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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana XIV -- chapter 13: OF DEVILS AND MASONS

While this is my favorite chapter of the book so far, so it contains one of my favorite comparison: that of tapeworms and gall stones to bad poetry, and all its pathetic symptoms and affectations.  Here, though, we have to examine Eco's use of, what he considers as its his own, bad poetry.  The creation and strategic use of intentionally bad poetry is like the now-commonly mentioned (Michael Chabon) generation of intentional coincidences.  A wise student once commented hopefully and pointedly on the poetry I confessed I was writing for a then-current novel.  "I hope you're not trying to write intentionally bad poetry to make it look like a teenager did it," she said.  I admitted that indeed I was not and so assured her with a sincere expression of my insecurity as a poet, (more or less:) "I'm hoping the best poetry I can do can qualify as believably excellent or even just believable teen-poetry."  So I wonder how Eco, certainly an excellent writer, but not necessarily a poet (and so he sagely acknowledges in the end of the chapter in reference to another's poem, "This is beautiful because it is not mine"), approached his poetry attempts, or, as I suspect is the case as with other issues/references in the book, these are autobiographically accurate, and indeed pieces he composed as a precocious teen--that and, well, the poems' apparent and beyond-coincidentally prophetic natures for Yambo's unique future.  For example, bad poetry or not, this is quite telling:
you cannot enter twice
the kingdom of remembrance
and hope to find unspoiled
the unexpected freshness
of the first theft.
  1. The poem of "three days before Christmas" interests me, as in subject (a purity in stark contrast to what we know of the adult Yambo) and prediction (the loss of memory) it is particularly prophetic, appropriate (even mysteriously coincidentally so, as already mentioned above), and perhaps directly metaphoric.  It may even offer a potential explanation for why the memory was lost in the first place (accurate as prediction or not, I don't remember).  Thoughts?
  2. As there are literal rooms of memory in the house that align with Yambo's segmented memories of his past, all of which are natural divisions--segmentations--of life, and with a particularly sturdy and tall wall set ("to put a final seal on memories I was renouncing") between adolescence and young adulthood, high school and college, so his literal loss of memory builds a wall (even a "satanically masonic" wall) between his present and past.  Sounds like a classic, though thoroughly exaggerated, mid-life crisis.
  3. Lila Saba: "saba" is the food for bacteria that create balsamic vinegar.  Consider the various classic metaphors of vinegar, not to mention grapes, as well as the definition of balsam against the mellifluous connection between Lila Saba and Sibilla (additional, of course, to the fact that Lila is a nickname for Sibilla anyway).
  4. An affecting little book: "La Vita Nuova."  Beatrice penetrated all sorts of walls that otherwise held everyone else back in Dante's life; so similar to this Lila who is the only one, besides Gianni, who transcends all of Yambo's barriers, consciously and subconsciously--the "relay race across the years."


  1. 1. I think that the interesting thing to me is about ceasing to exist even in memory. What if at the bottom of this, there's really nothing there to remember--if he's just lived a generic life based on what pop culture has fed him? What if there never was anything that was his own?
    3. I believe that Jesus is made to drink vinegar during his crucifixion. I don't know if that's a possible connection or not.

    I have to say that the scene with the play lines up pretty well (very well in fact) with a scene from "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man". We know that Eco admires Joyce. I'm almost wondering if it might be a tribute.

  2. Well he certainly pays Joyce ample tribute in others of his nonfiction works. It wouldn't surprise me.

    1. This would be a tremendous and pretty mind-blowing ending, but not Eco's style. He's not particularly post-modern or even, really, experimental. Something more for Martel or Borges than Eco.
    3. I wondered that, but I'm not sure. The saba, after all, is sort of the sourdough starter for the vinegar's bread.

  3. 1. Haha, ok. I always have a flare for the dramatic ending. Probably just that kicking in.


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