may be dwelling in?
I have started reading Eco's book, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. I was drawn to it partly because of the great color graphics included in the text, and of course Eco is a must read, fiction or non. Although after books like Foucault's Pendulum and The Name of the Rose, Eco has led his readers into more disorienting terrain. Time, reality, dreams, and history are now simmered in a big stew. It tastes good, but one is not quite sure where one is, or where one has been. Later one also gets some very satisfying burps though. In Mysterious Flame the narrator has forgotten all about himself and all the things he holds most dear, but he can remember facts, history, the necessary activities of life exceptionally well. He cannot think, at first, except by mentally quoting to himself from the vast warehouse of his erudition. All he can do is combine snippets of quotes together to explore the mystery of what is happening to him. In the opening pages he thus provides the reader with a crazy-quilt summation of western literature that could easily take a dissertation or two to untangle.
Of course it is a big question these days as to how much of a literary work is just the culture speaking, and how much is the writer's own unique contribution. I am an old school new critic who believes in the importance of the success or failure on an author's intent, but I admit authors sometimes do not agree with critics on what their writing is supposed to mean. Eco seems to have given us an experiment. The cultural context is in full operation here, with the narrator clueless about what he values most. Do the narrator's hopes, dreams, wishes, loves, choices really matter in the bigger context of his life? I sure hope so. Without those things he is just looking at his own life as though it belongs to someone else, something arbitrary, soulless. Worthless, devoid of any meaning.
Well, we also all have this problem to some degree. We wake up in the morning and ask ourselves: "How did I get to this place? What does it have to do with me? Who am I, anyway?" I am hoping that if we are all like the proverbial starfish along the beach, Eco will somehow locate us and give us a hefty toss back to mother sea.