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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana III -- chapter 2: I AM A BURNING LOG

Cornell's copy of the "First Folio"
Regardless of the edition you have of the book, you should have something pop-culturish to look at on its cover. This ties into the title of the book, which we'll go into a little deeper a little later.  However, I can't let a title like this of a book like this go without at least some minor examination.  "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana" is an episode title of an old, American adventure comic called, Tim Tyler's Luck, which was translated into Italian.  With this, as well as any flipping-through you might have done (and which, in this rare case, I encourage), I'd like to preface a secondary "big question" for this book: what does pop culture have to do with the formation of our memory--our memory as it applies to our definition of self, inasmuch as Yambo has lost his (memory/self)?  As it turns out, and if I remember rightly, there's a lot more pop culture affecting this highly-learned man's personal history than stuff so highbrow as Shakespeare's First Folio.

  1. Yambo's discourse about jumping reminds me of Life of Pi: (approximately) You run as far as the legs of reason will carry you and then leap.
  2. I wonder (insubstantially; inconsequentially): If we know our own smells and the smell of our home and car so well that we don't even notice them, would Yambo "notice" his own smell, or that of home, car, wife, kids, etcetera?
  3. Considering the other novels mentioned (The Betrothed, Orlando Furioso, and Le Pere Goriot), what do supposed is Eco's position on Catcher in the Rye?  (Having read a lot of Eco's literary criticism and philosophy, Rye doesn't seem like typical reading for study by Eco.  Salinger is a different kind of brilliant (though, in my opinion, certainly no less, and, well, perhaps even greater) than Proust and Joyce, whom he definitely admires and even loves.
  4. The languages from which Yambo quotes a few verses are also Eco's second languages: German, French, and English.
  5. Interesting that Yambo documented fog even before the amnesia.  Any connection, or just coincidence (as author, certainly Eco did it intentionally, but is there anything to this within the confines of the novel)?  Regardless, fog, if I remember correctly, will be a lasting motif and even theme of the book.  How might one be born into a fog?
  6. Yambo's life was fractious before the amnesia.  Does this lower the significance of the amnesia, or mean that anyone who's life is split like Yambo's undergoes his own kind of amnesia?  Or something else?
  7. As alluded to earlier, Eco doesn't do anything by accident.  What of the mention of the Garden of Eden (despite the shtick of the "tree of good and evil")?
  8. Compare the predictions by the tolling clock to the running start before the leap.
  9. ....like Tom Sawyer ... or Luke Skywalker!
  10. Interesting the automatic response (and the Eco thought of it!) of Yambo's old and best friend, who, in the face of him with whom he's experienced nearly everything and with whom the past doesn't need to be discussed, as it's always been present between them, he can't help--and you get the impression the he can't help finally--reliving all those old events.
  11. Such dividing lines are always marked with turmoil--or tumult.  What we were before the event is very different from the person after the event, though, as far as I've observed and experienced, the change after the fault is usually linked directly to the tumultuous event itself, like changing religions, giving up drugs/alcohol, vowing an honest life.  In this case, Yambo, of course, is entirely innocent of the cause of the divide.  Will he change? Certainly he's different now, but will he remain so--changed, for better or worse--once his self has been returned to him or reclaimed?  For instance, he's discovering that he was quite a playboy.  Does he regret it?  Will it cause change?  (There more's substance for discussing this in the next chapter.)
  12. Finally, keep your eyes open for treasure.  For bibliophiles like us (and I'm assuming, I doubt foolishly or presumptuously, that anyone who actually reads this blog must consider themselves, to one advanced degree or another, bibliophilic), Yambo deals daily in treasure; it's his job.  We will come across the "First Folio" soon (-ish?), as well as other treasures, which will offer substance for discussion.


  1. 2. Yeah, I think that that's true. I can smell every house that someone lives in except for my own.
    3. Well one of my favorite parts of "The Catcher in the Rye" deals with memory. It's the last line, "Don't tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." Is this what's at stake here? Is his life too painful to recall?
    4. Yes, I can't help but feel that a lot of this is autobiographical--the fairly cliche story about the nerd who knows everything about everything except what's really important.
    5. I think that it's a great analogy for being born into a world. The fog of our own ignorance in matters means that we can only make things out vaguely. Or perhaps we "see through a mirror dimly" instead of face-to-face.
    6. I don't think (and granted, you've read it more than I have) that Eco is trying to make that broad a point, but I'm open to persuasion.
    7. First, I think it's an obvious comparison that at least was in my head for sometime now before Eco mentioned it. How many other people have ever experienced the world for the first time after already being adults? Second, as a first-time reader of this book, the mention of Eden has me expecting a temptation at sometime, especially given what we know of his less than stellar record as a husband.
    8. It's all about sequence. I can't remember whom we were reading in my Contemporary Political Thought class (may have been Sartre), but a major part of it was how dependent humans are on sequence and cause and effect, regardless of whether it exists in reality as much as we perceive it or not.
    11. I don't know if he regrets it because he doesn't feel any real attachment to any of the characters emotionally. Again, he's dependent on his wife for his history, at least initially, but that's already starting to wear off now that he has a basic idea of what his history is. At some point she may become almost useless in that regard, and that will be the moment for him to decide his fate.

    Finally, it occurred to me while I'm reading this that in some ways, the characters' recollections of Yambo is actually more useful for themselves than for him. They get a chance to organize their memories and relive experiences. All he gets is a completely unreliable perspective of his life--unreliable because it's through other people's lenses and not his.

  2. 3 – I wonder if might have intended that. That’s a really good point.
    4 – If it’s autobiographical, it’s not quite as transparent as, oh, say “Beatrice and Virgil.”
    5 – I had to look up your reference. I’m used to the King James Version, which says “darkly” rather than “dimly.” The interesting thing about fog in this case is its translucence. The whatever that’s through the fog is not irretrievable, like what’s through the dim mirror isn’t invisible.
    6 – I didn’t mean this to be a loaded question. I’m trying to figure out the borders of the allegory here, which I didn’t pay much attention to the first time. The first time through, I just let myself sort of get lost in the language and experience of it.
    7 – So what’s the garden? This bliss of his ignorance? I think it might be, But the “sin” that casts him from his paradise would be the trigger (or whatever) that pulls him out of his amnesia. What do you think? I’m not decided.
    8 – I love the analogies he comes up with. I wonder if he had them before he began the book and built it up from and around them.
    11 – So maybe the question becomes what is morality? Is he currently amoral, as a result of his lack of connection and emotion?

    Your final comment is a much better way of putting what I was trying to get at in 10. I agree fully. Eco is fairly well-known for a pretty high level of ego (deserved, I guess). I wonder, now as I know more and have read more of him, if this book will show Yambo for humbler than his writer. His other novels (two of which I’ve read) also have first person narrators who are totally different than Eco (clearly not autobiographical), and strong and fully developed.

  3. 5. Ahh sorry, I've grown up on the NRSV. Darkly/dimly mean pretty much the same thing in this context, though, I think.
    7. Yeah, I think that's right, except it's really not so blissful because there are a lot of things that he would like to know that he can't, which is sort of like Adam and Eve.
    11. The thing is... morals consist of two parts. One is the intention of the actor. The other is the expectation of society. I think that someone who kills 30 people even unwittingly still commits an immoral act by the standards of the society. So it might not be right to call him amoral because what he does will have a real impact upon those around him, but at the same time, he himself does not understand morality. So to me at least it's a very odd between state.

    Your comment was actually probably what made me think of it.

  4. 5. No worries! I just didn't recognize the reference. The words are indeed essentially parallel, and I'm all for variations of translations, if my collection of Dante is any evidence. The original seems so often to lie between the translations -- kinda like the jazz quarter tone (between 3rd and m3rd) derived from the African pentatonic scales, which we can't play, so we just push the third and its minor simultaneously.

    Hmm.... Sorry.

    7. Agreed.

  5. 11. I think your philosophy studies suit you better for full discussion on this than what I'm prepared for. I think you're right, by the way.

  6. Ahh, come on, you don't have to study philosophy! I'm all for amateurism in every field. It shows that diplomas are really just pieces of paper.

  7. Jack of all trades master of.... wait....

    Those who can't do tea--


    I can do anything! Yes. That's it!


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