Author: Ben and Gabs Roman

The Haunting of Hill House

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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.

116 – The Haunting of Hill House – Unsettling Geometry

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.

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The Turn of the Screw

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Time for a spoooooky Halloween double feature from Novel Ideas! This week we discussed The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, a classic ghost novel from the turn of the (20th) century. In this episode, we talk about 19th century framing devices, horror tropes, class, and classic versus modern audience expectations. We also cover literary conspiracy theories, strange employment conditions, modern misinterpretations of Victorian prose, and why Miles is kind of a dick.

The music bump is “Conspiracy Theory” by Mike Tomaro, as performed by the Capitol Bones.

Join us next time for The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

115 – The Turn of the Screw – Do You Have Anything to Say About Flora

Our recommendation:

We didn’t find this book to be scary. Or arguably all that entertaining. It will probably work best for you if you are into the history of the horror/ghost/haunting genre or a huge Henry James fan.

Ben: 4/10. I didn’t find it to be so bad that it was upsetting, I just didn’t really enjoy any part of reading it.

Gabs: 5/10. But only if you read into it more malevolently.

The Things They Carried

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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.

114 – The Things They Carried – Ambiguous Reality

Our recommendation:

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?

Banned Books Week 2017

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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.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

Beloved – Toni Morrison

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

The Color Purple – Alice Walker

The Golden Compass (from His Dark Materials trilogy) – Philip Pullman

2017 Hugo Noms

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We interrupt this irregularly scheduled podcast with a special, albeit belated, episode. We decided to sit down and discuss the 2017 Hugo Award Nominees for Best Novel. Extra heavy spoiler alert on this episode, as every book we talk about was published in 2016 at the earliest. In addition to touching on every nominated book, we also discuss diversity, writing styles, identity, and the proliferation of series in the SF/Fantasy world. We also talk about scenes that make you feel, writers who have never met a woman before, the future corporate age of exploration, and the cool factor of space wizards wielding laser swords.

The music bump is “Robots” by Flight of the Conchords because, as discussed in this episode of the podcast, all science fiction is about robots.

113 – 2017 Hugo Noms – Diversity of Ideas

Homegoing

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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.

Homegoing – A Book Without Happy Endings

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.

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend

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This week on Novel Ideas, we are discussing a listener suggested book, A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner. In this episode, we have a bit of a role reversal at the top of the episode due to an attempted technical workaround that didn’t end up working. Or perhaps it’s better if we don’t explain these things and you just chalk up it up to Ben’s idiocy. In fact, from now on assume that all issues you have with the show are related to Ben’s idiocy. Issues like repeatedly referencing The Hunger Games even though it has nothing to do with this book, or not knowing the proper terminology for bike riders cyclists. In this episode we will also delve into the YA teen death genre, shy survivor types, unusual treatments of sexuality, and shallow characterization. We also discuss why teen writing sucks, the dead girl is annoyingly perfect, the badassery of Quakers, and causes of YA death. We’ll also cover, though not specifically (nor in detail) what the acronym in the episode title stands for (it’s also in the tags.)

Administrative note: We said a bunch of stuff about the next episode that is not correct. For example, Cursed Child has already been posted. Next episode will be Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

The music bump is “Ninjas of the Night” from an Youtube video of ancient vintage, but is nonetheless perfectly in line with the depiction of ninjas in this book.

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend (AFBAADT)

Our Recommendation: Meh. It’s kind of two books trying to be one book.

Ben: 5/10. At various points I was pretty sure I disliked this book. And then when it was over, I still didn’t like it. But I didn’t dislike it enough to argue for or against. So it has that going for it.

Gabs: 8/10 for could have been with the bike trip story. 5/10 for what actually happened with mediocre ninjas.