It has not been good hunting. I accidentally read David Eddings only non-fantasy book (incidentally on hunting, and very good by the way) and did not care for either Eddison OR Erickson (whose Gardens of the Moon so nonplussed me that I abandoned it after 80 pages in the Chicago airport, hoping it would be found by someone who would love it. I could not bear to lug it around anymore).
Okay. Enough whimpering. The Name of the Rose is about a Sherlock-style monk named William and his German novice Adso who arrive at a remote abbey to solve a mystery about murder... and books. It is very readable and was written to be readable: "It matters a great deal because here we are trying to understand what has happened among men who live among books, with books, from books, and so their words on books are important." and "Often books speak of other books." The many chapter headings kept the narrative moving as well, my favorite being "NIGHT: In which, if it were to summarize the prodigious revelations of which it speaks, the title would have to be as long as the chapter itself, contrary to usage."
Especially interesting to me was the concept: "The only thing that scares me about purity is haste." ... which is proved by the point when it is indeed haste that destroys the most important things in this tale. There are lots of interesting things sprinkled throughout the book.
And perhaps most interesting was what the author says at the end of the book, in which he confirms authors should never discuss what their books mean, that books are their own creatures in their own right, and then goes on to do something very akin to that. Might I add that Umberto Eco is an actual real live Semiotics Professor? I had not idea such things existed, and right now I am not sure what my relationship to semiotics is, given that Mark Harmon (not the actor) told me his sister said the "Semiotics was the Voodoo of the English Language." That may very well be, since the Honorable Eco spends a great deal of time trying to explain how he removed his presence from the book so that the words spoke their own story without him. At a certain point, Eco starts to wonder if he has done this well enough, just as his poor characters ceaselessly wonder if their thoughts are chaste enough. The answer to both questions is probably the same.
Lessons learned about writing: I agree with Eco's statement: "I discovered, namely, that a novel has nothing to do with words in the first instance. Writing a novel is a cosmological matter..." ; for me, that means ideas, even things as base as physical locations, something real, drive stories. Secondly, I both agree and disagree with his supposition that an author is not the story they write because once the pen, metaphorical or otherwise is put down, it doesn't matter if they are infused with the story or not -- the story is now its own creature.