Forgive me if I’m wrong (it’s not impossible) but I’d always treated Tosca Calbirro’s efforts to see ‘beyond the book’ as symptomatic of a move towards less sacred/exclusive spheres. This is the writer, after all, who took ‘literature into the lavatory: quite literally’; printing his novels onto cheap toilet paper, to reach ‘not only the common reader, but the commonest‘. I always thought, in short, that Calbirro was someone who liked to get his hands dirty: to make his books available for all in new and exciting ways.
There has evidently been a shift in his thinking. Calbirro’s new work continues to be printed in ‘new and exciting ways’ – but is it still available to all? The toilet paper novels were, I believe, as cheap as a book can be. His latest novel, printed on a finely made dress and priced in the thousands, represents a little less value for money. One can only imagine that few copies will be sold, let alone worn. The sense of stunt seems to trump the worthiness of the central concept on this occasion.
Of course, I can’t claim to have read the work in question. Then again, who has? Gabriella Signifilia, who first modelled the dress, remains strangely silent on the merits of the work. She says that she is ‘no critic’, but her embarassed smile tells a different tale. She has not read the dress she wears. Nor has Pedro Ganz, the dressmaker. As for those who saw Signifilia on Sunday night, there was only time to glimpse a clutch of sentences before the actress moved on. I doubt she stayed still enough at the afterparty for anything more than this.
Calbirro’s new work has had an audience, therefore, but it still awaits a proper reader. One can only wonder who that will be, and how many will follow in his/her wake. More importantly – will it be worth it? Under An Unquiet Sun was refreshingly disposable; since then Calbirro has moved into more exclusive spheres. I, for one, am not sure I can follow him there…