Listen in as two men of letters begin with speculating on digital media ending the book and then drift delightfully through collecting books, censorship, accidental and purposeful destruction of libraries, plus oddities that attract them personally. Umberto Eco is the celebrated author of The Name of the Rose, and Jean-Claude Carrière is a prolific cinéphile in France. Both love books, writing, reading, collecting and conversing.
The first few chapters of This is Not the End of the Book; could be considered predictable, although the wit employed by the conversationalists keeps the ideas from being bland. The form of the book is not really important. Readers for ebooks have advantages. The internet can be dastardly or helpful. Reading poetry and novels is different than reading legal documents.
When Eco and Carrière start taking about internet filters, the conversation veers uncontrollably off the path. Filters come in many flavours and weights. Internet filters are only the most recent manifestation. Book publishers grossly filter with their infamous “slush piles” of unsolicited and unread manuscripts. The internet has gone around that barrier by making self-publishing much easier. Librarians of necessity buy certain books and not others. Governments ban materials, for reasons usually attributed to security of some sort. Before the era of printing, manuscripts were literally those that were laboriously copied by hand, mostly in religious communities.
Astonishingly, both writers enjoy bad writing, stupidity, and deceptive texts. Claiming that these reveal as much about a society as brilliant art, they display a wondrous grasp of unworthy books through the ages.
By the time I reached the chapters on destruction by fire, my spirit was in mourning for all that has been lost, suppressed, self-censored and ignored. Thus, the recent destruction of the great documents in Timbuktu harkened to This is Not the End of the Book; and our reverence for the written word.