I've been saving up the episodes for each chapter until they're all up so I can binge them—I think they listen better that way—and I had, in fact, binged the Chapter 2 episodes fairly soon after they came out. But I have procrastinated on writing up my reactions until I just realized that if I don't post them soon I will have reached time to binge Chapter 3 without doing so, so I decided to get my act together.
First I should say that I'd never read Peace before you started podcasting about it—it was one of the major gaps in my Wolfe reading—I had rather thought I'd read along, and indeed I listened to the Chapter 1 episodes without having read the rest. But by the time Chapter 2 came out I had read the rest of the book. (What can I say, I'm a binger by nature.) I won't put any spoilers in, but I should mention, perhaps, that I listened with that context. (Also, while I was very thrown by chapter one, as I'll discuss in a minute, I got more into the book as I went along and ended up liking it a lot.)
I should say that I loved these episodes: it is a wonderful way to review the book (which I will probably reread once y'all are done, or perhaps right before I binge the summaries). You do a great job on the recaps & discussions (as always). I only have a few remarks.
The first is that I don't think you quite did justice (again, I am just referring to the Chapter 2 episodes here: maybe you do in Chapter 3, I don't know) to how dark and strange the book is. Neil Gaiman says in his afterward that on his first reading of the book as a teenager he found it to be a "sweet, gentle, meandering reminiscence" Well, he got it the second time through, and Lord knows I was an idiot reader when I was 17-18, but I really can't quite see how you could read this book with any sort of attention and not get how disturbing it is. I grant you that this clarifies as the book goes along (I trust such vagaries don't count as a spoiler), but even through chapter two it seems to me pretty bloody obvious. I for one didn't take Olivia and Professor Peacock's jokes about killing each other to be just jokes, or at any rate not quite humorous ones. And while you two did talk about its darkness, you didn't highlight it as much as I did.
By the way, speaking of Professor Peacock: what a great name! But I just looked it up, and the board game Clue come out in 1949 in America, i.e. long before the writing of this novel. Do we think it's a reference? It's not precisely a character name from that game, but it's a merging of two (Professor Plum and Mrs. Peacock), preserving the alliteration of the former. I kept thinking of it, anyway.
Secondly, I was struck when Brandon (IMS) said twice— both in part six of the recap and right at the end of the last recap—that Wolfe was "still setting the table". I definitely felt that, at least in Chapter One, probably (I can't quite remember) through Chapter Two. This was, I think, the source of some of my bafflement and frustration I mentioned when I posted about the Chapter One episodes. I think it was only in Chapter Three that I realized (as I suppose you have by now) that there is only table setting in this novel. It's a very, very strange book—which, of course, heightens the sense of darkness and strangeness i mentioned before. You kept calling it a "memoir" in your discussion, but think about how weird it is considered as a memoir: what memoirist spends a quarter of their memoir talking about their aunt's suitors and one summer? But again, it's not a memoir: it's table setting, all the way through. And Wolfe relies upon the reader, utterly—far more, I think, than in any of the various Sun series or in Latro or in Fifth Head or anywhere that I (at least) have read save for some of his short stories—to provide the meal. He just lays the table.
Thirdly, as a fellow historian (at least, a fellow holder of the union card) I appreciated Glenn's rebuttal of Blaine's claim that all history is biography. I agree with Glenn's refutation as far as it went (although his summary of what historians think about and ask—the details of which I didn't record in my notes & can't paraphrase precisely—struck me as too narrow. That is, indeed, one conception of what historians do! Maybe even the best one. But "historian" is both an open group and a contested term, and I think that some historians have thought of history in the various ways that Glenn said historians don't think of it. Which is just to say that I would probably accept Glenn's formulation as a prescriptive one, but I don't think it's right (save, perhaps, in overly-narrowly defined academic channels) as a descriptive one.
But I digress. I'm not sure that Blaine, in saying this, meant to refer to the great man theory of history at all. After all, the context is him telling Weer what Weer's grandfather paid for his land—hardly the stuff of Napoleonic conquests. I at any rate read as a observation (still probably wrong and unquestionably debatable) that history is the sum of every human life. This, to me, sounds like the sort of thing that Wolfe would say in his own name, and that is how I took it—as a piece of truth that Blaine happened upon. Obviously one could still rebut it: history includes non-human things (environmental history, say), structural things (neither the history of the industrial revolution nor that of any corporate entity (say, the Catholic Church) will be seen in any individual life), etc. But I don't think Blaine is making quite the simplistic point you attributed to him.
Finally, one of you (again, my notes didn't record which, sorry) talked about how remarkable Wolfe was for writing about a child and a child's perception in an adult novel, and asked rhetorically who else had done that. But a lot of people did! It seems to me, perhaps, a very nineteenth-century thing; at least the first two examples that came to mind — Henry James in What Maisie Knew and Dickens in a great many books (David Copperfield most obviously) — are from then, and perhaps it is less done now? Although Hemingway's short stories come to mind too, and some of Updike's. Anyway I don't think it is all that rare, certainly taking a broader view of fiction.
Thank you for a great run. I look forward to binging Chapter Three: and I will try not to postpone my write-up so long next time!