The Grey Champion & Hoary Beards: pickled books, classic lust, devil worshiping, Modernist killers-Ep.7

A 60-minute full episode in which we discuss the devil in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and what Star Trek’s Nomad character has in common with Modernist Literature. Kaisha talks about the classic book she’s been meaning to read for years, I talk about my dangerous technique of pickling parts of my manuscript, and we begin to question Maugham’s choices in his anthology, Teller of Tales. P.S. The strange banging noise you will hear during the Powwow is Kelsey knocking over her coffee…TWICE!

Welcome to Read.Write.Repeat.

This month we will be giving away a copy of The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst and a bunch of adorable succulent bookmarks  – we explain how to enter toward the end of the show notes. You can find other Giveaways on the giveaways tab and in the Give us a Shout tab. Be sure to check those out. We ship worldwide, so don’t hesitate to enter our giveaway.

MiddleBookish Rants:

I asked Kaisha what classics she has always wanted to read but hasn’t gotten around to yet.

  • Middlemarch!
  • She has been a huge lover of Victorian novels, and yet, somehow she has yet to get around this one.
  • She has three beautiful editions of it; she even has My Life in Middlemarch, a memoir about a woman who loves this books and everything it has meant to her!
  • Mine is War and Peace
    • we discuss which is more worthy of your time, War and Peace or Anna Karenina.
  • Kaisha’s love of Moby Dick.
  • A topic for next time: Stories that make you want to jab your eyes out.

Listeners weigh in:

Let us know in the comments section below, or by tagging us on social media! Your response might be featured in an upcoming show!

  • Do you collect multiple copies of books?
  • Are there any books you want to read but haven’t yet?

Author Rants:

What is one of my writing behaviors?

  • I pickle things-
    • This is a technique where I type the word “pickle” in my manuscript to avoid getting bogged down or falling down a research rabbit hole.
  • My workshop professor was afraid I was using this technique too much or injudiciously.
    • He warned me against not trying to work through sticky parts.
    • Pushing through my block might enrich my writing from that point on.
    • The manuscript I brought to workshop was an unnamed space opera, and, after hearing my pickling technique, my workshop professor started calling the manuscript Space Pickles.
    • This lead to writing a poem about space pickles instead of making edits —->
  • No lazy pickles
    • As part of my summer project plan, I put together a technique for using pickles in my manuscript:
      • If it is something that requires research, I pickle the spot right away, but complete the research after I wrap up my writing for the day.
      • File_000 (2)If it is a sticky spot, I set a timer for ten minutes and then try to push through. If I can’t get unstuck in ten minutes, then I pickle it and come back later. That way I don’t lose my momentum.
  • As promised, here is a picture of the Dalek Kaisha got me, along with all my birthday loot from last year. Kaisha gives the best presents. I couldn’t rope my husband into taking a picture with the Dalek, but you can see my 5’6″ son peaking out from behind it.
  • File_001Just because I know you are curious, here is a picture of my husband’s “I hate the world right now,” look. This is the one he gave me when I suggeseted taking a photo with the Dalek.

Listeners weigh in:

Let us know in the comments section below, or by tagging us on social media! Your response might be featured in an upcoming show!

  • What techniques do you use to problem solve in your writing?
  • Do you have any bad writing habits?

Prompt Up:

  • Take the first line in your favorite book, poem, short story, or song and use it as a jumping off point
    • From today’s story: There was once a time, when New-England groaned under the actual pressure of heavier wrongs than those threatened ones which brought on the Revolution.
    • To play with it more, you could replace New England and Revolution with something of your creation. For example:
      • There was once a time, when New-Earth groaned under the actual pressure of heavier wrongs than those threatened ones which brought on the Calabuncula Slaughter.
    • Don’t forget to share your creations with us. You can submit your writing to be featured through the Submit Your Writing tab at or post it as a comment on our show notes!

Short Story Powwow:

It’s that time again! For today’s Powwow, we are reading another short story from Somerset Maugham’s Teller of Tales.The Gray Champion” by Nathaniel Hawthorne  Published in Twice-Told Tales, in 1837. We also read

Melville dedicated his masterpiece Moby-Dick (1851) to Hawthorne in appreciation for the help Hawthorne gave him in writing it. This is like that game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon–How many things can we relate back to Melville?

Our Discussion Points:

“The Grey Champion”

  • Best quote EVER:
    • “…rendered doubly venerable by the hoary beard that descended on his breast.”
  • This is a great line: “Sir Edmund Andros looked at the old man; then he cast his hard and cruel eye over the multitude and beheld them burning with that lurid wrath so difficult to kindle or to quench, and again he fixed his gaze…”
  • This story lacked almost everything required to be a story: context, meaningful dialogue, characters, plot…

“Young Goodman Brown”

  • At least there is some intrigue–Whatever could that young Goodman Brown be off to do that would destroy his faithful wife Faith.
  • I was listening to Book Fight the other day, and they were talking about their dislike of names that are symbolic–Like Faith, the faithful wife. What do you think?
  • Another technique I don’t like: the person who dreams of and foretells the destruction of a character to create tension. This happened in the Two Drovers, the story we read for our first  failed episode (We ditched it and started over. It ended up 2 hours long!)
  • “With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose.” Isn’t that always how it goes? That is how I treat eating one more ice cream sandwich–it’s okay because I have excellent resolve not to do so in the future.
  • I like this line: It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveler knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that, with lonely footsteps, he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.
  • You know what word I’m not sad we lost? Thither.
  • “…touching the matter thou wot’st of…”What does wot’st mean? It means “would speak.” This language was difficult for me.
  • I do like the rhythm and pattern of this line: “Sayest thou so?” replied he of the serpent, smiling apart.’
  • Is Goodman Brown’s name Brown because he’s a shitty human being? Oh–Deja Vu, I feel like this story came up in the episode of Book Fight I referenced earlier, and I think it was brought up because of the icky name-play-meaning thing.
  • Brown comes from a long line of shitty human beings–lashing the poor Quaker woman. Setting fire to a Native American village.
  • It is the wickedest of people who always say that they abide no such wickedness in themselves.
  • “‘Ha! ha! ha!’ shouted he, again and again”–I cringed at this but Kaisha loved it because she listened to a fantastic audio version of this. Here’s the link to the version she listened to.
    • P.S. The strange thumping noise you hear at this point is the podcast is where I knocked over my coffee…TWICE!
  • OMG–Goody Cloyse–I had no idea that Goody was an honorific. Thank god Kaisha is around to fill in for my lack of ANY cultural knowledge from ANY time period.
  • Another hideous word–durst
  • I like this line: “The fiend in his own shape is less hideous, than when he rages in the breast of man.”
  • We think his prejudiced Native American references are meant to be satirical, but, if so, they were poorly executed. They were a turnoff for both of us.
  • Man, nature is evil, dude.
  • What are proselytes? A proselyte is a newly converted person. This story is making me feel stupid.
  • Stupid hoary story teller! Hey, that has a rather nice flow to it. This reminds me of that Dean Koontz book that made me so angry. I hate the “and maybe it was a dream, maybe it wasn’t” thing. I prefer the “dream” be real. I was rather enjoying the devil worship and unholy marriage.
  • And then he ends up being a total dick to his wife for the rest of their life because he had a bad dream.
    • Just read an analysis that suggests Faith is the only good character–that we never see her truly corrupted, and that she represents the importance of the family
    • When you turn from family and a personal relationship with God, it all goes down hill-you end up being an ass to everyone, and get no epitaph on your grave marker.
  • “By emphasizing the devil’s chameleon nature, Hawthorne suggests that the devil is simply an embodiment of all of the worst parts of man.” Interesting. I rather like the way that plays out. The Devil was my favorite character.
  • So Hawthorne is Goodman Brown–that’s kinda deep. His great grandfather sentenced 25 women as witches and had them executed. Can you imagine? I totally get the whole hating yourself for being fascinated by something you are also deeply ashamed of.
  • Big theme alert: the loss of religious faith–when he sees the truth about the pious and faithful that he looked up to.
  • Another theme: The social ills of Puritan communities–seen through the nasty actions of the father and grandfather–beating up those poor Quaker ladies.

Our next short story will be “The Crimson Curtain” by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly–Lord, let it be better than these last two. I may not be a Puritan, but I think I’m worthy of this one request!  Unfortunately, we cannot find a free, translated version of the story. You can find it on Project MUSE if you have a subscription. You can also check out an eBook of Teller of Tales from According to Project MUSE, the collection the story was originally published in, Diabolique, was banned because “it was a danger to public morality.” Oh goody! We can’t wait. This episode will air on August 13th.

Nerd Girl Lit

Today’s Nerd Girl Lit we are talking about Modernism:

  • Modernism and Nomad, the floating automaton from Star Trek’s “The Changeling.”
    • Nomad believes it must sterilize biological units because they function irrationally–it calls them biological infestations and its prime directive is to destroy what is not perfect.
    • Nomad was originally created peaceful by the Brilliant but erratic–Roykirk created Nomad–it was a thinking machine the best that ever was built.–It was a probe on a mission of discovery.
    • Nomad collided with another AI and they merged, and it creates a killing machine that cares only about logic. The other AI was supposed to be sterilizing dirt for colonization of planets–See what uncontrolled exploration and unbridled “logic” with no emotion get us?!
    • It believes that Kirk is his creator–typical. Even the homicidal-sociopathic-human-created-mass-murdering-artificial intelligence looks up to Kirk.
    • Poor Uhura’s memory has been completely wiped by Nomad, and they have to re-educate her. Apparently in Stardate: 3451.9 they still use see spot run.
    • Kirk defeats Nomad by making it analyze how such an imperfect creation could create a perfect unit like Nomad–Kirk points out that Nomad has made three errors- mistaking Kirk for Roykirk, not discovering the error, and then not sterilizing the error-This causes Nomad to explode (of course they beam him off the ship just before he explodes).
  • Modernism is characterized by:
    • Distrust of the constructs of society, organized authorities, technology, science
    • symbolism, futurism, surrealism, expressionism
    • Experimentation with form and structure
    • A loss of faith
    • Degradation and meaninglessness of society, social norms, government, fellow man–This makes me think of Flannery O’Conner’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”
    • futility of meaning
    • Fragmentation
    • Confusion
    • Stream of Consciousness
    • Chaos
  • Our Favorites:
  • Best quotes from “The Changeling”:
    • “Intelligence does not necessarily require bulk Mr. Scott-”Spock
    • SPOCK: My congratulations, Captain. A dazzling display of logic.
    • KIRK: You didn’t think I had it in me, did you Spock?
    • SPOCK: No, sir.
  • Here’s a bit more on the Changeling Mythology the Star Trek episode was named for.

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  • Don’t forget to enter our giveaway for July. This month we will be giving away The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst and some adorable succulent bookmarks! To enter, rate us and leave a review on Itunes, and then go to the giveaway tab on our website  and let us know how to get in touch with you if you win. A winner will be drawn at random on August first.
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