Book Fight (general)

We read Rachel Kushner's National Book Award-nominated second novel and try to figure out what we think about it. Is it a great book? Is it an ok book with the scope and ambition and atmospherics of a great book? Is it ever, actually, possible to say, after reading a book for the first time?

We also talk about the gender-related flap this novel, and some of its criticism, briefly caused, and whether the Great American Novel is a gendered idea.

For more, visit us online at bookfightpod.com

Direct download: Ep136_RachelKusher_Flamethrowers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Welcome to the first of our new summer series, in which we revisit work by authors who we've panned in the past. We read a Harlan Ellison essay last spring, and found it lacking, but perhaps we'll be swayed by one of Ellison's best-loved short stories.

Also discussed: How do you know when to give your own work a second chance, and when should you simply give up on a story/essay/book and move on to the next thing? 

Oh, and we also talk about cuckolding raccoons. If you're into that sort of thing.

For more: bookfightpod.com

Direct download: Ep135_Summer16_Ellison.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

We're joined by writer Sandra Newman (author of, most recently, The Country of Ice Cream Star) to discuss a much-revered and deeply weird sci fi novel by M. John Harrison. We talk to Newman about what she loves (and doesn't) about science fiction, a genre we've tended to be hard on in the past. Will this be the book to win us over?

 

We also talk to Sandra about her own work, her decision to write her most recent novel in a partly-invented dialect, how writers use Twitter, and all the usual jibber jabber.

 

For more, visit us online at bookfightpod.com

Direct download: Ep134_Harrison_Light.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We wrap up our Spring of Success series by checking out the first published story of Jennifer Weiner, which appeared in a 1992 issue of Seventeen Magazine. We talk about Weiner's path to success, her 10-point advice to aspiring novelists, and her much-publicized beef with Jonathan Franzen.

For more, visit us online at bookfightpod.com

Direct download: Ep133_Spring16_Weiner.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Kanan Makiya is probably best known for his 1989 book, Republic of Fear, a nonfictional account of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. He's also known as one of the key Iraqi agitators for the U.S. invasion, arguing to America's political elite that Hussein's regime needed to be toppled. It was Makiya, in fact, who told White House officials that the U.S. would be greeted with "flowers and sweets" by the Iraqi people.

That prediction turned out to be wildly inaccurate. Now, a decade after Saddam Hussein's execution, Makiya has written a novel that serves as an examination of what went so terribly wrong.

We talk about whether a book can succeed if it's trying to advance a particular political argument. Or is that project doomed from the start, as many of us learned in creative writing classes? Plus: Mike takes a deep dive into the life of a prolific Amazon reviewer.

For more, visit us online at bookfightpod.com

 

Direct download: Ep132_Makiya_TheRope.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Welcome to the Franzone! This week we're reading the first published story of celebrated author Jonathan Franzen, which was featured in a 1987 issue of Fiction International. We also talk about Franzen's path to success: his early ambitions, his writing habits, and his self-conscious pivoting toward a different kind of fictional project. We also talk about why so many people seem to hate on Franzen, and whether the criticisms are deserved. 

For more, check us out online at bookfightpod.com

Direct download: Ep131_Spring16_Franzen.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

One of us read this famous WWII coming-of-age novel in high school, while the other is encountering it for the first time. Will it hold up to adult scrutiny? Should today's high school students still be forced to read it? And are the two main characters totally gay for each other?

Answers to these and other pressing questions on this week's Book Fight!

For more, visit us online at bookfightpod.com

Direct download: Ep130_ASeparatePeace.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we read Elizabeth Gilbert's debut story, "Pilgrims." It was originally published in Esquire. We did not care for it.

For more, visit us online at bookfightpod.com

Direct download: Ep129_Spring16_ElizabethGilbert.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We welcome special guest Josh Fruhlinger, proprietor of the popular and long-running blog The Comics Cumudgeon, as well as the author of a recent novel, The Enthusiast, to discuss Jennifer Egan's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Goon Squad.

We also talk to Josh about the successful Kickstarter he ran to fund his own book, building an online audience, his enthusiasm for trains, and Mary Worth's love life.

For more, visit us online at bookfightpod.com

Direct download: Ep128_Egan_GoonSquad.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

An unconventional literary success story this week, as we talk about Donald Ray Pollock's 2008 debut story collection, KNOCKEMSTIFF, which he wrote after quitting his job at a paper mill and giving himself five years to "make it" as a writer.

We also talk about the proliferation of "20 under 40"-style listicles in the literary world, and why we're so obsessed with youth.

For more, visit us online at bookfightpod.com.  

Direct download: Ep127_Spring17_Pollock.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT