I’ve been a big fan of Umberto Eco since reading ??Foucault’s Pendulum?? (which I really must re-read soon) in ’92 or so. I find his shorter non-fiction pieces incredibly funny, and I’m fairly certain I own all of his novels.
That said, I never actually finished ??The Island of the Day Before??, and although I did finish, and even enjoyed, ??Baudolino??, it was not the compelling read I had expected. Still, hope springs eternal, so when I happened across ??The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana?? just before we were going on vacation, I picked it up, even though it was hardback (and I was going to have to schlep it around).
You can check the links at Barnes & Noble or Amazon for plot information–I don’t feel like recapitulating it, nor do I have anything particularly unique to add as far as discussing the plot.
Mostly I want to say that I found it a very compelling read, even though it seemed a most un-Eco-like work–that is, there is little of the outright fantastic, as in ??Baudolino??, and there is none of the vertiginous fluidity of truth that characterizes ??Foucault’s Pendulum??. I mean, it is still obviously an Eco character, with his love of books in general and pulp fiction in particular, but any seeming uncertainty about what is happening is a result of the main character’s condition, rather than some grand plot element.
One passage had some amusing commentary about poetry:
bq.. Mixed in with the school notebooks was another, which began with the date 1948, but the handwriting gradually changed as I turned the pages, so perhaps it contained texts from the subsequent three years as well. They were poems.
Poems so bad they could have been no one’s by mine. Teenage acne. I think everyone writes poems when they are sixteen; it is a phase in the passage from adolescence to adulthood. I do not remember where I read that there are two kinds of poets: the good poets, who at a certain point destroy their bad poems and go off to run guns in Africa, and the bad poets, who publish theirs and keep writing more until they die.
p. And an amusing comment about a certain sort of relationship with God:
bq. And yet he was not mean, he loved the people around him. He had it in only for God, and that must have been a real chore, because it was like throwing rocks at a rhinoceros–the rhinoceros never even notices and continues going about its rhino business, and meanwhile you are red with rage and ripe for a heart attack.