Thursday, July 30, 2015

Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum (1988)

Right, so here's an interesting thing: I came across the phrase “the crew makes the welkin ring with its hurrahs,” so I highlighted the word “welkin” to make a definition come up, as you can do. And in the definition, I get this: “ make the welkin ring make a very loud sound: the crew made the welkin ring with its hurrahs.” Yes! The sample sentence appears to have been taken from the very part of the very book where I just saw it! That's not something that happens every day.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (1980)

You know, I don't think we—humans—tend to be all that good at conceptualizing the past. Hell, I have a great deal of difficulty imagining a world without ubiquitous internet access, and it's been half my life or less since that's been a thing. And if you go farther back, well: I remember looking out over a massive Mayan ruin in Guatemala and thinking: these people were people, like me and everyone else, and yet I cannot even begin to imagine what their lives were like, on any level. They might as well be from a distant solar system. So in this context, a book that shoves us as forcefully into the fourteenth century as The Name of the Rose does—not the same as the Mesoamerican example, of course, but similarly mysterious—is nothing to be scoffed at. Eco uses his erudition as a medievalist to great effect.
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Thursday, July 02, 2015

Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield (1766)

Okay, WHY is there a brand of designer sunglasses named after this eighteenth-century writer? TELL ME!!! Okay, so presumably it's just named after some other Goldsmith, but don't spoil the illusion, okay? I really want this to be both true and totally inexplicable.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Leopoldo Marechal, Adam Buenosayres (1948)

Here's an interesting one. This thick Argentine novel, oft compared to Ulysses, was highly regarded and highly influential in Latin American circles—but it was basically unknown in the Anglophere until the Year of Our Lord 2014, when it was finally published in English translation, by the highly-capable Norman Cheadle.
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