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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Giant spaceships appear in the sky and hover over major cities across the globe! Soon they start wiping out cities and hunting down the beleaguered survivors… or am I getting Childhood’s End confused with “Independence Day?” Turns out that these aliens want to bring unprecedented peace and virtual utopia to the people of Earth. But at what cost? This week, we get away from dystopia and examine utopia. Is it realistic? Is the cost too high? We discuss these issues, along with our usual hot buttoned topical pals, feminism and religion. And for good measure, we throw in a discussion of race because nothing makes people feel more comfortable than a discussion about racial issues. Our new recording studio (aka our “new” recording “studio”) is refreshingly free of sirens, barking dogs, and leafblower engines, but does neighbor a bird who badly wants to be a guest on the podcast.
The music this week is “The Darkest Day” from David Arnold’s soundtrack for “Independence Day,” because that joke really needed to come full circle.