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on March 24, 1999
With the recent releases of "The Truman Show", "Ed TV" and the like, and Neal Gabler's "Life the Movie" book--and politics in the bedroom and vice-versa, it would not hurt one iota to read and reread semiotician Umberto Eco's "Tales in Hyperreality". Gabler nothwithstanding, there are very few of our thinkers who forcasted that everyday life was fodder for fiction--indeed we use fiction to escape everyday life--and that our fiction should be ultra-real, like The Star Wars/ Star Trek entertainment empires. Eco's background in semiotics perhaps may have made certain passages too heavy-handed for the average joe schmoe like me, but I figure that if I can do it, so can you (underlying what Eco is delineating, anyway, is how we millenium-bound inhabitants in the free capitalist world are so easily bored, and so lazy that we prefer the easy way to exciting entertainment--why, for example, would we go to the hassle of travelling to Washington, DC, to the White House, to see the Oval Office when there's a replica of one somewhere close?). Anyway, I read the book once with difficulty, then I began to get a clearer picture with subsesequent readings. There are hundreds of websites that address the Fantasy is Reality theme, but you know what? This is the work that the current post-modern, post-structuralist theory of the theme has been developed. Many of the websites have that "I am Nostrodamus" feel to them, if you know what I mean. Eco's style, however, is personable and witty, particulary in passages he reminesces about his hometown and some of the old traditions. Also, for those of you who ponder trying to flesh out a Madison Ave. photocopy, read this book. It will have you questioning things for years to come.
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A deliriously funny trip through the mad places the earth's inhabitants call home. Eco skewers like "kitsch-ka-bob" the artificial pseudo paradises we have created with all our so-called modern conveniences. What have we turned our cities into, by the way? Do we really understand art?
If you've ever driven through rural Arkansas or Texas and wanted to capture with words the seemingly inexplicable, paradoxical sights along the way, it's been done for you and can be enjoyed in these side-splitting pages.
Lots of fun.
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on January 22, 2004
Many readers will probably be attracted to books like these after reading and enjoying Eco's novels, especially The Name of the Rose and Foucalt's Pendulum. If so, be warned. As I discovered, the Eco of the essay is NOT the Eco of the novels. Both Ecos are eccentric, clever and witty. However, the Eco of essays is a more radical and postmodern thinker. His topics can be seen by some as mundane. He's interested in pop culture and some of his theories are a tad obscure.
This collection is a series of loosely connected essays by Eco. It's an interesting book to read not cover-to-cover but to read an essay once in a while until the book is finished. That way the attitudes can sink in. The biggest fault I found with the book is certain essays to do with semiotics have arguments that are complex and hard to follow. This is understandable as they're taken from more specialised publications whereas in the novels, he strives to bring his ideas to the general public.
The essays I found to be most likeable are Travels in Hyperreality (about the proliferation of wax museums in the US and the general obsession with replicas in society), Reports from the Global Village (a series of essays on media), an analysis of Casablanca and In Praise of St Thomas (Eco's PhD was on Thomas so his views can be seen as fairly authoritative).
A good read but not brilliant.
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on June 28, 1997
Umberto Eco, profound social critic and novelist, does that voodoo that he does so well once again.
Don't let the title fool you. This is not the science fiction novel one might expect it to be. Rather, this collection of critical essays illucidates the theory underlying everyday life for us all.
Sometimes a touch on the scholarly side, in both language and focus. But I recommend wholeheartedly wading through the drier passages; I trust you'll find it's worth it
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on January 10, 2016
Travels in Hyperreality was a text from the late 1970s and early 1980s editorials by Umberto Eco which really hit home when a lot of the meta-commentary of entertainment hit in 1990s when I read it was a freshman in college. In many ways, Eco is a less "radical" Baudrillard, but one commentator with more knowledge of the medieval and the grounding of semiotics to really make it stick. Many of the assertions in this book about spectacle seem more true now than in the 1990s when social media has literalized many of the ideas of self as spectacle and gone are worries about authenticity. While "post-modern" does apply to this book in the sense that Eco is operating with post-structuralist assumptions, Eco does not write like most theoretical post-modernists and avoids lots of neologisms and more obtuse claims. Like most of his books of popular essays, Eco requires you to have a huge frame of reference though and you may be looking up both medieval figures and pop culture of the 1970s. Of the books I read in my freshman year, coming back to this book for the fourth time in 17-years or so, I was surprised how much of this still stuck with me.
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on July 3, 2014
A great read. Very thorough and eye-open examination of society in the USA. What I would have liked to read more about however, is the merging of cultures which is unique to the United States and which makes it the only country in the world which is purely made up of "immigrants" and their descendants. It is a subject to study in itself. I haven't finished reading, so I'm hoping we come across it at some point, if not, it still answers a lot of questions about this young and mysterious country no one can make sense of, at least from one view-point. Definitely an intellectually enriching book to read, toys with a lot of references to contemporary and classic names in art, history and literature, some of them not quite as well known, I had to look up a lot of them. If you want to read something that takes time to get through, teaches you something and makes you research, this is the right choice. There is nothing quite like it on the market.
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on April 19, 2001
i got this book because of the essay by which it is entitled. it is a great work, and a basic reading for those interested on the topics of hyperreality, simulated or thematized environments, and the like. quite contemporary tho Eco's work is Baudrillard's la precession des simulacres. so they are from the 70's and much more has been written on the topic, but these texts are, as i said, basic to understand all the rest. eco's work is quite openning ranging from xanaduswax museums, the theming of nature, etc. it is worthy.
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on December 24, 2013
This is a book of interpretation, analysis and criticism of one Umberto Eco, a professor of semiotics, novelist, Milanese. There are 26 essays which originally appeared in newspapers and magazines in Europe and cover an immense variety of subjects and themes. Among them: cinema, philosophy, historiography (the Middle Ages especially), mass communications, Disney, pop music, Superman, Barthes and McLuhan. Most of these essays were originally written in the 1970s and it must be said that some of them are a bit dated now, but some readers might nevertheless be interested in them as a contemporary intellectual response to some of the events like Jonestown and the Red Brigades kidnappings which inspired them. A few of them get quite involved in theory, particularly Eco’s specialty of semiotics, and go into great detail explicating the meaning and methods of cultural phenomena such as journalism about sports or World Expositions but for the most part they are written with a broad, educated readership in mind and deal with high and low culture, politics, and history through subject matter such as the cult film, the comic and the tragic, the polo shirt, and, of course, television (that has to be one of the favourite subjects of twentieth century intellectuals. Perhaps it’s because, as he says, we are “a civilization now accustomed to thinking in images.”). This book is fragmented enough to allow flitting about from essay to essay; if one doesn’t grab you it will soon be over and a new one begins.
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on May 25, 2016
This bag is my workhorse. I am creepily organized, so I love that there are little nooks, pencil holders, crannies, slots and dividers to help people like me, (visiting nurse) who live in their car for work. I get more compliments about this bag but most importantly, the stitching, pockets, strap and buckles are superbly done and you'd never know how much mileage I get out of this bag. People think it cost me a fortune! In addition, her messenger bag came in a beautiful silk, draw-stringed bag and included a hand-written note. It is really more of a briefcase with a shoulder strap.
Which is a good thing for attorneys, physicians or anyone who needs to travel with information.
She deserves the business for her talent, quality and savvy entrepreneurial spirit!
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on October 28, 2012
TRAVELS IN HYPERREALITY is a hodgepodge collection of magazine and newspaper articles dating from 1967 through 1983, most of which are concerned with popular culture and changing ideas from that period, though a few are more critical and discuss particulars in keeping with Mr. Eco's specialty, Semiotics. Most, if not all, were originally published for an Italian audience, though still only a general one, so the technical aspects of his discussions on language are designed for non-specialists. That doesn't mean they are simplistic though - I found them quite challenging.

And that aspect might very well be enough for those who appreciate Mr. Eco's previously published work or the field of Semiotics in general. But as I was reading these essays, I couldn't quite get it out of my mind that what the author was analyzing was changing methods of communication from forty years ago. I can't say that there isn't value there even still, but it was difficult for me to muster up the requisite mental energy to grapple with his points.

To my mind, though, if there is worth in this collection, it does have to do with these musings on language - when the essays turned more general, I thought the dated aspect even more apparent, and even less interesting. I believe this is because many of the subjects he tackles are rather inconsequential - purposely so - and that they have little staying power. A writer like Huxley can still reach me with his essays from eighty years ago because he talks about universalities. I doubt Mr. Eco's efforts were ever that lofty - these were meant to be entertaining.

However, the lead essay, 'Travels in Hyperreality', strikes me as a bit dishonest, perhaps even mean-spiritedly so. On a trip through the U.S in the mid-seventies, Mr. Eco investigated the various kitsch extravaganzas of DisneyWorld and DisneyLand, Hearst Castle, and sundry wax musuems and other strange collections such as Ripley's Museum (from 'Believe-It-Or-Not' fame), the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft and Ringling's Circus Museum. The point of all these travels was, evidently, to explore the phenomenom of 'Hyperreality' - places designed to be, as Bono says, 'even better than the real thing'. The various reproductions, mock-ups, displays, as well as original elements interspersed within the exhibits are evidence of an America of 'furious hyperreality', secret from the European Traveler and the American Intellectual, yet a world that 'create a network of references and influences that...spread to high culture and the entertainment industry'.

I don't doubt that's true to an extent, perhaps more now than ever. Nor do I really object to someone's sneering opinion of theme park silliness - I'd say I even agree up to a point. What is irksome is the bi-polar diagnosis of America as either 'intellectual' or hoi polloi. As Mr. Eco was writing for a foriegn audience, I especially dislike this characterization. It would be as if I decided there were only two Italys, one Rossellini and Vittorio de Sica, and the other Leone and Corbucci based only on the films I had seen, or else some other purely arbritrary yardstick.

Mr. Eco's larger point - that kitschy realism influences high culture - is a worthwhile subject to explore, but there is an overriding sniffiness to the essay, as if the author condescends to confirm his beliefs by visiting these meccas of mass-market entertainment. Insinuating that this is the salt-of-the-earth America while at the same time ridiculing it feels insulting. Since I wouldn't be on Mr. Eco's intellectual list, there's only one other option presented - I must be clamoring at the pearly gates of DisneyWorld with all my fellow bumpkins.

Then again, I'm probably just too sensitive.
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