If on a winter's night a traveler
by Italo Calvino
Remember Lotaria, Ludmilla's obnoxious sister? Well, Calvino got his jab at grad students in with her, and now it's time to take a jab at the only people stuffier than grad students: their professors. Calvino's example? Uzzi-Tuzii.
The first impression you get of this guy is that he's a weird, eccentric man who hangs out in a dusty, cramped office that no one tends to visit. The office is filled with "crammed bookshelves on the walls, the illegible names and titles on the spines and title pages, like a bristling hedge without gaps" (5.73). We can't say we haven't seen that before. He's also all over the place when it comes to enthusiasm, often speaking in an "affirmative outburst that immediately fades" (5.80). Generally, this guy's brain seems kind of fried.
But even while he admits to working in "a dead department of a dead literature in a dead language" (5.84), Uzzi-Tuzii turns into a Doberman when someone trespasses on his turf. Think about that pointless debate he has with his colleague, Professor Galligani, about the nationality of a certain author. He might say that he's studying useless stuff, but does he really believe it?
By satirizing the professor, Calvino suggests that even though Uzzi-Tuzii might actually have a sincere love for reading, he is way too caught up in a bunch of details that have nothing to do with the true love of books. He's so involved in the nit-picky academic stuff that Uzzi-Tuzii even seems to disappear into his office, "growing thinner and thinner until he can slip into the interstices greedy for dust, perhaps overwhelmed by the erasing destiny that looms over the object of his studies" (7.10). Academia will do that to you, we guess.
Moral of the story? When you read, it's the stories that matter.