Saturday, March 10, 2007

I got my hands on the library's copy of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum the other day... and perusing the book for my own enjoyment and satisfaction, I suddenly remember why I haven't read a damn book since I graduated from college. Not really sure how I picked the book up, six-hundred and something pages, when there's plenty of good TV I can finish in an hour or less. Foucault's Pendulum has been called "a thinking person's Da Vinci Code," which sounds less than promising, since I don't think a thinking person would think much of The Da Vinci Code in the first place. At least I get to feel erudite, all mired down in the linguistic cacophony of great literature. Half the words in Foucault's Pendulum don't make any sense, and the other half aren't even words.

So far, I'm about a hundred pages in, and I'd still have no idea what the story is about if it weren't for the book jacket, and even those three paragraphs are tough to slog through. I don't what a Foucault pendulum has to do with any of this, but it looks like the novel is going to be about, sooner or later, three co-workers in a publishing house who have a computer randomly create a massive Pynchon-esque conspiracy theory that happens to be true and blah, blah, blah something about the futility of the quest for ultimate (or Ultimate, as Eco would randomly capitalize) knowledge. Mainly, I think you read the book cause it's on a syllabus, or otherwise to keep up with the other smarties at your Mensa gatherings.

I believe I mentioned my personal psychological theory when I reviewed The Da Vinci Code: the institutions that organize and run the world have grown apathetic towards the individual that alienation has become a sort of self-devouring epidemic, and even as we're powerless, there's comfort in feeling part of a powerless many fighting for access to the esoteric halls of knowledge. Oops: Foucault's Pendulum, set in the intellectualism of Europe in the sixties, and proudly inpenetrable, lives on the wrong side of our imaginary culture war — which is itself some sort of fascist conspiracy, maybe? — and eschews the confused, lonely, and oppressed who gave the government blood and semen samples so they could sit on a plane and read Dan Brown.

I don't mean to further split our cliques in a world where everybody's supposed to come together and sing, or something. But that attitude is, well, stupid, and it's unworthy of the non-existent elites. Despite what the Republican talking heads on FOX News will tell you, the divide isn't between the intellectual, liberal elites and the rest of you saps but between the rich, greedy power-brokering elite and the rest of you saps. We, the smarties, will let anybody in — you have to read Eco, and Pynchon, and Borges, but no one cares if you can't comprehend them. The bullshit is part of the joke, although our egos are too fragile to admit that. On the other hand, try stealing a ten-dollar DVD from the billionaires running Wal-Mart and see how fast minimum-wage security is on you.