Book Fight

This week we're discussing a short story recommended to us on Twitter as "feel-good literary fiction," though we're not sure that label is totally apt. "The Era," by Nana Kwame Adjei--Brenya, was first published in Guernica in April 2018. It's funny, and and strange, but "feel-good"? The jury's still out.

Also this week: NaNoWriMo has fired up its engines in response to the current pandemic, aiming to get people writing while they're stuck at home. Which means it's time for us to take another visit to the NaNoWriMo forums, to answer some pressing questions about vampires who eat regular food, what to name an Irish factory owner, and lots of other stuff. AND, as if that wasn't enough for one episode, we've also got some Tony the Tiger fan fiction. Who knew Tony was so sexy? (the whole internet, apparently).

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep320_TheEra.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're discussing a story about a murderous tiger by Rajesh Parameswaran, which was first published in Granta and then appeared in his 2013 book I Am An Executioner. The story raises a number of questions, like: Do tigers have the mental ability to make choices? And: Do we want to follow an animal around for 21 pages? Answers, it turns out, are mixed.

Also this week, the triumphant return of Fan Fiction Corner! Featuring some very sexy Mr. Clean fanfic (or very weird, depending on your personal proclivities). And Tom's got some raccoon news. All the old favorites!

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep319_TigerStory.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we check out the online literary magazine Taco Bell Quarterly, which recently put out its second issue. The journal began on something of a whim, according to its founding editor, and now publishes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction inspired or related to Taco Bell in one way or another. We were curious: Would the pieces feel gimmicky? Or could Taco Bell be a weird but useful portal into great contemporary literature?

We also provide a recap of AWP 2020--the conference nearly derailed by the coronavirus--and try go figure out why we're sometimes annoyed by the relentlessly positive tweets of writers like Maggie Smith and Chuck Wendig (maybe because we're bad people?)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions!

Direct download: Ep318_TacoBellQuarterly_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

It's the final episode of our Winter of Wayback season, and we couldn't leave the twenties behind without talking about Dorothy Parker. Like a lot of people these days, both of us knew Parker only from her many famous quips, so we wanted to see what her actual writing was like. The story we read is one of her most popular--it won an O'Henry award, and is still regularly anthologized--but it wasn't what either of us expected.

Also this week: a bit of 1929 flash fiction that still holds up, plus monkey news!

Direct download: Ep317_Wayback_1929.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We continue our journey through the 1920s by reading one of the decade's best-selling writers, and arguably its most famous adventurer. While still a student at Princeton, Richard Halliburton decided he wanted to spend his life traveling the globe, and writing about his adventures. At the height of his fame, he was publishing a new book every year and a half. Some doubted the veracity of his stories, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, who said his books were entertaining but probably dreamed up from behind a desk in Brooklyn.

Direct download: Ep316_1928_Halliburton.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're continuing our trip through the 1920s by reading a couple New Yorker pieces from "reporter at large" Morris Markey. The New Yorker was founded by Harold Ross in 1925, and Markey was an early hire. He'd worked as a reporter for a handful of publications, but Ross basically gave him carte blanche to write about whatever he wanted. His work has been largely lost to history, but some have argued that Markey deserves more credit in discussions of New Journalism.

We checked out a couple of Markey's columns--about organized crime and Prohibition--to see if they stand the test of time. Plus, a story about a monkey who had diners at a fancy Parisian restaurant dropping their monocles into their wine.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to three monthly bonus episodes, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep315_1927.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're continuing our trip through the 1920s by reading a couple stories from the short-lived literary magazine Fire!!, founded in 1926 by a group of black writers and artists that included Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Zora Neale Hurston. The stories we discuss include one by Zora Neale Hurston that is very dialect-heavy, and one by Gwendolyn Bennett about a former boxer living in France who (justifiably) hates American white people.

Also this week: we discuss the recent controversy surrounding Jeannine Cummins' book American Dirt, and learn more than we ever wanted to know about "book influencer" and very rich person Zibby Owens, host of the podcast Mom's Don't Have Time to Read and ardent defender of American Dirt. You can read Zibby's essay on the importance of being nice to books here, via Medium.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three monthly bonus episodes, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels, and Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep314_1926.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Welcome back to our Winter of Wayback series, in which we dig into the literary scene of the 1920s. This week: a novel about a conniving flapper who bends men to her will. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, by Anita Loos, is the source material for the 1954 Marilyn Monroe/Jane Russel movie (by way of a Broadway musical). It was also a blockbuster success in its own right, even if in historical memory it's been a bit overshadowed by the film. Edith Wharton declared it "the great American novel," and both William Faulkner and James Joyce counted themselves as fans.

Also this week: Anita Loos's longtime crush on H.L. Mencken, plus more monkey escapades (the '20s really were the heyday of monkey escapades).

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep313_GentlemenPreferBlondes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're celebrating 1924 by reading one of the most popular short stories of all time, "The Most Dangerous Game," by Richard Connell. Even if you've never read the story, you'll probably recognize the basic plot, which has inspired everything from a Simpsons episode to the Van Damme movie Hard Target.

We talk about how this story stacks up compared with other '20s adventure stories, why it's still being taught to middle- and high-schoolers, and whether it's a commentary on social Darwinism. Plus: monkey news, and flapper bandits!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep312_1924.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're discussing Jean Toomer's 1923 book CANE, a genre-bending mix of prose and poetry written after the author spent several months working as a substitute principal in Georgia. Many people hold the book up as a modernist classic, and an important influence on other writers during the Harlem Renaissance, but: does it stand the test of time?

Also this week: more monkey news! People in the '20s seemed fascinated with monkeys and their antics, even as anti-Darwinists seemed deeply offended at the suggestion that they'd evolved from apes.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: BF_Ep111_1923.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Since we're doing an entire season about the 1920s, at some point we had to read Zane Grey, one of the decade's best-selling authors. His book The Vanishing American was first serialized in 1922, in Ladies Home Journal, and angered some people for deigning to suggest that the Indian Schools run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs might have been less than amazing. The book's main character was loosely inspired by the experience of Jim Thorpe, who attended the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania before he became one of the world's most celebrated athletes.

We also discuss Emily Post's rules for etiquette, and "flapper cops."

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep310_1922.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week, we're continuing our exploration of the 1920s with Robert Keable's Simon Called Peter, a mostly-forgotten novel about an Anglican priest who goes off to war and falls in love with a lady who isn't his fiancee. He also has a crisis of faith, both because of the "having sex with someone who isn't his fiancee" thing, and also the thing where the British troops don't seem to take religion all that seriously. Apparently the book was quite scandalous in its time, getting banned in some places, showing up in a murder trial, and even meriting a dismissive mention in The Great Gatsby.

Will Keable's book stand the test of time? Or will its moral conundrums seem kind of laughably quaint to a couple 21st-century readers? Also: we explore the practice of grafting skin from monkey testicles onto humans, which was apparently all the rage in the 1920s.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep309_1921.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:52pm EDT

We're kicking off our Winter of Wayback season, in which we travel to the past and dig up some forgotten (or under-appreciated) books and stories, and use them to learn some things about the time period. This year we'll be traveling through the 1920s, a decade neither of us knows all that much about, outside of the stereotypical images of flappers and speakeasies and Lost Generation writers smoking jazz cigarettes at Parisian cafes. For 1920 we've unearthed some old issues of Black Mask, a pulp magazine begun by H.L. Mencken as a way to fund his more literary magazine, The Smart Set.

We break down a few stories from the magazine's early issues and talk about story-writing in an age before television. We also talk about our (limited) knowledge of the 20s, and what we hope to learn this season.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep308_1920.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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