Monday, June 11, 2012
Day 01 - Best book you read last year
The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco
I read a ton of books last year, but without even thinking too hard about it, I know this to be the answer. It was just so so good, and it totally rocked my entire impression of myself as a reader, and I gotta say it is probably gonna show up more than once on this list. For those who are not familiar with Mr. Eco, he's an Italian professor of semiotics (file that link under "Definitely Gonna Explore That Later") who also randomly writes totally amazing novels. So far I have only read this one, but I know, I just know, that all of them are amazing. This book blew my mind. To describe it would be almost useless because it sounds HELLA boring (at least, if you're me) -- in this secluded monastery in the 1300s there are murders and these monks are keeping secrets from each other and one of them plays detective and it is all told by his novice assistant who is a big derp. That sort of sounds interesting, but it also sounds like it could potentially be snoozeville. It's very thoughtful and meandering and takes a long time to really get going and there are huge sections that are mostly concerned with medieval Catholic teachings and history. Those all sound like things to which I am enthusiasm-challenged. And I think there are still plenty of sorts who wouldn't get into it.
But give it a shot. Make sure you get a copy that has Eco's Postscript in the back, because those notes were exactly as earth-shattering for me as the book itself. There he relates that several friends to whom he showed the manuscript suggested he take out the whole beginning, some hundred pages, and he was like hell no. The reason being, that stuff is a rite of passage. It's like climbing the mountain to the abbey. You have to get through the gentle-paced, philosophy-laden atmosphere-setup before you can really appreciate the rest of the novel. I remember reading it and being amazed while reading it that I was enjoying it so much, and it's just because I got so sucked in. That world was so real and I loved it, and I was more satisfied by this book than I have been by a book in a looong time.
Also, William of Baskerville is the Sherlock Holmes of monks and he even has a totally credulous wide-eyed narrator pal who occasionally gives him great ideas and also has a lot of lady drama, and if that doesn't sound amazing to you then turn back now.