Book Fight

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
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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
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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
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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

To be clear, right from the start, the point of this week's episode is not to call Robert Olen Butler a fraud. In fact we both quite enjoyed his story, "Mid-Autumn," from his 1992 collection, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain. But it occurred to us that if this book were published today, it might get a few more sideways glances, since it's a white American author telling the first-person stories of Vietnamese immigrants and refugees. So we thought it could be a good jumping-off point for a discussion of where those lines are. Should writers be able to tell whatever stories they want, as Lionel Shriver famously argued last year? At what point should we be concerned about issues of cultural appropriation?

In the second half of the show, we talk about the case of Michael Derrick Hudson, who in 2015 set off a lit-world firestorm when he admitted he'd submitted a poem to a bunch of journals using a fake Chinese name. One of those poems was eventually selected by Sherman Alexie to be part of the Best American Poetry anthology for that year, at which point Hudson came clean, and Alexie did some soul-searching.

Thanks for listening! Come on back next week!

Direct download: Ep197_Fall17_Butler.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

This week we continue our Fall of Frauds season with a book that's a kind of "fraudulent artifact." Michael Martone's book Michael Martone (published by FC2) is a series of stories in the form of contributor's notes. We talk about some ways that writers can use existing forms to experiment with both fiction and nonfiction, and what makes these stories interesting, rather than gimmicky.

Direct download: Ep196_Fall17_Martone.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

This week we're diving into our new fall season, in which we'll be reading stories, essays, and books with a "fraud" theme. That could mean stories in which characters are actually defrauding people, but it could also mean stories that are, themselves, frauds, as in fictional pieces masquerading as real-world documents. For this first episode, though, we've got a story that's the former, about a man who invents a charity at a party, while trying to impress a girl, and then has to see it through so he doesn't lose face.

We also talk about a famous literary fraud, in which a couple journalists, annoyed by the popularity of books they found to be vapid and sex-fueled, decided to write a lowest-common-denominator erotic novel, which turned into a best-seller.

Plus stories of romantic fraud, including men who pose as soldiers to rip off lonely women, and one about an accomplished physicist who was convinced a bikini model several decades his junior was in love with him, based entirely on internet correspondence.

A jam-packed, good-time episode!

Direct download: Ep195_Fall17_Uggs.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST