We readers read plenty … but who do we identify with? Who makes us smile? Or sad? and who makes us worry (I think this is a key element when you connect with a character…I can fret for days over a character!)?
I am putting my hand up for Qfwfq in Italo Calvino’s Cosmi-Comics and Time and the Hunter. I love that little particle and all his/her/its adventures…especially with the moon which used to be close enough to the earth that you could row out to sea and climb up to it on a ladder! And on those evenings when the moon is close to the earth and rising out of the Pacific Ocean …just 2 minutes down the road from my home … I can believe it was once true and that Qfwfq actually was up there for a bit!
For me, it was a natural progression from the Moomintrolls when I was little, to hobbits to classic Star Trek, Dr Who and Lost in Space once TV entered the house, to Calvino’s work. Mind-bending but still human.
I often think of Qfwfq (I roughly pronounce it kwifke – the nearest I can get!) when confronted with hard to understand science and harder to understand humans! The Halon Collider is a case in point – who understands why all those scientists are bothering to find a missing particle, or who the heck is mad enough to be funding the enormous amounts of cash for this remote pursuit! The thing is BIG really BIG to find something so small that they are almost, quite, nearly possibly believing they might have spotted it zooming by in a nano-second!
Perhaps they have read Calvino’s tales – part fairy story, part adventure, part myth, part philosophy, part science – and Qfwfq is what they are looking for?
All writers should read Calvino. Whether you ‘get it’ or not doesn’t matter. The joy is in reading a brilliant writer and thinker, who makes you very conscious of the rabbit hole you are being led down, and having your mind stretched and squeezed and bent by a story … and still being left to believe the story might actually have happened … well, for just for a moment (like those scientists and their collider in the mountain! Now there’s a fairy story!).
Isn’t that what writing is all about?