Sunday, August 12, 2012

listopia i

Umberto Eco is one deep-thinking, renaissance man. The Infinity of Lists* is both thought provoking in its depth, and mind numbing in its detail. It's almost obsessive in its inclusion of examples of lists--both written and visual. At the halfway point, I have the distinct impression that one can find lists as an organizing tool for information and thought almost anywhere. Man's need to sort, categorize and list things is so ingrained that we take list-making for granted, and assimilate the information contained in them automatically.

And that's exactly what Eco is pointing out in this richly illustrated and exampled essay. Eco, in fact, has created a list of the different types of lists we use to organize and display information. He's categorizing the categorizers and their categories. One could almost say that this essay is a catalog of categorizing,  categorizers, and their categories. In taking apart, or deconstructing these tools we've developed, he's helping us to understand the underlying mechanics in them; to see them for what they are.

Many of the written examples include excerpts from things I've read, and I was surprised to see the lists contained in them. I don't recall reading such long lists buried in those works, with a few possible exceptions... Jules Verne, I'm lookin' at you.

Eco put this book together as a companion to an exhibit of the same name he helped to organized at the Musée du Louvre, in 2009.

The English translation was done by Alastair McEwen.

More to come! when I finally pound through this book

* Italian title: Vertigine della lista

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