The Infinity of List Hardcover – 20 Sep 2009
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'This might be the perfect third book for the desert island: the only one which could be installed there along with Shakespeare and the Bible and find an equal number of fascinated, disparate readers. It is the ultimate dippable book' The Tablet. (The Tablet)
'A characteristic product of this extraordinary writer and polymath: learned, sparkling, insightful, provocative, packed full of intriguing and arcane information' Mary Beard in Guardian. (Guardian)
'A lavish, curious catalogue about catalogues . Eco has always had an eclectic, esoteric mind, and a meander around the byways of his brain is a joy indeed' Scotland on Sunday. (Scotland on Sunday)
'Flaunting his extraordinary erudition but flaunting it modestly ... the book is gorgeously illustrated, a beautiful object ... its creamy pages are a pleasure to turn, its various typefaces are not just elegant but appropriate to the needs of the text, its illustrations a joy to study, its translation impeccable' Gilbert Adair in the Spectator. (Spectator) --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
From the Inside Flap
In the history of Western culture we find lists of saints, ranks of soldiers, accounts of grotesque creatures, inventories of medicinal plants and hoards of treasure. There are practical lists which are finite, such as catalogues of books in a library; but there are others which are intended to suggest countless magnitudes, and thereby arouse in us a dizzying sense of the infinite. This infinity of lists is no coincidence: a culture prefers enclosed, stable forms when it is sure of its own identity, whereas when faced with a jumbled accumulation of ill-defined phenomena, it starts making lists.
The aesthetics of lists runs throughout the history of art and literature. We see it at work not only in ancient bestiaries, the celestial hosts of angels or the naturalist collections of the sixteenth century. We find it also more obliquely from Homer to Joyce and Pynchon, and from the treasures of Gothic cathedrals to the fantastical landscapes of Bosch and cabinets of curiosities, until we get to Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst in the twentieth century.
In this beautifully illustrated edition, Umberto Eco reflects on how the idea of catalogues has changed over the centuries and how, from one period to another, it has expressed the spirit of the times. His essay is accompanied by a literary anthology and a wide selection of works of art illustrating the texts presented. This new volume is a companion to On Beauty (2004) and On Ugliness (2007). --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Eco guides us through the intriguing history of the list or catalogue in art and science from the captains of the Greek ships in Homer's Iliad through to Warhol's soup tins.
Throughout we see beautiful reproductions of the works of art chosen to illustrate his essay along with extracts from many poems, plays, novels and songs.
If you want to stimulate your imagination I can't recommend this book highly enough - a great reference and a wonderful thing to just look at.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The Infinity of Lists: An Illustrated Essay, confused me at first. From some of the other reviews that I read before ordering this book, I thought it would be a list of some of the best literature along with some pretty pictures. It is. But it's more than that. Like all of Eco's books, there seems to be some hidden message to glean from each painting, picture, pithy bit of writing...and there probably is. But that's why we buy his books. We know that he writes them, or puts them together to challenge our minds; to challenge our understanding of the world that we live in.
In short, I've read this book, but boy do I have to do that a few more times to really get all of it, and that's something I look forward to. In a few years.
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