This week Novel Ideas discusses Hyperion by Dan Simmons, a far future version of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. This is probably the most “pure” science fiction we’ve read so far, with various story elements not only taking place in a science fiction setting, but requiring a science fiction setting to exist at all. In this episode we’ll discuss imperialism, mystery, pain, and feminism (of course.) We’ll also discuss whether this book has a protagonist (probably not), violence induced boners, surprisingly accurate visions of the internet, and ridiculous applications of Godwin’s Law. This episode also features our less than soundproof studio and the various comings and goings of roommates, angry post-surgical cats, and Ben’s extremely creaky chair that he can’t sit still in. We hope you enjoy!
The music bump is “Mysteries and Mayhem” by Kansas because those are both common subjects in this book, plus I couldn’t quite bring myself to use “We’re Off To See the Wizard,” but Kansas feels like it’s at least close. Should I even try to justify these decisions? It comes off as feeble even to me…
This week on Novel Ideas, discuss Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a psychological/mystery/thriller about two of the most thoroughly unlikeable people you’ll ever read about. This is a recent one, so if you don’t want the twists and turns spoiled, go read it before you listen! In this episode we talk about the ethics of cheating, manipulative people, and close sibling relationships. We also cover cat phrases, extreme relationship behavior, and timely references.
The music bump is “Bullhead City” by Umphries McGee, mostly because of something Ben said during the episode about losing a fortune twice. Total stream of consciousness on this one.
Our apologies for being late this week, but Gabs has been mobilizing for WAR. Well, basically. Anyhoo, here is this week’s episode, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a short story about medical ignorance, madness, and in a move that is completely out of character for us, feminism. If you want to read it before you listen, you can read it for free here. In our discussion we touch on the historical view of mental illness, gothic literature, and interpretations of the story based on gender lines. We also cover Hollywood, insane LGBT tie-ins, John’s a Dick Theory (just barely missed being the title of this episode), and vibrator play. Oops, I mean “Vibrator Play.” One has to be careful where one leaves their capital letters.
If we post only one day late because we were a week late with the previous episode, is that a Catch-22? I think it is if you only try to download episodes when they aren’t here. And you don’t read our posts unless they aren’t posted. I’m not sure because I’m not very good at Catch-22 logic. At any rate, this week we discuss Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, the classic satirical war novel. In this episode we discuss characterization, plot, and how to make a movie out of this book. Is that discussion a Catch-22? It might be, because those are three things that are not very likely to be connected to this book. We also talk about war, war stories, and whether or not war is bad (hint: yes). We very carefully do not discuss how this episode title could be applied to our podcast at large. We hope you enjoy this episode, but if you don’t, maybe it can at least extend your lifespan.
The music bump is “Keasbey Nights” by a band called, appropriately, Catch-22.
Welcome back to Novel Ideas for a classically oriented episode. This week we’re featuring Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, a Romantic romantic proto-feminist semi-gothic coming of age story about finding one’s place in the world. I believe that even to this day, this book remains the best known work in that genre. In this episode, we discuss the elements of that genre, as well as mental illness, feminism, religion vs. morality, sexual mores, and the search for love. We also discuss several types of Janes, St. John the vampire hunter, and why people live in environments guaranteed to kill them.
The music bump is “Jane” by Ben Folds, after the title character of this book, who is also arguably the protagonist.
After a bit of a hiatus, Novel Ideas returns with a classic American play, The Crucible by Arthur Miller. (Ben here: My apologies for our absence, but I’ve been studying for my oral exam for my master’s degree. Now that I’ve finished that off, we should be back on schedule, more or less. More on that in a moment.) This is a pretty well known work that gets performed frequently and is a regular presence in school curricula. In this episode we cover the parallels between this play and McCarthyism, a variety of unlikeable characters, and the psychology of a witch hunt. We also cover elements of feminism (of course!), old people who are also badasses, and why white people are, generally speaking, the worst.
The music bump today is “Witch Hunt” by Rush, which is actually yet another use of witch hunts as a metaphor. Look up the song lyrics if you don’t believe me.
A quick administrative note: We will be posting a special holiday bonus episode next week, though we’re not sure which day just yet. The following Tuesday, January 1, we’ll be taking off before resuming our usual weekly schedule of a new post (mostly) every Tuesday.
Welcome to a very spooky episode of Novel Ideas, featuring the decidedly not spooky Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. This is a book about a monster and the man who created him told in a very romantic style. (I have to mention this now because we forgot to say it in the podcast.) In this episode we cover various tropes, unsympathetic characters, the theme of science v. nature, and the theme of isolation v. acceptance. We also cover the timelessness of teenage behavior, the importance of being genre savvy, and whether Frankenstein’s monster might actually be Santa Claus. Make sure to listen in a well lit room so you don’t get scared!
The music bump is “Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky because, dude, Halloween. I’m not entirely sure how this piece of music came to by synonymous with that holiday, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the way it sounds.
This week’s episode features Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the science fiction classic about a scientific utopia. Or possibly dystopia. This book is weaker on characters than many of the books we’ve read, but it is full of issues, many of them more relevant than ever in today’s world. We touch on feminism, racism, sexuality, eugenics, consumerism, and religion. And, of course, zippers. Zippers are amazing. Because they are THE FUTURE. There are also some bad puns, the usual level of silliness, and a small amount of modest self-promotion. We think you will find it quite pneumatic.
The music bump is “Brave New World” by Styx, chosen not just for the obvious title tie-in, but at least a small amount of lyrical relevance. Hang out for an extra twenty seconds at the end of the podcast and see if you agree.
It may not be obvious because of the size of the picture, but the header this week is from an edition of the book that had an egg with a zipper on the cover. The reason we chose this image should be quite obvious by the time you’re about twenty minutes into this episode.
Banned book month (Novel Ideas edition) continues with The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, a YA classic that is one of the perennially most challenged books. This is a tale of corruption, disillusionment, and challenging authority, so you know that it must be a light, happy read. In this episode we talk about all of those things and the inevitable crushing beneath the bootheel of authority, as well as French names, gayness, whether there is too much jacking off in this book, and the disturbing lack of women. If all of this sounds depressing, don’t worry, our wrap up is far less disturbing than the end of the book.
The music bump is “The Creator Has a Mastertape” by Porcupine Tree, not for any specific connection, but rather a general sense of darkness. And the fact that Ben thinks it’s cool.
After a two week hiatus, Novel Ideas is back with To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This book is another one of those that most of you probably had to read in school. For us, this was one of the assigned readings that we actually enjoyed, and we were reminded of that on the re-read. We discuss the big issues, like feminism and racism, mostly without embarrassing ourselves. Mostly. We also discuss the smaller issues, like who makes the best cakes in Maycomb, why everybody loves tomboys, and whether Atticus Finch gets to claim the title of “Literary Father of the Year.”
The music bump is “Fables of Faubus” by Charles Mingus, written to poke fun at Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas when he called out the National Guard to prevent Little Rock Central High School from being integrated in 1957.
Note: We neglected to mention it on the podcast this week, but banned book week is coming up at the end of the month. Our next few books have all been banned or challenged in various places for various reasons. Celebrate with us by reading something controversial!