Sunday, November 15, 2009

Foucault's Pendulum

I'm reading Foucault's Pendulum right now. I've had a pretty good track record with Umberto Eco and, well, it's important to read pretentious books on occasion so as to have something to talk about at cocktail parties.

It's been a pretty fun read so far. It's what you would refer to as, I believe, a "literary detective story". The protagonist and his friends have spent pretty much the entirety of the book exploring ancient texts, reading about (and generating) conspiracy theories involving the Rosicrucians, the Templars, Masons, and myriad other secret societies. Think of it as a more intellectually respectable Da Vinci Code, perhaps.

It's pretty engaging. The characters are, for the most part, quite aware of the absurdities of the theories they're generating, of the ridiculous coincidences and leaps of faith that are required to make these stories seem even remotely plausible. There's a sense of ironic self-awareness that lets me read and enjoy farcical stories about deeply buried eschatological secrets and obscure rites without shame.

Even so, though, with Eco's carefully guarded framing of his story, and fully aware that I shouldn't be taking it seriously, I have no idea what's going on. I'm enjoying myself, but the conspiracy theory has me completely lost. For some reason, there's something important that's supposed to happen every 120 years, and I don't know why (or what). The Rosicrucians are maybe real or maybe just an insidious rumor? I don't know. Certain years being divisible by nine is very important, and the transition from Julian to Gregorian calendar is a very Big Deal. I think.

I'm pretty sure that there's some internal consistency here, that there's a coherent (if farcical) logic to the whole story. I just clearly don't have the right mindset to be able to internalize this kind of reasoning. I suspect that, if somebody were to present me with real, incontrovertible evidence of a deep, overarching conspiracy theory in real life, I wouldn't be able to process it.

I think, for the most part, this is a good thing.


  1. You bastard. I just finished that, and you stole my blog post. Ass!

    The book was enjoyable, but my reading of it was slowed down by frequent trips to Wikipedia. The Name of the Rose was far better, in my opinion.

  2. Well, you should follow my lead, then, and post before you finish reading!