The Complete Cosmicomics - Italo Calvino, William Weaver, Tim Parks

In this comprehensive collection of Italo Calvino’s hybrid series, The Complete Cosmicomics (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24), the happy-go-lucky narrator is present at the creation of the universe, survives the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period, and spends the better part of cosmic history gambling on the outcomes of random events. And his name is unpronounceable: Qfwfq. Short punchy sections front-load this collection, with “Distance from the Moon,” “A Sign in Space,” and especially “Without Colours”; these stories lead off with an exuberance that filters through the volume, even as Calvino’s writing and storytelling matures into more elaborate conceptual prose (one story takes place on the cellular level, and another unfolds in a single instant of time). Consistent first to last, however, are the comical, naive personas that, in a way, undercut the scientific and cosmic themes. Almost everything is personified, and almost nothing lacks an engaging, slightly bumbling nature, evoking the randomness with which cosmic events take place. As a whole, Calvino’s cosmology is creative and wondrous, unlike anything else you’ll read.