What a treat, a new Umberto Eco novel, Numero Zero. Many years ago I stopped watching the news and only watched Stewart and Colbert for my news. Then they moved on. I listen to NPR in the car as I drive and even Rush like talk radio for entertainment. No more network news for this cowboy, it is all crap. After a few dozen pages of this new novel, I was in stiches with laughter as Eco has done such a great job of capturing the shady practices of news dispersal by print and media in this brilliant parody of the news business. “It’s not the news that makes the newspaper, but the newspaper that makes the news.” I know it’s an old adage or joke. “But in fact the newspaper is transmitting an idea, an alarm signal, a warning…And in any case, think of the reader: each of these items, taken individually, would have had little impact, but together they force the reader to stay on that page. Understood?” Eco has aroused that curiosity again about how in fact we get news. I like that he is using a newspaper rather than a more current transmitter of news.
Just as Eco had done in Foucault’s Pendulum and The Name of the Rose, Eco follows an idea about Mussolini and crazy notions involving secret police, the Mafia, the Vatican, and other Italian agencies to device an entertaining story using hard facts but bending them to create a hilarious thriller of paranoia and suppositions that bring the newspaper to its knees and leaves us with one dead newsman. This is a great parody of his own work and others like it.