Saturday, July 6, 2019

197. News from Nowhere

News from Nowhere
William Morris
Around 250 pages

So before we can skip off into the sunset and discuss Doyle, we have to get through this very long socialist pamphlet...I mean novel.

William Guest falls asleep after a meeting of the Socialist League. When he wakes up, he finds himself in a socialist utopia, which is still very English. He spends most of his time with Dick and Clara, who are happy to show him around. And...that's it. They show him around.

What motivates me to pick up a book is the pure joy I experience when I am told a good story. This isn't much of a story; its thinly veiled agenda grated on my nerves. I am not saying that calls for change have no place in literature, but it's not very effective when it feels more like a lecture than an allegory. It was particularly obnoxious when the old man explained that in this idyllic society women still wait on men because all clever women love nothing more than to manage households. Thank you, Morris, for keeping my greatest pleasure intact: that of handing a penis-bearer a plate at dinner.

He doesn't really offer any strong counterarguments against the traditional complaints wrought against socialism. But what motivates someone to work hard then, William Guest asks the old man. Oh, because everybody loves their work! Um...okay you naive little duckling. Then the old man even says that men no longer tyrannize women in this society, because they just stopped being at jealous at one point. But then later the recent murder of a man by a jealous romantic rival is discussed, and everybody agrees that he was sorry so there is no reason to have a court system. What?

Morris manages to give this relatively harmless "story" a rather sinister edge with the chapter on how the change came to be. Morris intimates that a lot of blood had to be shed to bring about this metamorphosis, which was a necessary path to paradise. But in Morris' "paradise" people don't seem to like to read. So how utopic can it be?

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

"Nowhere" is a literal interpretation of the word "utopia." The word comes from the Greek "ou" (not) and "topos" (place).

UP NEXT: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. All the yays.

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