Sunday, September 9, 2007

Pretense Does Not Make Good Fiction

For the last eternity (read: about a month), I have been slogging away, attempting to finish Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. If you have never read this book before, I don't suggest that you do. I found it overly indulgent, disjointed, and uninteresting (it revolves primarily around the Knights Templar. Don't know who they are? Join the club). I've actually quit reading this book. This is something that I almost never do. The only time I quit reading books is actually when they are the above three things. I can actually deal with the first two, but the last one is really the kicker. I read Pynchon and David Foster Wallace, so the first two really aren't that much of a concern. The last book that I quit reading was The Obstacles by a Mexican named Urroz. Snorefest. But, I digress.

A lot of people believe that Foucault's Pendulum is a master stroke, a perfect marriage of medieval research and psychological thriller. If you do not see the book in this way, you are obviously an idiot in the minds of these people. The last thing that I would call myself is an idiot. Slacker? Sure. Sketchy? Possibly, but those days are behind me. Idiot? No chance. I aim to keep the personal conceit in check, but this is a place where I can pretty much go apeshit. I actually understood the book. I just didn't like it. It wasn't holding my attention like a good book should, and I didn't feel invested in the characters. But, the fact that people look at me as if I'm an idiot because I don't like the book gets at my larger point.

Foucault's Pendulum is pretty much one of those books people read if they are either interested in the topic or trying to be super pretentious. There is a lot of good medieval research in the book. But, all of that research is obfuscated by the terrible prose of Eco. Wordy and overwrought, Eco's writing helps to slow the leaden pace of the book and make the already impenetrable topic incomprehensible as well. But, people will swear that it's a revolutionary book even if they didn't finish it or they didn't actually like it when they read it. They will do this because the book can be held up as a kind of calling card, a badge of intellectual supremacy even though speaking with half a brain about something other than sports and gossip will usually convince people of your intelligence as well.

As I am publishing this at 4 in the morning, I'm not really sure what the grander point of this all is. All I know is that I am angry at people thinking I'm dumb because I didn't like a dense, overwritten treatise with unengaging main characters and absurdist topics which were discredited before the book even began. I just needed to get my frustration with this book out into the open.