Mixed bag of short novels

Numero Zero - Umberto Eco
Expected publication: November 3rd 2015 by Houghton Mifflin

Numero Zero starts with a man, who we later know as Colonna worried almost to the point of paranoia as to the reason why there is no water coming from his tap. Colonna ponders about who turned off the tap and why did they do it. Whereas the reader is wondering why is this person so bothered about such an insignificant event? Then Eco begins to unravel the story as you go back to learn about a newspaper in name only, that ‘produces’ stories that will never go into publication, a romance and a conspiracy theory about Mussolini that has everyone involved.

This is the part where I start the review and this is the part that I am struggling with for the simple reason I do not know what to make of what I read.

There were parts I enjoyed and parts I thought would never end. There were the wonderful descriptions of character ‘She was slim and spoke with cautious gaiety’ and place ‘this vast restaurant, through whose windows you could glimpse at least a hundred seats, always depressingly empty’. Eco mocks the role of the media and in particular newspapers who believe they teach people how to think. Yet what is not clear is whether ‘newspapers follow trends or create trends?’ At each turn of the page you expected Eco to take you down the rabbit hole of the mystery he has waved in front of your face.

There are many things that make this novel worth reading. There are those wonderful snappy descriptions and a dense conspiracy theory. There are lovely pot-shots at the media and how technology has influenced our lives. So many wonderful elements but it just does not come together.

Herland - Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Herland is difficult to review. In one way it is a subtle humorous piece that has three men rethink their role and that of women, in another it is story that has not aged well and is very, very dated.

I did find parts amusing but overall I did struggle with the formalized style of the book. I presume the author was trying to capture the pompous view of the men but it become tiresome to read.

So three men discover a utopian world free of conflict, war, hatred and it is ruled by women. The women have no need for men, yes not even for reproduction and they value education above all else.

The book is about defining gender roles but also expectations of what men want from women.
Interesting read.