Umberto Eco is terrifyingly erudite, as anyone who has read his novels will attest: the extravagant wealth of information in his novels, on medieval scholarship, or the Kabbalah, or any of a dozen other subjects, is staggering. And anyone who has read, for example, the six-page-long description of the main door of the church of the abbey in The Name of the Rose will confirm that Eco has a penchant—perhaps even a passion—for the obsessively detailed catalogue. His most recent novel, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, could with justice be described as an amnesic narrator rattling down through a catalogue of pre-World War II Italian comic books, popular songs, magazines, newspapers, and other relics of his forgotten childhood.
So Eco’s latest book, The Infinity of Lists, a work of non-fiction about lists in literature and art from Homer to Dalí, is at the very least in character. Continue reading