Book Fight

This week's reading is an essay by Elena Passarello about birdsong. But it's also other stuff! We talk about writing that make you look at the world a bit differently, and writers who can make you care about things you never thought you cared about. In the second half of the show, we discuss a recent Twitter kerfuffle over writing and money and whether publishing a book can (or should) change your life.

The essay we discussed, "Of Singing," was published in The Iowa Review, but is also available in Passerello's 2012 collection, Let Me Clear My Throat, from Sarabande Books.

If you like the podcast, and would like some more of it in your life, please consider joining our Patreon, which gets you monthly bonus episodes and also helps support the making of the show: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Direct download: Ep348_CountingCrows_-_101820_7.49_PM.mp3
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This week we're discussing a piece of creative nonfiction that really pushes the bounds of the genre, imagining the effects of a California earthquake on animal and plant life, as well as several invented human characters. Daniel Orozco's "Shakers" appeared in an edition of Best American Essays edited by David Foster Wallace, but is it really an "essay"? 

In the second half of the show, we talk about strategies for running creative writing workshops. When we started teaching, we both adhered to the kinda "free-for-all" model favored in our own grad program, but over the years we've begun to experiment with more structured approaches, including tasking small groups with digging into various elements of a story or essay.

If you like the show, and would like some bonus Book Fight episodes in your life, consider joining our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Direct download: Ep347_Earthquake_.mp3
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This week we're continuing our discussion of creative nonfiction by revisiting a classic in the genre: Joan Didion's essay "The White Album," which explores the author's experiences of anxiety and paranoia at "the end of the 60s." We talk about things we can learn from a master, and how to write essays that will age well. Plus: a Miss Manners column about famous authors snubbing an academic.

If you like the show, and you'd like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Direct download: Ep346_DeathOfSixties.mp3
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This week we're discussing a series of very short essays by J. Robert Lennon, and talking about how we teach students to write very short pieces that aren't simply tossed-off and incomplete. Plus: Tom gets angry about a rich book influencer who thinks her pandemic problems are unique and interesting. And Mike runs into his first anti-masker in the wild.

You can read J. Robert Lennon's essay here: https://www.theliteraryreview.org/essay/ten-short-essays/

If you like the podcast, and would like more Book Fight in your life, for $5/month you can get three bonus episodes per month: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Direct download: Ep345_LennonEssays.mp3
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This week we're continuing our ongoing discussion of creative nonfiction by diving into an essay by Hanif Abdurraqib about attending a Bruce Springsteen concert in Jersey and thinking about who gets to romanticize "hard work" in America. Plus: Tom has opinions about Susan Orlean rebranding herself as a fun drunk, and Mike brings you another installment of "The Worst Person in This Month's Architectural Digest."

You can buy Hanif's book here: https://twodollarradio.com/products/they-cant-kill-us

If you like our podcast, and would like to get all our bonus episodes, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5/month: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Direct download: Ep344_Abdurraqib.mp3
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This week we're talking about a second-person essay by Jennifer Murvin that was first published in The Cincinnati Review. We also talk about grading in creative writing classes, and how to arrive at standards that are fair without being either too mean or a pushover. Plus at least one tantalizing blind item!

Links:

You can learn more about Jennifer Murvin and her writing here: https://www.jennifermurvin.com/

Check out the bookstore she owns (and order books online) here: https://paginationbookshop.com/

And if you like our Podcast, and would enjoy getting bonus episodes of it each month, you can join our Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Direct download: Ep343_Grades.mp3
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This week we're discussing an Alice Bolin essay from The Toast, "A Meditation on Britney's 'Baby One More Time,'" which uses the pop star's music as a jumping-off point for an exploration of loneliness, isolation, and the ways in which we hold ourselves apart from others. We talk about ways that writers can use their pop culture obsessions to get into some pretty interesting personal territory, and how we can get students, in particular, to wade out into those deeper waters, rather than simply writing essays about music they like.

Also: Tom is mad about a writing conference that emailed him, and Mike hate-reads Architectural Digest.

You can read the Alice Bolin essay here: https://the-toast.net/2014/06/17/meditation-britneys-baby-one-time/

And if you like the show, and would like more of it in your life, you can join our Patreon, for just $5/month, and get all our bonus episodes: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: Ep342_PopCultureWriting.mp3
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Welcome to our new fall season! Yes, we know that technically it's not fall, but school's back in session, and there are some brown leaves on the tree in front of one of our houses (it's possible the tree is dead). For the next several weeks, we're going to be delving into the world of creative nonfiction, with a particular eye towards teaching that genre in a classroom. We're both college professors who have taught both undergrad and grad classes, and this semester we both have occasion to teach some creative essays in our classes.

We're also interested in exploring the genre lines. What makes something "creative" nonfiction? What all fits under that broad umbrella? And where does creative nonfiction bump up against (and borrow from) other genres?

For this first week, we're discussing an essay by Joshua Wheeler, "Parachutes," Gulf Coast. The essay would later appear in his collection, Acid West.

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes each month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we explore the many, many sub-genres of romance novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

You can check out all our Patreon content here: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Direct download: Ep341_BackToSchool.mp3
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This week we're discussing a Deb Olin Unferth story about an adjunct professor who knows when people will die, "Wait Till You See Me Dance," which prompts a discussion of our own brief tenure as adjuncts, and our current tenure as (non-tenure-track) professors, and how we're feeling about the upcoming semester. Also: dark humor, reading for surprise, and falling down wells.

Unferth's story first appeared in Harper's, in 2009, and was the title story of her 2017 story collection.

You can read the story here, via Electric Lit: https://electricliterature.com/a-story-of-a-murderous-adjunct-professor-by-deb-olin-unferth/

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, you can join our Patreon and get bonus episodes every month. For $5, you'll get access to our regular series Book Fight After Dark, where we read steamy (and sometimes very weird!) romance novels. We're also putting out other bonus content, including Reading the Room, where we give writers advice on navigating their lives. The $5/month also helps us keep making the show, which we enjoy doing but also don't get paid for.

Join up here: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Thanks for listening! Come on back next week!

 

Direct download: Ep340_AdjunctBlues.mp3
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This week we're talking about an essay by Britni de la Cretaz about her complicated relationship with both the Miami Marlins and her hometown. That leads to a discussion of what makes sports-related writing interesting to non-sports fans, and how to unlearn some of the writing lessons taught to you in school. We also take another dive into #bookstagram, to try to figure out whether book influencers have actually read any books. Plus: Tom waits for a team of men to deliver his fancy new desk.

Here's a link to the essay in Catapult: https://catapult.co/stories/miami-marlins-florida-baseball-coming-home-britni-de-la-cretaz

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes each month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep339_FloridaMarlins.mp3
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This week we're reading a short story from Nick White's debut collection that was recommended by author Alissa Nutting. White's story prompts a discussion of the book business, specifically the rarity of short story collections published by big presses and how both the hype machine for young authors and the pushback against the hype machine for young authors can grow quickly tiresome.

Also this week: We begin what will surely be a multi-week exploration of book influencers (book-fluencers?) on Instagram.

Here's a link to the story, and Alissa Nutting's recommendation of it, via Electric Lit: https://electricliterature.com/alissa-nutting-recommends-a-story-about-the-aftermath-of-abuse-nick-white/

If you'd like to join our Patreon, to support the show and also get bonus episodes each month, you can do that here: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: Ep338_NickWhite.mp3
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We ran into some technical difficulties with the book-based episode scheduled to release this week, so instead we're bringing you this free bonus episode, which was slated to be behind the Patreon paywall. We hope you enjoy it! We talk about what writers owe--and do not owe--to readers who reach out to them with questions, comments, or a desire to continue the conversation started by their work. How can you be kind and generous to your readers, but also set boundaries so that you don't wind up giving away too much of your time and labor?

This episode was inspired in part by responses Mike's been getting to an essay he wrote about reckoning with his racist fraternity. Lots of people have reached out with kind comments, and interesting questions, but he's also gotten requests that feel like a bridge too far.

Thanks for listening, and we hope you enjoy the bonus episode! We do a couple of these a month for our Patreon subscribers, along with a bonus book episode, usually about a goofy romance novel or something else outside our usual reading patterns. If you want more of that content, you can subscribe for just $5 a month. And we'll be back next week with another regular episode.

Direct download: BonusEpisode_Aug3_-_8220_3.24_PM.mp3
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This week's story is by South Korean writer and filmmaker Lee Chang-Dong, and it's called "On Destiny." It basically traces the entire life of its main character, from his youth in an orphanage, separated during the war from his parents, and through stints of poverty, jail time, and then a possible payday. We talk about what makes certain stories feel fable-like, and the surprising little details that crop up when reading fiction in translation, like unexpected metaphors and unfamiliar aphorisms.

Also this week: another installment of Celebrities Recommend, including book picks from a star tennis player and a Food Network star.

Read the short story here: https://www.asymptotejournal.com/special-feature/lee-chang-dong-on-destiny/

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--romance novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep337_OnDestiny.mp3
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This week we're discussing a story by a celebrated Iranian author, Goli Taraghi, as well as a piece from the Los Angeles Review of Books that attempts to put her work into a cultural context. Are there things we don't get, as Western readers? Will certain elements of fiction always be culturally dependent, and thus slightly out of reach for readers outside that culture? Or is the story just too long and kind of meandering?

Also this week: Dave Eggers gets roasted.

Here's a link to the story: "The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons"
The piece from the LARB: "The Forgotten Charm of Iranian Storytelling"
Dave Eggers in The New York Times: "Testing, Testing"

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep336_Pomegranate.mp3
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This week we discuss a 2018 John Edgar Wideman story from The New Yorker, about a writing teacher trying to decide how to talk to a white student about a well-meaning story she's writing about the travails of a person of color. You can read that story here. Then we learn what books Val Kilmer thinks we should be reading this summer.

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep335_Huckleberry.mp3
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We're in the midst of a global pandemic and a long-overdue upswell of support for defunding our ridiculously over-militarized police, all of which made Tom want to read a story about his dear old Ireland: Edward J. Delaney's "The Drowning." Actually the story is fine--good, even!--but it leads to a discussion of when we want fiction that helps us to think about the current moment and when we want fiction that takes us out of the current moment. Also: we follow up on last week's discussion of what personal essays are for.

Direct download: Ep334_IrishEyesSmiling.mp3
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This week we're discussing an essay by Mary Heather Noble called "Plume: An Investigation," which was originally published by True Story. The essay weaves together a few narrative strands, including the author trying to understand her young daughter's sometimes perplexing behavior, which leads her, unexpectedly, to a better understanding of her difficult father. The essay's a good one, and it prompts a discussion of what makes certain personal essays stand out in what is an increasingly crowded genre.

Also: can anti-racism reading lists help white people grow? Finally, we talk a little about how we pick things to read while we're in the midst of our own writing projects.

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep333_Plume.mp3
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This week we're discussing Taffy Brodesser-Akner's Fleishman Is In Trouble, a book that's been described as the novel Phillip Roth would have written if Phillip Roth understood women. Which is a pretty good Phillip Roth zing, but also maybe true? We talk about the book's depiction of internet dating, whether its view of marriage is cynical or pragmatic, and why at least one of us felt the need to reconsider some of his own behavior after reading the novel's closing chapters. Plus: we offer some advice for writers who are trying to promote their work online without stepping on the important work being done--on Twitter and elsewhere--by Black Lives Matter and anti-police activists. Is is possible to talk about your own stuff without getting in the way of an important political and cultural moment? Should you just shut up for a while?

Direct download: Ep332_Fleishman.mp3
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This week we're discussing Elle Nash's 2018 novel Animals Eat Each Other, in which a nameless narrator enters into a rather fraught three-way relationship with a tattoo artist/Satanist and his girlfriend. We talk about what makes for good/interesting writing about sex, and how a book like this might hit differently at different ages. Plus: another installment of Judge A Book By Its Cover!

You can see the books we're judging on our website, or on Twitter

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep331_ElleNash.mp3
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This week we're reading one of Donald Barthelme's first published stories, "A Shower of Gold" which prompts a discussion of the relationship between postmodern absurdity and contemporary politics. Also: we check out recommended reading lists from Hallmark movie actor and producer Candace Cameron Bure and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. You might be surprised by what at least one of them is reading!

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep330_Barthelme_Gold.mp3
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This week we're discussing a short story by Kelly Ramsey, "First Citizen of Mars," in which the narrator is the first person flown to Mars by Elon Musk. Actually the story is about all sorts of things, and the Elon Musk bit is really just a jumping-off point. We talk about how fiction can use real people--or well-known fictional characters--in interesting ways. We also take a visit to Yahoo Answers to help a few people out with their writing and publishing-related questions, and Tom takes a deep dive into that "what if the Beatles never existed" movie that probably none of us will ever see.

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep329_ElonMuskRocketToMars.mp3
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This week we're reading a story by A.S. Byatt about a couple of upper-class twits who get their comeuppance. You love to see it! Also, in light of the recent dustup over Curtis Sittenfeld's Rodhman, we talk about alternate-universe novels we'd like to see in the world. Plus a new segment: Dante's Inferno!

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep328_ASByatt_.mp3
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For this week's episode we read John Jeremiah Sullivan's 2004 essay about attending one of the biggest Christian rock festivals in the world--Creation Fest, which is held annually in rural Pennsylvania and attracts upwards of 50,000 people each year. We talk about what separates great participatory journalism from frustrating participatory journalism, and our own brushes with youth-group Christianity. Then, for no good reason at all, we do a deep internet dive into erotic Elon Musk fanfic.

Direct download: Ep327_Creation_.mp3
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This week's short story traces the entire history of the planet in just about 2,000 words. Rachel B. Glaser's "Pee On Water" was first published in New York Tyrant and was the title story of her debut collection. We talk about the story's experiment in narrative time, and the accumulative quality of its short sentences. Also: Mike breaks down and buys a fancy office chair, we commiserate about repetitive stress pains, and we do another round of Judge a Book By Its Cover.

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep326_RachelGlaser_PeeOnWater.mp3
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This week we're discussing a Zadie Smith essay, "Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction," originally published in the New York Review of Books in 2019. The piece wrestles with how novelists can practice their craft--particularly when it comes to writing characters unlike themselves in some fundamental way--in an age when attempts at writing across racial, ethnic, gender, or other lines are often seen as problematic, or at least ill-advised.

Later in the podcast, we try out a new segment in which Tom explores his old CD collection and rates his former self.

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep325_ZadieSmith_DefenseOfFiction.mp3
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This week we talk about one of Stephen King's early stories (first published in 1970, the same year he graduated college) and the recent rash of pandemic-themed personal essays. Are there ways to write about your quarantine experience while acknowledging that you're not the center of everyone else's universe?

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep324_King_GraveyardShift.mp3
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This week we're discussing a story from Jamel Brinkley's award-winning debut collection, A Lucky Man. Plus, we answer more ridiculous NaNoWriMo questions, and we check out Amazon's Kindle store to see how many coronavirus-themed books have popped up already (short answer: so many!).

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep323_JamelBrinkley.mp3
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This week we have a spoiler-free discussion of Teddy Wayne's new novel, Apartment, which is about a couple writers in Columbia's MFA program, circa 1996. We also take another dive into the re-opened NaNoWriMo forums, and play a round of Judge A Book By Its Cover, which unexpectedly turns up a teen romance novel with a cover featuring a young, pre-Friends Courtney Cox.

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep322_TeddyWayne_Apartment_.mp3
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This week we're discussing a book of "micro-memoirs" by the poet and essayist Beth Ann Fennelly. Plus another dive into the NaNoWriMo forums, and we resurrect a segment from the early days of the show: Judge a Book By Its Cover.

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep321_MicroMemoirs_.mp3
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This week we're discussing a short story recommended to us on Twitter as "feel-good literary fiction," though we're not sure that label is totally apt. "The Era," by Nana Kwame Adjei--Brenya, was first published in Guernica in April 2018. It's funny, and and strange, but "feel-good"? The jury's still out.

Also this week: NaNoWriMo has fired up its engines in response to the current pandemic, aiming to get people writing while they're stuck at home. Which means it's time for us to take another visit to the NaNoWriMo forums, to answer some pressing questions about vampires who eat regular food, what to name an Irish factory owner, and lots of other stuff. AND, as if that wasn't enough for one episode, we've also got some Tony the Tiger fan fiction. Who knew Tony was so sexy? (the whole internet, apparently).

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep320_TheEra.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're discussing a story about a murderous tiger by Rajesh Parameswaran, which was first published in Granta and then appeared in his 2013 book I Am An Executioner. The story raises a number of questions, like: Do tigers have the mental ability to make choices? And: Do we want to follow an animal around for 21 pages? Answers, it turns out, are mixed.

Also this week, the triumphant return of Fan Fiction Corner! Featuring some very sexy Mr. Clean fanfic (or very weird, depending on your personal proclivities). And Tom's got some raccoon news. All the old favorites!

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Direct download: Ep319_TigerStory.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we check out the online literary magazine Taco Bell Quarterly, which recently put out its second issue. The journal began on something of a whim, according to its founding editor, and now publishes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction inspired or related to Taco Bell in one way or another. We were curious: Would the pieces feel gimmicky? Or could Taco Bell be a weird but useful portal into great contemporary literature?

We also provide a recap of AWP 2020--the conference nearly derailed by the coronavirus--and try go figure out why we're sometimes annoyed by the relentlessly positive tweets of writers like Maggie Smith and Chuck Wendig (maybe because we're bad people?)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We've got the answers to these and many other pressing questions!

Direct download: Ep318_TacoBellQuarterly_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

It's the final episode of our Winter of Wayback season, and we couldn't leave the twenties behind without talking about Dorothy Parker. Like a lot of people these days, both of us knew Parker only from her many famous quips, so we wanted to see what her actual writing was like. The story we read is one of her most popular--it won an O'Henry award, and is still regularly anthologized--but it wasn't what either of us expected.

Also this week: a bit of 1929 flash fiction that still holds up, plus monkey news!

Direct download: Ep317_Wayback_1929.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We continue our journey through the 1920s by reading one of the decade's best-selling writers, and arguably its most famous adventurer. While still a student at Princeton, Richard Halliburton decided he wanted to spend his life traveling the globe, and writing about his adventures. At the height of his fame, he was publishing a new book every year and a half. Some doubted the veracity of his stories, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, who said his books were entertaining but probably dreamed up from behind a desk in Brooklyn.

Direct download: Ep316_1928_Halliburton.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're continuing our trip through the 1920s by reading a couple New Yorker pieces from "reporter at large" Morris Markey. The New Yorker was founded by Harold Ross in 1925, and Markey was an early hire. He'd worked as a reporter for a handful of publications, but Ross basically gave him carte blanche to write about whatever he wanted. His work has been largely lost to history, but some have argued that Markey deserves more credit in discussions of New Journalism.

We checked out a couple of Markey's columns--about organized crime and Prohibition--to see if they stand the test of time. Plus, a story about a monkey who had diners at a fancy Parisian restaurant dropping their monocles into their wine.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to three monthly bonus episodes, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep315_1927.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're continuing our trip through the 1920s by reading a couple stories from the short-lived literary magazine Fire!!, founded in 1926 by a group of black writers and artists that included Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Zora Neale Hurston. The stories we discuss include one by Zora Neale Hurston that is very dialect-heavy, and one by Gwendolyn Bennett about a former boxer living in France who (justifiably) hates American white people.

Also this week: we discuss the recent controversy surrounding Jeannine Cummins' book American Dirt, and learn more than we ever wanted to know about "book influencer" and very rich person Zibby Owens, host of the podcast Mom's Don't Have Time to Read and ardent defender of American Dirt. You can read Zibby's essay on the importance of being nice to books here, via Medium.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you'll get access to three monthly bonus episodes, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels, and Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep314_1926.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Welcome back to our Winter of Wayback series, in which we dig into the literary scene of the 1920s. This week: a novel about a conniving flapper who bends men to her will. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, by Anita Loos, is the source material for the 1954 Marilyn Monroe/Jane Russel movie (by way of a Broadway musical). It was also a blockbuster success in its own right, even if in historical memory it's been a bit overshadowed by the film. Edith Wharton declared it "the great American novel," and both William Faulkner and James Joyce counted themselves as fans.

Also this week: Anita Loos's longtime crush on H.L. Mencken, plus more monkey escapades (the '20s really were the heyday of monkey escapades).

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep313_GentlemenPreferBlondes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're celebrating 1924 by reading one of the most popular short stories of all time, "The Most Dangerous Game," by Richard Connell. Even if you've never read the story, you'll probably recognize the basic plot, which has inspired everything from a Simpsons episode to the Van Damme movie Hard Target.

We talk about how this story stacks up compared with other '20s adventure stories, why it's still being taught to middle- and high-schoolers, and whether it's a commentary on social Darwinism. Plus: monkey news, and flapper bandits!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep312_1924.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're discussing Jean Toomer's 1923 book CANE, a genre-bending mix of prose and poetry written after the author spent several months working as a substitute principal in Georgia. Many people hold the book up as a modernist classic, and an important influence on other writers during the Harlem Renaissance, but: does it stand the test of time?

Also this week: more monkey news! People in the '20s seemed fascinated with monkeys and their antics, even as anti-Darwinists seemed deeply offended at the suggestion that they'd evolved from apes.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: BF_Ep111_1923.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Since we're doing an entire season about the 1920s, at some point we had to read Zane Grey, one of the decade's best-selling authors. His book The Vanishing American was first serialized in 1922, in Ladies Home Journal, and angered some people for deigning to suggest that the Indian Schools run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs might have been less than amazing. The book's main character was loosely inspired by the experience of Jim Thorpe, who attended the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania before he became one of the world's most celebrated athletes.

We also discuss Emily Post's rules for etiquette, and "flapper cops."

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep310_1922.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week, we're continuing our exploration of the 1920s with Robert Keable's Simon Called Peter, a mostly-forgotten novel about an Anglican priest who goes off to war and falls in love with a lady who isn't his fiancee. He also has a crisis of faith, both because of the "having sex with someone who isn't his fiancee" thing, and also the thing where the British troops don't seem to take religion all that seriously. Apparently the book was quite scandalous in its time, getting banned in some places, showing up in a murder trial, and even meriting a dismissive mention in The Great Gatsby.

Will Keable's book stand the test of time? Or will its moral conundrums seem kind of laughably quaint to a couple 21st-century readers? Also: we explore the practice of grafting skin from monkey testicles onto humans, which was apparently all the rage in the 1920s.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep309_1921.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:52pm EDT

We're kicking off our Winter of Wayback season, in which we travel to the past and dig up some forgotten (or under-appreciated) books and stories, and use them to learn some things about the time period. This year we'll be traveling through the 1920s, a decade neither of us knows all that much about, outside of the stereotypical images of flappers and speakeasies and Lost Generation writers smoking jazz cigarettes at Parisian cafes. For 1920 we've unearthed some old issues of Black Mask, a pulp magazine begun by H.L. Mencken as a way to fund his more literary magazine, The Smart Set.

We break down a few stories from the magazine's early issues and talk about story-writing in an age before television. We also talk about our (limited) knowledge of the 20s, and what we hope to learn this season.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Direct download: Ep308_1920.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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