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.
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, still a tad off schedule, with Under the Dome by Stephen King. Yes we’re a week late. Yes we’ve switched up our order. But we made it. And we’re hoping to get back on track for a few weeks before our schedule mid-March disruption. But more on that later. Listen to the episode for our discussions on antagonists, black and white characters, feminism, and difficult thematic questions. We also talk about Stephen King-isms, people who don’t swear, functional bullshit detectors, and bursting a rage bubble.
The music bump is “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, chosen for possible thematic relevance.
Gabs: 8/10. A fun and compelling read, where you don’t stop to ask questions until after you’ve finished.
Ben: 8/10. A very entertaining book, assuming you aren’t scared of its sheer mass.
Novel Ideas returns with Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, a novel by one of the most well regarded authors you’ve probably never heard of. Connie Willis is a Grand Master of science fiction and one of the most decorated science fiction authors in the history of the genre. This book is her classic tale of time travel and plague. But mostly plague. In this episode we discuss the many fantastic characters, our lack of desire to live in the middle ages, and morality as it relates to cultural context. We also lament the death of every character (more or less), the death of a beloved family pet, and worry about happened to that poor cow. There will also be history nerdgasms and quite a bit of broadcast professionalism on display.
The music bump is “Messe de Notre Dame” by Guillaume de Machaut, a contemporary of the novel’s 14th century time line who also happens to share the name of an often referenced character who never actually shows up in the book.
Novel Ideas returns to spark your imagination, but it only works if you wait until after sunset. This week’s entry is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, a newer book about… a circus. That happens at night. Honestly, I have no idea how to describe this book quickly without being totally glib about it. In our discussion, we talk about some of the interesting features of the book, such as whether the setting can be the main character, what makes a compelling love story, and monochromatic characters. We also decided that we want to have a midnight dinner. Sounds fun. And despite our best attempts, we were unable to wring any feminist issues out of this book. Tune in for the second half of the podcast where we sit in stunned silence for twenty-two minutes.
The music bump is Britney Spears’s “Circus” as covered by Dirty Loops, the funkiest Swedish fusion trio working today.