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5.0 out of 5 stars
One of my desert island books..., 12 April 2012
Umberto Eco is possibly one of the greatest minds of our time. He has the enviable ability to be both a popularist (and popular) author as well as a highly respected academic - something which he seems to be able to achieve this with consumate ease.
In response to other reviewers opinions, it should be said that Eco has never stated a desire to be a stand-up comedian or to be thought of as such (if nothing else, he is far too subtle for that).
Furthermore, this book is merely a compilation of articles previously published in Italian newspapers and journals so the lack of an overall theme or repetition of ideas is inevitable - it is far less coherent for example than some of his earlier works such as 'Travels In Hyperreality'.
The articles included in this volume should be seen for what they are: lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek contemplations on contemporary culture: if anything, Eco is satirising the academic establishment in which he normally operates. From the Kafkaesque scenario played out in the titular essay, through his almost obsessively analytical attempt at defining pornography, to the 'death-by-logic' found in his writing on maps, Eco's sublimely dry sense of humour and irreverence for academia makes this both an insightful and entertaining read.
If you want something more substantial by this author, I recommend reading some of his works on semiotics (which if anything show the power of his intellect). However if you just want something that will make you smile and think in equal measure, then I highly recommend you read this book: Eco might not be stand-up material, but if this book is anything to go by, he's someone I'd happily spend an evening with...