Book Fight

This week we time-travel back to 1993 to see what was going on in literature, technology, and pop culture. For our reading, we're diving into the John Edgar Wideman short story, "Newborn Thrown in Trash and Dies," part of his prize-winning collection All Stories Are True. The story was inspired by a 1991 news report about a baby who had been discarded down the trash chute of an apartment building.

In publishing news this week, Mike looks at the state of "electronic books" on CD-ROM, which in 1993 were beginning to be sold in some book stores, and Tom has details of a crime novel published on floppy disc (and the surprising outrage that caused). Also: a major San Francisco publisher gets desktop computers in its offices, and a computer programmer teaches his Macintosh to "write" a romance novel.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps us make a bit of money each month and keep the show going. For just $5 a month, you'll get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we visit some of the weirder corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Battleship (yes, based on the popular board game).

Direct download: Ep262_Wayback_1993.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're time-traveling back to 1992, and the first issue of The Oxford American, which in its early years was frequently referred to as "The New Yorker of the South." We read an essay by Larry Brown called "Fire Notes," which would later be published as part of Brown's memoir, On Fire. Brown was a firefighter and a self-taught writer who began banging out fiction on a typewriter during downtime in the firehouse. The essay we read is about his work for the fire department, and how he got his start as a writer. 

We couldn't really talk about The Oxford American without talking about the cloud of scandal under which its founding editor, Marc Smirnoff, was dismissed. 

Also this week, Mike takes a look at what it was like to be an editorial assistant for a big New York magazine in 1992. And Tom reports on early research into whether video games were breaking kids' brains. Plus font news, 90s Movie Club, and much, much more.

Episode Links:

Larry Brown, "Fire Notes" (from The Oxford American Issue 1)

John Grisham, "The Faulkner Thing" 

"Editor Fired Following Harassment Accusation," New York Times 

Editors In Love (website of Marc Smirnoff and Carol Anne Fitzgerald)

IMDB page for Boomerang

Janet Maslin reviews Boomerang in The New York Times


Thanks for listening!

Direct download: Ep261_Wayback_1992.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week, as we continue our adventure through the 90s, we're discussing both the winner and runner-up stories from 1991's Nelson Algren Prize, sponsored by the Chicago Tribune. Tom Barbash won for his story, "Howling at the Moon," and Patricia Stevens came in second for her story, "Leaving Fort Ord." Barbash would go on to publish a few books, while Stevens seems to have mostly left fiction behind.

Also this week, we revisit a piece by Jacob Weisberg that called out a couple big-name editors for not doing their jobs--which caused some serious blowback in the publishing industry. Plus a mysterious death, a big year for video games, and much, much more.

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: Ep260_Wayback_1991.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:19am EDT

Welcome to another Winter of Wayback season, Book Fight friends! After last year's run through the 1950s, this year we're skipping ahead to take on the 90s. Over the next ten weeks, we're going to dig into some of the best, most interesting, and weirdest writing published over the course of the decade, while looking at ways publishing changed over those years--the rise and fall of print magazines; the dawning of the internet age; and a generation of supposed "slackers" who embraced the DIY ethic of the previous decade's punk scene to carve out their own alternative cultural niche. We hope you'll come along with us for the ride!

On this first episode, we're reading the title story from Tim O'Brien's 1990 book The Things They Carried. It's sort of unbelievable that neither of us had read it before, and we figured it was time to remedy that. We talk about why the early 90s featured so many Vietnam stories, and why this story's become such a touchstone in both literature and creative writing classes. Also: We trace the brief history of a magazine targeted specifically at doctors' offices, Tom dips into the Nintendo-dominated video game landscape of the early 90s, and Mike revisits Pump Up The Volume, a movie he loved as a teen and which may have indirectly spawned this podcast.

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: BookFight_Wayback_1990.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Hello, Book Fighters! This is the second episode of Mike's new podcast Day Jobs, where he talks to writers, artists and other creative people about how they make a living. In this episode Mike's talking to Bud Smith, a writer and artist who works a full-time heavy construction job. They talk about writing on your phone, why no job is "brainless," and why Bud's girlfriend broke up with him after he wrote his first novel.

If you like this show, please check out Episode 1, with poet Gina Myers, and subscribe so you get each new episode when it's released.

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: DayJobs_Ep2_BudSmith.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT