racism

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.

The Color Purple

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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.

102 – The Color Purple – Coming of (Old) Age

Our ratings:

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.

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.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

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We apologize for the lengthy interregnum, it was so long that we had to look up a new word just to describe it. Or possibly we just have trouble getting our act together sometimes. At any rate, Novel Ideas is back with Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, a story of a woman’s personal journey to self-realization. Listen to the episode to hear our conversation about dialect, ambition, feminism, and race. We also talk about white history professors, bees, how rabies works, and kickass deathbed scenes.

Quick scheduling note: We’re trying to post an episode for John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War next week, followed by our year in review episode for “Season 2” of Novel Ideas. There is likely to be a couple more missed weeks after that as Gabs gets married and goes on her honeymoon. Or maybe Ben will post something highly self-indulgent while we’re waiting. We’ll have to see.

If you have any comments or questions about anything we’ve talked about in the past year, please let us know! Also, if there’s anything you were hoping we might talk about outside those books, also let us know. We’d like to find some interesting and slightly different content for the end of the year episode if we can.

The music bump this week is “Janie Runaway” by Steely Dan, after our plucky protagonist.

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Too Dignified for a Mule Funeral

Recommendations:

A 20th century classic that is commonly assigned in school with a lot of conversation worthy content. A little tough to read due mainly to the use of dialect, but also rather short.

Gabs: 7/10 for literary value, 5/10 for ease of reading.

Ben: 5.5/10 because I liked it more than I didn’t, but just barely. This one felt kind of like assigned reading.

Fledgling

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After a lengthy, mostly unplanned, holiday hiatus, Novel Ideas returns with Fledgling by Octavia Butler. This is a book about vampires that offers a slightly different spin on what has arguably become its own genre. Not to mention a science fiction/fantasy book not written by a neckbearded white man. In the episode, we discuss various subgenres at play, direct writing styles, what is at the core of a person, and racism. Lots of racism. We also talk about vatigue, podcasting as a visual medium, trope subversion, and Canada.

The music bump is “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, mostly because Ben has an abhorrent sense of humor.

Fledgling – Chemically Bonded Group Marriage

Recommendations:

Ben: 8/10 Excellent world building and interesting relationship building. Definitely read it.

Gabs: 6.5/10 An interesting new approach to vampires, but not really my thing.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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Welcome to a spooooooky Novel Ideas Halloween episode, featuring “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. This book short story is about an awkward, lovestruck schoolteacher who is terrorized by a headless horseman. Actually, it would be more accurately described as a a very silly person falling for a very silly prank. Probably. Irving doesn’t really commit himself to it one or the other. Listen to the episode to hear us discuss whether this is actually a horror story, adaptations of the story, general silliness, and why this story became a classic.

Also, there’s a little bit of schedule housecleaning to square away this week. Ben is going to be out of town next week, so there won’t be an episode the week of November 4. However, we’re going to air two episodes the following week, aiming for a Monday and Thursday drop date for those two episodes.

The music bump is Psalm 105 “Unto the Lord Lift Thankful Voices.” The Puritan version would be something like this, only more boring. This applies to the Puritan version of most things.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – 1700’s Dudebro

Recommendations:

5/10 Not long enough to warn you against it, but not good enough to recommend reading it.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Just your friendly annual reminder that November is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a novel during the month of November, so it’s an exercise in masochism as much as anything. Actually, the goal is to write 50,000 words during the month, which is closer to a novella, most commercial novels being in the 90,000 word range. That being said, averaging approximately 1,700 words per day for an entire month isn’t easy. Novel Ideas will be attempting to defeat NaNo (as it is frequently abbreviated) this year, for the first time in Ben’s case, and AGAIN in Gabs’s case because she is crazed. Feel like trying with us? Let us know!

The Book Thief

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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.

The Book Thief – Amalgams and Archetypes

Our Recommendation:

7/10 books stolen. This one is an easy read despite its length and more poetic than average prose.