Their Eyes Were Watching God

We apologize for the lengthy interregnum, it was so long that we had to look up a new word just to describe it. Or possibly we just have trouble getting our act together sometimes. At any rate, Novel Ideas is back with Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, a story of a woman’s personal journey to self-realization. Listen to the episode to hear our conversation about dialect, ambition, feminism, and race. We also talk about white history professors, bees, how rabies works, and kickass deathbed scenes.

Quick scheduling note: We’re trying to post an episode for John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War next week, followed by our year in review episode for “Season 2″ of Novel Ideas. There is likely to be a couple more missed weeks after that as Gabs gets married and goes on her honeymoon. Or maybe Ben will post something highly self-indulgent while we’re waiting. We’ll have to see.

If you have any comments or questions about anything we’ve talked about in the past year, please let us know! Also, if there’s anything you were hoping we might talk about outside those books, also let us know. We’d like to find some interesting and slightly different content for the end of the year episode if we can.

The music bump this week is “Janie Runaway” by Steely Dan, after our plucky protagonist.

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Too Dignified for a Mule Funeral

Recommendations:

A 20th century classic that is commonly assigned in school with a lot of conversation worthy content. A little tough to read due mainly to the use of dialect, but also rather short.

Gabs: 7/10 for literary value, 5/10 for ease of reading.

Ben: 5.5/10 because I liked it more than I didn’t, but just barely. This one felt kind of like assigned reading.

Under the Dome

Novel Ideas returns, still a tad off schedule, with Under the Dome by Stephen King. Yes we’re a week late. Yes we’ve switched up our order. But we made it. And we’re hoping to get back on track for a few weeks before our schedule mid-March disruption. But more on that later. Listen to the episode for our discussions on antagonists, black and white characters, feminism, and difficult thematic questions. We also talk about Stephen King-isms, people who don’t swear, functional bullshit detectors, and bursting a rage bubble.

The music bump is “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, chosen for possible thematic relevance.

Under the Dome – Worst Comedy Ever

Recommendations:

Gabs: 8/10. A fun and compelling read, where you don’t stop to ask questions until after you’ve finished.

Ben: 8/10. A very entertaining book, assuming you aren’t scared of its sheer mass.

Fledgling

After a lengthy, mostly unplanned, holiday hiatus, Novel Ideas returns with Fledgling by Octavia Butler. This is a book about vampires that offers a slightly different spin on what has arguably become its own genre. Not to mention a science fiction/fantasy book not written by a neckbearded white man. In the episode, we discuss various subgenres at play, direct writing styles, what is at the core of a person, and racism. Lots of racism. We also talk about vatigue, podcasting as a visual medium, trope subversion, and Canada.

The music bump is “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, mostly because Ben has an abhorrent sense of humor.

Fledgling – Chemically Bonded Group Marriage

Recommendations:

Ben: 8/10 Excellent world building and interesting relationship building. Definitely read it.

Gabs: 6.5/10 An interesting new approach to vampires, but not really my thing.

The Awakening

Novel Ideas returns at a strange interval with The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Our apologies for our odd posting schedule as of late, Ben’s day job leads to a rather turbulent schedule between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so editing and posting episodes tends to get pushed back. We’re hoping to at least be able to post on Mondays through the start of the new year. I guess we’ll see. At any rate, check out this week’s episode where we discuss marriage, feminism, the rejection of societal norms, and the adult readability of classics. We also talk about space penises, Victorian titillation, the romantic death trope, and why children are boring.

The music bump this week is Frederic Chopin’s Nocture opus 15, number 3 in G Minor, also subtitled “Solitude” for its possibly awakening Edna’s…. awakening, I guess.

The Awakening – Who Gives a Hell About Kissing

Recommendations:

Ben: 6/10 I liked it more than not and provides some food for thought, though I didn’t find it especially compelling.

Gabs: 8/10 Minus two for the ending.

The Joy Luck Club

As promised, Novel Ideas returns with episode number two for this week: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. This is a book that is not easily summarized, as its narrative follows eight different women through various episodes in their life, not particularly linked by any continuous plot threads. Listen to the episode to hear us talk about genre vagueness, embarrassing parents, marriage, and character authenticity. We also discuss losing your mojo, baby hatin’, murder by anorexia, and what really defines your “second best bed.” And of course, feminism, though through a very positive lens this time.

The music bump is “Mah-Jong” by Chicago (yes, that Chicago).

The Joy Luck Club – China Is Not America

Recommendations:

Ben: 8/10 One point for each cotagonist.

Gabs: 9/10 Just as enjoyable as Ender’s Game, but in a very different way. Also gets a gold star for being full of interesting, complicated women.

Ender’s Game

Novel Ideas returns from a work related pseudo vacation hiatus with Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. If you use any form of media that is connected to the outside world, you’ve probably seen some trailers for the recently released movie. This book has actually been our list for a long time, but we’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to discuss it. Join us this week as we discuss, with the help of Special Guest Star Kevin Smith, this old favorite. In the the episode we talk about the Orson Scott Card controversy, spoilerific plot twists, master manipulators, and whether the ends justify the means. We also touch on how six year olds act most of the time, Yakety Sax, Independence Day, and creative ways of using the word “fart.”

The music bump is “Head Games” by Foreigner. I almost went with “Yakety Sax,” but decided that “Head Games” is actually hilarious if you imagine that Ender is singing it to either Colonel Graff or the Hive Queen, depending on the verse.

Ender’s Game – A Gold Plated Fart

Recommendations:

One of the best science fiction novels ever written with special sentimental value to all three of us. Definitely read it before you see the movie, which will undoubtedly not live up to this book.

Gabs: 9/10 Not quite as pants-peeingly good as reading it as a kid, but still very, very good.

Ben/Kevin: 11/10 OMFG

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Welcome to a spooooooky Novel Ideas Halloween episode, featuring “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. This book short story is about an awkward, lovestruck schoolteacher who is terrorized by a headless horseman. Actually, it would be more accurately described as a a very silly person falling for a very silly prank. Probably. Irving doesn’t really commit himself to it one or the other. Listen to the episode to hear us discuss whether this is actually a horror story, adaptations of the story, general silliness, and why this story became a classic.

Also, there’s a little bit of schedule housecleaning to square away this week. Ben is going to be out of town next week, so there won’t be an episode the week of November 4. However, we’re going to air two episodes the following week, aiming for a Monday and Thursday drop date for those two episodes.

The music bump is Psalm 105 “Unto the Lord Lift Thankful Voices.” The Puritan version would be something like this, only more boring. This applies to the Puritan version of most things.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – 1700′s Dudebro

Recommendations:

5/10 Not long enough to warn you against it, but not good enough to recommend reading it.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Just your friendly annual reminder that November is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a novel during the month of November, so it’s an exercise in masochism as much as anything. Actually, the goal is to write 50,000 words during the month, which is closer to a novella, most commercial novels being in the 90,000 word range. That being said, averaging approximately 1,700 words per day for an entire month isn’t easy. Novel Ideas will be attempting to defeat NaNo (as it is frequently abbreviated) this year, for the first time in Ben’s case, and AGAIN in Gabs’s case because she is crazed. Feel like trying with us? Let us know!

The Book Thief

Novel Ideas makes a late appearance this week with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This is a YA? story about World War II Germany as told through the eyes of Death. More or less. Read the book to learn more. Listen to our episode to hear us discuss Death as an interesting character choice, the power of words, Nazis, and the horrors of war. We also talk about our research standards (low), our knowledge of German (also low), amalgams, and the lack of actual book thievery in this story. Also, weirdly, there is a fairly significant discussion of H.H. Holmes, who has nothing whatsoever to do with this book. Try to overlook the ambient noise in our studio, primarily generated by a squeaky office chair.

The music bump is “Roses of the South,” a waltz by Johan Strauss, performed on the accordion. Why you ask? Because READING.

The Book Thief – Amalgams and Archetypes

Our Recommendation:

7/10 books stolen. This one is an easy read despite its length and more poetic than average prose.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Novel Ideas returns after a week off with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This is the first book we’ve read for the podcast written by a Native American and it definitely grants some insights into the culture and conditions on an Indian reservation. This selection also continues banned book month, though it’s hard to find real reasons to challenge this particular book. In our discussion, we talk about alcoholism, race, illustrations complementing the text, and the significance of community. We also cover whether “Junior” is a weird name, trains, bro relationships, and boners. Lots of boners.

This week’s header was taken from a larger piece of fan art by Kristina Wayte. You can check out the original here.

The music bump is “Spokane” by Ho Lan, which is not traditional Spokane Indian music, but is a newly composed piece with traditional elements in it.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Boner Time

Recommendations:

Read this one. The narrator has an interesting voice and there are cultural details about reservation life that you may not have been exposed to before. Warning: may not contain plot.

Inferno

The great Harry Poddercast Extravaganza continues with… Oh, it’s over? Right. In that case, Novel Ideas is back with a non-Potter podcast for the first time in several weeks with Inferno by Dan Brown, a thriller that involves Dante and lots of obscure art knowledge. This episode also launches a new theme month, Bestseller Month, where we examine books that have sold well and recently. We would like to offer a legitimate spoiler alert for this episode, as the book has several plot twists, and even we would be less interested in the story if we had known those twists in advance. If you’ve already read it, or aren’t planning on reading it soon, tune in (Like on a dial? Maybe I don’t understand the internet yet…) to hear us discuss the aforementioned plot twists, infodumps, overpopulation, and feminism. We also talk about unlikely character pairings, victorious villains, the existence of gay people, and the consequences of monologuing. In a very special turn, we also get to experience a couple of minutes of Gabs rage. Hooray!

The music bump is from Franz Liszt’s “Dante Symphony,” which is being performed during much of the climactic scene of this book.


Recommendations:

Gabs: 5/10 If you like thrillers, read it. If you like the stuff we like, skip it.

Ben: 4/10 Pretty dull for a thriller.

Plug Alert!

Check out Epic One, a collaborative fiction project involving Gabs Roman, half of Novel Ideas. The link will take you to the first chapter of an ongoing online e-book.

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