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Customer Review

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, but may not be what you think it is, February 18, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Foucault's Pendulum (Mass Market Paperback)
The trouble with the reviews that either praise the book as the best ever, or dismiss it as worthless, is that they didn't help me figure out if it's the kind of book I'd like to read. About half-way into it, I thought, "I wasn't looking for another detective story with a puzzle to solve," but after finishing it, the overall picture, I think, redeemed the effort. The big words, the pomposity, the big lump of detailed nonsense in the middle, and then the corny end of the chase are fitting. It inflates and then pops the cork. Even with all the detail, I found the book hard to put down and a quick read. The only way I can see the book being hard to read would be if someone thought they had to keep track of the detail to understand the ending.
The narration itself seems to mock the book from the beginning, and Eco's digressions and witty (but still ambiguous) comments, seem to me the treasure of this book, even more than the pensive summary at the end. It keeps to its message through-and-through. It puts positivists in their place, dethrones scientists from their crusade of saving the world, deflates mystics who search for proof, and leaves an onion where Rilke might have put a rose. I'm not in that "business," but I think Eco the semiotician attempts to show us laymen how meaning is created, its slippery delusional character, and its endemic presence. I think he succeeds, even though I don't understand it on a cerebral level (the conspiracy wins, after all).
I have two minor complaints. First, Eco seems to struggle sometimes while attempting to keep the characters interesting, and to avoid turning the whole book into a treatise, though I guess it's not surprising that a postmodernist text doesn't read like a Dostoevsky novel. Second, I either didn't see all that Eco offers in the windup of the book, or the "explanation" he ends with is no more than a "traditionally" postmodernist message, however human and down to earth. Or maybe, the ending just means to discredit itself, and claim its power elsewhere.
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