Yesterday was a truly tragic day for literature. We lost two of our most treasured writers. Ms. Harper Lee passed away at the age of 89, and the great Umberto Eco died at the age of 84. I find it difficult to express how deeply I am saddened.
Umberto Eco was my favorite writer. I think why I felt such a connection to him is because he did it all. He wrote amazing literary analysis that is insightful and thought-provoking. He tackled complex social issues in essays that were both witty and complex. Finally, he wrote such rich novels that were mysterious, philosophical, and engaging. I cannot sing this man’s praises enough. His genius is reflected in everything that he wrote, and there is much out there to read.
In contrast to the prolific Eco, Harper Lee essentially wrote one book that changed the world. If anyone ever suggests that writing is a frivolous pursuit, you need only mention To Kill a Mockingbird and how that one book impacted society. And yes, Ms. Lee also recently published Go Set a Watchman, but it can be argued that this was the draft of what would be her masterpiece. Harper Lee was the literary equivalent to a one-hit-wonder in music, but that one hit delivered one of the most powerful blows in literature.
Although they are gone, their works will live on to inspire. The world suffers the loss of these two literary geniuses. I guess I can only feel grateful that I lived at the same time as these two brilliant writers.
Here are links to some of my past posts discussing Eco’s and Lee’s works. May they both rest in peace.
- The Infinity of Lists
- The Prague Cemetery
- The Book of Legendary Lands
- Some Reflections on War and Peace
- The Wolf and the Lamb: The Rhetoric of Oppression
- Enlightenment and Common Sense
- From Play to Carnival
- The Loss of Privacy
- On Political Correctness
- Science, Technology, and Magic
- For Whom the Bell Tolls: A 2001 Appeal for a Moral Referendum