Book Fight (general)

Hey, here's another holiday-themed episode. We discuss a John Cheever story, "Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor." You can read it online, via The New Yorker, if you're into that kind of thing. Or just listen to us yammer for an hour. That's fun, too! We talk about all kinds of stuff. After listening to this week's episode, you may not be any smarter, but you will definitely be one hour older.

Merry Christmas!

Direct download: Ep207_Cheever_Christmas.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

You may be asking yourself how this week's pick is a "holiday book," exactly. Fair question! But one which Mike explains, more or less, in the episode. It's also one of our only forays, thus far, into the horror genre, and we talk a little about what makes a horror book scary, plus what separates real psychological horror, as opposed to the sort of blood and gore that can almost read like slaptstick. Stephen King has said that this book is one of the best horror books of the late 20th century, which is pretty high praise! Will it live up to the hype?

Also this week: A new installment of Fan Fiction corner, involving a heartwarming coffee commercial from your childhood that may be ruined soon. Sorry!

Direct download: Ep206_Straub_GhostStory.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

This week we're talking about this essay from Aeon, about spending your Thanksgiving in a cemetery with your family members (both living and dead). We talk about our expectations for essays, and whether the amorphousness of the term itself lumps together too many disparate kinds of pieces, with different kinds of aims.

In the second half of the show, we're back on our bullshit, with a new installment of Fan Fiction Corner (featuring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and one last dip into the NaNoWriMo forums, where we'll try to answer writers' most pressing narrative questions.

Thanks for listening!

If you like the show, please consider chipping in a few bucks to our Patreon. For $5 a month, you'll get access to a bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we unpack the world of romance novels.

Direct download: Ep205_KoreanThanksgiving.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

We've decided to dive into some holiday-related stories, essays and books to close out the year. First up is "The Women of This World," a short story by Ann Beattie that was first published in The New Yorker in November 2000. Mike read a lot of Ann Beattie stories when he was first taking creative-writing classes in college, and was interested in revisiting some of her work to see if he'd still connect with it in the same ways.

We also dive back into the NaNoWriMo forums to see what kinds of questions this year's crop of contestants has about novel writing.

 

Direct download: Ep204_Holidays2017_Beattie.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

This week we're discussing our final novel of the Fall of Frauds, a book about two "authentic" bluesmen who turn out to be not quite what they seem. The music is real enough, but they've adopted the kinds of personas they assume their (mostly white) audiences want: uneducated, boozy, physically ailing black men from the deep south who speak in homespun slang, when they deign to speak at all. Don't Start Me Talkin' is Tom Willams' second book, published in 2014 by Curbside Splendor.

Also: It's November, which means it's NaNoWriMo, which means it's time for us to dive into the NaNoWriMo forums, where participants are looking for advice on everything from what to name their characters to how to depict the Wars of the Roses, but with talking rats.

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: Ep203_Fall17_Williams.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

This week's episode was recorded live at Temple University's Paley Library. We were joined by local writers Jason Rakulek and p.e. garcia for a discussion of literary community, balancing the work of writing with the need to make a living, and pieces of advice we would've given to our college-aged selves. The format for this episode is a bit different than usual, since we were trying to make the program as useful as possible for an audience of college creative-writing students. But we think there's plenty here that writers and editors of any age (and experience level) can enjoy, and learn from.

Direct download: Ep202_Live_TempleLibrary.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

This week we're back with another fraud-themed story, this one from an upstart indie author named Jorge Luis Borges. Probably you haven't heard about him. He's pretty obscure. Anyway, early in his career he wrote an entire collection of stories based on real-life criminals. The story we read, "Tom Castro, the Implausible Imposter," was also published (in English) in Harper's.

This week we also talk about various Halloween-themed hoaxes, including razors in candy, and a BBC television production about a haunted house that apparently caused PTSD symptoms in a number of viewers, and was even partly responsible for a death.

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: Ep201_Fall17_Borges.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

This week we're back with another fraud-themed novel, this one from best-selling Swiss author Martin Suter. His fourteenth novel, The Last Weynfeldt, is about art forgery, femme fatales, and what it's like to be wildly rich (spoiler alert: it's mostly pretty good, though sometimes it's kind of sad).

Also this week, we talk about the ins and outs of art forgery, including the case of Wolfgang Beltracchi, considered to be one of the most prolific art forgers of all time. You can read more about Beltracchi in this fascinating piece from Vanity Fair.

Direct download: Ep200_Fall17_LastWeynfeldt.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

This week we continue our Fall of Frauds season by discussing one of the most famous fraud-themed novels out there, Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley. If you haven't read the book, don't worry, we're not spoiling any late-in-the-book plot points. 

Also this week, we talk about how to fake your own death. Or, more accurately, how NOT to fake your own death, since the only examples one can find, of course, are of people who were eventually found out. Still: useful tips! Don't ever say we're not providing our listeners with a valuable service.

Plus: a real life Tom Ripley!

Direct download: Ep199_Fall17_Ripley.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

This week we continue our Fall of Fraud theme by examining a story that is, like the Michael Martone story we discussed a couple weeks ago, something of a "fraudulent artifact." In "Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead," Carmen Machado tells a fictional story in the form of a Kickstarter campaign, even adding stretch goals and updates and user comments. As we talk about on the episode, the resulting story is much more than just a gimmicky experiment in form; Machado actually uses the form to tell a compelling story.

Also this week, we continue our exploration of literary frauds with the story of Albania's second-most popular author, who turned out not to be Albanian at all. Plus: people who fake illnesses online, and the people who have made it their mission to out them.

Direct download: Ep198_Fall17_Machado.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST