cover image Travels in Hyper Reality: Essays

Travels in Hyper Reality: Essays

Umberto Eco. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $15.95 (307pp) ISBN 978-0-15-191079-3

By ""hyperreality'' Eco is alluding to the American ``frantic desire for the almost real,'' the yen for fakes to fill a cultural void. The trenchant title essay analyzes the American psyche as it hops from erotic laser holograms to the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Disneyland. Eco, well known as a novelist (The Name of the Rose, is urbane, detached, elegant and sometimes obscure as an essayist. This uneven collection of newspaper and magazine pieces reflects the Italian scholar's love of the Middle Agesone essay compares American universities to monasteries, another focuses on Thomas Aquinasthough, for the most part, Eco relentlessly analyzes the present. He examines sport as a calculated waste of energy, presents a structuralist critique of Casablanca and offers commentaries on the Red Brigades, credit-card cheats, the religious revival and blue jeans as a latter-day version of knights' armor. (May 22)