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?
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.
Welcome to the March edition of Novel Ideas, featuring The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. In this episode we talk about the genre of the children’s novel, colonialism, subversions, and–need I say it?–feminism. We also discuss why Colin is kind of a dick, plot related illnesses, failed attempts at comic relief, and children’s dialogue. Gabs even did some research about the background of this novel. I know, try not to lose faith in us. We hope by the time you get to the end of this one, you’ve learned the secret behind the magic.
The music bump is Don Byron’s version of “The Royal Garden Blues.”
An easy classic and an early entry in the non-religious children’s book canon, it’s probably worth your time.
Ben: 7/10. Isn’t bad, definitely won’t change your life. Another classic that is easy to discuss.
Gabs: 8/10. Minus 2 points for Colin.
The Novel Ideas roulette wheel landed on a classic this month, so we’re back with The Color Purple by Alice Walker. In this episode we discuss racism, injustice, abuse, and other upsetting things. We also talk about the cold open, black comedy, down home cookin’, and laughably ineffective missionaries.
The music bump is Ella Fitzgerald with Duke Ellington’s band performing “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” based on our unresearched speculation regarding how this book became a musical.
Ben: Purple/10. Which is the best rating, I think. I don’t really understand that part of the rating system. But I would definitely recommend this one.
Gabs: 9/10 for literary value. Also worth reading for the purpose of making yourself less shitty.
Novel Ideas ends the year with our 100th episode, a pseudo-special that we’ve talked about doing since the early days. We recorded ourselves discussing Twilight by Stephanie Meyer in the form of a drinking game. There were official rules, but the real rule was to invent rules as the discussion developed. It’s pretty fun and we’re not that much less coherent than usual. In this episode we talk about: literary tourism, free will, stalker-ish behavior, and hear a pretty surprising take on Bella v. Katniss as strong characters. We also get into Edward’s middle name, whether the northwest US has thunderstorms, the amazing untold stories happening in the background, and (of course) #feminism. And in this longer than average episode, we also discuss aspects of vampires: lore, stalking, hipster tendencies, racism, and baseball. Expect a few broken brains and misunderstandings of how biology works.
The music bump is “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse, because Stephanie Meyer loves her some Muse.
We’re going to omit our ratings for this episode as we read this before Gabs left for grad school, but didn’t record it for a year. And now it’s been several months since the recording, so our rating wouldn’t be that fair. Also, everybody already knows what Twilight is and aren’t likely to decide to read it or not based on our silly rating. However, here is the link to “Growing Up Cullen” that Ben read as a refresher instead of reading the book a second time.
Novel Ideas is back for another month of sibling book-related antics. This time with The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne. We chose this book as part of our ongoing campaign to read more fiction about and/or by non-white, non-male authors. In this episode we discuss women in science fiction, elements of good world building, travel narratives, and feminism. We also talk about partially digested (probably not) snakes, how not to share your Golden Meaning, give advice on whether to murder (hint: no), and strange personal belief systems.
The music bump is “The Road” by Tenacious D.
A different spin on the travel narrative with an ending full of “wat.”
Ben: 7/10. Not knowing what was going on for at least half of the story did not prevent me from enjoying it.
Gabs: 7/10. Points for the concept, but deductions for the confusion.
This week’s episode of Novel Ideas is about three short stories from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes canon, discussing “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” “Scandal in Bohemia,” and “The Final Solution.” We discuss the light characterization, feminism, various adaptations, and Victorian writing style. We also talk about Sherlock Holmes as a prank show, Holmes’s dickery, whether its secretly a monster of the week show, and badass Irene Adler spin offs.
A couple of administrative notes: This episode was recorded in the spring, so some of the information is out of date. I think most of the inaccuracies are self evident. For example, it is no longer May and we already posted our episode on Andy Weir’s The Martian. There are some minor technical issues, but hopefully nothing too distracting. I erased a long stretch of Gabs’s voice skipping like a scratched CD, but left in some our comments afterward because they amused me. Also, the Novel Ideas e-mail is no longer in service. Oh yeah, and we didn’t plug Minerva! We’re part of the Minerva Mag Podcast Network! Check it out!
The music bump is “Discombobulate” by Hans Zimmer, the theme from the 2009 Guy Ritchie film adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.
It’s been quite a while, so no numerical ratings. We’d have to split them across three different stories anyway. We both thought “The Final Problem” was pretty uninteresting, but the other two stories were pretty good. If you haven’t ever read any Holmes, check out “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” which is probably the most representative of the overall Holmes canon.
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.
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.
For those of you who were expecting Sherlock Holmes… it has mysteriously disappeared. In its place is The Martian by Andy Weir, a hard science fiction account of a lone man surviving on the surface of Mars. We recorded this one with special guest, Adam Milton. In this episode we discuss the resourcefulness of astronauts, the geniuses at NASA, the realities of running an organization, and the power of the human spirit. We also comment on the lack of rain on Mars, the likely effects of months of loneliness on our respective psyches, wacky parody sequels, and potatoes. Because potatoes, that’s why.
The music bump is “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees because it is Mark Watney’s theme song, even if only through an utter lack of alternatives.
Gabs: 7/10 potatoes. It’s a good book if you’re stuck on a bus.
Ben: 8/10. Big points for science and snark!
Adam: 8/10. For managing to make science interesting.