Two things I'm wondering right now as I sit to put together my thoughts and questions for Tamara:  do all the cities' names have an applicable significance--are they the framework, like a poem's title, for understanding the contents; and  did Calvino work from some sort of map, and we're just not getting all the directions? I'd love to be able to follow the geography and paths of Marco Polo's travels.
- The name Tamara is fairly mundane compared to those of the previous cities. Dominantly Russian and Hebrew, it has connections (particularly via its masculine counterpart--typical) to "palm tree" and "spice," yet this prosaic etymology seems superficially still to fit. The stuff here is, ostensibly, pretty simple. The type of this city is "Signs," an oft-used label of deconstructionists (think Barthes and Derrida) for what a word is in relationship to what it represents (for example, the word "computer" is the sign for the machine I'm currently holding on my lap). But in the opening paragraph, Calvino shifts that use of "Signs"--and this brings us again, tangentially at least, to Eco--to the more general issue of signs across systems, called semiotics. Calvino's examples are the paw print for the tiger, a marsh for a water course, and the hibiscus for Spring. So what is Tamara a sign for? (Or is this a non-issue as we're not even to the city yet? Personally, I don't think so. I think it's just a warm-up--an anticipation on the part of the traveler. You?)
- These signs, however, in the city seem, at least nearly always, to be metonymous or synecdochical for--related to--whatever they represent. The deconstructionists would claim, I think obtusely, that it doesn't make any difference what the sign is. Why not a paw print for Spring or scales for the barracks? So what about the lions, towers, dolphins, and stars?
- There's a system of signs--or maybe hierarchy: scissors for the tailor, the silk for the wealthy, the custom clothing for social status (inelegant examples--sorry). Where does the ladder end?
- "Your gaze scans the streets as if they were written pages."
- "And while you believe you are visiting Tamara...": Every city so far has not been what it at first appears to be, and this gives each city--I'm not quite sure how to say it--almost a sense of non-being. Tamara, for example, isn't really a city but just a book of signs telling you what to think and see and feel. Though I hate to use this example, it's really just a matrix (yeah, like the movie) upon which something or someone populates the illusion. Of course, what's the difference between this and the "real" thing?
- Examine the format of the vignette: it starts with a gradual increase in the frequency of signs until within the, I guess, city limits it's dense and heavily layered, and then at the end, as we leave, the mass of signs decreases, lessens, though the traveler's eye (our eye) keeps looking for signs--out of habit, desperation, or because that's just how the human mind works?