Review by Booklist Review
Collecting 14 of Eco's previously untranslated essays, articles, and lectures on sundry topics, this selection underscores the writer's profound erudition, lively wit, and passion for ideas of all shapes and sizes. Though a handful of these occasional writings touch upon potentially provocative topics of contemporary interest a six-page discourse on the false scandal of WikiLeaks, for example, or the title essay, on the apparent importance of enemies for national self-identity this selection is at its best when Eco plunges deeply into topics that you won't see in your newspaper's editorial pages: the beauty and symbolism of flame; the gourmet delights of Piero Camporesi's food writing; Victor Hugo's aesthetic excesses; the pursuit of religious relics. Some pieces, such as a brief disquisition on Saint Thomas Aquinas' thoughts on the souls of embryos, manage both politics and erudition. There is also a strange and humorous essay in which Eco experiments with writing entirely in cliched proverbs. Eco's pleasure in such explorations is obvious and contagious.--Driscoll, Brendan Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Thought provoking and sometimes intimidating, this collection by Eco (The Name of the Rose) offers 14 "occasional" pieces-writings produced for specific events-from the past decade. While rooted in the disposition and lens of a humanities academic, Eco leaps enjoyably through topics, such as the human need for enemies; the beauty, importance, and history of fire; whether the fallout from WikiLeaks will require espionage technology to regress to "a lonely street corner, at midnight." While mostly sticking to conventional essay formats, two humorous collage-style works (one on the danger of proverbs, another composed of Fascist critiques of Ulysses) also make for entertaining reads. Eschewing hyperbole, Eco's arguments are nuanced, reserved, and refreshingly lower-case conservative. Though he couches his ideas in accessible prose, the general subject matter may prove a stumbling block for some readers. Eco seems reluctant to clue in readers to helpful background information, as hinted at by many a snippet quotation in another language included without translation or elaboration. As such, some of the essays may only half-illuminate for a general readership. Still, the collection amply shows off Eco's sophisticated, agile mind and will undoubtedly bring pleasure to readers familiar with his worlds while enriching those willing to learn about them. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Novelist and scholar EcoÅ(The Name of the Rose; Foucault's Pendulum) possesses an inquisitive mind and a glistening style, and he loves to upset apple carts, all of which makes him an ideal writer of essays like these, which cover such topics as nations' need for enemies, Victor Hugo's style of excess, fascist critiques ofÅUlysses,Åthe imagery of fire, Thomas Aquinas's position on fetuses, and imaginary geography and astronomy. Only one piece fails (on what happens if one takes proverbs literally; it's meant to be funny but isn't). Illuminating with examples, Eco enlightens readers on otherwise alien thought processes and concepts, such as the erstwhile popular practice of collecting curiosities and relics, or, in "I Am Edmond Dantes!," the now unpopular literary device agnorisis, the "change from ignorance to knowledge" (Aristotle), whereby a character discovers something that decisively changes the course of the narrative (e.g., Oedipus learning that his wife is his mother). A virtue of the collection is that Eco's vast knowledge allows him to enter into other ages' mindsets, which he shows not to be inferior, just different. VERDICT It's difficult to predict an audience for a collection of "occasional essays," but Eco has followers and these essays are by and large superior specimens of the art. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/12].-David Keymer, Modesto, CA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.