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Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana V -- chapter 4: PREPARATORY GARDENING AND PRUNING

  1. For whatever reason, Yambo "skated" over his childhood and adolescence, rather than tell his wife all about it.  Something in his past, voluntarily or involuntarily, is being avoided.  I sense a parallel story--or nearly so, because why in the world would Eco not want these two lines to converge!  Of course, the "distant past" will be likely easier to unlock than the more recent.
  2. The same paragraph of Paola's that gave us the skated youth also indicates some other traits/weaknesses of Yambo.  Does the information here lead you to any predictions?
  3. Note the musical preference for pop over "high-culture" opera (though, of course, opera and "classical" music were the pop music of their day).
  4. The general region of the pylorus combined with Yambo's knee-jerk descriptor of a "mysterious flame" seem to indicate something spiritual, or, considering Eco's atheism (and giving Yambo the benefit of the autobiographical doubt), existential--or vertiginous.  Thoughts?
  5. Draw out the repeated connection between memory and collection, both of which, apparently, this book is all about.
  6. I don't know if Eco is a Freudian or not, but I'm guessing that he likely is.  I'm not particularly eager to discuss at length his purchase at the flea market, but manifestations of potentially latent issues may be keys to unlocking the cave.
  7. This is likely a stretch, the continued metaphor from the last chapter of flowers and deflowering; I wonder if there's a connection of some sort (and it seems more Joycean than Freudian--more literary than psychoanalytic--and along the lines of "Araby") between the the impenetrable cave and, say, the protected chalice, carried by "Araby"'s protagonist.  Are all the sexual undercurrents of this chapter indicative of the approaching "deflowering" of the locked-up, otherwise impenetrable Cave of Wonders?  Is this connection inherently flawed, as presupposing similar value upon Yambo's lost past as the flower of virginity (though, of course, he is a bit of an egomaniac)? *** But cultures may get in the way a little bit here, as Italy, as well as much of Europe, is much more sexually progressive than the United States; perhaps virginity is not quite the assumed treasure there as here (and we're losing that!).  Certainly The Virgin is one of the most significant emblems for Italy, as with all dominantly Catholic cultures, and most Christian cultures for that matter, of course, but, perhaps, as Mary was/is the epitomized Virgin, no other virgin need so aspire, so why bother at all?  I don't know.  I'm rambling.  But there seems to me to be something here.  I am, as always, interested in your thoughts.
  8. Flowers, the most glorious of garden elements, may perhaps continue the line of Eden here.  But what happens if you deflower (as in memory and/or virginity, as discussed in 7) Eden?  I mean, is Yambo in his Eden now, or is he seeking to return to it wholly, or is it a step along the way (Solara, then, being Eden) to regain his past?  Yes, I know, this is all very, very speculative, but it's currently interesting me.


  1. 1. Yeah, Eco's doing a good job so far of holding information back in order to build suspense. Really compels the reader forward.
    2. Couple of things here: the first is that there seems to be an inconsistency. Paola seems to claim that Yambo has the Stalin mentality that, "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic." But then he's also a pacifist, and it's hard to find a more globally concerned ideology than pacifism. So that part kind of bothered me. Now, as far as future traits that indicate where the story is going: there's clearly more a reason why he's forgotten his personal history than some accident, which raises the possibility that the true existential crisis won't be now that he's forgotten everything; it will be when he starts remembering things/is somehow forced to confront his past in a serious matter.
    4. Certainly existential.
    5. Yeah, definitely a strong connection there. The only difference that we see is that if something is written down in books, you can go back to it time and again. However, if it's in your head, the situation is far more precarious, and you can lose everything in a second--like a computer virus.
    7. I get the feeling that the sex is a symbol for his life. When he has sex with his wife, it's a motion that he goes through without an e-motional attachment. Sort of like his life where he's pretty much just play-acting so far. "This is what I'm SUPPOSED to do based on who I WAS," rather than, "This is what I WANT to do based on who I AM."
    8. I don't think that he has an Eden. Right now he's in a horrible state, and it's only going to get horrible-r.

  2. 2 – I noticed the inconsistency as well, but less than bothered by it, I believe it’s a result of general apathy or inattention. In the areas that he is most expert (Yambo), there are no contradictions, unless fully justified. I believe he claims certain political and moral beliefs, because he’s socially expected to harbor them; however, he’s generally disinterested by them, inexpert, and therefore self-contradicting. This could easily (I won’t give anything away) be something that, like you said, he will be forced to confront if his memory returns.
    4 – As someone very interested in maintaining my spiritual side, I can’t help but wonder if there is something spiritual here, which, as far as I’m concerned, is simply religious or God-centered existentialism. Will Yambo attribute the Flame to pulsing hormones triggered by electrical impulses in his brain sent thither and yon or the whispering influence of the Holy Spirit?
    5 – Maybe this is a fault of the truly brilliant, who can hold so much and so easily in their minds: they don’t write or journal as maybe they should. Along these lines, interesting that one so interested in collecting the memories (collected writings) of others (or is it just collecting the rare, high-quality packages of said memories) is the one who loses his own, no others’, memory. Finally, there’s a fantastic (FANTASTIC) book that really plays heavily on the process and value of collection and especially that of communal collection (and the movie’s not bad either), called “Everything is Illuminated.”
    7 – I agree. But what of the cave, impenetrable, locked as it is (virgin), representing his past. We’re getting the idea that there may well be some stuff in there that’s not all so savory. Perhaps the “deflowering” of the cave is actually the deflowering of himself, and this amnesia is a God-sent opportunity to start fresh and new, almost like a baptism (okay this last part is going too far, but it’s still in the direction of my point). What do you think?
    8 – I think I’m obsessing a little over the flower metaphor….

  3. 2. It's a valiant effort to rectify the inconsistency and certainly a possibility, but I just think that it's an inconsistency. I don't know. I'd like to be wrong.
    4. I agree, but I don't get the feeling that Yambo is particularly spiritual.
    5. Yeah, I've seen the movie and enjoyed it. And as far as what you said, I actually think that sometimes it's helpful NOT to record so many things. It trains your memory to work harder. At least that's what I believe. It may be total scientific bullcrap.
    7. It's an OPPORTUNITY to start anew perhaps, but I don't think that he's taking advantage of it. He seems hellbent on reconstructing his old life, so much so that he has to find out whether he ever had a relationship with Sibilla before he initiates one.

  4. 2. This is my trusting nature coming out that I mentioned at the beginning of the book. I'm too quick to give the benefit of the doubt.
    4. The next chapter offers further grounds for wondering.
    5. Eh, I don't think it's bullcrap, but I'm no scientist. Like the legend that pirates would keep a patch over a good eye all the time so that it would better prepared for darkness when it came.


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