Monday, June 22, 2015

island of the day before

I have a love-hate relationship with Umberto Eco.

I just finished his The Island of the Day Before and I still can't tell if he is insane or a genius. I keep reading his stuff, and then I keep telling myself "Never again!" and then I find something that seems so intriguing and I'm sucked in again. He reminds me of Italo Calvino, only not as much fun. But his thinking seems to float out there in the ether like Calvino's but I'm not sure if he really wants to write novels; I don't think he does. I think he has a huge, over-arching super-theory and he chips away at it in the various forms of art and expression he works in, from non-fiction, to fiction, to museum shows.

The Island follows the unfortunate (fortunate?) travails of Roberto della Griva, from his sudden lurch into manhood in war to his education in the salons of Paris to his travels to the South Seas. As we follow Roberto through the arc of his life, we are educated along with him about the science and beliefs of the day, from how to speak to women to how the determine that the world is indeed round. Although, whether or not it orbits the Sun or vice versa is still, as they say, up in the air.

Eco throws everything he can think of at our poor unsuspecting Roberto, and Roberto is not sure what to do with it all, and we're never quite sure if he ever will. Eco has composed a tale that is supposedly taken from the not-so-recently discovered notes of Roberto, and then tried to reconstruct his tale, as if from history. This give the author ample opportunity to speak directly to the reader in his role as narrator, where he often will use said opportunity to express he opinion as well. And because this is fiction, is there really any line between the two? It reminded me of the structure of The Princess Bride.

As in, "What the hell am I reading?"

And I'll probably do it again. Damn you Umberto Eco.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Say it, I want to hear it...