Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Reading. Eco. (away and back again).

I have been reading The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana very slowly, a little at a time, in between reading other things, diving in, circling around, walking away and then back again. I usually only read Eco when I'm traveling, but I was so eager to read this I could not wait to begin. With each chapter, each page, each word, I feel like I am falling deeper and deeper into the story, into the web of Yambo's memories as he discovers more and more about the past he cannot remember.

I feel rather like Yambo himself when I read this book; he finds lost memories, remembers things as quotations from every book he has ever read. I in turn find in my own mind lost memories of the books Eco mentions; themes, works, that have come up in his collections of essays. In the novel I came across a discussion about fog; the wisp of a memory, of having read a similar meditation on fog somewhere else before, flits across my memory. Parts of books I have read before, lines from and references to Kafka, Manzoni, Joyce, Dumas, other old classics of literature, resurface and echo in my brain; Yambo's other memories, quotations, come from books I've never read and those allusions slip beyond my grasp.

The farther I get in the novel, the more I feel that this story, these threads of consciousness woven together, is the inevitable culmination of the ideas and thoughts and feelings on literature that Eco put forth in his Six Walks in the Fictional Woods and On Literature, among other works. As if Yambo and Eco are one and the same. As if Eco's earlier words come back to reveal themselves as the separate paths that lead to the spider's nest* that is Yambo's mind and memory, his life. And it completely blows me away.

*I allude, of course, to The Path to the Spider's Nest, by Italo Calvino, whose writing is inextricably intertwined in my mind with the writing of Umberto Eco.

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