The echo of Eco still lures philosophers tempted by literary fame. True to their calling, aspirants find the notion occurs to them as a hypothetical.

Suppose, the wannabe star reflects, I combine the profundities of truth and meaning I handle with my left hand in seminars with the fast-paced narrative ratiocination I prize in mysteries (the books I actually consume instead of rereading philosophy texts assigned in those seminars). Then I soak it all in the sex, blood, and historical detail that attracts me as a run-of-the-mill cultural citizen.

Wouldn’t I rival the success of Umberto Eco himself, whose The Name of the Rose (1983), with its wonderfully deductive William of Baskerville and his terribly loyal sidekick Adso, conquered international best-seller lists in the 1980s and launched the Bologna professor of semiotics on a heady mass-market career?

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