What I remember Umberto Eco for best – and, my goodness, I enjoyed The Name of the Rose – is a long-forgotten piece he wrote on the Bond novels. On reading said piece, I was amazed to see that, apart from The Spy Who Loved Me, all the others conformed to a strict structural pattern. I’d wager that Eco picked up his method from Propp’s Morphology of the Folk Tale but, at the time, I was delighted to gain insight into an alternative way of analysing fiction.
He is still, of course, a prolific author and reader – he used to claim that he had solved the problem of trying to read in the shower so that he didn’t waste any time not reading!
Well, his latest musings are on the art of handwriting. There is, as you would expect, the classical allusion, an affectionate remembrance of his parents’ handwriting, along with some schoolboy reminiscing – what makes his writing so good is that he always draws the reader into a more intimate relationship with the subject.
In yesterday’s Guardian (originally it was in The New York Times) Eco recommends a return to handwriting, not as opposed to using the computer or the mobile phone, but as an addition: to encourage children to slow down and think before they commit to paper, to improve hand to eye coordination, and for aesthetic pleasure, one of Eco’s greatest loves.
Having only on Saturday bought my youngest daughter her first decent fountain pen – Fie on the ballpoint! – which they are NOT allowed to use at her school, I think I know what he means.