I say this is what happened:
Italo Calvino was suffering from a writer's block. He would start a novel, get it to its first curve and abandond it before the resolution. A few months later he would start another with a similar result. Finally, his publishers got impatient because it had been years since the last novel and they said:
'Italo, get your shit together! We need a new book. Now!'
Italo panicked and did the only thing he could think of. He glued all his failed attempts together and delivered it to the publisher
'Here it is. My new novel'.
'Er.. Italo, but those are just beginning of some 10 different books...'
'Yeah. I know. Don't you get it? It's postmodernism!!'
'You know, I am playing with the concept of the author. It is basically all about the reader now. The author has become obsolete. It is the reader that creates the work and the author is not even necessary!'
'Ah.. I see... Do we still need to pay you then?'
'Yah. Will mail you the invoice.'
I have read most of the reviews on here and I agree with all of them, with the bad ones and the good ones all the same. If you think this is contradictive and not possible, think again. And one word for you: deconstructionism.
There is no doubt that Calvino is (was) one hell of a writer and he plays with his poor readers like a cat plays with a mouse. This book was an absolute trip and really gets you dizzy. It might or might not be a coincidence that a day after finishing it I caught some weird bug that made me throw up for two days straight.
Now I am going to talk about one aspect that none of the reviewers have pointed out. It is so fucking sexist, like HELLO! All the female characters in each one of the novels as well as the main novel (that puts the novels together) have all the charecteristics of the Other. The female reader is actually called The Other Reader for crying out loud. Even when for a short moment the narration is switched to make the female reader the subject, it is only so that the male reader can run around her flat and describe her and define her – and check this, she is NOT EVEN THERE. Calvino makes her/me the subject for a few pages and she is not even there. She is forever passive. All the female characters are more or less passive. They are also mysterious, intagible and ethereal and their actions usually make no sense for the subject of the narrative (be it the You from the main narrative, or the various 'I's from the sub-novels). This kind of stuff really gets me. Especially since I read 'The Other Sex' by Simone de Beauvoir.
So Calvino, deconstruct that old as the world archetype, why don't you!!! (Only you can't because you are dead).