Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Recommended for Some: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
I'm highly recommending this book (with some reservations). I loved it. If you're just like me, you'll love it too. Sadly, you're not just like me no matter how hard you try. You should still read the book, though. Here's why:
1) It's about an amnesiac who is trying to recapture his life by re-reading books from his youth.
2) We all love books, and so does the narrator, but the narrator is better at distilling the beauty of books into a passionate reminscence than we are. We should admire that (and celebrate the glory of books).
3) The narrator's quest allows us to recall our own love-affair with fiction and how these artifacts from our childhoods not only shaped our memories but shaped the ways in which we interacted (and continue to interact with) the world.
4) It's got a brilliantly evocative discourse on why Flash Gordon is so important.
5) It has pictures of really cool italian books that we can only dream about reading.
6) It's by Umberto Eco.
If you haven't read anything by Umberto Eco, you should. One of the first great works of literature that I actually read in high school (outside of English) assignments was his Foulcault's Pendulum which is basically an older version of The DaVinci Code but for smart people. I'm also a great admirer of his Sherlock Holmes-as-a-medieval-monk story--his masterpiece--The Name of the Rose. And I've deeply enjoyed his essays and non-fiction books on semiotics and literary theory. His last two novels have not been his best, but The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana connected with me on a personal level and excited me by presenting such a compelling case for how closely we're linked to the books we read (especially the ones we read as children).
So what are my reservations? Nothing serious, but some readers might be turned off by the ending (which I won't spoil but it's not what I expected--I personally thought it was an excellent ending, though), and others may be turned off by the very concept of a guy basically telling us about the books he's reading and how they may or may not help him remember his past. There are, for example, no ninjas. But if you love books the way I do, and if you would rather spend a weekend in the attic of an old house unpacking boxes from your childhood and re-reading your favorite stories and looking at your favorite covers than you would getting a tan on the beach, you should read this book. You will love it. If not, go waste your time on the sand.