Eco famously offered the world a synthetic philosophy of "semantic drift," and the shifting of meaning as stories and words and events pass from account to human account; this relatively brief novel explores the drift of meaning and the lack of certain truth in media - almost prescient...
It was rather obvious, in the sense that, anyone who reads or listens to the news knows they're being manipulated. So the book just stated the obvious, rather than giving the reader a whole new perspective.
Eco's novels can typically be read at two levels - a literal story-line and an embedded satirical/cynical commentary. They satisfy in at least one of those levels despite his penchant for voluminous and often monotonous dump of everything he might have learned or imagined about an idea. Unfortunately, this novel disappoints at both levels.
As a story, it is based on a tepid premise designed to allow commentary on the making of tabloid journalism (seemingly aimed more at the Murdoch empire than Berlusconi's as Italy doesn't have tabloid newspapers like in UK or the US) with a collection of one-dimensional characters and a plot that doesn't even come close to the book publisher's hype.
As a commentary, Eco cynically targets both the tabloids and their audience and the co-dependency relationship between them. The plot evolves through the cliched ideas of "manufacturing news" to "just because you are paranoid, doesn't ..." to "it must be true because the report said so".
Nothing more profound or provoking than listening to a ranting monologue from that Dad or Uncle at the dinner table we may all have faced at least once in our lives.
Fortunately, this one is less than 200 pages long.
I've decided The Name of the Rose is/was the only book by this author I'll like as I certainly didn't "like" this one.
And you won't either unless you're interested in a diatribe about Mussolini's last days, theory thereof. Characters, story, nothing rang true enough to continue reading so I stopped half way in.
P.S. The "romantically" involved part of Publishers Weekly review involves sex initially of course between two lost souls if you ask me. (Some romance!)
As is often the case with Eco, this is a concept novel or, more simply, a novel of ideas. Yes, there is a satire on contemporary journalism embedded in this rambling (often too much so) story of paranoia, conspiracy, and the philosophy of loser-ness. If you want a narrative, take a pass. If you are intrigued by Italian history, especially relating to the conspiracies surrounding the death of Mussolini, you might want to spend a few hours exploring this novel.
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