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How To Travel With A Salmon: and Other Essays (1992)

by Umberto Eco

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,362186,671 (3.66)24
This witty and irreverent collection of essays presents Eco's playful but unfailingly accurate takes on everything from militarism, computer jargon, Westerns, librarians and bureaucrats to meals on airplanes, Amtrak trains, bad coffee, express mail, fax machines and pornography. "An uncanny combination of the profound and the profane".--San Francisco Chronicle.… (more)
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English (12)  French (3)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
A good casual reflection of Eco's genius and sense of humor, How to Travel is an oddball mix of short essays and fiction. Most pieces follow the "how-to" title format, with satiric content. Of note are the title essay, "How to Justify a Private Library," "How to Write an Introduction," "How to Watch out for Widows," and "How to Organize a Public Library." These have a rather matte sheen of cultural commentary on travel, life as an intellectual (I know, but Eco breaks the shiny celebrity life into rather hilarious pieces) and even issues like cultural representation and pacing in movies. Their reassuring rhythm stays fresh in this way: they always begin on-topic, precisely, but then take a very specific turn, and follow whatever conceit has been chosen to an appropriate closing point. Though most columnists induce involuntary urges in me to hit my head against the nearest wall, I'd gladly subscribe to a magazine that featured this kind of thing, if I could read Italian and Eco were in any state to be writing.
The pieces which don't fit into this pattern provide nice change of pace and are completely unexpected. "Stars and Stripes" gets a little distracted by its own details, but is a brilliant little sci-fi sidetrack. "On the Impossibility of Drawing a map of the Empire on a Scale of 1 to 1" shows the extent of imagination which makes Eco successful in so many other ventures. "Editorial Revision" is clever and delightful, but I won't pretend to follow all of it; along with "Sequels" and a few of the other literary pieces it was a demonstration of the depth of Eco's reading but not all accessible for those who haven't a complete knowledge of the classics.
The closing essay is tender, kind, and loyal, all without giving up the honesty of telling about one's hometown or the historic rigor characteristic to Eco's writing, and gives the perfect bittersweet closing to a book unified only by the author's perspective. ( )
  et.carole | Jan 21, 2022 |
It reads like a collection of essays by a hybrid of Jorge Luis Borges and Dave Barry. (I mean that as a compliment because I admire both of those writers.)

In “How to Speak of Animals,” reflecting on a news item about two kids who break into the Central Park Zoo after-hours, go swimming in the polar bear enclosure and end up getting chewed to bits, he gives his theory on the root cause:

These children were probably victims of our guilty conscience, as reflected in the schools and the mass media.

"Human beings have always been merciless with animals, but when humans became aware of their own cruelty, they began, if not to love animals (because, with only sporadic hesitation, they continue eating them), at least to speak well of them. As the media, the schools, public institutions in general, have to explain away so many acts performed against humans by humans, it seems finally a good idea, psychologically and ethically, to insist on the goodness of animals. We allow children of the Third World to die, but we urge children of the First to respect not only butterflies and bunny rabbits but also whales, crocodiles, snakes.

Mind you, this educational approach is per se correct. What is excessive is the persuasive technique chosen: to render animals worthy of rescue they are humanized, toyified. No one says they are entitled to survival even if, as a rule, they are savage and carnivorous. No, they are made respectable by becoming cuddly, comic, good-natured, benevolent, wise, and prudent.



Advertising, cartoons, illustrated books are full of bears with hearts of gold, law-abiding, cozy, and protective—although in fact it’s insulting for a bear to be told he has a right to live because he’s only a dumb and inoffensive brute. So I suspect that the poor children in Central Park died not through lack of education but through too much of it. They are victims of our unhappy conscience.

To make them forget how bad human beings are, we were taught too insistently that bears are good. Instead of being told honestly what humans are and what bears are."

And some unassailable logic in “How to Avoid Contagious Diseases”:

"I read recently that according to the revelations of Professor Matré, heterosexual contact is carcinogenic. High time somebody came out and said it. I would go even farther: heterosexual contact causes death, period. Even a fool knows that it ends in procreation, and the more people are born, the more die." ( )
1 vote k6gst | Apr 19, 2019 |
"How to Travel with a Salmon & Other Essays" is a 'How-To' book by Umberto Eco, with which he aims to help readers get through our modern lives. You may be one of those who needs to know "How to Recognize a Porn Movie" or "How to Eat Ice Cream" or "How to Use the Coffeepot from Hell." Or not. But if you izz or if you izzent, you'll probably have a good laugh at the modern CORRECT way of doing any one of the 41 things that other people don't know how to do correctly. Bring lots of clean underpants and a few rolls of toilet paper, and keep them handy while you enjoy Umberto Eco's latest laugh at the modern world.

Four-and-a-half stars because neither author Eco nor his translator, William Weaver, thought to tell me how much paper I would need.

Solomon sed ( )
  NathanielPoe | Mar 22, 2019 |
Eco comes off as an arrogant, snobby jerk in many of these essays. I was very surprised. ( )
  sparemethecensor | Jul 27, 2015 |
This one had me laughing, quite a few time and rather out loud. It's a collection of anecdote from 80's and 90's: how to travel with a salmon 'or how to be taken by his children and his publisher for an alcoholic'

Some I found really funny, other less so but I think that anyone can find something to his liking ... ( )
  electrice | Nov 9, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Umberto Ecoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boeke, YondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krone, PattyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weaver, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Between 1959 and 1961 I was responsible for a regular column entitled "Diario minimo" in the literary magazine Il Verri, edited by Luciano Anceschi.
According to the newspapers, there are two main problems besetting the modern world:  the invasion of the computer, and the alarming expansion of the Third World.
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(...) De bezoeker komt binnen en zegt: 'Wat een hoop boeken! Heeft u die allemaal gelezen?' Aanvankelijk dacht ik dat je aan deze woorden uitsluitend mensen kon herkennen die niet zo vertrouwd zijn met het boek en slechts gewend zijn aan een paar plankjes met vijf detectives en een meerdelige jeugdencyclopedie. Maar de ervaring heeft me geleerd dat ook mensen van wie je dat helemaal niet vermoedt dergelijke dingen zeggen. Wel kan gezegd worden dat het altijd gaat om mensen die een boekenplank beschouwen als een opbergplek voor gelezen boeken en die een bibliotheek niet beschouwen als een onontbeerlijk hulpmiddel bij het werk, maar daarmee zijn we er nog niet. Volgens mij raakt iedereen bij het zien van veel boeken vervuld van een angstig ontzag voor kennis en glijdt onherroepelijk af naar bovengenoemde vraag, waarin zijn gekweldheid en zijn schuldbewustzijn tot uitdrukking komen. ('Hoe rechtvaardig je je eigen bibliotheek', p.106-107)
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This witty and irreverent collection of essays presents Eco's playful but unfailingly accurate takes on everything from militarism, computer jargon, Westerns, librarians and bureaucrats to meals on airplanes, Amtrak trains, bad coffee, express mail, fax machines and pornography. "An uncanny combination of the profound and the profane".--San Francisco Chronicle.

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