Book Fight (general)

This week we're continuing our exploration of the 1950s in both literature and popular culture. And you can't talk about the 50s without talking about science fiction. We checked out three stories by Isaac Asimov--including one, "The Last Question"--that he would later describe as his favorite.

Regular listeners know that Mike tends to not like science fiction all that much, so this week provides a good test: can he be swayed by one of its best practitioners?

In the second half of the show, we move on from science fiction to tell the story of Grace Metalious, author of the best-selling--and scandalous!--novel Peyton Place, which came out in 1956, sold tons of copies, and angered nearly everyone in Metalious's small New Hampshire town. We talk about the critical response to her book, and why it might be getting a reappraisal, all these years later.

Plus, all kinds of other 1956 goodness, including: Mister Softee! Jello shots! Ant farms! And rock and roll!

Direct download: Ep217_WinterofWayback_1956.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We're midway through this year's Winter of Wayback: 1950s Edition. For those of you just joining us, we're walking through the decade one year at a time, reading stories and novels as we go, while also learning about other cultural goings-on from each year. This week, we're discussing Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, which somehow Mike had never read, despite having owned the book long enough for its pages to start yellowing. Will he love it? Hate it? And what's it like, in a year when Very Bad Men are being outed left and right (deservedly), to read a book about one of literature's worst men?

Also this week, we talk Disneyland, which opened its gates in 1955, and about Walt Disney's odd mixture of nostalgic sentimentality and forward-looking belief in technology.

If you enjoy the show, please consider pitching in $5 to our Patreon, which will unlock monthly bonus episodes we're calling Book Fight: After Dark.

Direct download: Ep216_WinterofWayback_1955.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week on the Winter of Wayback we're visiting 1954, which happens to be the year in which John Updike published his first story, "Friends from Philadelphia," in the New Yorker. He wrote the story just after graduating college and giving himself five years to "make it" as a writer. He really hit the ground running! 

We also celebrate the "official" (depending on who you ask) birth of rock and roll, with Bill Haley and His Comets releasing "Rock Around the Clock." Though the song was originally a B-side (to a song called "Thirteen Women," about a man stranded with a bunch of women after an H-Bomb attack). And it wasn't until the next year that "Rock Around the Clock" became a #1 hit, after being featured in the movie Blackboard Jungle.

Also this week: Davy Crockett and coonskin caps; Wildwood, NJ's claim to musical fame; and much, much more!

Direct download: Ep215_WinterofWayback_1954.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

It's the third week in our Winter of Wayback season, and we're diving headfirst into 1953. Our reading this week is a story by Margaret St. Claire, a sci fi and fantasy writer who was quite active in the 1950s, and managed to carve out a space for herself in what was a very male-dominated world of genre fiction. 

Also this week, we talk about the critical reception for Arthur Miller's The Crucible, which debuted in 1953. Plus: the many incarnations of the band The Drifters, TV dinners, Scientology's South Jersey roots, and the high-profile divorce of Winthrop Rockefeller.

Direct download: Ep214_Wayback_1953.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We're traveling back to 1952, a year in which panty raids were taking America's college campuses by storm, and when Las Vegas was learning to love the bomb--and use it as a marketing tool to draw tourists to the desert. Plus we talk about a story by Hisaye Yamamoto, who published several well-received pieces in the 50s, then published only sporadically afterward, in part because of the work of raising a family. In 1988, she put out a collection, Seventeen Syllables & Other Stories, which pulls together writing she did over nearly 40 years.


Direct download: Ep213_WinterofWayback_1952.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

It's the second week of our annual Winter of Wayback, and we're diving into 1951! We've got a story from Harris Downey, who isn't a household name these days but was quite the rising literary star in the early 50s. We also talk about several other important 1951 developments, including the New Jersey Turnpike, corrupt boxing promoters, fast food, and Billy Joel's busted TV.

Direct download: Ep_212_WinterofWayback_1951.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're kicking off another Winter of Wayback season, but this year with a new wrinkle: instead of visiting randomly selected years each week, we've chosen a decade--the 1950s--and will spend the winter working through it one year at a time. What does that mean, in practice? Each week we'll read either a book, a story, or an essay we've selected from that year. We'll also talk about other literary and cultural goings-on from that year, to help put the selected reading into a broader context.

Some weeks the readings will be things you've likely heard of; other weeks they'll be deeper cuts. This first week (1950) we chose a popular story, J.D. Salinger's "For Esme ... With Love and Squalor." We also talked about McCarthyism and the Hollywood blacklist, new food innovations of 1950, and various other important goings-on from the year.

Direct download: Ep211_Winter_of_Wayback_1950.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we welcome special guest Dave K., whose novel—The Bong-Ripping Brides of Count Dragado</a>—you can order from Mason Jar Press. We talked to him about genre, black metal, H.P. Lovecraft, the Human Friendipede, and steampunk. We also talked about Victor LaValle's The Ballad of Black Tom, which was Dave's pick for the episode.

Direct download: Ep210_DaveK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Happy New Year's, Book Fight family! This week we're ringing in 2018 with a Charles Lamb essay, though as usual we spend most of the episode talking about other stuff: that "Cat Person" story in The New Yorker that was all the rage for a while there; the failed New Year's Eve parties of our youth; and a very earnest elevator podcast Mike has (inexplicably) listened to several episodes of lately. If you want to know what to do in the case of an elevator or escalator emergency, this is your week!

Direct download: Ep209_NewYearsSpecial2018.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

It's that time of year again, Book Fight family: time to throw a couple logs on the fire, pour yourself some eggnog, and listen to us make our way through another terrible Christmas-themed book. This time it's from the Thomas Kinkade collection. Did you know that the Painter of Light was also the Writer of Light? Or, more likely, that the Painter of Light had enough money lying around that he could pay some poor writer to bring his cheesy paintings to life?

The specific Kinkade book we read was the fifth novel in "his" Cape Light series, called A Christmas Promise. It basically follows the plot of the Michael J. Fox movie Doc Hollywood, but ... more Christian.

Also, we eat some weird holiday snacks that almost kill us.

Enjoy the holidays, friends!

Direct download: Ep208_2017ChristmasSpectacular.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT