If on a winter's night a traveler

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An image presented alongside the Wikipedia article on If on a winter's night a traveler, which you look at for a while before continuing to read the main text.

Congratulations! You have decided to read the Wikipedia article on the book If on a winter's night a traveler (Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore), a novel published in 1979 by Italo Calvino. To get here you forced your way through the thick barricade of Wikipedia entries on completely unrelated topics, ignoring the massed forces of the Articles on Topics About Which You Know Nothing and Care Even Less, pushing past the glowering acres of Articles You Feel a Vague Inclination to Read, Perhaps This Sunday. This having been done, you find yourself assaulted by the footmen of the Articles Regarding Subjects You Pretend to Have Expertise In But In Fact Do Not, who advance upon you together with the Articles On Something Everyone Else Understands Thus Leaving You With A Vague And Sinking Feeling Of Guilt, and the Articles On Subjects You Would Love To Understand Better But Unfortunately You Are Not Immortal. Having eluded these perils, you reach the phalanxes of:

  1. the Articles On Things You've Been Really Meaning To Get Better At;
  2. the Articles Whose Subject Matter You Once Knew, And Now Wish To Recall;
  3. the Articles On Things That Seem Rather Useful;
  4. the Articles About Things You Need To Do Relatively Soon;
And having reduced this embattlement to a more manageable number, you come upon the nigh-unassailable citadel of the Articles Whose Content Is Directly Relevant To Things You Have Thought About Today, whose stout defenders you manage at least to reduce by defining a hierarchy covering your desires for new information.

All this simply means that having decided to exercise your curiosity about the contents of the Wikipedia article on If on a winter's night a traveler, you have navigated to this page and begun to read. You derive a certain pleasure from reading a Wikipedia article that you have never read before, and it's not just the article that pleases you but the novelty also, the new and fresh feeling of watching the colour of the hyperlink text change (and at once, having done so, some of that youthful bloom of the unvisited webpage is lost, in the rapid autumn of the Internet). You feel always the pang of disappointment when the article, having promised true newness, fails to deliver, is merely a re-tread of an idea you already knew or a page visited and remembered. Let's see how it begins this time.

At your desk, you squint irritably at your screen, which is too small, and which you have been promising yourself will be replaced for several months now. You scroll quickly to the end of the article; thankfully, it is not too long. The Internet has robbed you of the ability to read through non-fragmentary text, in its pixelled quantisation of all your time.[Citation needed] It is now difficult for us to rediscover that feeling of continuity, save perhaps in thirty-thousand-word treatises on Optimus Prime.

Reading the article, you are at first surprised, then annoyed, to realise that it is not remotely satisfactory. The article is poorly and inconsistently written, and the author has failed to maintain impartiality throughout. Irritated, you click through to the talk page, and find yourself a bit lost, a person thrown suddenly and involuntarily into a muddle of conversations for which he has no context or explanation. Navigating back to the article itself, you find with some displeasure that some vandal has removed all useful information from its body, replacing the text instead with a juvenile pastiche of the book If on a winter's night a traveler, by Italo Calvino. You begin to read with significant annoyance, but are quickly sidetracked by an entry on post-structuralism, and perhaps on sober reflection you prefer that the original page is now lost to you, it is the lingering mystery of having brushed this close to something and yet not knowing what it is.

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