White Whale Episode 10: Bloomsday!

Happy Bloomsday, Bloom Heads! What’s Bloomsday? Find out on this week’s episode of our White Whale podcast!

White Whale is our latest long-read project, now in audio form for your enjoyment! Each episode, we tackle chunks of two “white whale” reads: Ulysses by James Joyce and Moby Dick by Herman Melville, aka: books that we have avoided reading because they are so dense and difficult.

Click here to listen to Episode 10 on Audiomack!

Or, if you’d rather read our thoughts than listen, read on and click “more” below for a full transcript of the episode.

KW  

So it’s Bloomsday!

CFB  

It is. Tell the good people what Bloomsday is.

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June 16, 2022 at 12:59 pm Leave a comment

White Whale Episode 9: Lemon Drops

White Whale is our latest long-read project, now in audio form for your enjoyment! Each episode, we tackle chunks of two “white whale” reads: Ulysses by James Joyce and Moby Dick by Herman Melville, aka: books that we have avoided reading because they are so dense and difficult.

In Episode 9 “Lemon Drops,” we feel the sea salt spray on our faces from Melville’s vivid prose and consider how and what is best to eat with Leopold Bloom.

Click here to listen to Episode 9 on Audiomack!

Or, if you’d rather read our thoughts than listen, read on and click “more” below for a full transcript of the episode.

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June 7, 2022 at 8:01 am Leave a comment

Discussion Post: The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley

When Corey read Natasha Pulley’s The Kingdoms, she pretty much immediately texted Kate to tell her she had to read it, too. It wasn’t that it was so good…it was that she couldn’t stop talking about it. What else could we do but write a discussion post? 

CFB: Thank you so much for following me into the reading journey that is Natasha Pulley’s The Kingdoms. This is one of those books I can’t even tell if I hated or loved, but I knew I need to talk about it!

KW: Ha, no worries! I’m always up for talking about any sort of fantasy novel, good or bad.

CFB: My first thought about this book is that it was absolute Natasha Pulley bingo. If you’ve read her books before — which we both have, for better or worse! — you know they always seem to feature five core things: timey-wimey business, anachronistic gay marriages/partnerships, poorly-defined female characters, historical England, and magical goings-on that are veiled in so much mystery you feel like you’’ll never understand how any of it works and, after the inevitable denouement, you’re still not entirely sure it does. And The Kingdoms does not disappoint on any of these fronts!

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June 2, 2022 at 5:58 am Leave a comment

White Whale Episode 8: Whales, Yo

White Whale is our latest long-read project, now in audio form for your enjoyment! Each episode, we tackle chunks of two “white whale” reads: Ulysses by James Joyce and Moby Dick by Herman Melville, aka: books that we have avoided reading because they are so dense and difficult.

In Episode 8 “Whales, Yo,” we hang out in a newspaper office with Leopold Bloom and experience our first edition of the new recurring segment: Herman Melville’s Nautical Nonsense. Plus, our thoughts on dandelion wine and why Ishmael hates the color white.

Click here to listen to Episode 8 on Audiomack!

Or, if you’d rather read our thoughts than listen, read on and click “more” below for a full transcript of the episode.

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June 1, 2022 at 6:19 am Leave a comment

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

“It takes a special kind of cruelty to make a baby now, knowing that the world it’ll inhabit and inherit will be dirty and diseased and unjust and difficult.”

Depending on how you read Hanya Yanagihara’s To Paradise, you might think this book has a nihilistic streak a mile wide. Yanagihara is perhaps best known for A Little Life, which I have never read, mostly because everyone who has read it has told me they couldn’t stop crying afterward. 

To Paradise is not quite that devastating. It’s three stories placed together like a triptych, reflecting one another in odd and interesting ways. The first is set in an alternate version of America in 1893, where the main conflict isn’t over race, but over sexual orientation. David Bingham is a young man who lives in the Free States, where the gender of one’s spouse marries very little, so long as they are of the right class and wealthy enough to support one. Unfortunately for David, after having suffered heartbreak, he fell into a depressive state into which he relapses from time to time, making him a less than desirable partner. Only one man will have him—Charles Griffith, a somewhat coarse and older widower who made his money in trade. Charles truly seems to love David, and David begins to imagine a life with him…until a suave young pianist named Edward Bishop turns his head. David must choose: a certain future with Charles, or an uncertain one with Edward in the possible paradise of California? 

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May 26, 2022 at 1:25 am Leave a comment

White Whale Episode 7: Death from the Sea

White Whale is a long-read project of the book blog Literary Transgressions. Join us as we tackle our “white whale” reads — Ulysses by James Joyce and Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

In Episode 7 “Death from the Sea,” we explore Hades with James Joyce and learn about the source of Ahab’s deadly vengeance quest in Moby Dick. Also, we despair over large, heroic animals killed by man. Fun stuff!

Check out the audio version on Audiomack.

Or, if you’d rather read our thoughts than listen, read on and click “more” below for a full transcript of the episode.

KW 

Do you want to hear about Mocha Dick?

CFB  

Yes, I understand Mocha Dick is real, unlike Moby Dick.

KW  

Yeah, there was a story in 1839 in the Knickerbocker magazine called “Mocha Dick: Or, the White Whale of the Pacific”! 

CFB

*gasps*

KW
We’re pretty sure that Melville probably read it or could have read it before he went to sea. All I know about Mocha Dick is that he was named after the island of Mocha, and he was in fact a real life albino whale.

CFB  

Was he unusually violent, and well known throughout the seven seas?

KW  

I believe that he was! Okay so, this is the sad part of Mocha Dick, and get ready for this, because it’s heart wrenching. He was killed after coming to the aid of a distraught cow whale whose calf had been killed by whalers. 

CFB

Oh, Jesus. 

KW

So, because whales are people, like….this is terrible. He was a brave and noble whale. When they killed him, they found 20 harpoons in his body, to your point about, in the last episode, there were just whales which just have harpoon heads in them. They often got away.

CFB  

Reminds one of Jumbo the elephant, who also died in tragic and noble circumstances while saving a tiny elephant.

KW  

Right, right. This is also–this is all very sad.

CFB  

Man is just killing these noble gigantic beasts.

KW  

Right? And then we’re like, oh, wow, what a noble beast.

CFB  

Let us erect a statue in his honor and write a novel about him.

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May 25, 2022 at 7:45 am Leave a comment

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

…his brow creased in puzzlement. “You don’t like French kissing?”
“It makes me feel like a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish.”

What if The Rosie Project, but written from a female perspective and by someone actually on the autism spectrum? Also, what if Pretty Woman, but gender-swapped and more family-oriented? Either of those questions will lead you to The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang’s debut and the first in a lauded romance trilogy that includes The Bride Test and The Heart Principle

Stella Lane, a successful econometrician (like an economist, but more data), has trouble with love. It’s not that she doesn’t want to find someone, it’s that she has trouble relating to people, making small talk, and—due to a combination both of her being on the autism spectrum and having some terrible experiences—really, really doesn’t like to be touched. When her mother tells her she needs to find a date to a big fundraising gala or go with someone her mother sets her up with, Stella decides to turn to a professional. After all, who better than a professional to show her the ropes of dating? 

Her search leads her to Michael Larsen, a tailor who pays for his mother’s medical bills by moonlighting as an escort. He’s good at it, apparently, but doesn’t love it—not until he meets Stella, who presents an unusual challenge. It helps that she’s gorgeous and brilliant, but it doesn’t help that she’s super awkward around his family and keeps insisting their arrangement is only business. 

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May 19, 2022 at 4:10 am Leave a comment

White Whale Episode 6: AHABBBBB

Welcome to Episode 6 of our White Whale long-read project. Each episode, we are tackling two “white whale” reads–books that we have avoided reading because they are so dense and difficult. This week, we dive into (har har) Melville’s infamous “Cetology” chapter, filled with vague rumor and hearsay about whale biology, and James Joyce finally serves up that Dublin local color we’ve been waiting for.

Check out the audio version on Audiomack.

Or, if you’d rather read our thoughts than listen, read on and click “more” below for a full transcript of the episode.

KW  

So I watched the season finale of Severance yesterday.

CFB  

Did it have all the payoff you were hoping for?

KW  

It did not. There was nothing about the baby goats there. There was definitely some payoff, but I’m still confused about a lot of it and I really feel like…I don’t know it feels very modernist to me in a way, because there’s just all this stuff and all these pieces and they all probably mean something, but maybe they don’t and maybe it’s just a satire and it reminds me a lot of reading Ulysses like, “Okay, what’s important here? What do I need to pay attention to?” And I don’t know why I enjoy Severance so much more than Ulysses, honestly, because they’re the same. 

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May 17, 2022 at 7:59 am Leave a comment

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova

“How do you fight a thing that believes it owns you? How do you fight the past? With gold leaves and salt? With silence? With new earth beneath your feet? With the bodies, the hearts of others? With hearts that are tender and bloodied but have thorns of their own. With the family that chooses you.”

So many books are called “magical realism” when they truly should be called fantasy, surrealism, or speculative fiction. The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova, however, is the real deal. In the traditions of Isabelle Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Laura Esquivel, Córdova takes readers on a fantastical journey that they’re just going to have to suspend their disbelief and concepts of reality to enjoy. 

“She’s not dead.” 

“She’s a tree.” 

“The tree is alive.” 

This conversation between the two major characters, Rey and Marimar, pretty much sums up the story. Orquídea Divina, the matriarch of an enormous family who has outlived four husbands, is ready to die. She calls all of her grandchildren together, including Rey and Marimar, to claim their inheritance. The only thing is, they arrive to find that vines have taken over the house, and when they manage to break in, they find their abuela has turned into a tree from the waist down. From here, the reader is just going to have to go with it.

A person that’s a living star? Sure. Abuelita turns into a tree? Of course. Baby is born with a rose blooming in the middle of her forehead? Why not? What makes Rey and Marimar special? They just are, and that’s the way it is, and these are questions without answers. 

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May 12, 2022 at 4:04 am Leave a comment

White Whale Episode 5: A Cat!

It’s time for Episode 5 of our White Whale Project! Each episode, we are tackling two “white whale” reads–books that we have avoided reading because they are so dense and difficult. This week, we ponder the adorable nonsense we say to cats and meet the crew of the Pequod.

Check out the audio version on Audiomack.

Or, if you’d rather read our thoughts than listen, click “more” below for a full transcript of the episode.

KW  

So it was Vanessa Williams as Calypso, Isabella Rossellini as Athena, Bernadette Peters as Circe, Greta Scacchi as Penelope…

CFB  

Yeah, there is nothing better than that fun version of The Odyssey that I think was just a made for TV thing, but it had this stacked cast. It was rad. 

KW  

This is produced by Francis Ford Coppola?!

CFB

That explains Isabella Rossellini’s presence a little bit more. 

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May 10, 2022 at 12:38 am Leave a comment

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