This is my first time reading Calvino’s short story, published in the February 2009 issue of the New Yorker, called The Daughters of the Moon. If you’ve never read it, you can find it free online here:
Preface I love short stories, so even before reading The Daughters of the Moon, I was sure that I was going to love it. Also, I love the New Yorker and Calvino. Great + great + great has to equal something really, really (really) great. Right?
According to Thomas Gold, of Cornell University, the rocks on the moon’s surface were reduced to powder through constant attrition from meteorite particles. According to Gerard Kuiper, of the University of Chicago, the escape of gases from the moon’s magma may have given the satellite a light, porous consistency, like that of a pumice stone.
Calvino begins the short story by quoting two Professors’ research about the surface of the moon. Something I love about Calvino is his ability to be inspired by everything. Somehow this information, which seems uninteresting or trivial to some, was provoking. He has the ability to paint the world in the most awe-inspiring light.
Brief Comments And the short story did not disappoint. Calvino has a way of describing the world so that I am never sure how long the story is. Did I read for awhile, or not at all? He simply flows from word to word, as astounding in each statement as he was in the one before it. I want to start out by showing some beautiful quotes,
I’ve seen loads of these moons, seen them being born and running across the sky and dying out, one punctured by hail from shooting stars, another exploding from all its craters, and yet another oozing drops of topaz-colored sweat that evaporated immediately, then being covered by greenish clouds and reduced to a dried-up, spongy shell.
But their energy now seemed to fade: they moved with uncertain steps, as though, on finding themselves amid those shards of scrap iron, they were suddenly seized by an awareness of their own nakedness; many of them folded their arms to cover their breasts as if shivering with cold
The moon struggled in its straitjacket: a tremor like that of an earthquake caused avalanches of empty cans to slide down from the mountain of refuse. Then all was peaceful again. The now moonless sky was drenched with bursts of light from big lamps.
You could no longer tell which were the old cars and which were the new: the twisted wheels, the rusty fenders were mixed together with bodywork as shiny as a mirror and paint that gleamed like enamel.
The city had consumed itself at a stroke: it was a disposable city that now followed the moon on its last voyage.
Thoughts This short story focuses on the tension between social classes, and between nature and the consumerism that Calvino describes. This society, perhaps it is in the future or on another dimension, is one in which people constantly buy new things; in fact, it sounds like that is their only job. They go out, buy new things, and then are confronted with this ugly image of the moon. When Calvino mentions how they see the moon again, it really makes a mark on the reader. Eventually the narrator follows these daughters of the moon, running naked to save it. As the moon rises once more, all of the people in the city who feel disengaged from society follow, at the same time there is a parade for the wealthy citizens. When the two meet, the society becomes one, following the moon as it dips into the ocean and becomes this new creature, peacock, forest description.
It was really stunning what Calvino could do in such a short story. He takes these two groups of people, at odds with one another, and has them join. They all take on a more rustic shape and follow the moon. It amazes me that Calvino is Italian, because I can imagine the tension that Calvino is describing in New York. It seems at once a celebration of nature, and of all people. But particularly, it seems to be a celebration of outsiders, of the forgotten, like the moon.
Overall a very beautiful short story. It honestly exceeded my already high expectations and it feels trivial to put stars here now (I wish I could insert five beautiful moons!). The link is at the top of the page, read it!