Why I Really Like This Book (fantastical)
These are podcasts about forgotten fiction, for curious readers, and for anyone who likes old books. Sometimes they're stories, sometimes they're not. Most of the authors write in English; and sometimes they don't. But all the books I talk about, I really really like. I hope you will too.
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My name is Kate Macdonald: I'm an English lecturer, and a lifelong browser in second-hand bookshops. I post weekly ten-minute podcasts on a Friday, on the books I really like which I think deserve new readers. You can find out lots more at the Facebook page here, and get these podcasts weekly by subscribing on the iTunes link above.

The music for the podcast intro is by The Tribe Band. Lucy Marsh did the drawing and Matthias Opsomer lettered it. Patrick Belk and Martin Fowler hold my tech safety net.

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Questions? Send me a message by mailing me at kate [dot] brussels [at] yahoo [dot] com.

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The story of Merlin, and how King Uther got to the Duchess of Cornwall's bedroom, Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave fills in the gaps before Arthur's birth with the brilliant and believable story of Merlin. All the magic by mathematics and psychology you ever wanted.

Direct download: Mary_Stewart_and_The_Crystal_Cave_-_Five_Novels_about_King_Arthur.mp3
Category:fantastical -- posted at: 1:30am CET
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Not one novel about Arthur, but five: The Sword in the Stone, The Queen of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight, The Candle in the Wind, and The Book of Merlyn. Everything you ever wanted to know about the Arthurian legend, in brilliant postmodern style. T H White was a genius: these books are marvellous.

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Here's a fine satire about ignorance and primitive living at Camelot, where the benign reign of King Arthur needs improving. Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee takes over the kingdom and brings the 19th century into the 6th century: a great novel about the impossibility of messing around with time. For those suspicious about the practicalities of armour.

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Lord Tennyson and The Princess - Five Great Epic Poems You've Never Read

Tennyson's The Princess is a Victorian chivalric farce, packed with lyric poetry, knightly errantry, cross-dressing, and the ludicrous concept of a women-only university. Gasp at the foot-stomping rage of a king whose son has been jilted. Smile at the spectacle of a woman teaching philosophy. Be gravely pleased by the submission of Princess Ida to her prince's persuasions. For readers who take their lecture notes wearing classical drapery.

Direct download: Lord_Tennyson_and_The_Princess_-_Five_Great_Epic_Poems.mp3
Category:fantastical -- posted at: 9:49am CET
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The epic continues into the 17th century, when John Milton wrote about Hell in Paradise Lost, and Lucifer's escape from Hell to wreak vengeance on the vengeful god who'd sent him there, by seducing and destroying God's favourite creation. That would be us.  Playing fast and loose with the details of the Book of Genesis, Milton rewrote the Fall of Man as really nothing to do with man's destiny at all, but as part of the eternal battle between good and evil. For those who like their religion realigned now and then.

Direct download: John_Milton_and_Paradise_Lost_-_Five_Great_Epic_Poems.mp3
Category:fantastical -- posted at: 1:30am CET
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Think monsters, think allegory, think extravagant literary invention, think of a Red-Crosse Knight pricking across the plaine. Edmund Spenser's The Fairie Queene is a heroic epic of courtly flattery in 6 books (12 were planned, he got distracted), all about the moral virtues, and packed with action, incident, and astonishing feats of valour. Its also astonishingly readable, especially read aloud. For those who like to tackle a foul fiend and a cave of demons before breakfast.

Direct download: Edmund_Spenser_and_The_Fairie_Queene_-_Five_Great_Epic_Poems.mp3
Category:fantastical -- posted at: 1:30am CET
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There's a good reason why Grendel is the monster behind all monsters, and Grendel's mother is even worse: Beowulf, the oldest English poem, has been thrilling readers for centuries with the story of Beowulf's fight against them, and against the dragon. This is where Tolkien took took the Riders of the Rohirrim from. This poem is where Eowyn learned to act like a queen, and the sword of the Witch-King of Angmar entered Middle-Earth. For readers who like their epics short, sharp and detailed.

Direct download: Beowulf_-_Five_Great_Epic_Poems.mp3
Category:fantastical -- posted at: 1:30am CET
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Sylvia Townsend Warner's first novel, Lolly Willowes, was about witches, self-reliance and the rights of single women to do what they wanted for themselves. It was a fashionable and critical hit when it appeared in 1926, and is still loved by its devoted fans. But civilised witches are less in fashion than they were. Lolly Willowes is about the subtle pleasures of witchcraft as a means to an end, when the ends are independence and some decent privacy from interfering families. For readers who walk in the woods rather than on the paths, and who prefer the smell of wet leaves to incense.

Direct download: Sylvia_Townsend_Warner_and_Lolly_Willowes.mp3
Category:fantastical -- posted at: 1:30am CET
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He's not a forgotten author, The Witches of Eastwick is not forgotten either, but this is a book I really, really like, and it's all about witches. Updike writes about Rhode Island witchcraft as if it were European, and his devil is a money-splashing New York loudmouth. There's a hint of Lovecraftian occult in here too, but it's a great novel of innocent corruption and the simple pleasures of the coven. For those who like their snacks spicy and their hot tubs steaming.

Direct download: John_Updike_and_The_Witches_of_Eastwick.mp3
Category:fantastical -- posted at: 1:30am CET
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One day, the other planets came to earth to deal with the evil that lurked within our own. Lewis finished his science-fiction trilogy with a hard-edged satire on university politics, mixed with spiritual warfare. Mark the half-hearted gives in to political persuasion of the wrong kind. Jane the resolute refuses to believe in God but falls in love instead. Mr Bultitude the bear finds something deliciously hot, bloody and crunchy to eat. Merlin is woken for his Dark Ages magic, which brings chaos to the right places, and evil is crushed. It's stronger stuff than Narnia. For those who want more moral oomph from fantasy fiction.

Direct download: C_S_Lewis_and_That_Hideous_Strength.mp3
Category:fantastical -- posted at: 1:00am CET
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