cover image Confessions of a Young Novelist

Confessions of a Young Novelist

Umberto Eco, Harvard Univ., $18.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-674-05869-9

In this tongue-in-cheek-titled collection of four Richard Ellmann Lectures he gave at Harvard, semiologist, medievalist, and bestselling novelist Eco (The Name of the Rose)—hardly young anymore, as he and we know—confronts the question of what, exactly, creative writing is. ("Why is a bad poet a creative writer, while a good scientific essayist is not?") To answer the question, Eco examines the slippery relationship between author, text, and their interpreters. How does the author's intent come to engage the reader? Can the text in itself produce its own Model Reader? How might we best identify the qualities that make readers believe fictional characters really exist?, The final third of the book is devoted to a favored Ecoian pastime: enumeration, with the last stop being infinity. An eclectic list of writers who themselves use lists "as a literary device" joins in the fun: Rabelais and Joyce; Homer; Whitman; Alfred Döblin; and the "confessing young novelist" himself in a shameless package of self-referencing and promotion. Always clever and thoughtful, these musings will delight devotees and enlighten newcomers alike. (Apr.)