cover image Misreadings


Umberto Eco. Mariner Books, $14 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-15-660752-0

These 15 essays by semiotician and novelist Eco ( The Name of the Rose ) originally appeared in the 1960s and early 1970s in an Italian literary magazine; they appear here in English translation for the first time. The essays are actually satires, pastiches of publishing, art and literature. Typical is the first piece, a parody of Nabokov's Lolita in which the protagonist becomes obsessed with a white-haired old woman. In a work on Columbus's voyage, revised for American publication, the admiral's landing is covered by the likes of Dan Rather, Alastair Cook, MacNeil/Lehrer and Johnny Carson. Publishers' readers' reports for Don Quixote , Dante's Divine Comedy , even the Bible, reject them all. In admittedly eccentric reviews, Eco critiques the design of Italian currency. Although basically amusing, many of Eco's essays have a smug, precious sensibility about them. They seem the product of one who considers himself superior to his material, a dangerous trap for the satirist. Further, Eurocentric references, many of them still obscure despite revision, will leave readers wondering if they're missing most of the jokes. (May)