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Chronicles of a Liquid Society

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3.90  ·  Rating details ·  785 ratings  ·  122 reviews
A posthumous collection of essays about the modern world from one of Europe’s greatest, and best-selling, literary figures

Umberto Eco was an international cultural superstar. In this, his last collection, the celebrated essayist and novelist observes the changing world around him with irrepressible curiosity and profound wisdom. He sees with fresh eyes the upheaval in ide
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Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 14th 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2015)
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3.90  · 
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 ·  785 ratings  ·  122 reviews


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Anton
Feb 01, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 ⭐ I have quite a mixed feelings after finishing this book - hence the lukewarm rating.

I was somewhat disappointed to discover that this is not a book of essays (as I expected) but a collection of Eco's newspaper column articles. The nature of the original media dictates the format of most entries: extra short (500 - 1500 words each), 'newspaper language', written in response to a certain event (some of which felt either dated or way too regional)... So overall it reads a bit bitty, piecemeal
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David
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-essays
This collection of over 100 short newspaper columns is an excellent choice to download to your phone reading app of choice in case you find yourself with a few minutes to spare. Whatever uninformed opinions and clickbait that might appear on Twitter or Facebook at the moment you are occupying will not be a fraction as edifying and entertaining as even the dumbest thing the late Umberto Eco had to say.

When an author passes away, his or her estate usually gets busy hustling out in book form whate
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James
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A compilation of short essays Eco wrote over the course of the last 20 years of his life, for L’Espresso magazine.

Most are interesting, some with sharp insight into trends he spotted that plague us today (for example, everyone - apparently - is now an exhibitionist and wants nothing more than to be recognized, whether for doing something good or being a fool, it doesn't matter as long as the person is recognized). Some of the essays are very dated, but for the most part they are still fun to re
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Haley
Oct 29, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book may have well been entitled “Millennials Need Not Apply.” Baby Boomers will find themselves here, but anyone who was not alive for the WWII or the Vietnam War need not bother. I think even my husband, a fervent Gen-Yer, who is constantly teasing me for just making it into the Millennial category, would be put off by quite a bit of this.

At first, I respected what he was saying–there was quite a bit of nostalgia for his childhood, and it made sense, the way he felt about the world. Fasci
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Justin Walshaw
Jul 13, 2018 rated it liked it
a bit damp
Zöe Yu
Apr 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italian
This is a big volume. Having been on and off for the book, I finally finished. The title is attracting, at least for me. It has some sort of intellectual quality that appeals to me to open the book. Well done, editor!

The sections are similar to other essay books, nothing special for Umberto Eco, well, I thought his essays should be categorised with more interesting titles. Anyway, I am ok with "On hatred and death", "On Mass Media" and so on.

Essays are fine to read, especially in the beginning
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Andrew
Oct 04, 2018 rated it liked it
More for new fans or casual readers to get a sample of his non-fiction work, this is a weaker Eco, but the format all but ensures that: these are 1-3 page opinion pieces he wrote for an Italian magazine, so his space is limited and ideas at their most narrowed down. His wit still shines through. The pieces range from 2000 up through 2015, so I must say hearing him shake a finger about cell phones in 2002 is not interesting beyond novelty.

In general, the first two sections, dedicated to the Inte
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Jonathan Natusch
Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This collection of assorted newspaper columns, covering a 15 year period, is certainly a mixed bag. At its best, the writing sparkles, especially when Eco is covering topics relating to literature, questions of religion and morality, and conspiracy theories.
On the other hand, many pieces feel dated (especially those dealing with mobile phones and other technology), and Eco comes across too often as an out-of-touch curmudgeon (Man Shouts At Clouds! as other reviewers have noted...). And there are
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R.
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Doesn't Blow
Light, playful, humorous short essays on topics ranging from cell phones to conspiracy theories. But nothing that will blow your mind away, nothing that blows the lid off anything.
Esther
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sociologist are those who at a stripclub, observes the audience not the stage.
Emma
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Deep and witty reflections on the current state of our Western society. Things are not too bright, but reading this book could be the first step towards awareness and the search for solutions.
f I say Umberto Eco, I believe most of you will automatically think The Name of the Rose. Eco wrote many more smart and captivating novels, Foucault’s Pendulum for instance, or his latest Numero Zero. He also wrote many essays, for instance on language (see Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language for examp
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Margaret Sankey
Drawn from Eco's short columns for L'Espresso over the last 30 years, these are his reflections on modern life, technology, Italian politics and his own experiences--from hiding in an air raid shelter in WWII, to the birth of his grandchildren. Unfortunately, many of them have a 'get off my lawn' curmugeon-ness that sours his observations on the adaptations of society to new innovation, although his dislike of celebrity culture and reality TV is well-founded.
Libby Greene
Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it
The writing here is a real delight: effortless, light, wry, and slightly saucy. The columns this book collects were originally published biweekly in L'Espresso and, by Eco's account, offer a glimpse into everything that came into his head during the period of his writing. As a result, they inhabit a space that is both informal and "serious"-- and by this I mean that Eco discusses topics he deems worthy of mass contemplation, and discusses them earnestly, but avoids a lot of preciousness and self ...more
Peter Geyer
The Goodreads blurb for this book describes Umberto Eco as an "international cultural superstar" or somesuch, which I'm sure would have made him laugh and sneer in equal measure at such appalling language.

It's true that he was internationally known and respected and rightly so. This book appears to be a collection of newspaper columns and they display erudition, humour, the grasping of key points of many topics, and he even defends himself on occasion. As with any decent column, he comments on a
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CaitlynK
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Paris is a place that many of us think of as home, because real cities and fictional cities merge in our memory, as if both were a part of us, or as if we had lived in both.”

A delightful read and a good introduction to Eco. The collection is made up of pieces too short to really be called essays, which make them easy to sit and read, but even the shortest ones manage a dexterity and fullness that’s intellectually stimulating.

Eco himself comes through clearly, a little high-strung, with slightly
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Andrew Lossing
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
One of the most perceptive modernists of a recently bygone era, Eco has a lot to say about the rise of social media, obsession with technology, and the connectedness of the internet generation. Far from being a crusty old codger, however, his short and sweet essays are focused, nuanced and eminently smart. I appreciated his insights and the experiences he brought to the topic at hand - this is someone who saw the upheaval of Italy through the years following WWII, and lived through some extreme ...more
Ian
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This anthology of the later columns of Umberto Eco for the Italian magazine l'Espresso give an insight into Eco's ability as an Essayist. He explores many aspects of modern life with curiosity, wisdom and wit.

His commentary on Mobile Phones over five different posts covers an arch of ten years which same the device move to an ever more central role is an excellent entry into what he was all about.

I expect that this collection will for be be a book that I return to regularly and re-read so that
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Lecy
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
I adored this book. Yes, it was very much like getting a book of thoughts from a grandfather, and many of those thoughts were picking on millennials, but it is so full of wisdom, humor, playfulness and some downright cool stuff. I read this and immediately read it again because I wanted to catch those little nuggets I might have missed the first time. Sadly, I had never read any of Eco's work before receiving a copy of this book, but I will make a point to find any and all translated pieces by h ...more
Howard
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Comprising a collection of Eco's columns from L'Espresso spanning 2000-2015, these essays are all an interesting read. Inevitably, some will appeal to different readers more than others, but each one has some of Eco's wisdom, observational skills or analytical acumen at its core. I particularly enjoy his wry commentaries on modern life -- the mobile phone or the internet for example, and his biting satirical pieces on political or intellectual absurdities.
Geri Koeppel
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Incredible writing and insight from a legend, but in easy-to-digest bite-size essays that are far more lighthearted than his academic work. Dazzling prose backed up by powerful cultural observations and thoughts. It is eerie how prescient so many of these pieces, written in the early 2000s through early 2010s before his death, are in the age of fake news and Trump. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Frances
I was hoping for the Italian George Saunders, and instead I think I got the Italian Gore Vidal? But I'm not sure, as I've not actually READ Gore Vidal.

This languished the entire time at 1 star for me, until I reached the maybe 40 pages On Books. I would have HAPPILY read this little collection of articles on books and then called it a day. Instead, it was buried in the back.

I think I've come to the conclusion that Umberto Eco is not for me. Thank god.
Lucas Chance
Good, but Unfocused

Like with any collection of Eco's writing, it has moments of beauty and insight, and then occasional "old man yells at cloud" sections. However, this posthumous collection feels more like odds and ends of Eco's thinking than a definitive last statement.

Again, there are some great things here, but this feels less like one last conversation with a trusted mentor than rummaging through their things after they have passed.
Peter Mcloughlin
A collection of short posthumous pieces by Umberto Eco. The pieces are diverting commentary from a good writer but it feels like a collection of various articles pulled together for a book. They are not bad but the whole thing feels ad hoc. Still, if you enjoy Eco it has some interesting thoughts of his from his last years.
Naum
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Part "old man yells at cloud", part "wise sage dispenses bits of wit". Reads like a collection of blog posts but it was a rewarding read nevertheless. Profound fragments within this realm of where a learned aged (68+ when these were all written) scholars shares his thoughts and questions on how technology is molding the world.
E. Kahn
May 10, 2019 rated it liked it
A collection of pieces selected from Eco's column in L'Espresso. These were published in 2000-2015 and it might be the format or just Eco's age, but some of them are, well, not very good. The dude REALLY hated cellphones.

Don't waste your time on this and read one of Eco's excellent collections of (real) essays instead.
Nishant Mehrotra
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really loved his rants on technology, oxymorons and how cell phones have invaded our lives.

These are short editorial essays that he wrote between 2000-2015. So you have to enjoy it for what it is. And what is a lot of food for thought. I read whenever bored 10 -15 mins here and there instead of checking the clickbait on fb.
Earn Jirawong-aram
I read it in Thai and I really his ideas and comments, they are quite original for me. Most importantly, it sent to me to laugh suddenly on a train; sometimes I had to close the book and laugh quietly with myself. It's so sad to know that he has already passed away.
Luciana Nery
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chronicles about contemporary society coming from a man is erudite, sharp-witted and has his heart in the right place - what is not to admire? That's the level that all newspaper articles should aspire to.
Planck Constant
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book is a collection of newspaper articles on various subjects. Nothing surprising or mind blowing, however very enjoyable to read for people like me who has a big respect to the author and his works.
Julian Sanchez
this is a nice columns collection from a great author like Eco, but in this case his readers in many cases must be italians. In this book we have many italian references and many more italian words that perhaps you don't understand.
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Umberto Eco was an Italian writer of fiction, essays, academic texts, and children's books. A professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna, Eco’s brilliant fiction is known for its playful use of language and symbols, its astonishing array of allusions and references, and clever use of puzzles and narrative inventions. His perceptive essays on modern culture are filled with a delightful sen ...more
“el individuo pasa de un consumo a otro en una especie de bulimia sin objetivo (el nuevo teléfono móvil nos ofrece poquísimas prestaciones nuevas respecto al viejo, pero el viejo tiene que ir al desguace para participar en esta orgía del deseo).” 0 likes
“el mundo se ha convertido en un asunto demasiado complicado para dejar que sea gobernado por quienes lo gobernaban antes.” 0 likes
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