Author: Ben and Gabs Roman
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.
Novel Ideas, in a completionist turn, brings you Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling (but really by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany). In this episode we discuss insane bestselling sales, the nature of long delayed sequels, time travel plots, and how plays differ from novels. We also talk about the influence of cocaine (probably none), that Voldemort is likely a virgin, alternate Ron, and the inadequacy of riddle based security measures. And much, much more.
The music bump is “Sybilla Delphica” by Orlando di Lassus in honor of <spoiler of gobsmackingly stupid plot twist redacted>, Delphi.
Our recommendation: This sequel was a smashing (financial) success. Otherwise, it doesn’t really feel that much like Harry Potter.
Ben: 4/10. I’ve never been a fan of unnecessary sequels. This falls into that category for me.
Gabs: 4/10 faulty Time Turners. Because it failed to turn back the clock and recapture the magic.
Also, if you have suggestions for future episodes, please share them with us! We’re trying to be a bit more responsive to our six or so listeners this year.