Friday, April 21, 2006

Reading: On literature and Umberto Eco.

I find Umberto Eco's fiction incredibly difficult. It took me several years to finish Foucalt's Pendulum (which, I must confess, I never quite understood), and I have the rather uneasy feeling that I have never actually finished The Name of the Rose. I have read nearly all the novels, if not all the way through, and they always leave me feeling completely and utterly lost. Perhaps it would be easier in Italian. But it is his essays in which I find myself time and time again, falling down the rabbit-hole of his thoughts on literature and other aspects of modern life. I have never understood semiotics, nor do I wish to, so I avoid some of his more theoretical works (which leave me dizzy and confused), but what I love most (aside from the hilarious essays of How to Travel with a Salmon, which I read aloud to anyone who will listen, and the dissertation on blue jeans in Travels in Hyperreality) is the works which explore everything he loves most about literature and brings me, the reader, deeper into the heart of the matter of why we should read. When I die, what I want people to say of me (aside from remembering my mostly excellent cooking and notoriously distracted driving) is that I was literate. Ferociously, passionately, obsessively, literate. In Eco, I find this incredible mind that makes me want to read even more, who makes me almost understand what my role is as a reader. His words take me on endless journeys into the depths of every work he mentions, referencing everything from his own books to The Three Musketeers, and everything and anything imaginable in between. When I read Eco on literature, I feel like I am beginning to understand myself and my relationship with literature more clearly. He seems to take everything I love most about books and writers and words and puts them so beautifully and eloquently, more intelligently and coherently than I could ever hope to. Perhaps I should have studied semiotics, after all.

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