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Today's Stichomancy for Italo Calvino

The first excerpt represents the element of Air. It speaks of mental influences and the process of thought, and is drawn from Study of a Woman by Honore de Balzac:

"Madame," he said, "can you still believe in an offence I have not committed? I earnestly hope that chance may not enable you to discover the name of the person who ought to have read that letter."

"What! can it be STILL Madame de Nucingen?" cried Madame de Listomere, more eager to penetrate that secret than to revenge herself for the impertinence of the young man's speeches.

Eugene colored. A man must be more than twenty-five years of age not to blush at being taxed with a fidelity that women laugh at--in order, perhaps, not to show that they envy it. However, he replied with tolerable self-possession:--

"Why not, madame?"

The second excerpt represents the element of Fire. It speaks of emotional influences and base passions, and is drawn from De Profundis by Oscar Wilde:

the hard ropes shredded into oakum till one's finger-tips grow dull with pain, the menial offices with which each day begins and finishes, the harsh orders that routine seems to necessitate, the dreadful dress that makes sorrow grotesque to look at, the silence, the solitude, the shame - each and all of these things I have to transform into a spiritual experience. There is not a single degradation of the body which I must not try and make into a spiritualising of the soul.

I want to get to the point when I shall be able to say quite simply, and without affectation that the two great turning-points in my life were when my father sent me to Oxford, and when society

The third excerpt represents the element of Water. It speaks of pure spiritual influences and feelings of love, and is drawn from The Magic of Oz by L. Frank Baum:

if necessary."

Ozma drew out a silver whistle which was attached to a slender gold chain and blew upon the whistle two shrill blasts. The sound, though not harsh, was very penetrating, and as soon as it reached the ears of the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger, the two huge beasts quickly came bounding toward them. Ozma explained to them what the Wizard was about to do, and told them to keep quiet unless danger threatened. So the two powerful guardians of the Ruler of Oz crouched beside the fountain and waited.

Dorothy returned and set the cup on the edge of the fountain. Then the Wizard placed the hickory-nut beside the fountain and said in a


The Magic of Oz
The fourth excerpt represents the element of Earth. It speaks of physical influences and the impact of the unseen on the visible world, and is drawn from Tarzan the Untamed by Edgar Rice Burroughs:

stood straight against his stake. His face was entirely expres- sionless in so far as either fear or anger were concerned. His countenance portrayed bored indifference though both men knew that they were about to be tortured.

"Good-bye, old top," whispered the young lieutenant.

Tarzan turned his eyes in the direction of the other and smiled. "Good-bye," he said. "If you want to get it over in a hurry, inhale the smoke and flames as rapidly as you can."

"Thanks," replied the aviator and though he made a wry face, he drew himself up very straight and squared his shoul- ders.


Tarzan the Untamed