other names of the rose
November 20, 2017 11:19 AM   Subscribe

I recently finished Umberto Eco's The Name Of The Rose and think it is a wonderful, wondrous book. I loved the interplay of language, theology, philosophy and mystery, the images, the characters, the narrative style. What else can I read?

Obviously Eco's other works. Obviously previously, and it's been 10 years.
posted by the man of twists and turns to Society & Culture (32 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
The previous thread mentions The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte, and while I wholeheartedly agree, I'd have offered you The Flanders Panel first. But really, read all of his works, you'll find occasional Easter Eggs of characters from the same universe mentioned in passing.
posted by librarianamy at 11:25 AM on November 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:43 AM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

You might try Stone's Fall, by Iain Pears. Historical fiction set in the Belle Epoque, with a byzantine (in a good way) plotline.
posted by holborne at 11:44 AM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

China Mieville has a few books out since then. I think "The City and the City" qualifies. It's technically a murder mystery, but the setting is the interesting bit-- two European city-states that literally overlap in geography; their citizens walk past each other on shared sidewalks but are required by law to ignore one another, and breaching the mental boundary is one of the greatest crimes in either state. Each of the two city-states took a different side in the cold war, and each of them has its own culture, which is reflected in the clothing and architecture and manufacture, as a clue to the viewer as to whether that item can be acknowledged or must be ignored.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:47 AM on November 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

Someone in that earlier thread mentioned Perfume, and they were right to do so.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:02 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt. The starting premise is what if the plague had wiped out most of Europe and centuries of scientific, philosophical, mathematical, political and humanist development had happened elsewhere - but it is so much more than that. There is a mystery element to it as well, which I won't go into because it is more fun to work it out for yourself. But there is so much detail and the erudition is clear and the characters are... Ok, writing this makes me want to read it again, and I've read it at least four times already, each time getting something else out of it as my own experience and knowledge grow.

(In the other thread, several people recommended Cloud Atlas, which I read hoping it would be a bit like The Years of Rice and Salt. It was not, far more obvious and overtly clever and chock full of annoying characters. One of the few times I have actually liked the movie better than the book.)
posted by Athanassiel at 12:05 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

An Instance of The Fingerpost, also by Ian pears also has this vibe.

I also enjoyed A Cabinet Of Curiosities, by Allen Kurzweil.
posted by smoke at 12:13 PM on November 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

My perennial suggestion for the sort of mysterious, historical delight you're after, also Iain Pears, is An Instance of the Fingerpost.

On edit - it's in the previous thread, doh, so seconding that recommendation!
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 12:13 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Stephenson's Anathem.
posted by meese at 12:15 PM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Maybe Possession, by A.S. Byatt? From the Amazon description, "...an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and triumphant love story." To my mind, it definitely has the ambitious scope of The Name of the Rose and the writing is absolutely exquisite.
posted by merriment at 12:24 PM on November 20, 2017 [7 favorites]

Seconding meese's suggestion of anathem and throwing Stevenson's baroque cycle on the pile too.
posted by cosmicbandito at 1:07 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

One of my favorites is Silverlock, by John Myers Myers, a truly American fantasy (I.e. pre-Tolkien in the USA) about a man who's shipwrecked on The Commonwealth of Letters and proceeds to meet and learn from creatures from the past of mythology, literature, history, and more. Like Name of the Rose, there's a Companion booklet which is very helpful.
posted by MovableBookLady at 1:10 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

An Insular Possession by Timothy Mo
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

I'd suggest Italo Calvino, invisible cities, but that is just because it's basically the best book ever rather than because it's similar to TNOTR.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:13 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I will agree with many of the books in this thread and the previous thread (specifically The Historian, Cabinet of Curiosities, Perfume, Anathem, Years of Rice and Salt, City and the City, Aegypt, and all the Perez-Reverte books). You might also like

- The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
- The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (very violent, but if that's not a thing that concerns you, it hits all the other points)
- Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (a different sort of book but if you haven't read him he's smart like Eco but along a different path)
- The Eight by Katherine Neville (a little poppier than the other suggestions but a good solid novel)
posted by jessamyn at 1:18 PM on November 20, 2017

These are all excellent suggestions, and I am well familiar with Pérez-Reverte, Miéville, Stephenson, Robinson, Mitchell, and already intended to read Calvino, Mantel, Seth, Süskind, and Liu. And yet none of these books grabbed me the way The Name Of The Rose did* - with all your excellent suggestions, what would seize me now?

*perhaps a testament to what else I have been reading and thinking of: Palmer, Snyder, Walton, Pratchett, Dickinson, Tuchman, Tooze, and how each book is approached with a mindset, and no book can be ever read again, for as we read and understand more our understanding changes what we perceive, much like how the beach I went to as a boy is not the same sand, or grass, or water as it once was, or how I can never eat that exquisite meal again, though I may sit on the same beach and eat the same picnic, I am not the same.

“Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.

posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:35 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'll add Roberto Bolaño's 2666. It is long, complicated, fragmented; it gives a sense of place and culture; it makes you feel. It's horrifying and upsetting. It has the feel of a detective story, undergirded by a search to understand that horror. NYT review.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:54 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ok definitely Crowley, who has been mentioned in both threads now. Little, Big is my favourite, though I suspect the Ægypt Cycle will be more likely to scratch your itches.

Other possibilities, now that I have had coffee: Mary Gentle's Ash: A Secret History and (not the same but somehow similar) Nicola Griffith's Hild. I would advise you to wait until at least the second volume of Hild comes out but it doesn't seem like that is going to happen terribly soon (it's been four years already, and her next book coming out next year is unrelated) so if it sounds like a possibility, probably better to give it a go.

Ultimately though, I suspect that The Name of the Rose is unique. I'd suggest waiting a while and re-reading it, but though that may be rewarding, as you point out it will never be the same as the first breathless experience of its world opening and unfolding unexpectedly. I think that as long as you approach books individually, rather than as possible likenesses to a beloved one, you are more likely to have that same heady, vertiginous joy. I've had it in books that are absolutely nothing like each other in terms of plot, setting, characterisation, subject matter, genre - it seems to be something that some authors manage to get at least once in their careers, and, if we are lucky, more than once; but it is also about when we as readers encounter the book. The same book read at a slightly different time in your life may not have the same effect. It's a bit chancy.

So in that spirit, I will suggest the last book I read which gave me that feeling: Peter S Beagle's Summerlong. I think it took me days to come out of that world.
posted by Athanassiel at 2:41 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Perhaps A Canticle for Leibowitz
posted by lousywiththespirit at 3:16 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Alienist by Caleb Carr?
posted by Splunge at 3:40 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you read Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon?
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:42 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

For shorter works try Jonathan Carroll , the Land of Laughs is a good place to start.

The Crying of Lot 49 is Pynchon's version of Foucalt's Pendulum (the Eco novel)

I will always recommend Pale Fire and it meets many of your criteria as well.
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:46 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh and Borges, if you haven't already.
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:52 PM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think perhaps because the multifaceted Name of The Rose has so many aspects, as you've called out:
* Language
* Meta-ness (a narrative about narrative)
* Prose
* Characters
* Mystery
* Setting

I think many of these recommendations capture things relating to setting, perhaps mystery, and a few characters. However, the "meta" nature of Name of the Rose - coming without any expense to narrative etc - is I think perhaps the most elusive, yet most satisfying aspect of what you're interested in. Many books that tread in this territory however may be far removed from Name of the Rose in terms of those other facets.

I reiterate my recommendation for a Case of Curiosities as I think it captures this aspect well, and the prose is lovely.

I've not read these two books, but perhaps Q might also qualify, as might Dissolution which tbh looks like such a cracking good read I'll buy it for myself, I think!

In regards to that sense you've entered another world or way of thinking, some books that have done that to me, in a similar way:

> The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (narrative? Not especially. Lovable characters? Well they certainly stood out for me. Philosophising? Absolutely. But above all, a sense that I was up on that mountain for the duration of the novel, lethargic and immersed in otherworldly isolation).

> The Magus by John Fowles definitely had this effect on me as a young man. I'm not sure how it would hold up, however. It may be a bit of a young man's book.

>If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino - here's you meta right here. There is nothing like it that has been done anywhere near so well. Don't get me started on Nicholson Baker, pfuagh!

> Germinal, by Emile Zola - vital and raw, forceful like a punch, anguished and angry and breath-takingly contemporary.

>Pere Goriot - by Honore Balzac - a sly commentary on this genre of novel, but it still makes you feel for the characters. Meta, without being just a cerebral flourish. Deeper than it appears.

> Moby Dick, by Melville - I found it an utter chore and really disliked it, but it is it's own universe, without a doubt.

> Titus Groan and Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake - no meta to speak of, but a peculiar, singular world and setting. Don't bother with the third book, Titus Alone. Peake was on his mental decline by then and it shows.

>The book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe - and alien headspace, a strange journey.

^These books are nothing really like Name of The Rose. But there is something ineffable, transportive about all of them. Perhaps they might aid your search.
posted by smoke at 5:19 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, I has Literary Historical Fiction + Philosophy recommendation, kinda different narrative style:

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

Epic Literary Historical Fiction with Philosophy debates & ironic humour:

Creation by Gore Vidal

Thoughtful Literary Historical Fiction with an interesting narrator:

I Claudius by Robert Graves
posted by ovvl at 5:28 PM on November 20, 2017

Borges and Calvino for sure, 100%.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:24 PM on November 20, 2017

The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov
posted by stinkfoot at 8:48 PM on November 20, 2017

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Calvino, for sure. The beginning of Chapter 1 alone, with the description of the bookstore, is worth the price of admission.
posted by culfinglin at 12:06 AM on November 21, 2017

Seconding Pale Fire, and Ada.
posted by BibiRose at 9:15 AM on November 21, 2017

Obviously previously, and it's been 10 years.

Well, thanks for making me feel old. (I'm the poster of that question.)

Books I've liked since:

-An Instance of the Fingerpost
-lots of Borges
-a classic in Canada, Fifth Business (fake meta-quotations, saints, murder, the whole nine yards)
-Station Eleven
-The Vegetarian, Han Kang
-lots of Chabon, esp. The Yiddish Policeman's Union
-The Luminaries, by Catton
-A Wild Sheep Chase

Book that I like and keep on trying to finish but it's such a monster that I never have:
-House of Leaves

This is out there, but try the comic book Pretty Deadly on for size. An oral history of Death.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 12:06 PM on November 21, 2017

Dissolution is a good book, but nowhere near the challenge and complexity of TNOTR.

Ken Follett published the third of the Kingsbridge series this year (the one that started with Pillars of the Earth): A Column of Fire. A little pulpier than Eco, Pynchon, et al, but still very detailed and philosophical. Sweeping in scope, as he does.

If, perhaps, the qualities you are looking for are just another way of saying that you really want to be challenged by a book, I suggest the most challenging book ever: Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry. As one Goodreads reviewer put it: "Purchase a large bottle of tequila and start walking from Ernest Hemingway's house to Vladimir Nabokov's house."
posted by bluejayway at 12:59 PM on November 21, 2017

This one is a little lateral but another Canadian recommendation: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:34 PM on November 21, 2017

seconding (thirding?) John Crowley's Aegypt series. More for content than for style, but the style is pretty amazing.
posted by taltalim at 3:12 PM on November 27, 2017

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