Thursday, October 4, 2007

Posting On Sleep Deprivation: Probably Not As Interesting As Posting Drunk

The book of the day is... Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose"!

Why is this the book of the day? Because I just stayed up all night writing an essay on it. Yes, I'm a college student, for the... zero... people who read this and don't know me.

"Rose" is both super-pretentious and, um, anti-pretentious at the same time. On one hand, it's done by a semiotician, for crying out loud. The text bleeds intentional double, triple, even quadruple, meanings. Word gymnastics abound, along with references to every famous person in the time. On the other hand, Eco, in an afterword, admits that he wrote the whole thing for silly reasons, makes fun of people who read too many things into the text (both in the afterword and in the subtext of the text itself - ironic!) as well as crappy questions people ask him about the book, and at one point says "That kind of nonsense belongs in term papers." It's like he knew I was going to read this!

Well, I wrote an essay, not a term paper. Anyway.

I've come down on the side of liking the book. The chapter subtitles were enough to win me over alone. They're the only thing in the novel that comes to you courtesy of a different narrator, one with a very dry sense of humor. (I wanted to tell the actual narrator to shut up several times throughout, but he comes out okay overall, unlike, say, that douchebag from "The Rachel Papers".) The subtitles, which merely explain what happens in the chapter to follow, get funnier as worse things happen. A hundred pages in, the following...
In which William and Adso enjoy the jolly hospitality of the abbot and the angry conversation of Jorge.
...gets a second look and a smirk. Another hundred in, and we get...
In which the abbot speaks again with the visitors, and William has some astounding ideas for deciphering the riddle of the labyrinth and succeeds in the most rational way. Then William and Adso eat cheese in batter.
...and I start to think, he's doing this on purpose, isn't he?

The subtitles continue to get more flippant, until the climactic chapter reads thus:
In which, if it were to summarize the prodigious revelations of which it speaks, the title would have to be as long as the chapter itself, contrary to usage.
In common parlance: I lol'ed.

Oh, and the sort-of-main-character, William of Baskerville (get it? Baskerville?), is a transparent Holmesian figure, right down to the getting high bits. And that is always a plus in my book. That, and the medieval sexual issues, although I mostly appreciated those because so many writers of this time period leave all that out.


David Isaak said...

I happne to like "Rachel Papers", but I forewarn you that all of Martin Amis' protagonists are like that. Except usually worse.

His book "Money", which tends to show up on lists of the Best Hundred Books of the 20th Century, has a central character who makes that guy from Rachel Papers (was that "Charles Highway" or something like that?) look like somebody you'd want to share an apartment with.

Jake Jesson said...

Well, my main issue with "Rachel Papers" is that Charles Highway (yup, that was his name) was a jackass, but not fun to watch. I'm all for protagonist jackassery, as long as I still want to see what they do. I kept getting the idea I was supposed to be sympathizing with him to continue caring about the story, and I wasn't.

Then again, I never finished the book. It's sitting by my bed - maybe I should give it another chance.