What happens if you sprinkle late-19th-century-British fairy dust all over 20th-century upstate New York? What do you call it when a multi-generational family saga and a sweeping fate-of-the-world fantasy novel collide with 70s-style quote-unquote postmodernism? How many layers of meta-narrative reflection are you on?
The Sometime Seminar discusses Little, Big (1981) by John Crowley.
It’s a fine-tuned realist novel…about an author of extravagant romantic novels. It’s middlebrow fiction…but extremely good. It’s Elizabeth Taylor…but not that Elizabeth Taylor.
The Sometime Seminar discusses Angel (1957) by Elizabeth Taylor.
Plans go awry, digressions abound and hobbyhorses gallop in all directions as The Sometime Seminar discusses Laurence Sterne’s seriously unserious comic novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-1767).
Supplemental links: Sigurd Burckhardt, “Tristram Shandy’s Law of Gravity” (ELH, Mar. 1961); Viktor Shklovsky’s “The Novel as Parody: Sterne’s Tristram Shandy“ (from Theory of Prose)
How many digressions can you dangle from a road-novel quest plot? How many varieties of crank and con-artist can you fit in a Buick Special? How much hilarity can you wring from the masterfully rendered voice of an insufferable American blowhard? (A lot!)
The Sometime Seminar discusses The Dog of the South (1979) by Charles Portis.
How do we pick our topics? Where do we get all of our great ideas? If this podcast were a tree, what kind of tree would it be? We turn the critical lens on ourselves in a brief meta-discussion about what this is and why we do it. If this seems self-indulgent, give us a break…it’s our 100th episode! 🎉🎉🎉
Swords, sorcery, and semiotics! In our ninety-ninth episode, The Sometime Seminar discusses Samuel R. Delany’s masterful Tales of Nevèrÿon (1979), a collection of fantasy stories unlike any other.
A withering satire, a feminist utopia, a work of rigorous science fiction and a high-spirited postmodern genre-buster…all for the price of one book!
The Sometime Seminar discusses The Female Man (1975) by Joanna Russ.
Note on e-texts: All available electronic editions of this book seem to be terrible. We’d strongly recommend reading it on paper.
How much cosmic imagination and speculative social history can fit in a pulp-adventure framework? Why do science fiction and modernism emerge at the same literary-historical moment? Does the future belong to giant crabs?
The Sometime Seminar discusses the work of H.G. Wells, with a focus on The Time Machine (1895).
Note on e-texts: the Project Gutenberg text, on which most free e-texts of The Time Machine are based, is corrupt and error-ridden. We recommend instead the Penguin Classics edition, which comes with an excellent introduction by Marina Warner.
Does utopia begin with extinction? Can gene-splicing aliens save humanity from itself?
The Sometime Seminar discusses Lilith’s Brood (also known as Xenogenesis), a trilogy of science-fiction novels by Octavia Butler: Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988), and Imago (1989).
In a large bag, combine shady financiers, dissolute aristocrats and marriageable heiresses; spice with lower-class stereotypes and brash Americans to taste; add one improbable paragon of old-fashioned virtue; shake vigorously for 800 pages; serve with comic relish, sentimental syrup and a pinch of melancholy.
The Sometime Seminar discusses Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now (1875), a sprawling novel of finance and marriage.
Supplemental link: John Lanchester argues the novel’s relevance to a 2010s audience for NPR
Note on e-texts: the Penguin Classics edition is terrible, riddled with errors and typos.