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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • June 19, 2006


    [47] The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana - Umberto Eco

    A 60-ish Milanese bookseller suddenly loses his memory--after he regains consciousness from a stroke. Yambo, however, is shocked to find that he can remember every book he has ever read, and every line of poetry and a wealth of literary quotations. Fragments of thoughts piece together a narrative that is continuously drony. These thoughts are deprived of feelings and meanings that are constituent to his personal history. The novel illustrates the power of memory--how it imbues meaning in human being, the meaning that provides the default of one's humanity, the standard, the cornerstone to which one measures growth and change. Memory and consciousness lay down the time frame for life's progression. Since the man contrives to recover his past, events of this novel revolve around a continuous paradox that accentuates the power of memory and consciousness and demonstrates what makes a human being human. Yambo's journey down the memory lane is more than visiting the family house where he lived as a boy and contriving to trigger memory through the associative power of objects. Seeking to reconstruct the past, he would have to remember what the original state of things had been, and this state was precisely what he desperately needs to spur his memory. As he exhumes boxes of old newspapers, comics, records and photo albums, he relives the story (his public story) of his generation (Mussolini, Catholic education of guilt, Fred Astaire, War), he inevitably embarks on an investigation of why he had done what he had done after he left the house.

    Memory amalgamates, revises, and reshapes for all of us, no doubt, but as the amnesia-afflicted bookseller is rapt at reconstructing remote events of which he had no prior knowledge, he is deprived of the privilege to nudge and to revise these memories. The fragments of thoughts that have been looming in his mind sporadically confuse the chronological distances and afford no historical texture--the traces of events do not associate with, evoke, and spur on to others. These memories resemble dreams and comatose manifestations that ping on him like de javus, as if he is trapped in some lethargic autism. Revelation of his elusive first love justifies his feeling of being on the cusp of some final truth--the one crucial piece of the puzzle that had molded him and set the course for the rest of his life. Nuances of that relationship might be lost, but it becomes a stopgap for Yambo.

    The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is wittily written with sparks of comic touch and a sense of adventure. Through the comics that Yambo had laboriously concocted we are exposed to a social conscience that (at least to me) is totally foreign, as all the texts were written in Italian. But this doesn't divest the intriguing power of literature: the premise of literature is distant enough (in time and culture) from our experience that we can yield to its seduction. The appeal originates from a common and yet mysterious encounter, something that is dream-like. In some dreams we have the impressions of remembering, and we believe the memories to be authentic, then we're forced to conclude (reluctantly) that these memories are not ours. So do memories belong to dreams? What would Freud say about this?


    Blogger Jef said...

    That sounds interesting. I might have to look for this one.

    6/20/2006 7:15 AM  
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