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Eco displays in these essays the same wit, learning, and lively intelligence that delighted readers of The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum. But I'll keep it and read it again in three years and then if I still think he is pompous then I'll ditch it.His range is wide, and his insights are acute, frequently ironic, and often downright funny. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book I thought that Eco might be something like buckminster fuller. Amorphous Lump o' Eco: Umberto Eco is clearly a genius - his fictional works testify to that.
Along the way, he examines a reproduction of former President Lyndon Johnson's Oval Office, and goes through a reconstruction of a Medieval witch's laboratory, in which the recorded screams of what sound like witches at the stake can be heard in the background.
He travels to wax museums, where artistic masterpieces are re-created and, often, reinvented in unexpected ways, resulting in such cultural mutations as a wax statue of the Mona Lisa and a "restored" copy of the Venus de Milo, with arms.
He similarly finds in Disney, "An allegory of the consumer society, a place of absolute iconism, Disneyland is also as place of total passivity.
Its visitors must agree to behave like robots."But what is most remarkable about Umberto Eco's essay is that, in the two decades since it was published, many of its more extreme observations, if not all its attacks on America, have been confirmed, and, in some instances, surpassed.
He also enters what he refers to as "toy cities," including Western theme towns, where the buildings are stage sets, and actors in costume, engage in mock gunfights, for the benefit of visitors.
Not unexpectedly, it leads him to the "absolutely fake cities," Disneyland and Disney World, with their re-created main streets, imitation castles and lifelike, animatronic robots.
In his description of Disney, Eco also saw that behind the facades lurks a sales pitch.
Put these ideas together and you have a succinct characterization of the age, which is forever offering us something that seems better than real in order to sell us something.
There are now replicas of rain forests, for example, which have been re-created on a massive scale, throughout the nation, along with future cities, and Jurassic parks, with animatronic dinosaurs.
Los Angeles, the city, now includes Los Angeles, the themed mall, with facades that re-create the city's famous neighborhoods.