapt at whatever she's reading. This creates a deep jealousy in Flannery, who wishes that he could write a book that would be read the way she reads. He can't do it, though, and this failure only makes his jealousy worse. Womp womp.
Reader, prick up your ears. This suspicion is being insinuated into your mind, to feed your anxiety as a jealous man who still doesn't recognize himself as such. Ludmilla, herself reader of several books at once, to avoid being caught by the disappointment that any story might cause her, tends to carry forward, at the same time, other stories also.... (13.24)
Wait, what suspicion is Calvino talking about? It's the nerdy suspicion you have when you learn that Ludmilla carries on with many different books at the same time so she can hedge her bets when it comes to satisfaction. You begin to wonder if she does the same thing with the men in her life, and it fills you with jealousy. But at this point, you can't really even admit it to yourself.