Book Fight

This week we're discussing a 1968 Elizabeth Hardwick essay about the Memphis funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. The piece attempts to take the measure of both black and white Memphis after MLK's assassination, and notes tensions within the Civil Rights movement that in certain ways echo arguments within progressive movements today. We also dive into some 1968 debates about whether fiction was up to the task of representing an increasingly fractured, absurdist reality. Plus: women's magazines pull back on publishing short stories, drying up an important market for writers.

If you like the show, and would like to have 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, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, and Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

Elizabeth Hardwick on MLK:

Tobi Haslett (in Harper's) on Elizabeth Hardwick:

Our Patreon:


Direct download: Ep360_1968_Week3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

When Playboy Magazine accepted an Ursula LeGuin story in 1968, the editors had only one request for the young author: could they use the byline U.K. LeGuin, so Playboy's readers didn't know the story was written by a woman? This week we discuss the story, and the circumstances of its publication. Plus: what were creative writing grad programs like in 1968? We take a peek at the Iowa Writers Workshop, thanks to a lengthy feature story from The Chicago Tribune, which features beer bars, Kurt Vonnegut, and a woman who the author of the piece chooses to describe, unfortunately, as "stacked."

If you like the show, check us out on Patreon, where $5 gets you lots of bonus content, including our ongoing Hunt for the Worst Book in the World:


Direct download: Ep359_1968_Week2_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Welcome to our Winter of Wayback season! This year we're diving into 1968, a year that, like our current moment, has often been described as an inflection point in American politics. What we'd like to know: What was the world of literature like that year? Please join us, over the next several weeks, as we try to find out. This week: Tom Wolfe on surfers, slackers, and the culture of parentally-funded hippies.

Direct download: Ep358_1968_WeekOne_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Happy New Year, book friends! We're giving you access to this bonus episode from November, which kicked off our new series: The Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time. For the first edition we re-read Ethan Frome, a novel that is still being foisted upon America's high school students, for some reason.

If you like this episode, and would like to hear future editions of The Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, you can subscribe to our Patreon for just $5 a month. That also helps to support the show more generally, as we continue to bring you free weekly episodes.

Subscribe here:

Thanks for listening! And we hope 2021 has been good to you so far.

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