Italo Calvino’s book Mr. Palomar is an exquisite example of the way we overanalyze things to ourselves in order to bring some kind of meaning into our miserable lives. Mr. Palomar often takes action upon what he thinks others would want him to do. He is not living life for himself, but rather, for the people around him. Using “The Cheese Museum,” “Bloody Marble,” and “The Albino Gorilla,” I will try to show how Mr. Palomar overanalyzes things, and why he does this. I will also try and depict how his thoughts affect him as well as the people he encounters throughout the book. The cheese museum is a good example of Mr. Palomar’s overanilytical nature.
Mr. Palomar enters the “cheese museum” with the intention of buying goat cheese. When he enters the cheese store, Mr. Palomar tells us that it is called “Specialites Froumageres,” and he “advises that here is guarded the legacy of a knowledge accumulated by a civilization through all it’s history and geography.”(72) This quote shows that Mr. Palomar holds the utmost respect for the cheese shop and all of its workers because of their expertise knowledge of cheeses. Once in line, Mr. Palomar dreams of the exotic cheeses that he can buy and take home with him. While he is admiring all of the cheeses, Mr. Palomar feels that he must obtain knowledge in order to make a decision. Examining the cheeses, Mr. Palomar thinks to himself that it is not a matter of choosing the right cheese, but of being chosen. Each individual cheese awaits its customer with delicate appeal. Here the cheeses on their platters are enchanting Mr. Palomar. He says, “The cheeses on their platters seem to proffer themselves as if on the divans of a brothel.”(72) Mr. Palomar is comparing the cheeses with prostitutes, because of the way that they seem to offer themselves to each possible customer. Mr. Palomar is drawn to each but will not make a decision until he has proved to himself that he has complete knowledge of all the cheeses. “True knowledge, which lies in the experience of flavors, composed of memory and imagination at once.”(73) Mr. Palomar decides that the first step to fully understanding and appreciating the cheeses is to learn a bit of terminology about them. The way that Mr. Palomar goes about learning the cheeses is a product of his own analytical nature. He takes out his notebook and jots down optical information about each of the cheeses in order to compare them and eventually choose a suitor. Mr. Palomar does not realize that he is next in line and is caught off guard when he is called foreword by one of the girls in pink smocks. He panics, forgetting his dreams of exotic cheeses and all that he has aspired for. Looking around Mr. Palomar falls back on the one that he always gets the most commonly advertised cheese of all, goat cheese. The “cheese museum” is a good example of how Mr. Palomar is a common man who aspires for more, but does not succeed because he is influenced by his peers to act common.
Mr. Palomar, upon walking into a butcher shop, is thrilled by where he finds himself. He thinks, “Butchering wisdom and culinary doctrine belong to the exact sciences, which can be checked through experimentation bearing in mind the habits and techniques that vary from one country to another.”(76) This quote shows that Mr. Palomar has great respect for the butchers and their work. He considers them wise and almost god-like. “Amid the marble slabs of the butcher shop he stands as if in a temple.”(76) He perceives butchery to be like a science and at the same time an amazingly sacrilegious experience. “The white smoked butchers brandish?their great knives for slicing and for flaying.” (77) Here Mr. Palomar is viewing the butchers as men of high respect, with their great tools at their sides. He perceives them to be creators, omnipotent creatures of great wisdom in this temple of marble. While relishing in his joy of meats, Mr. Palomar wonders about how man feeds cattle, butchers prepare it, and man eats it, thus ensuring the survival of the human race. It is weird for Mr. Palomar to think like this because most people would give God credit for the existence and survival of the human race. For some odd reason this butcher shop brings Mr. Palomar “gustatory happiness,” for the time being. “The butcher shop is at once of?joy and of fear, respect?and universal compassion.”(78) In this chapter Mr. Palomar analyzes the butcher shop down to an almost religious state because it stands for the same principles that others hold true in organized religions.
While visiting the zoo, Mr. Palomar’s attention is caught by “a gaze that expresses all the resignation at being the way he is, sole exemplar in the world of a form not chosen.”(81) Upon seeing snowflake, Mr. Palomar immediately shows compassion for the gorilla because it is alone. Maybe Mr. Palomar acts this way because he too is alone in the world. Maybe this is why Mr. Palomar is always overanalyzing things. He feels alone like the albino gorilla, so instead of spending his time with others, Mr. Palomar spends time with himself and his thoughts, trying to compensate for his loneliness. After a short period of watching the gorilla, Mr. Palomar notices that it spends mostly all of it’s time holding an old rubber tire. “In the enormous void of his hours, Capito de Nieve never abandons the tire.”(81) Mr. Palomar feels that he understands the gorilla’s need for something to hold onto. His thoughts are like the gorilla’s tire, something that Mr. Palomar can hold onto while “everything eludes him.” “The female (gorilla) has an old tire as well, but for her it is an object of normal use, with which she has a practical relationship.”(82) Just as Snowflake represents Mr. Palomar, the female gorilla is like Mrs. Palomar. She is a practical animal with practical ideas. Instead of using the tire to hold, she uses it to wash her baby and sit in as well. Just as the tire gives Snowflake’s life meaning, so does the cheese shop and the butcher shop serve Mr. Palomar’s thoughts.
Italo Calvino’s book Mr. Palomar is very interesting and thought provoking. It required unusual canalization through often far off comical situations. Calvino did a good job in presenting the character of Mr. Palomar using overanilization to get across simple thoughts with deeper than usual meanings. It is writing genius that Calvino compares cheese with prostitutes, butchery with a temple, and a gorilla with Mr. Palomar. These symbols hold great insight into the minds of Italo Calvino as a writer and Mr. Palomar as a character.