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on 11 February 2002
"How to Travel With A Salmon" is ideal for those who want to get a glimpse of Eco's erudition and unfailing wit without having to tackle the sheer -and sometimes overwhelming - intellectual density of his novelistic work. The manner in which these essays portray everyday situations and absurdities, ruthlessly undermine academia, and mercilessly demolish the merits of modernity, is subversive humour at its very best. When I read it in the park I was laughing so hard, I had about 20 pairs of eyes on me, and what's best: I didn't even care.
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on 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...
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on 6 May 2004
Ok, first of all this review refers to other reviews, it is, in a way, an answer to some mis-statements...
Now yes, this book is absolutely and delightfully hilarious, but no, it's not really a book.
This is a collection of articles Eco wrote in various magazines and newspapers. So it is to be judged as a selection of works...
So do not judge the lack of an over-riding theme, because this is just a collection of essays, but it's the best collection I've ever come across in my life.
So read it, laugh with it, and love it.
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on 4 December 2012
This is a great way to enjoy Umberto Eco's wit and humor! Perfect for people (like me) to whom his novels are a bit too much.
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on 20 March 2014
When I was around 18, I thought I was so intellectual to be reading Eco; I still rank The Island of the Day Before as one of my favorite books. But this slim collection is frankly a little dull. If you can get through the science fiction "comedy" short story without banging your head against a wall, you are a better man than I. Varies between tedium and moments of hilarious insight.
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VINE VOICEon 7 August 2001
Eco has obviuosly been highly praised for his wit and observation, and this is born out by the self assured style of delivery in this collection of small pieces. The observations are very clever and in most cases have been thought out in depth and are set out with beautiful clarity, leaving the simple images lolling comfortingly in the warm lap of the reader rather than hounding with supercillious derision.
There's plenty in this book to laugh at, but there is surprisingly little that separates it from a decent observation based stand-up comedian; the format allows Eco to show that he is not just milking laughs out of the same material that Ben Elton might tread out; he adds from his own considerable store of knowledge and his analytical skill.
Although the subjects covered in this book are impressively varied, this may in fact be one of its flaws; its aim is far wider than that of the earlier celebrated Wits who might only have commented on their immediate social surroundings. Eco travels all around the world, and comments on everything from American Trains to Swiss Customs to Kafkaesque driving licence applications in Itlay, but one feels that if his aim had been kept sharper, perhaps limited to his native country, the wit may have been sharper than he thinks it is.
On the whole, though, if you are looking for intelligent, but easy to read and amusing observations this book is unlikely to disappoint, and is worth picking up
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on 25 September 2008
Eco is self-important- much of the book consists of him showing off, or just sounding off smugly. The piece about the private library is particularly irritating. His sci-fi piece made me yawn.

His collection of newspaper fluff simply doesn't work well as a collection. The jokes repeat, they feel tired, there's a re-used quality about them- I feel certain that I've read the taxi driver comparasions before, for instance.

On purely craft terms the essays are lazy- unstructured, often meandering aimlessly. Eco would not survive for a minute as a writer of stand-up sketches.

If you want to re-read journalism, it's better to go for someone who really as interesting ideas and, moreover, passions, such as Orwell. And if you want humour, Beachcomber is much better by miles.
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