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04 March 2012 @ 01:23 pm
Finished reading The Name of the Rose for the first time, and apart from being ashamed that I hadn't read it before, it left my head spinning on any number of fronts.  What a great book.

In the first place, long time followers of this blog will know that I enjoy trying to guess which books from the past 50 years will be widely read in another hundred years' time. Which criteria are a tip-off?  Should we be putting the best selling books on the short-list (that is the Dickens method), or should we be scouring the shelves for dark horses in the mold of Poe or Dickinson?  Both work, of course, but NotR seems to be taking the first of the paths to stardom.  It was a huge best-seller, the DaVinci Code of its day, and yet it had none of the elements that usually create a best-seller.  It didn't relate to modern problems, it isn't an "easy-reader", and the characters... well, the characters are monks.  Maybe it's a sign that the general reader of the early eighties was more erudite than our contemporaries, or maybe I'm just cynical, but I was surprised.  Anyway, I think that this one will be on the shelves and in  the syllabus for generations to come.

The second thing that blew my mind was how well it explains the dark ages.  Every land in every age has produced its share of genius, so why did Europe manage to avoid any significant progress in science for a thousand years?  This book shows how the social construct of the time had the most brilliant minds of the continent focused on the deep analysis of scripture in lieu of science (I see similar trends today, from people who deride things like the space program as a waste of talent and money that could be better spent on social engineering - fortunately China seems to be emerging as the equivalent of the dark ages' Arabic culture).  This book dives really deep into a specific part of a society that is a mystery to most of us.  Truly involving.

Finally, the winks to other literary geniuses - the giants upon whose shoulders Eco stands - seemed both humble and appropriate, apart from being delightful to any bilbliophile.

Highly recommended - and if you've read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts!