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.
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 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 makes a late appearance this week with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This is a YA? story about World War II Germany as told through the eyes of Death. More or less. Read the book to learn more. Listen to our episode to hear us discuss Death as an interesting character choice, the power of words, Nazis, and the horrors of war. We also talk about our research standards (low), our knowledge of German (also low), amalgams, and the lack of actual book thievery in this story. Also, weirdly, there is a fairly significant discussion of H.H. Holmes, who has nothing whatsoever to do with this book. Try to overlook the ambient noise in our studio, primarily generated by a squeaky office chair.
The music bump is “Roses of the South,” a waltz by Johan Strauss, performed on the accordion. Why you ask? Because READING.
7/10 books stolen. This one is an easy read despite its length and more poetic than average prose.
This week on Novel Ideas, we discuss Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, a sci-fi steampunk alternate history zombie story about the importance of family. In this episode we discuss characterization, possible racism, the motives of villains, and what about this book could use editing. We also the discuss the possibility of Disney accidentally creating zombies, moms who are also sharpshooters, steampunk naming conventions, and all the ways this book is like Peter Pan. There’s also an announcement at the end about our exciting July project extravaganza (more or that in the next day or two here if you’re avoiding the episode for spoilers).
A quick note: During the episode we wonder what the publication date was for this book, it was in 2009 and nominated for a Hugo award in 2010.
The music bump this week is “The Wall” by Kansas, though I’m pretty sure their version of the wall was not a literal wall containing poison gas and zombies.
Ben: 5/10 Definitely not bad, but not memorable
Gabs: 4/10 Not my bag
Welcome back for a very special episode of Novel Ideas. This week we’re departing slightly from our norm and discussing a play, The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh. And we’re doing it with a special guest, our cousin Sara, who is studying playwrighting? playwriting? One of those. This play is a very black comedy/psychological drama about insane people who hate each other, featuring mental illness, unreliable/untrustworthy characters, manipulative behavior, and murder. We also discuss whether “Irish” is a genre, the tendency of little brothers to ruin everything, and how podcasts, unlike plays, are not a visual medium.
The music bump is Delia Murphy’s “The Spinning Wheel,” for Mag on the occasion of her seventy-first birthday.