A work of short fiction and essays by Italian professor and theorist Umberto Eco, this book has some actual laugh out loud funny parts. Eco is an always interesting writer, and in this book he manages to be entertaining as well.

Make no mistakes, this is definitly intellectual humor, humor that requires the reader to know 25 centuries of Western intellectual tradition to get all the jokes. However, I honestly believe that Eco is not simply using this as an excuse to show off his knowledge (as some would do) but honestly delighting in the humor that expanded knowledge allows his readers to have.

A consistent theme of the stories is reporting on historical intellectual events using modern jargon, such as a book publishing firms returning manuscripts of literary classics, dismissing them as being unsuitable for publication; to the live telecast of Columbus landing in the new world; to the dismissal of the mass psychology of the people of Athens, including Plato and Aristotle, written in the style of a conservative writer dismissing twentiest century pop culture.

The funniest piece in the whole book, however, is probably the opening piece Granita, a satire on Lolita, dealing with a young man with a great and verbose obsession with elderly women. Although it is only six pages long, it is one of the best pieces of writing I have read in a while.

The only problem with this book is after reading it, when I read Eco's more serious works, I keep on expecting a punchline.

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