32 episodes

Phi Fic is a monthly, candid conversation on recommended fiction. We dive into the plot, characters, philosophy, ideas, and best lines, in a discussion full of SPOILERS!



Nathan Hanks hosts fellow readers Cezary Baraniecki, Daniel St. Pierre, Laura Davis and Mary Claire, with the occasional guest. Thanks to Christopher Nolen for the music.



Phi Fic is a member of the Partially Examined Life podcast network, and originated as the Philosophical Fiction group in PEL's Not School.



Recommendations, questions, etc. for phificpodcast@gmail.com

Phi Fic: A Fiction Podcast Nathaniel Hanks, Cezary Baraniecki, Mary Claire, Daniel St. Pierre, Laura Davis

    • Books

Phi Fic is a monthly, candid conversation on recommended fiction. We dive into the plot, characters, philosophy, ideas, and best lines, in a discussion full of SPOILERS!



Nathan Hanks hosts fellow readers Cezary Baraniecki, Daniel St. Pierre, Laura Davis and Mary Claire, with the occasional guest. Thanks to Christopher Nolen for the music.



Phi Fic is a member of the Partially Examined Life podcast network, and originated as the Philosophical Fiction group in PEL's Not School.



Recommendations, questions, etc. for phificpodcast@gmail.com

    Phi Fic #31 Sula by Toni Morrison

    Phi Fic #31 Sula by Toni Morrison

    Because each had discovered years before that they were neither white nor male, and that all freedom and triumph was forbidden to them, they had set about creating something else to be.

    -Sula

    In this heart wrenching and brilliant novel by Toni Morrison, we are carried through a world called The Bottom:

    That was the way it got started. Not the town, of course, but that part of town where the Negroes lived, the part they called the Bottom in spite of the fact that it was up in the hills. Just a n****r joke. The kind white folks tell when the mill closes down and they’re looking for a little comfort somewhere. The kind colored folks tell on themselves when the rain doesn’t come, or comes for weeks, and they’re looking for a little comfort somehow.

    -Sula

    We meet a faction of characters from Shadrack, our opening knight in broken armor fighting WWI, who came home to establish National Suicide Day; Eva Peace, grandmother to the title character, Sula, who had one leg because she had placed one under a train to collect the insurance money--to Chicken Little, a young boy who is thrown into a creek by Sula, and drowns.

    At the center is Sula, a wandering, self-determined girl, who becomes best friends with another young girl named Nel, and despite their differing backgrounds--Nel comes from a home of “oppressive neatness” and Sula's mother is known as “sooty”—a bond develops between them which is not merely unbreakable, but fueled with oxygen.

    In the course of the novel, Sula and Nel encounter the growing pains of sex, family, religion, racism, ambition while trying desperately to know who, in fact they are. But one day, as Sula and Nel are playing in the field near a creek with a young boy name Chicken Little, Sula starts twirling Chicken around in her arms, and ends up tossing him into the creek where he drowns.

    Nel and Sula stood some distance away from the grave, the space that had sat between them in the pews had dissolved. They held hands and knew that only the coffin would lie in the earth…They relaxed slowly until during the walk back home their fingers were laced in as gentle a clasp as that of any two young girlfriends trotting up the road on a summer day wondering what happened to butterflies in the winter.

    -Sula

    Their friendship forever changes after that day, and as they grow older—they confront even deeper fractures between them. Then one day, many years later, after visiting the grave that held Sula, Nel breaks down and cries:

    “We was girls together,” she said as though explaining something. “O Lord, Sula,” she cried, “girl, girl, girlgirlgirl.”

    -Sula

    Join Nathan, Laura, Jennifer and Daniel as we breathe deeply and journey through this incredible story, launched by Nathan's insightful first question: How many tears were shed reading this one?

    If you have thoughts, recommendations, or questions that you want to send our way, please do via phificpodcast@gmail.com.

    Hear more Phi Fic discussions at PhiFicPodcast.com.

    Thanks to Christopher Nolen for the music.

     

    • 2 hrs 21 min
    Phi Fic #30 One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez Part 2

    Phi Fic #30 One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez Part 2

    Only then did he discover that Amaranta Úrsula was not his sister but his aunt, and that Sir Francis Drake had attacked Riohacha only so that they could seek each other through the most intricate labyrinths of blood until they would engender the mythological animal that was to bring the line to an end. Macondo was already a fearful whirlwind of dust and rubble being spun about by the wrath of the biblical hurricane when Aureliano skipped eleven pages so as not to lose time with facts he knew only too well, and he began to decipher the instant that he was living, deciphering it as he lived it, prophesying himself in the act of deciphering the last page of the parchments, as if he were looking into a speaking mirror.

    -One Hundred Years of Solitude

    Join us as we continue our study of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ epic, One Hundred Years of Solitude. In this Part 2 episode, we look at moments which we didn’t have a chance to discuss in Part 1, namely, the “insomnia plague,” the “four year rain,” the “Civil War” the fate of the character Rebecca and the matriarch Ursula's, overwhelming fear that a child would be born into the family with a pig's tail—did that happen? We’ll see.

    Then he skipped again to anticipate the predictions and ascertain the date and circumstances of his death. Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.

    -One Hundred Years of Solitude

    We also discuss the themes which Nathan, Laura, Jennifer and Daniel each found to be what resonated most: the circularity of time, memory, loss, humanity, and the caution the novel leaves us with about living life.

    If you have thoughts, recommendations, or questions that you want to send our way, please do via phificpodcast@gmail.com.

    Hear more Phi Fic discussions at PhiFicPodcast.com.

    Thanks to Allan Bowley for audio assistance.

    Thanks to Christopher Nolen for the music.

     

     

    • 1 hr 6 min
    Phi Fic #29 (Part 1 of 2) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Phi Fic #29 (Part 1 of 2) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    ...time was not passing...it was turning in a circle...

    -One Hundred Years of Solitude

    In this episode we discuss the classic Latin American novel by Gabriel Garcia Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude. which has been described by the scholar Robery Keily in the New York Times, as a “book [of] history, not of governments or of formal institutions of the sort which keeps public records, but of a people who, like the earliest descendants of Abraham, are best understood in terms of their relationship to a single family. . .”

    This remarkable story follows seven generations of the Buendia family living and growing in the fictional town of Macondo founded by the family’s patriarch, José Arcadio Buendía, when he had a dream about a city of mirrors. After discovering that the earth is actually round, José Arcadio, a brilliant, relentless seeker of knowledge, ends up going insane and is tied to a chestnut tree in the back of the house for years, until his death. His wife, Ursula, the family matriarch, lives to over 100 and oversees the herculean proliferation of the Buendia generations and their relentlessly shocking and daunting lives. Among the Buendia legacies is her eldest son, Colonel Aureliano Buendía, who becomes a hero in the country’s civil war, her great granddaughter Remedios the Beauty whose looks are fatal to the men who follow her, her great grandson José Arcadio Segundo, who plays a major role in the strike against the local banana company and the only survivor after the company massacres all the strikers--and so many others, who we learn intimately about during this 100 year epoch.

    This life-altering legend is about the failure of history, the uncertainty of memory, the circularity of time, loss, fortune, hope, the repetition of eras, ghosts, the fallibility of glass, mirrors, mirages and in the end, it is about—fatalism—when we learn that these one hundred years were fated, predetermined, and actually, occurred within one moment in time.

    There is no single or even secondary plot—it is 100 years of lifetimes.

    Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.

    -One Hundred Years of Solitude

    Join Nathan, Laura, Cezary, Jennifer and Daniel in this Part One discussion as we swim through the towering waves of Márquez’ opus, following the insistence of William Kennedy from The NY Review of Books, “One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race. Mr. García Márquez has done nothing less than to create in the reader a sense of all that is profound, meaningful, and meaningless in life.”

    When the novel was released in 1967, the response in Latin America was akin to Beatlemania in this country and when Marquez died in 2014, the country was in official morning for three days.

    Of note: Rodrigo García Barcha, Márquez' son, has announced that Netflix is adapting a series based on One Hundred Years of Solitude, to be released in 2020.

    If you have thoughts, recommendations, or questions that you want to send our way, please do via phificpodcast@gmail.com.

    Hear more Phi Fic discussions at PhiFicPodcast.com.

    Thanks to Allan Bowley for audio assistance.

    • 1 hr 40 min
    Phi Fic #28 A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

    Phi Fic #28 A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

    I see what is right and approve, but I do what is wrong.

    -A Clockwork Orange

    In this episode we are discussing “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess. As many of us know from the infamous 1962 book and the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film based on it, the story takes place in a dystopian futuristic Britain. It tracks the dark, torturous, amoral acts performed by our hero--or anti-hero—Alex, and his gang of teenage thugs a.k.a. “droogs”. The novel, written partially in a distorted Russian-speak called “Nasdat", follows Alex, as he is eventually sent to prison for the murder of an elderly woman, then is subjected to a Government-enforced rehabilitation technique called “The Ludovico Technique.” This process forces Alex to watch grotesquely brutal films while being injected with nausea-inducing drugs intended to make him extremely ill at the thought of violence. The State is programming Alex to be incapable of crime or evil.

    What is happening to you now is what should happen to any healthy human organism contemplating the actions of the forces of evil, the workings of the principle of destruction. You are being made sane, you are being made healthy.

    -A Clockwork Orange

    Join us as we debate the central conflict wrapped around the issues of Good and Evil in this book: Jennifer questions whether humanity exists as merely Hobbes’ “Nasty, Brutish and Short,” or as Rousseau’s “Noble Savage”, while Nathan astutely points out the key difference of “having the drive to perform vs. having the potential of executing a fate." Cezary wonders “What do we think about the defenders of liberty here”, and Daniel concludes, “Let’s all agree we’re going to have evil in us, and the potential for good” while Laura asks “Isn’t it more vital that we have the ability to choose than that we eliminate evil?

    Check out this discussion on the difference between the book and the movie.



    Join Cezary Baranieckli, Laura Davis, Nathaniel Hanks, Daniel Johnson, and Jennifer Tejada, as we all struggle with what is defined as truly "evil".

    If you have thoughts, recommendations, or questions that you want to send our way, please do via phificpodcast@gmail.com.

    Hear more Phi Fic discussions at PhiFicPodcast.com.

    Thanks to Allan Bowley for audio assistance.

    Thanks to Christopher Nolen for the music.

    • 1 hr 44 min
    Phi Fic #27 Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

    Phi Fic #27 Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

    The places that we have known belong now only to the little world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; remembrance of a particular form is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.



    --Swann’s Way

     

    Beyond the renowned “Madeleine” scene in Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust, we swim within his enchanting prose to learn and expand the most unpredictable senses and worlds within ourselves, and which only Proust is able to bring to life.

    Swann’s Way is the first volume of Proust’s mammoth novel, Remembrance of Things Past, which at its core is a study into the experience of involuntary memory.

    Told in stream of consciousness manner, Swann’s Way, follows the youth of the narrator in aristocratic France of the late 19th century, taking place largely in the fictional village of Combray, France (based on the real town of Illiers, which changed its name to Illiers-Combray in 1971, in honor of Proust), and is largely focused on what is love, memory, and, lost time.

    Through the description and exploration of an older neighbor named Charles Swann, the narrator examines Swann’s tortured romance with a purported “lady of the evening”, Odette.

    In his younger days a man dreams of possessing the heart of the woman whom he loves; later, the feeling that he possesses the heart of a woman may be enough to make him fall in love with her.”

    -Swann’s Way

    Through vivid, comprehensive, sweeping colors and endless stream of consciousness prose which knows no margin, Proust carries us through Freudian, Marxist, philosophical struggles as he scrutinizes Swann, his family, his mother, every object in his room, himself---and the moment when he dips a madeleine cake into his tea, sparking an experience with memory which charges the novel through the constant links between perception and memory.

    But, when nothing subsists of an old past, after the death of people, after the destruction of things, alone, frailer but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, smell and taste still remain for a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, on the ruin of all the rest, bearing without giving way, on their almost impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory.

    -Swann’s Way

    Join Cezary Baranieckli, Laura Davis, Nathaniel Hanks, Daniel Johnson, and Jennifer Tejada, as we spend a very long episode deconstructing and being reshaped by our reading of this unspeakably remarkable novel.

    If you have thoughts, recommendations, or questions that you want to send our way, please do via phificpodcast@gmail.com.

    Hear more Phi Fic discussions at PhiFicPodcast.com.

    Thanks to Allan Bowley for audio assistance.

    Thanks to Christopher Nolen for the music.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • 2 hrs 11 min
    Phi Fic #26 The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster

    Phi Fic #26 The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster

    'Cannot you see, cannot all you lecturers see, that it is we that are dying, and that down here the only thing that really lives is the Machine? We created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now. It has robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred wevery human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralysed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it. The Machine develops - but not on our lies. The Machine proceeds - but not to our goal. We only exist as the blood corpuscles that course through its arteries, and if it could work without us, it would let us die."

    - The Machine Stops

    In this episode we read The Machine Stops by EM Forster, a cautionary tale written in 1909—on the threat of ungoverned technology. The story follows two characters—Vashti and her son, Kuno, during a time of post-apocalyptic earth. Mankind has been forced to relocate and live underground because the air on the earth’s surface has apparently become unbreathable. As a result, people live in empty rooms—or pods—underground, surrounded by buttons which, when activated, determine their day.

    There were buttons and switches everywhere - buttons to call for food, for music, for clothing. There was the hot-bath button, by pressure of which a basin of (imitation) marble rose out of the floor, filled to the brim with a warm deodorized liquid. There was the cold-bath button. There was the button that produced literature. And there were of course the buttons by which [Vashti] communicated with her friends. The room, though it contained nothing, was in touch with all that she cared for in the world.

    -The Machine Stops

    Vashti and Kuno live on opposite ends of the world and communicate, like everyone else, via “blue plates” which they hold in their hands while their faces appear on the plates and they talk to one another (Skype/FaceTime, anyone?). Vashti visits Kuno and learns that, in a rebellious act, Kuno travelled to the surface of the earth and found other humans living there. Yet, the Machine caught him and has threatened him with “homelessness”. Homelessness = death and traveling up to the surface--out of the machine--is a criminal repudiation of the deity--The Machine. Vashti returns home dismissing her son’s madness and continues her life inside the pod—but then The Machine starts to break down—life support to enable travel to the surface disappears and religion is reintroduced. What is the fate of our characters?

    We are joined again by the irrepressible and wonderful Dan Johnson and Jennifer Tejada, as we explore this fascinating, prescient story!

    And take a look at:

    The Machine Stops: Did EM Forster predict the internet age?

    https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-36289890

    If you have thoughts, recommendations, or questions that you want to send our way, please do via phificpodcast@gmail.com.

    Hear more Phi Fic discussions at PhiFicPodcast.com.



    Thanks to Christopher Nolen for the music.

    • 1 hr 24 min

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