Welcome back to a very spoooooky part two of the Novel Ideas Halloween Extravaganza (consisting of two episodes of questionable quality). This episode is about The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Shirley Jackson is probably best known for her excellent short story, “The Lottery,” which you can read by clicking on the link. In this episode we talk about that story, as well as distorted reality, queer coding, scary moments, and social isolation. We also get into Professor Dad, people with nothing better to do, the greatness of Mrs. Dudley, and listen to Gabs be impressed by Mr. Jackson. There’s also a higher than usual level of background noise which is caused by a combination of loud neighbors, snack seeking girlfriends, and (maybe) ghosts?
The music bump is “Hauntings” by Dan Welcher.
Our recommendation: A relatively easy read with some genuinely creepy moments. This is more of a psychological thriller than a straight genre horror story.
Ben: 7/10 silly psychic cards. A well written story that stands up well to the passage of time.
Gabs: 7/10 creepy knocks upon the door.
If for you it makes it to 10, remember that Mrs. Dudley clears at 10.
Hello, fans, listeners, and non-listening readers of this post. This episode of Novel Ideas is about Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, a sort-of-memoir/sort-of-fictional anthology set in and around the Vietnam War. In this episode we discuss classroom books, ambiguity, character archetypes, and unreliable narrators. We also talk about what we carry, lengthy gaps between recording (though maybe not posting? Okay, okay, not ONLY posting) podcasts, all-American girl/sweetheart assassins, and the purpose of second grade girlfriends in a war story.
The music bump is “Memory” by Yoko Kanno because maybe it was like, all dream, MAN.
Not a straightforward war story, so you don’t have to like those to read this book. Another one of those obvious in hindsight why it is studied in school books.
Ben: 7/10. It feels like an example of a certain flavor of war story, usually involving Vietnam, that was probably more original/unique once upon a time. That being said, something about this book affected me a bit, something about the idea of being a young person and having to go to war when you have no interest in doing so.
Gabs: First half 5/10, second half 7/10. Why was there a little girl with cancer in this book?
No new episode this week, just a reminder that it is Banned Books Week 2017. At Novel Ideas we have read several books that are frequently challenged or banned from schools and libraries. Part of this is by intention; neither of us are particularly into censorship. The other part is happenstance; many excellent books have been challenged, and frequently the challenged material is part of what makes the story memorable or compelling.
When you look at the reasons that books are challenged, those reasons seem to me (Ben is writing this post, but Gabs will probably agree with most of this) to be based partly on values that I don’t agree with, and partly on laziness. For example, most of the books from this year’s list have been challenged because they include LGBTQ characters. Other reasons for challenging books from recent years include acknowledging teenage sexuality, or even just including characters that defy authority figures. We don’t need to protect children from these ideas, these are real things that exist in the real world.
The reason I describe these challenges as lazy is because you can always have a conversation with your child about how the content of the book fits into the world. Just because someone is doing something in a book doesn’t mean that the intent of the author is to glorify that thing. And even if it is, that doesn’t mean that you as the reader are required to also glorify that thing. And I would further suggest that if your ideology is so fragile that merely being made aware of the existence of something outside of that worldview will poison your child’s mind, then your ideology probably needs some reform.
Having said my piece, I present you with a non-comprehensive list of episodes we have done featuring banned books.
After a long hiatus, Novel Ideas has returned with an episode about Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Ignore anything we say about timing in this episode as we recorded it back in March. I’d apologize, but by now you’ve been burned so many times by our erratic schedule that you would probably assume that I don’t mean it. In this episode we talk about strong characterization, elements of storytelling, the impact of the past, and history. We also discuss our lack of qualification to discuss this book, rehash the badness of slavery (we’ll stop when you guys finally get it), grudgingly reference Light in August (about which no more needs to be said), and get really uncomfortable trying to discuss racial issues despite being a pair of white idiots.
The music bump is “The Long Way Home” by Joshua Redman.
Our recommendations: It’s probably been too long since we read this to assign a realistic numerical rating, but it’s the kind of book that you read and think that everyone should read it regardless of their level of enjoyment. So I guess 10/10 for relevance and 0/10 if you hate it on principle because we’re telling you that you have to read it.