Umberto Eco

Reviewers will unhesitatingly recommend it as required reading in the schools

Selected Reviews
Below are several reviews of Eco-related books; some are available as offsite links, and some have been transcribed to HTML format and placed online here at Porta Ludovica. Porta Ludovica does not mean to challenge the copyrights of any magazine or newspaper by uploading the text of a review. The copyrights are exclusively held by the publication and/or the writer; they are online here so interested people may read reviews that have long been regulated to the eldritch world of microfische.
With this in mind, I would appreciate if people visiting this area of Porta Ludovica agree not to distribute the texts of these reviews. Please read them only for your own personal interest.
Also, reviews of nonfiction books found on the academic publisher’s sites have been omitted – most of these may be read in excerpt form under the appropriate book in the “Works” section.


Semioticians Have More Fun
The New York Times, 27 July 1987, by George Garrett
A review of Travels in Hyperreality.

Setting the Outer Limits for Critics
The New York Times, 9 January 1991, by Herbert Mitgang
A review of The Limits of Interpretation with an eye on Eco the fiction writer.

Words Lightly and Seriously but Always Lovingly
The New York Times, 9 June 1993, by Herbert Mitgang
A review of Misreadings.

The Cannibals Have Got Potential
The New York Times, 25 July 1993, by Henry Taylor
A review of Misreadings.

Professor Whatever
The New Republic, 7 February 2000, by Simon Blackburn
A review of Kant and the Platypus.

Sign Language
New York Review of Books, 15 June 2000, by ColinMcGinn
This thorough review of Kant and the Platypus finds it “an uneasy exploration of basic cognitive processes such as perception, recognition, and conceptual categorization.”

Belief of Nonbelief?
Porta Ludovica, 23 March 2000, by Allen B. Ruch
Porta Ludovica’s review of Belief or Nonbelief?

Morality’s Echo
January Magazine, November 2001, by Adrian Marks
A small but favorable look at Five Moral Pieces.

Five Moral Pieces
Porta Ludovica, 20 December 2001, by Seamus A. Thompson
Porta Ludovica’s review of Five Moral Pieces.


The Name of the Rose

Medieval Mystery
The New York Times, 4 June 1983, by Walter Goodman
Goodman finds the book satisfying, if a bit “self-indulgent.”

Murder in the Monastery
The New York Times, 5 June 1983, by Franco Ferrucci
A fairly positive review of what would soon become a modern classic.

A Sweeter Rose
Porta Ludovica, 30 July 2002, by Allen B. Ruch
A look at the Folio Society’s illustrated edition of The Name of the Rose.

Foucault’s Pendulum

Inside Jokes from the Knights Templars to Snoopy
The New York Times, 11 October 1989, by Herbert Mitgang
A very positive review by long-time Eco reviewer Mitgang.

The Heights of Lowdown
The Guardian, 12 October 1989, by Jonathan Coe
Coe finds the work complex but exhilarating.

A Conspiracy to Rule the World
The New York Times, 15 October 1989, by Anthony Burgess
Novelist Anthony Burgess amusing review of this “intellectual triumph, if not a fictional one.”

Washington Diarist: Browbeaten
The New Republic, 27 November 1989, by Leon Wieseltier
A somewhat overly sensitive column about the superficiality of Tom Wolfe, Umberto Eco, and Woody Allen. The comments on the offensiveness of Foucault’s Pendulum (“poorly written and swiftly read”) are not half as funny as the author’s remarks about Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Review of Foucault’s Pendulum
Humantitas, 12 February 1990, By Geoffrey Sauer
Geoffrey Sauer takes a very detailed look at a novel he finds “at once amusing, bewildering, ironic, exceedingly intellectual, and eminently unlikable.”

The Island of the Day Before

Eco Beached
The Observer, 15 October 1995, by Will Self
This rather unfavorable review finds the book a soporific drag.

New York Times, 22 October 1995, by Robert Kelly
An extremely favorable and literate review, with some excellent commentary.

Shipwrecked 17th Century Youth
New York Times, 30 October 1995, by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
A lukewarm but insightful review.

A Remarkable “Island” in a Vast Sea of Imagination
USA Today, 9 January 1996
A brief and favorable review.


Independent, 12 October 2002, by Robert Irwin
A rather uncertain review: call it a luke-warm appreciation.

A Byzantine Tale
Washington Post, 13 October 2002, by Geraldine Brooks
A mixed review: “In the end, for all its occasional beauty and sharp flashes of wit, I, like Niketas, longed to wake up.”

Eco’s Book of Lies
Porta Ludovica, 15 October 2002, by Allen B. Ruch
Porta Ludovica’s own review of Eco’s fourth novel.

Novel’s Prevaricating ‘Hero’ Invents History 800 Years Ago
Houston Chronicle, 18 October 2002, by Nora Seton
A generally positive review with numerous quotations.

Here Be Monsters
The Guardian, 19 October 2002, by A.S. Byatt
Novelist A.S. Byatt writes, “It is a paradox that Eco’s most readable tale is also his least satisfactory – an insubstantial body, informed by the ghost of a brilliant idea.”

Eco May Be Too Smart for the Novel’s Own Good
San Francisco Chronicle, 20 October 2002, by David Kipen
Kipen finds the novel too unfocused.

The Searcher
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 20 October 2002, by Jeff Guinn
Guinn finds that “Baudolino comes at just the right time, for Eco and for his readers.”

Magical Medieval Mystery Tour
Daily Telegraph, 27 October 2002, by Matthew d’Ancona
D’Ancona raves, “This is a totally compelling journey into a lost world, and deserves to be called a masterpiece.”

You Couldn’t Make it Up
The Guardian, 27 October 2002, by Adam Mars-Jones
A fairly literate but mixed review.

Too Mediaeval by Half
Spectator, October 2002, by Thomas Wright
Wright finds Eco’s fiction to be greatly flawed in comparison to his nonfiction.

SF Site, October 2002, by William Thompson
Thompson’s well-written and insightful review finds the novel’s cover an apt image for a flawed but colorful work.

For Sale: Head of John the Baptist. Box of 7
New York Times, 3 November 2002, by Peter Green
In a reasonable and informed review, Peter Green finds that “Baudolino, with its richly variegated haul of medieval treasures, remains compulsively readable.”

In the Middle of the 12th Century
Christian Science Monitor, 14 November 2002, by Merle Rubin
An unabashedly positive review: “Long though it is, this a novel that keeps getting better, gathering irresistible force as it sweeps toward its brilliantly inevitable conclusion.”

Digressions only Highlight Flaws in “Baudolino”
Charlotte Observer, 12 December 2002, by John Bordsen
John Borsden offers the funniest negative review to date.


Mystery of the Abbey
Porta Ludovica, 20 November 2003, by Allen B. Ruch
Porta Ludovica looks at a game based loosely on The Name of the Rose.

–Allen B. Ruch
20 November 2003