An Introduction

Our Invisible Cities is a group blog. The format of a blog, much like the format of a written letter, enables us to thoroughly and presentably work on our ideas. The format is also suitably informal such that we are not expected to provide bulletproof and tediously thorough arguments on them (not that tediousness is a nettle easily avoided). In other words, we hope to put up our perspectives on things that strike us, but like most bloggers, know that these are merely incomplete, necessarily imperfect, reflections. Reflections that are bound to be improved by debate and discussion on them.

We hope that the writing will be thoughtful, engaging, and perhaps even illuminating.  The novices of writing that we are, however, we would request that you – the reader – graciously note our errors and generously excuse the times that we will likely fall short of our task. Our Invisible Cities aims to be a lesson in writing and thinking for its contributors, and if it goes well, for its readers too.

We have named the blog after the magnificent novella by Italo Calvino. In the book, Calvino imagines a conversation between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo. The latter offers enigmatic, and poetic descriptions of the cities that he has seen while Kublai Khan interjects periodically to question Polo’s sincerity and the surreal cities that he speaks of. The conversations and Calvino’s vivid retelling of Kublai’s travels make for compelling reading.

For our purposes the novella models a form of dialogue, a richness of discourse, and a respect for the variety of human life entirely apposite for our time.

On pg. 74 of the Vintage (1997) edition, the following exchange occurs between the interlocutors:

Marco Polo describes a bridge, stone by stone.

“But which is the stone that supports the bridge?” Kublai Khan asks.

“The bridge is not supported by one stone or another,” Marco answers, “but by the line of the arch that they form.”

Kublai Khan remains silent, reflecting. Then he adds: “Why do you speak to me of the stones? It is only the arch that matters to me.”

Polo answers: “Without the stones there is no arch.”

We take from this exchange an ambition  to speak of the stones that make up our way of life, and examine the kind of arches that these stones form to make our bridges walkable, and of the misplaced and worn stones, that can make our bridges precarious. To this end, we hope to leave no stone unturned: offering commentary on books we read, films we have seen, music we listen to, intriguing moments of personal experience and, of course, public affairs.


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