This is not a book

“These days it is impossible to get away from discussions of whether the book will survive the digital revolution. Blogs, tweets and newspaper articles on the subject appear daily…This thought-provoking book takes the form of a conversation in which Carriere and Eco discuss everything from how to define the first book to what is happening to knowledge now that infinite amounts of information are available at the click of a mouse. En route there are delightful digressions into personal anecdotes.”

Whoever wrote the blurb for Penguin did a pretty good job of making This is not the end of the book sound coherent. The difficulty is that the balance is the other way round: this isn’t a debate interrupted by occasional digression, but digression interrupted by occasional debate.

The ‘curator’, Jean-Philippe de Tonnac, intervenes from time to time to steer the discussion, but he reminds me rather of someone herding cats. Eco and Carriere go where they will.

Indeed, the irony of this book, an apologia for books , is that it isn’t a book. This book is not a book would have made a better title. It is an assemblage of belle-lettrist rambles. Of these, the least interesting are those dealing with what the blurb purports to be the theme of the book, namely the relationship between books and digital media. The comments in those parts are unoriginal and uninspired.

The charm of the book lies in the diversions, most notably into the world of book-collecting. There the observations, the musings, the anecdotes, and the jokes come backed by greater pressure. Really, the publisher should have told Tonnac, “Let’s just forget the internet: just let the old boys talk more about the old books”.

This is not the end of the book is a forgettable-but-diverting read.

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