calvino in new orleans 

“In short, this is a place that would make you shoot yourself; the only thing to do is act like the Italian professor at the local university, a young man called Cecchetti, about whom I have no idea whether he’s any good as a literary critic, and who in his opinions is very conservative (‘I would not send my children to school with black kids, but not for racial reasons, you know, only for social reasons: the blacks all belong to the lower classes’), but he is someone who does the only intelligent thing to be done to justify the fact of living in America: he plays the stock exchange. Spending the mornings at the local branch of Merrill Lynch, Fenner, Pierce and Smith, following on the ticker-tape the dealings on the New York stock exchange, the fluctuations on the electronic noticeboard, studying the right moment for buying and selling, with the tele-printer in the room displaying the latest news on which to base your dealings, studying the ups and downs of all the major American firms, reading the Wall Street Journal the minute it arrives, that is the only way to live the life of a big capitalistic country in a way that is not passive, it is in fact the real democratic aspiration of America, because even if it does not give you any chance of influencing events, other than speculation on the financial markets, nevertheless it keeps you plugged into the mechanism in its most advanced and active area, and requires constant attention – in this country of frighteningly local and provincial interests – to the whole system.”

(Italo Calvino, “American Diary 1959–1960,” in Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings.)

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