Although some of these pieces have a tired feel, there’s much here to enjoy and ponder.


A swan song from one of Europe’s great intellectuals.

After publishing numerous novels, criticism, essays, and so much more, Eco (Numero Zero, 2015, etc.) died in 2016 at the age of 84. Like a few others before him, including Edmund Wilson and Lionel Trilling, among others, Eco proved that one could write for many audiences. Following up on two similar collections, this book contains more than 100 short opinion pieces originally published in L’Espresso magazine from 2000 to 2015. He calls them “reflections on aspects of this ‘liquid society’ of ours,” and they encompass the current crises facing countries across the world, a collapse of ideologies, and the rise of unbridled individualism. They are divided into 13 titled sections, including “From Stupidity to Folly.” Eco was no curmudgeon, but he didn’t suffer fools gladly—e.g., the “excess of stupidity is clogging the [internet] lines.” The author regularly discusses his dislike of cellphones; people “no longer talk face-to-face…no longer reflect on life and death, and instead talk obsessively, invariably with nothing to say.” There’s a distinct Italian lean to these pieces, so some travel better than others, but it’s not so much the information they convey as much as the intellect and thought processes of the conveyor. As Eco admits in one of the last pieces, “don’t take the things you have just read as pure gold.” In one piece, he discusses the Italian government selling off their Maserati cars; in another, the letters of Ian Fleming, who “was a master of style,” and James Joyce. We learn that Eco is a big fan of the “amiable universe” of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and that Art Spiegelman is a “genius,” Maus “one of the most important pieces of literature on the Holocaust.” Even when he’s apologizing for not writing prefaces for people’s books, Eco entertains with his intellect, humor, and insatiable curiosity.

Although some of these pieces have a tired feel, there’s much here to enjoy and ponder.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-97448-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.


The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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