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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.

The Secret Garden

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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.”

103 – The Secret Garden – Dickon Around the Garden

Our ratings:

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.

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.

Angels in America

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Our drama push continues this week on Novel Ideas with Angels in America by Tony Kushner, a very long two part play about… AIDS, maybe? This is a massive work, resulting in a longer than average episode where we mostly thrash about and try to figure out what various fantastical occurrences actually mean. In this episode, we discuss change, reluctant prophets, conservatism, and homosexuality. We also talk about why Tony Kushner won’t be appearing on the podcast, stupid alternate titles, chewing down a tree, and try to figure out what’s up with Joe. In the angelic realm alone, we examine the sexual habits of angels (always banging), the genitalia of angels (many and varied), and how angels maintain creation (mostly via jizz, as it turns out).

The music bump is “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” not merely as yet another one of Ben’s terrible attempts at humor, but also because it actually appears in the play, though perhaps not in a traditional context.

Angels in America – Angels Be Crazy

Recommendations:

A very lengthy play (actually two plays) that is rather confusing to read at times because it’s supposed to be staged. Still has some power and effect though.

Gabs: 7/8 angelic vaginas.

Ben: 8/10 bouquets of phalli.

The Awakening

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Novel Ideas returns at a strange interval with The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Our apologies for our odd posting schedule as of late, Ben’s day job leads to a rather turbulent schedule between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so editing and posting episodes tends to get pushed back. We’re hoping to at least be able to post on Mondays through the start of the new year. I guess we’ll see. At any rate, check out this week’s episode where we discuss marriage, feminism, the rejection of societal norms, and the adult readability of classics. We also talk about space penises, Victorian titillation, the romantic death trope, and why children are boring.

The music bump this week is Frederic Chopin’s Nocture opus 15, number 3 in G Minor, also subtitled “Solitude” for its possibly awakening Edna’s…. awakening, I guess.

The Awakening – Who Gives a Hell About Kissing

Recommendations:

Ben: 6/10 I liked it more than not and provides some food for thought, though I didn’t find it especially compelling.

Gabs: 8/10 Minus two for the ending.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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Novel Ideas returns after a week off with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This is the first book we’ve read for the podcast written by a Native American and it definitely grants some insights into the culture and conditions on an Indian reservation. This selection also continues banned book month, though it’s hard to find real reasons to challenge this particular book. In our discussion, we talk about alcoholism, race, illustrations complementing the text, and the significance of community. We also cover whether “Junior” is a weird name, trains, bro relationships, and boners. Lots of boners.

This week’s header was taken from a larger piece of fan art by Kristina Wayte. You can check out the original here.

The music bump is “Spokane” by Ho Lan, which is not traditional Spokane Indian music, but is a newly composed piece with traditional elements in it.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Boner Time

Recommendations:

Read this one. The narrator has an interesting voice and there are cultural details about reservation life that you may not have been exposed to before. Warning: may not contain plot.

Love in the Time of Cholera

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After a week off, your favorite intrepid, book-loving, podcasting siblings have returned. This time to examine Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This book is an examination of love, Colombian style. Probably. The author won’t really tell anyone for certain. In our discussion we cover the difficulties of translating literature, magical realism, love, honor, sex, and strong women. And cholera, though not nearly as much as you would expect from the title. Not to mention the fact that every character in this novel is crazy.

We also made a major update to our schedule yesterday, filling it up through the end of August. We’re going on a bestsellers kick, so most of what is on the schedule has been on the NY Times bestseller list for several weeks. Be sure to check it out if you want to read along with us.

This week’s music bump is Toto’s “Hold the Line,” because… Toto. Oh yeah, and it kind of describes Florentino Ariza to an almost uncanny degree.

17 – Love in the Time of Cholera – Extreme Personalities