H II Regions, 20 September 2012
A radical change in upcoming plot for The Million plus a headcold and my birthday have conspired to keep me from writing much about what I’m reading this week. Here’s a brief rundown. T-minus two weeks til October 2012 issue!
“The Lie Factory: How politics became a business” is the big New Yorker piece going around about the growth of political consulting / advertising. Interesting, horrifying, etc.
“V for Vile” is a thought-provoking essay laying into V for Vendetta, explicating its various fascist, misogynistic, and manipulative goals. You may not agree with all of it or even most of it, but you will agree that it changes your interpretation of a classic graphic novels.
Just finished The Prague Cemetery and I found this interview to be useful. Especially:
Paris Review: What is it about forgery that interests you? It is a running theme throughout so much of your work.
Umberto Eco: I have been interested in it for at least thirty or forty years, in part because I am a scholar of the problems of language and communication. And to lie is a typical human activity, sometimes more important than telling the truth. Because of lies we can produce and invent a possible world. And in order to understand whether something is a language or not, you have to see whether it can be used to lie. If so, it’s a language. A dog steals your food and hides, but he does not tell you it was another dog.
I was interested in the Protocols not only because is it an important forgery, but because of the tragedy that it contributed to. It was in 1921 that the Times of London proved that they were fake. And after that they were more and more believed and published everywhere. So I was interested by such a phenomenon. Why were they so successful? The answer is that they were not creating new ideas. They were reinforcing previous prejudices.
Definitely one of the aspects I love most about Eco’s works is the focus on communication’s complexity; truth and fiction are deeply intertwined and two of the defining characteristics of humans. Plus, as a fiction writer, I find myself lying a lot. The quest for veracity is a largely thankless task; “knowing” something for certain is all but impossible–but you must do your damnedest to discover when someone has lied to you, if only so they can’t take advantage of you.