An Excellent Book I don’t recommend

One of the things I’ve been doing since we moved (other than feverishly trying to cronicle the events of our honeymoon) is catching up on my reading. We have all these bookshelves crammed into our little apartment, stuffed quite full of books. Most of those books are mine, and I must confess that a good number of them I’ve never actually read. I… *acquired* them by various means because they *looked* like they might be good.

Now, before you look at me in horror, please understand that a good deal of my book acquiring has been passive. Other people give me more books than I give myself, usually. Nevertheless, this puts me in the odd situation of having no more room for books, with no knowledge of whether the books I have are any better than the books I don’t have yet.

So, while I wait for school to start, I’ve been reading up. My goal is to read through as many previously unread books as possible, with the intent of determining whether I ought to have ever allowed them on my bookshelf in the first place.

Which brings me to Umberto Eco and *Focault’s Pendulum*. Umberto Eco is a great writer of the first degree. Amazing. Astute. Erudite. I read his book *The Name of the Rose* a couple of years ago, and was really impressed. (Which led me to rent a copy of the movie with Sean Connery in it, which was a mistake.) And then somewhere along the way, I acquired a copy of *Focault’s Pendulum*. This week I tried to read it.

Amazing. Astute. Erudite.

The story is about some people at a publishing house who keep getting hit up to publish conspiracy books about the Templar Knights. Kind of like the guy in *National Treasure*, only **way** kookier. They eventually get so fed up with all the silly conspiracies that they decide to make up one of their own, which incorporates all the others. Then they find out that what they made up is true when people start disappearing.

It’s a delightful book, full of wittiness and interesting anectdotes and delightful comparisons between conspiracy theorists, 1960’s extremist politics, and new-agey weirdness. And approximately half way through the book, I’ve decided not to finish it and to get rid of it entirely. Why?


I’m usually not all that ticklish about profanity. I don’t care for it much, but I probably won’t choose to disassociate myself from somebody over an ill-chosen word. But that’s not what I was running into here. So far as language choice, this book is probably pretty clean. But when people are trying to perform witchcraft using the name of God, or start holding debates between two different denominations of devil-worshippers, I start to get a little queasy. And, again, the book doesn’t exactly glorify these people. It makes them out to be what they are: really flakey people who could use a nice reality check. It just keeps *going* there.

Honestly, what I did get read was quite educational. I could tell that it was very thoroughly researched, and there was an amazing level of realism to it. I’ve met these kinds of goofy people before. In certain Christian circles, no less. Now I’ve got a better clue of where they’re coming from.

It’s just that I get the picture already. It’s coming in clear. In fact, I’ve got enough to go on that I really don’t want any more. It’s too much medicine. So I’m putting the book down and getting rid of it.

For the record: I don’t recommend it.

I think next I’m going to finish Plantinga’s “Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be.” A book on why sin is bad ought to help clear the air a bit…

Author: KB French

Formerly many things, including theology student, mime, jr. high Latin teacher, and Army logistics officer. Currently in the National Guard, and employed as a civilian... somewhere

3 thoughts on “An Excellent Book I don’t recommend”

  1. Pingback: BlogWatch
  2. Sorry you’re missing out! 🙂

    The part when Eco’s character concludes that the “Death of God” means people will not believe “nothing,” but rather believe “everything” is especially poignant.

    Better get used to the dark underbelly of rank paganism; there’s a lot more coming our way (see the latest Newsweek for confirmation). Reading Foucault’s Pendulum is a good way to have your eyes opened wide in a manner that is self-consciously absurdist rather than serious.



  3. Like I said, I get the picture. And it is a great book.

    The problem for me is that I’m so subject to what I read. I adopt whole speechpatterns into my head. I start talking and thinking like the characters in whatever book it is I’m reading. (You should have seen the looks on my parents faces at some of the things I said when I was reading a novel set at in a Mormon community.) If I read a book as long and well written as *Foucault’s Pendulum* all the way through, and the characters are both flippant and naïve about religion, **I** end up being flippant and naïve despite my self.

    And then I get this little queasy feeling in my belly…


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