This is a transcription of ‘The Wheel of Time’ and Two New Books — 15 September 2023’
Melissa: Coming up, a horror-comedy with plenty of attitude.
David: The only sports books we’re likely to cover this year.
Melissa: Plus, our distraction of the week. I’m Mel.
David: I’m Dave. This is the library of lost time.
David: Today we’ve got something fun for you. We’ve got a guest coming in to talk about his distraction of the week. His name is Andrew, and he’s the co-host of the excellent book podcast Overdue.
Melissa: Overdue is one of my must listen shows. Andrew and his co-host Craig go into the backlist to discuss books that most of us should have read by now, which is a really fun premise. I really enjoyed their discussions of some of my favorite books, like Something Wicked This Way comes by Ray Bradbury and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. And they recently did a thriller by Mary Higgins Clark, who pretty much defined my high school reading, was very into her Women in Peril thrillers.
David: We were recently guests on their show. We talked about Hunter Thompson. Their show is like the best kind of book club. They are funny and opinionated and insightful, and they come having done their homework and it’s just a blast to listen to them. You will hear from Andrew later in this episode. But first, we’re going to talk about two new titles. Mel, what have you got?
Melissa: I know for some people, Spooky Season doesn’t start until October 1.
David: Spooky season started September 1st, maybe August 31st, around our house.
Melissa: Exactly. Why wait? I’ve been alternating horror books and nice books for a few weeks, and it is awesome. The title I’m about to describe won’t be for everybody, but if you like horror-comedy and are excited when things get very dark and also irreverent, you will love this book. It’s Black Sheep by Rachel Harrison.
Melissa: Our narrator and anti-heroine is Vesper. She’s a waitress at a chain restaurant called Shortee’s, and she is the personification of bad attitude. This is how she opens the book: ‘As I stood singing the birthday song for the fifth time that evening, I realized I was wrong for not believing in hell. Hell was the birthday song. Hell was Shortee’s. Hell was the green polo shirt, the whole stupid uniform. Hell was my life.’
David: I like Vesper already.
Melissa: Right? Firmly on team Vesper.
David: Plus, that’s such a great name.
Melissa: We quickly learn that six years ago, Vesper escaped from a very strict, insular religious community. She wanted to be free AND she was on the hunt for her father who disappeared from her life without explanation. What she’s found instead is a dead-end job and extreme loneliness.
Melissa: When she gets an invitation to her cousin Rosie’s wedding back in the cult, Vesper decides to return home. Event though her cousin is marrying Vesper’s ex-boyfriend AND going home will put Vesper in striking distance of her chilly, hyper-critical mother. At first, everyone seems delighted by Vesper’s return, but her homecoming reveals a troubling family secret that changes everything.
Melissa: I loved spending time with Vesper. She’s simultaneously tough and vulnerable, snarky and sassy. Mostly, she just wants to be loved. This story is angsty, darkly funny, and a page-turner. It’s an excellent read for Spooky Season.
Melissa: This is Black Sheep by Rachel Harrison, and it’s available for pre-order now. It will be out next Tuesday — September 19. If you want to do a Rachel Harrison two-fer, Dave recommended her book Such Sharp Teeth last year during Spooky Season. That one is a feminist werewolf story that has great reviews.
David: We have yet to talk a lot about sports books. Although you’ve written one! Rollergirl: Totally True Tales From The Track.
Melissa: I have! A book about the knock-down, drag-out world of roller derby.
David: We might in the future — Strong Sense of an Arena or something. But I read about this book a few weeks ago, and it’s come back to me a few times since then, all on its own. And baseball season is winding down. So I wanted to mention it. It’s ‘The Tao of the Backup Catcher: Playing Baseball for the Love of the Game’ by Tim Brown and Erik Kratz.
David: Backup catchers have a particular spot in major league baseball. They’re necessary a few times a week. The starting catcher may be injured. They could play the second game of a doubleheader. A pitcher needs to be warmed up. It’s a very utilitarian spot, and the prospects for advancement are usually thin. As a player, you’re in the major leagues – but. You’re at the end of the bench, the back of the bus, and you bat eighth. The book argues that many guys could fill that role, so the guys who do get the nod for that position usually bring some intangibles.
David: They know how to talk to a pitcher, maybe even a particular pitcher. They’re talented in certain circumstances. When the game is all but over, and the sun seems two feet too close, they get out there and play like they’re happy to be there. At different times, the backup catcher might be a friend, a confidant, a father figure, a brother, a priest, a therapist, or a drinking buddy.
This book is about the guys who play the game even when the game isn’t treating them well. One reviewer said, ‘This isn’t just a story about baseball. It’s about life and the beauty of knowing and accepting who you are.’ You may know a sports fan who’d enjoy it. It’s ‘The Tao of the Backup Catcher: Playing Baseball for the Love of the Game’ by Tim Brown and Erik Kratz.
David: And now, our Distraction of the Week. [magical sound effect]
David: Today we’re here with Andrew and Craig from the Overdue podcast. I understand, Andrew, you have a Distraction of the Week for us. What have you got?
Andrew: I do have a distraction of the week. I’ve been very distracted by the Wheel of Time television show this week, which is back on Amazon Prime for its second season. What what do you all — what’s your familiarity with this with this work? Do you have any.
Melissa: I haven’t seen the show, but it is very near and dear to our hearts because they shoot a lot in the Czech Republic. And Rosamund Pike moved to Prague to shoot the show.
Andrew: Yeah, I think a bunch of them of the cast members kind of moved over there because they were they were expecting — and then, you know, this could still be the case — but I think they were expecting it to be kind of a Game of Thrones-style hit where they can all like dine out on it for for a decade. [laughter] So I think a lot of them, yeah, really, really changed their lives to move to to make the show happen.
Andrew: So yeah, that’s one interesting thing I wanted to talk about the show in this context was that it is filmed mostly in the Czech Republic. They go to other locations too, but it definitely gives the show a very different look from like The Lord of the Rings stuff, which I think a lot of it is shot in New Zealand. And then for like Game of Thrones, I think they used Ireland a lot. They used Spain more like further west in Europe and then this one’s more centrally located. So yeah, definitely a lot of landscapes that you haven’t seen in other fantasy properties already.
Andrew: But yeah, it’s the show is based on the series of 15 books. It’s well, it’s so it’s 14 plus the prequel novel.
Andrew: So I read all the ones that existed when I was in high school and then they were like day one purchases for me after that until they were done written by this guy, Robert Jordan. Then, following his death in 2007, they were finished by Brandon Sanderson, who a lot of people have probably heard of. And yeah, the thing about the TV show that I kind of like is just these books are completely unadaptable. [laughter] There are a million characters, there are tons of overlapping plots. There are like there are like dozens of different cities and towns, all that. They’re supposed to have their own like characters and dialects and like styles of clothing. And even the way the books are structured, where early books are like narrowly focused on a few characters and then later books expand out to like a couple dozen characters, like point of view characters in different locations. It would be very, very hard to do a straight adaptation. And so no one tried for a long time. And then Jeff Bezos wanted his own Game of Thrones for Prime Video. So he they threw millions and millions of dollars at this and at that Lord of the Rings series that they did. And, you know, I wouldn’t say that the result is top-tier fantasy television.
Andrew: Like it’s not especially the first season is like it’s really exposition heavy. It’s limited in some ways. I think by like Covid protocols, both in the visual effects. Like I think a lot of the VFX artists were working on a laptop at home and still getting used to that whole situation.
Andrew: And it’s also an eight episode season, which is like it’s, it’s not a lot of time to let a story breathe, but if you can accept that the adaptation is never going to have anything other than a cursory relationship with the book material, I think it’s a really interesting study in how you read a giant story and then pull out some threads and get rid of some other stuff and make some people composite characters and put something together that has the right vibes — even though I think people who are really faithful to the books don’t like it that much because it’s not a straight adaptation. So yeah, that is, that is where I am. I love just taking notes about the differences and talking about them with other people I know who’ve read the books, I’ve just had a lot of fun with it.
Melissa: Where do you stand with the books now? Because you got them young, so it could be nostalgia. Do they hold up for you?
Andrew: I reread them a couple years ago because I read the first one for Overdue so we could talk about it. And there’s a lot of gender stuff that’s not amazing, just just in the very not, not in a toxic sense, but in ‘a women be like this and men be like this’ kind of way that doesn’t wear super well. And the middle books are all pretty saggy. Like the world just got too big, and it was too hard to keep the story moving at a at a decent clip. But overall, I think they do, I think they do stand up. I don’t know how I would feel about them if I were coming to them totally fresh with no rose-colored glasses or nostalgia or anything for them. But I still had fun. Yeah.
David: And the show holds up against that for you?
__Andrew:__I think so, yeah, that’s pretty good so far.
Melissa: I mean, it does look really beautiful and fantastical. Sometimes that’s all you need. Visit strong sense of place.com/library. For more info about the overdue podcast, the Wheel of Time series and all of the books we discuss today.
David: Thanks for joining us on the library of last time. Remember to visit your local library and your independent bookstore to lose some time yourself.
Melissa: Stay curious. We’ll talk to you soon.
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