Saturday, June 18, 2011

Book Review: "Confessions of a Young Novelist"

Delivered as the 2008 Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature at Emory University, the four essays in Umberto Eco's Confessions of a Young Novelist (HUP, 2011) offer a peek inside Eco's creative writing process, his views on a "model reader" and on perceptions of creative writing and fictional characters generally, and on his love of lists (as expanded upon in The Infinity of Lists).

Each of the essays here had something going for it: the lists one I enjoyed simply because I also happen to be a fan of lists and find them fascinating to read and create. The musings on fictional characters and their "life" as characters, while sometimes veering a bit too far into the lit-crit-jargon territory for me, were in the end instructive. The second essay, "Author, Text, and Interpreters," in which Eco discussed relationships between authors, translators, different types of readers, as well as the first (on particular inspirations, challenges and techniques he's used in crafting his own novels) were the best of the quartet.

There may be better introductions to Eco's work, but if you have some familiarity with his novels, these essays will likely be of interest to you.