Books: New Territories UNDER THE JAGUAR SUN

by Italo Calvino Translated by William Weaver Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 86 pages; $12.95

"In devising a story, therefore, the first thing that comes to my mind is an image," explained Italo Calvino, Italy's master fabulist, shortly before his death in 1985. Some of his images -- like that of the boy philosophe who scrambled up an oak and never descended again in The Baron in the Trees -- became the emblems of masterpieces. But Calvino also crafted stories from even more pared-down beginnings. He built that dazzling picaresque of the mind, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, from just the thought of an activity: reading. The protagonist has every book he begins taken...

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