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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.

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Little Women

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Happy New Year! We’re back with a classic in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a book that many would call a quintessential American girl’s tale. Do we agree with this assessment? You’ll find out if you listen to this episode. You’ll also discover what we think about feminism in historical context, question certain self-improvements, agree with the narrator’s opinion on spinsters, and discuss the lack of passion in this story. We also talk about ladies who don’t like ladies, the creation of shipping, obnoxious children, and (perhaps oddly) lobsters.

The music bump is Chopin’s Mazurka in A minor, op. 17 due to period appropriateness. Feel free to imagine Beth playing it in heaven if that makes you feel better about it.

109 – Little Women – Marmee is the Worst

Our recommendation: Short version is that it doesn’t really hold up that well.

Ben: 5/10. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. I liked that there were a lot of things to discuss, as there usually are with classics.

Gabs: 5/10. 6/10 for part 1, 4/10 for part 2.

Quick administrative note: We’re hoping to post more often this year, though of course we guarantee nothing. As part of this “do more stuff” plan, we would like to be a little more responsive to our listeners. Please leave some requests/recommendations/suggestions for books for future episodes either in the comments for this episode or on our suggestions page.

Go Set A Watchman

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Novel Ideas returns with a rare venture into the topical, reading Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, the very hyped “sequel” to To Kill A Mockingbird. In this episode, we discuss why the word “sequel” might by appropriately contained within quotation marks, the murky ethics of this book’s publication, racism, and (of course) feminism. We also talk about whether this story takes place in a closely parallel alternate universe, shoddy research standards, how to get someone’s attention without backhanding them, and Ben’s utter lack of interest in Hank. And for a special bonus, we get at least two good Gabs rampages.

The sound quality is a little odd this week as I tried to use a more sensitive recording set up, but forgot to kill the fan in the background. Our voices are clearly audible, but the background is white noise city. My apologies. -Ben

The music bump this week is “I Wanna Go Back to Dixie” by Tom Lehrer, a satirical take on songs that glorify the south and things commonly associated with the south.

96 – Go Set A Watchman – Everyone Is People

Our Ratings:

Ben: 5/10. The flaws in the writing and Atticus’s heel turn bother me less than the fact that if TKAM didn’t exist, this book wouldn’t stand up for ten seconds under its own merit.

Gabs: 4/10. Didn’t hate it, but it was too unpolished. Also annoyed that a book dealing with racial issues only had black people in one scene.

Twelfth Night

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Shakespeare is back on Novel Ideas! Well, one of Shakespeare’s plays is a topic for Novel Ideas, Shakespeare himself is a bit bigger get than we are currently capable of. But we were able to get the very capable Dr. Anthony Funari back as a guest to discuss William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a comedy full of cross dressing, something the English still find absolutely hilarious in the twenty-first century. In this episode we discuss queer spaces, Shakespearean comedic heroines, puritanism, and inversion. We also talk about crossing the (drama) streams, Elizabethan drama franchises, unlikely sibling casting, and humorless dicks.

Also check out this link to Tony’s website, The Mad Literature Professor.

The music bump is one of Feste’s song from the 1996 movie production.

Twelfth Night – Star Cross Gartered Lovers

Recommendations:

One of Shakespeare’s later comedies, is both hilarious and full of academic interest, if you’re into those things. Read it. Or better yet, find a good stage production of it.

Gabs: 10/10 It’s so good. Queer spaces –  good. Female agency – good. Puritan baiting – good!

Ben: 12/12 Definitely the best of the “Nights” franchise. But seriously, probably my favorite Shakespeare play. So far.

Tony: 10/10 Very interesting in that it is the transition play from comedy to romance, plus Feste is probably Shakespeare’s best fool.

Beloved

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Novel Ideas wraps up Banned Book Month with Beloved by Toni Morrison, a story of escaping the past against the background of slavery. This book is a rather difficult read, as it written non-traditionally, shifting points of view and tenses and using some modern literary techniques that don’t get used often in popular fiction. In this episode we talk about some of those challenges, as well as gender and publishing, slavery, the context of infanticide, and the difficulty of escaping the past. We also discuss “enlightened” slave owners, weird sex, whitepeople, and our need of a professor to help us decipher the text. This book was a rich topic for discussion, we hope you find this episode interesting.

The music bump is “Freedom” by Charles Mingus.

Beloved – Not A Dead White Guy

Recommendations:

Gabs: 6/10 as an enjoyable book, 8/10 as something you should read.

Ben: I might not go as high as 6/10 for enjoyability, but it was a pretty powerful book. I’m also going to say 8/10 as something you should read.