Book Fight (general)

We welcome special guest Christopher Gonzalez (I'm Not Hungry But I Could Eat) to discuss a novel that taught him a lot about flash fiction. Also discussed: the Netflix show Marriage or Mortgage, why flash fiction isn't just about word count, and how to title your novel to give critics an easy talking point.

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, you can join our Patreon and get regular bonus episodes: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

 

Direct download: Ep371_ChrisGonzalez.mp3
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In celebration of the nine-year anniversary of our podcast, we're bringing back some of our favorite segments from the show's history! We also discuss some exciting changes coming down the pike.

If you like the show, and would like more of it in your life, check out our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

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This week we're wrapping up our Winter of Wayback season by reviewing what we've learned. Which stories and essays did we love? Which pieces did we hate? What did we learn about 1968, and how did it compare to our previous presuppositions? Also, as a special bonus, Tom reviews a famous 1968 movie he'd never seen before, and Mike eats a Big Mac.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Direct download: Ep369_1968_WrapUp_-_32821_7.00_PM.mp3
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This week we continue our exploration of 1968 by checking out a Bernard Malamud story, "Man in the Drawer," which won the O'Henry prize that year. Also: what were hippies up to in 1968? We take a deep dive into newspaper archives to learn how that term was being used, and what it could tell us about the state of the counterculture (and the attitudes of squares).

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, for $5/month you can subscribe to our Patreon and get bonus episodes (plus support the work we do): https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Direct download: Ep368_1968_Malamud.mp3
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This week we continue our Winter of Wayback season by checking out a couple stories from the 1969 Best American Short Stories anthology (featuring stories published in 1968). We intentionally chose authors we didn't know anything about, though it turns out both writers went on to fairly celebrated careers, albeit in different genres. Norma Klein became a beloved YA author, often compared to Judy Blume, though she died at the tragically young age of 50. Jack Cady, meanwhile, won numerous awards for his horror and sci fi novels and spent a couple decades teaching in the Pacific Northwest.

Also this week: Poetry gets political in the late 60s, in a way that feels very similar to today.

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

 

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This week we continue our Winter of Wayback season by reading a dispatch about the 1968 Democratic National Convention written for Esquire by William S. Burroughs. The convention itself was famously contentious, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was criticized for allegedly allowing the cops to run roughshod over protesters outside the convention hall. Burroughs, meanwhile, brings to the party a politics we'd describe as "confusing."

Also this week: The poetry of 1968 presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. And the return of Raccoon News!

If you like our show, and would like more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 and get access to a whole wealth of bonus episodes, including our latest series, The Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

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This week, we're continuing our Winter of Wayback trip to 1968 by reading a story, "Boys and Girls," from Alice Munro's first story collection. We revisit arguments about Munro's stories from our grad school years, and consider the unique structure of her stories, which often rely less on plot trajectory than on a kind of synthesis, looking at a character's life from a variety of angles. Plus: a new game, Munro or No!

You can read the story here: http://www.giuliotortello.it/shortstories/boys_and_girls.pdf

If you like the show, you can subscribe to our Patreon for just $5 and get access to our entire vault of bonus episodes: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Direct download: Ep365_Wayback68_Munro.mp3
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This week we're continuing our Winter of Wayback season, in which we've been reading books, stories and essays from 1968, a year that parallels our current moment in a number of ways. Writer Lyz Lenz (God Land, Belabored) joins us to discuss a writer she admires from that era: Ellen Willis, who began her career as a music journalist but did some of her most important work on misogyny within the progressive movement.

Also discussed: internet hate, why men love The Maltese Falcon, and the harassment Lyz has gotten in the wake of her recent profile of famous tweet thread guy Seth Abramson.

You can read Lyz's profile of Abramson here: https://www.cjr.org/special_report/seth-abramson-twitter.php

You can learn more about Lyz, read more of her writing, and subscribe to her Substack here: https://lyzlenz.com/

If you like our podcast, and would like more of it in your life, subscribe to our Patreon for regular bonus episodes: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

 

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This week we're continuing our trip through 1968 by checking out the very first issue of a literary journal that still exists, and has published lots of famous writers: The South Carolina Review. The debut issue includes an essay on race relations in South Carolina, by an esteemed journalist, as well as a short story by Max Steele, who had one of the best names in the literary game.

Also this week: 1968 was a big year for children's lit and YA. The National Book Awards started a category for children's lit, and publishers began to invest in books that offered more realistic portraits of teen life.

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.

Direct download: Ep363_Wayback_SCReview.mp3
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This week we're discussing the debut novel by N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1968. The book had an interesting road to publication, and the prize seemed to take both the author and his publishing house by surprise. We look at how people were writing about the novel in 1968, and discover that--surprise, surprise--white people were kinda racist about Native American culture! Even in praising Momaday's book, they couldn't help but drag out lots of stereotypical tropes about American Indians.

Also this week: critics worry (in 1968) that the memoir will kill the novel.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which will net you regular bonus episodes, including our ongoing Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Direct download: Ep362_1968_Momaday_-_2721_9.41_PM.mp3
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This week we're discussing a famous Pauline Kael essay about the movie "Bonnie and Clyde," which The New Republic refused to run, and which then accidentally launched her long, storied career at The New Yorker. Kael argued that the movie, which had been panned by many critics, was more interesting than people were giving it credit for, and that the negative reviews actually said something about the current cultural moment.

We also discuss the recent Harper's special section on "life after Trump," and what "the Trump novel" might look like.

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.

Direct download: Ep360_1968_Kael.mp3
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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: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1968/05/09/the-apotheosis-of-martin-luther-king/

Tobi Haslett (in Harper's) on Elizabeth Hardwick: https://harpers.org/archive/2017/12/the-cost-of-living/3/

Our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Direct download: Ep360_1968_Week3.mp3
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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: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

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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
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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: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

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

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It's the most wonderful time of the year: when we break out the eggnog and suffer through a terrible Christmas-themed book so we can goof on it. This year's selection is Swamp Santa, book 16 in Jana DeLeon's Miss Fortune mystery series. We try to make sense of a rather convoluted plot, debate the relative merits of wacky parrots, and get lost in explanatory dialogue.

Check out the website for the town of Sinful, Louisiana, which can fill in some backstory on this week's book: http://sinfullouisiana.com/

And if you like our podcast, and want more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

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This week we welcome two special guests--Amanda Meadows and Geoffrey Golden of the Dirt Cheap podcast--to discuss one of their favorite recent graphic novels: BTTM FDRS, by Ezra Clayton Daniels and Ben Passmore. The book has been compared to Jordan Peele's film Get Out, and features a many-tentacled monster that inhabits an apartment building in a gentrifying Chicago neighborhood.

Our guests help us do some panel analysis of the book, and we talk about the horror genre, and dividing line between effective allegory and allegories that feel heavy-handed. We also talk about their podcast, in which they are reading a very bizarre-sounding pulp novel called Murder in the Glass Room, about an L.A. private investigator who is very obsessed with furniture and elevators.

You can check out their podcast, Dirt Cheap, here: https://www.neonhum.com/show-pages/dirt-cheap.html

You can learn more about the book, BTTM FDRS, at the Fantagraphics site: https://www.fantagraphics.com/products/bttm-fdrs

And if you like our podcast, and want more of it in your life, subscribe to our Patreon. $5 a month gets you access to all our bonus episodes, including our newly launched Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Thanks for listening!

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David Foster Wallace famously considered the lobster. This week, we consider him! How has his writing--and his legacy--aged in the nearly twenty years since his most well-known essays were published? Also: how mean should creative writing teachers be about lousy (or lazy) student work?

You can read Wallace's essay "Consider the Lobster" here: http://www.columbia.edu/~col8/lobsterarticle.pdf

You can also join our Patreon--$5/month helps support the podcast and also gets you access to all our bonus episodes, including our recent investigation into whether Ethan Frome is a terrible novel that no one should ever have to read: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

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This week, Mike picks an essay that exemplifies some of what he doesn't love in contemporary writing about mental health. Too often, there's a tendency to fall back on abstractions, cliches, and platitudes, rather than to do the (admittedly tough!) work of putting the reader inside the writer's actual, lived experience.

In the second half of the show, we take one last dive into the NaNoWriMo forums to give our (semi-solicited?) advice to this year's crop of would-be novelists.

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon! For $5/month, you'll get access to all our bonus episodes, past and future. Check it out here: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Direct download: Ep354_TherapySpeak.mp3
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This week we're talking Wikipedia vandalism, essays that show their editing work, and creative nonfiction that borrows moves from academic writing. Plus, another deep dive into the NaNoWriMo forums to help out this year's crop of aspiring novelists.

This week's reading is a David LeGault essay, "Revision and Collapse," which was first published in Fourth Genre. Though as always, you don't have to do the reading prior to listening to the episode.

If you like the show, and would enjoy having a little more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, where $5/month gets you access to all our bonus episodes: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

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This week's episode asks the question: Why aren't conservatives funny? Or, put another way: Didn't conservatives used to be funny? At least some of them? And could they ever be funny again?

More specifically, we revisit a P.J. O'Rourke essay from 1982, in which the author takes a cruise to the Soviet Union sponsored by the magazine The Nation, and spends most of his time drinking vodka with the Russians on-board while making fun of the insufferable American passengers, who are sort of like the parents from Family Ties except with even less self-awareness. Shooting fish in a barrel, maybe, but also: what annoying fish!

If you like the show, and would enjoy having more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon, where you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Direct download: Ep352_ORourke_Final.mp3
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This week we're talking about professional wrestling, essays with unusual structures, troubled father-son relationships, and what it's like to be one of the only non-white kids at your school. Plus: it's still November, which means we're digging into the NaNoWriMo forums to answer some of the internet's weirdest questions about writing a novel.

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This week: writing about money and social class; righteous anger; and essays that spark actual class debate. Plus we begin out month-long dive into the National Novel Writing Month forums, to offer our (semi-solicited?) advice to this year's crop of prospective authors.

Our reading this week was "The Gifted Classes," an essay by Frances Lefkowitz. You can read it via The Sun: https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/325/the-gifted-classes

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

 

Direct download: Ep350_EatTheRich.mp3
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This week we're talking about research-driven memoir writing, books that are difficult to pin down, and what it means to say that writing feels "poetic."

Our reading was The Grave on the Wall, the prize-winning memoir by poet Brandon Shimoda, which begins with the author on a search to understand his grandfather's life.

In the second half of the show, we talk about strategies for talking about student work that might be offensive or otherwise problematic.

You can buy The Grave on the Wall here: https://bookshop.org/books/the-grave-on-the-wall/9780872867901

And if you like our podcast, and would like more of it in your life, you can join our Patreon and get regular bonus episodes: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Direct download: Ep350_FamilyMysteries.mp3
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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

 

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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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 10:06am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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

We're off this week for the holidays, but we're releasing this Patreon-only episode from September, in which we discussed THE DEAL, a sexy campus romance novel by Elle Kennedy.

If you like this episode, you can get one like it every single month for just five bucks. Check out all our bonus content at our Patreon page

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

It's that special time of year again, folks. When your beloved Book Fight hosts take a break from all the very serious literary talk and dive into a sometimes-cheesy, sometimes-infuriating, always-entertaining Christmas book. In past years we've read books by Debbie Macomber, Janet Evanovich, and even Glenn Beck. This year we're checking out a book by the "queen of the beach read," Elin Hilderbrand, who a few years ago branched out with a series of books set around the holidays.

For this episode, we read the first of Hilderbrand's winter books, which introduced us to the Quinn family. Kelley Quinn owns an inn on Nantucket that he might have to sell. His second wife, Mitzi, has been carrying on an affair with the man who dresses up as Santa Claus at the inn's annual holiday party. His oldest son, Patrick, might be headed to prison for insider trading. His daughter Ava is feeling lukewarm about her boyfriend, and his middle son Nathaniel is about to propose to a hot French lady. Oh, and his youngest son might be dead in Afghanistan.

We'll be taking our usual end-of-year hiatus, BUT we'll have a special bonus episode next week for our Patreon subscribers. We read a second, much more ridiculous holiday book, about knitting vampires, and we can't wait to tell you all about it. To get that episode, and our other bonus content--including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, and episodes in our advice series, Reading the Room--all you have to do is chip in $5 a month, which helps support the show and keeps our regular episodes free.

Direct download: Ep307_Christmas2019.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We've spent this fall season looking at some of the best stories to teach in creative writing workshops. It's our last week, and we're talking flash fiction. Definitions of flash vary, but generally speaking the term seems to apply to short stories of fewer than 1,000 words. We discuss our approaches toward teaching flash fiction generally, and then we dive into a few specific pieces: "What Happened to the Phillips?" by Tyrese Coleman; Jacob Guajardo's "Good News Is Coming"; "When It's Human and When It's Dog" by Amy Hempel; and two short pieces by Joy Williams.

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: Ep306_FlashFiction.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week, we're discussing stories told from multiple points of view. It can be difficult enough to successfully capture a single character's consciousness on the page, which makes our first story pick especially impressive: "The Casual Car Pool," by Katherine Bell, which originally appeared in the fall 2005 issue of Ploughshares. Our second pick takes a different tack to exploring multiple characters, keeping a distanced, fly-on-the-wall perspective: J.D. Salinger's "A Perfect Day for Bananafish."

We talk about how we approach point of view when teaching creative writing classes, particularly when it comes to the varieties of third person narration. We also talk about the difficulty of writing from multiple points of view in a single story, and whether it's something we'd encourage or discourage our students from trying.

Also this week: one last trip into the NaNoWriMo forums!

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: Ep305_MultiplePOVs.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This fall, we've been talking about the best stories to teach in a creative writing class. For this week's competition, we're discussing dialogue, and pitting a story by Mary Miller against one by George Saunders. In Miller's story, "Aunt Jemima's Old-Fashioned Pancakes," a teenage girl navigates friendship, romance, and weird dads. In Saunders' "Pastoralia," a man navigates a very strange job and a difficult coworker.

Also this week: another trip into the NaNoWriMo forums!

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: Ep304_Dialogue.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we welcome author Steph Cha (Your House Will Pay) to discuss a book she read as a kid and wanted to revisit: Amy Tan's novel The Joy Luck Club. Cha says she first read the novel in large part because she'd seen her mother reading it. Now, having written several books of her own, and having thought more deeply about Asian-American literature, what would she think of Tan's breakout book?

We also talk about basset hounds, crime novels, Los Angeles in the '90s, the politics of Nest cameras, and being a top Yelp reviewer.

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: Ep303_StephCha.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're looking at two stories that take on current events--in one case, a story about refugees at the American-Mexico border, and in the other, a story about a white college student who gets called out after posting a picture of herself in a Confederate-flag bikini. We talk about the benefits, and potential drawbacks, of teaching stories about current political controversies in a creative writing class, and how we might approach those stories with our students. Also: in a landscape crowded with really compelling narrative nonfiction, what can fiction, specifically, add to the political discourse?

Also, it's November, which means more fun with the NaNoWriMo forums!

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: Ep302_CurrentEvents.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week, we're on the hunt for stories that do interesting things with time. More specifically, we talk about how "time" can be a useful angle into talking about story structure in a creative writing class. Our story picks are Stuart Dybek's "Paper Lanterns" and Raymond Carver's "Are These Actual Miles?" (or, "What Is It," depending on what version of the story you've got). Also: it's November, which means it's National Novel Writing Month, which means it's time for us to visit the NaNoWriMo forums!

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: Ep301_StoriesAndTime.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:35am EDT

This week, you might say that we're on a quest to find the best quest story to teach in a creative writing class. For years, both of us have taught Sherman Alexie's "What You Pawn I Will Redeem," but for a variety of reasons--including accusations of sexual harassment against the author--we're looking for something new. Will it be Charles Yu's story "Fable," or Chris Offutt's "Out of the Woods"?

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: Ep300_QuestStories.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week, we're continuing our quest for the best stories to use in a creative writing course, with pieces where setting plays a strong role: Tony Earley's "The Prophet From Jupiter" and "Roots" by Michael Crummey. We talk about how both authors evoke a strong sense of place through small details, and how to discuss that kind of world-building with creative writing students.

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: Ep299_Setting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week, we're continuing our quest for the best stories to use in a creative writing course, with pieces about breakups: Courtney Bird, "Still Life, With Mummies" and "Cat Person" by Kristen Roupenian. You might remember the latter as "that story that went viral and briefly broke the internet," spurring hot takes from a bunch of people who seemingly hadn't read a short story in a very long time.

 

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: Ep298_BreakupStories.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week, we're continuing our quest for the best stories to use in a creative writing course, with pieces that incorporate magical elements: "The Healer" by Aimee Bender versus a trio of very short stories by Etgar Keret.

We talk about what the term "magical realism" actually means, and how we introduce it in the classroom. We also discuss ways to open up a fiction class to a diversity of styles and genres while still assuring that students are challenging themselves and trying new things. Plus: Are magicians creeps? And Tom revisits the work of Jim Harrison, mostly out of spite.

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: Ep297_MagicalRealism.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This fall, we're exploring the canon of creative writing, trying to find the best stories to teach in creative writing classes. Each week we'll have a different theme, either a craft element or type of story, and we'll each nominate a story we think works particularly well in the classroom. We'll pit the stories against each other and by the end of the episode crown a winner.

This week we've got two second person stories: "How to Leave Hialeah," by Jennine Capo Crucet, going up against Lorrie Moore's "How to Be an Other Woman."

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: Ep296_SecondPerson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

It's a new season on the calendar, and that means a new season of Book Fight. This fall, we're going to be exploring the canon of creative writing, trying to find the best stories to teach in creative writing classes. Each week we'll have a different theme, either a craft element or type of story, and we'll each nominate a story we think works particularly well in the classroom. We'll pit the stories against each other and by the end of the episode crown a winner.

This week we've got Denis Johnson going up against Matthew Vollmer, with two stories featuring unreliable narrators: "Emergency" and "Will and Testament."

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: Ep295_UnreliableNarrators.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

It's the last week of our Summer School season, and we're ending on a book (and author) Tom had never read. Topics include: Diner en Blanc, the titular lighthouse (and whether they'll ever reach it), mental health, donut holes, pumpkin spice, and why the kids these days love the TV show Friends.

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 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.

Direct download: Ep294_ToTheLighthouse.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

For years, Mike would see references to Ford Madox Ford in articles about famous modernist writers and think: "I should really check that guy out one of these days." Well, listeners, that day is today. Mike drags Tom along for an exploration of The Good Soldier, Ford's most famous book, a short novel about two couples whose lives intersect at a German spa for people with heart ailments. "This is the saddest story I have ever heard," the book begins, before plunging readers into a sometimes disorienting tale of infidelity and (maybe?) murder.

We talk about the book's non-chronological storytelling technique, as well as the unreliable narrator at its center, whose version of events we're never quite sure how much to trust. Also this week: #DonutQuest2019 continues, with Tom bringing over a couple samplings from his home state of New Jersey.

Direct download: Ep293_Ford_GoodSoldier.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week is a Tom pick: a novella by Jim Harrison featuring his beloved character Brown Dog. In "The Summer He Didn't Die," Brown Dog has some tooth problems, and also some sex. Just regular old Brown Dog stuff. Harrison is considered a master of the novella form, and a chronicler of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Is this his best work? Reviews are mixed.

Also this week: Mike continues his summer-long quest for a good donut, with a return trip to Philly favorite Federal Donuts.

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 romance novels. And starting this week, we'll be adding new mini-episodes in a series called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: Ep292_JimHarrison.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Welcome to Week Two of a series we didn't intend to undertake: Tom and Mike Read Books They're Not Quite Smart Enough to Understand. Actually, we did a slightly better job with this one than we did with last week's reading, Jenny Boully's The Body. Though we can already hear the sound of 1,000 grad students rolling their eyes in response to our discussion of Barthes. But hey, we're giving it our best. We can't help it if there are rocks where our brains are supposed to be.

This week's book was a Mike pick, because he's been on the English department faculty of a major university for too long to not have read anything by Roland Barthes. A Lover's Discourse was billed as one of his more accessible works, so we figured it could make a good starting place. And it wasn't bad! At least the parts that we understood. Which were some of the parts!

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, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Direct download: Ep291_Barthes_LoversDiscourse.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're talking about a lyric essay that was first published in 2002 and has since become part of a new canon of creative nonfiction: Jenny Boully's "The Body," which first appeared in The Seneca Review and was re-released in book form by Essay Press. The big question of this episode: are we smart enough to understand this piece, which is written in footnotes to an invisible text? Or is it even a thing meant to be "understood" in a traditional narrative sense? Is it a beautiful evocation of a language that's just beyond conventional meaning? Is it a whole bunch of word salad? And, seriously, are we big dummies who just barely manage to get our pants on each morning?

Also this week: In Mike's continuing search for a good donut, he pits two bitter Pennsylvania rivals against each other. That's right, it's Sheetz vs. Wawa.

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, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Direct download: Ep290_Boully_TheBody.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Welcome back to our Summer School season, in which we're reading books, stories, and essays we feel like we should have read by now. John McPhee was in that category for Mike, especially as he's been teaching (and writing) more creative non-fiction. McPhee is a celebrated essayist who started out at Time Magazine and then moved on to a lengthy career at The New Yorker. In 1969 he wrote a long piece about a tennis match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner that became a short book, Levels of the Game. Renowned as not just a piece of sports writing, but as a study in two contrasting characters at a pivotal moment in American history, McPhee's essay/book is considered a master of its form.

We talk about the essay, and about the very different turns the lives of its principle subjects took after it was published. We also talk about how McPhee put the piece together, which involved lugging a suitcase-sized projector down to Puerto Rico for a U.S. Davis Cup match.

Also this week: Mike tries again to eat a good donut.

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, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Direct download: Ep289_McPhee.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Thom Jones graduated from the Iowa Writers Workshop in the late 70s, but didn't truly find his voice--and critical success--until "The Pugilist at Rest," which was published in The New Yorker in 1991. After that story, Jones published pieces in other big-name magazines and pretty quickly had a story collection out in the world. Journalists really latched onto the late-bloomer story, as well as the fact that Jones was working as a janitor when "The Pugilist at Rest" was published.

We talk about the story, and also about the mythology around Jones, who died in 2016. Also this week: Mike's continuing quest to eat a good donut, and why Tom is so tired of reading stories about the 60s.

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, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Direct download: Ep288_ThomJones.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Neither of us had read anything by Sally Rooney, who has been called "the first important Millennial novelist" and "Salinger for the Snapchat generation." Both of her novels have garnered high praise from both critics and celebrities, including Zadie Smith and Sarah Jessica Parker. So it seemed like time for America's Most Important Books Podcast to finally weigh in.

We chose Rooney's first novel, Conversations With Friends, about a kind of love triangle (love rhombus?) between a young woman named Frances, her former girlfriend/current best friend Bobbi, and an older married couple, Melissa and Nick.

We talk about the book's politics, the narrator's voice, and what it means to be a "Millennial novelist." Also this week: Mike's continuing quest to find a good donut gets complicated.

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, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Direct download: Ep287_Rooney_ConvosWithFriends.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're discussing Annie Dillard's famous essay, "Total Eclipse," about the time she saw a total eclipse. Neither of us had read it before, and neither of us is quite sure whether we like it. We get Geoff Dyer's opinion, and Robert Atwan's, and a couple dissenting opinions from Goodreads, as we try to decide what to make of it. If you've never read the piece, you can do so here, via The Atlantic.

Also this week: Mike tries Indonesian food, and continues his quest for the perfect donut. And Tom has opinions about the best way to cook a s'more. 

Direct download: Ep286_AnnieDillard.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We're continuing our Summer School season of the podcast, in which we're reading things we feel like we should have gotten to by now. This week is Mike's pick, a novella set in a gossipy small town and ending with a knock-down, drag-out fist fight between a woman and her ex-husband. We talk about McCullers' writing and her life, including her apparent inability to successfully bed a woman, despite many attempts.

Also this week: Is the word hunchback offensive? Why is so much academic writing impenetrable? And Mike finally sees Jaws!

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, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

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

We're continuing our Summer School season of the podcast, in which we're reading things we feel like we should have gotten to by now. This week is a Tom pick, a particularly famous essay by James Baldwin about the death of his father, bitterness, and race in America. Tom had read other Baldwin works before, but never this piece.

We talk about the ways this essay still feels relevant to American life, and the strength of Baldwin's prose and his intellect. We also check out some middling Goodreads reviews of Baldwin's work, to see what the people are complaining about. Plus: bad donuts, missed opportunities, Eagles songs, and why every poet is into astrology.

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, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Direct download: Ep284_SummerSchool_Baldwin.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're kicking off a new season of Book Fight: Summer School! The idea is that we'll dive into books, stories, and essays that we feel like we should have read by now. That could mean classics, but it could also mean contemporary work that's been sitting on our to-read pile for a long time, or that we've been avoiding for one reason or another.

For the first Summer School episode we've got a Mike pick: an essay from John D'Agata's book Halls of Fame. Mike's been meaning to get to some of D'Agata's work for years now, despite having mixed feelings about his relationship to the truth and "truthiness" (as explicated in the book The_Lifespan_of_a_Fact, which traced the back-and-forth between D'Agata and a fact-checker at the Believer who found a number of factual errors in his piece about suicides in Las Vegas).

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, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Direct download: Ep283_DAgata.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We're taking a quick break between seasons of the show, getting our ducks in a row for Summer School--in which we'll be reading books, stories, and essays that we feel like we should definitely have read by now, but have skipped for one reason or another. In the meantime, here's a bonus episode that was originally available only to our Patreon subscribers. Back in the fall, we read the debut novel by Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, star of the MTV reality show Jersey Shore. A Shore Thing follows a Snooki-like character and her BFF as they navigate the Jersey Shore boardwalk for a summer--jobs, drinks, and lots of boys.

If you like this episode, you can subscribe to our Patreon and get one like it every month. For just $5 a month you can support the show and also get a Book Fight After Dark episode delivered to you each month. 

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: BF_After_Dark__A_Shore_Thing.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:13am EDT

This week, we wrap up our Spring Forward season by diving into a new (to us) genre called climate fiction, or cli-fi. Matter published a collection of cli fi pieces in response to a Margaret Atwood essay wondering if fiction centered on climate change could change people's thinking or even spur action. Which seems like a noble pursuit, though these stories were kind of a mixed bag. We talk about the pitfalls of fiction that leads with its agenda, as well as stories that get mired in world-building and forget about the actual story part.

Also: letters from children to the future, written in the 70s!

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, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Battleship (yes, based on the popular board game).

Direct download: Ep282_ClimateFictionRoundup.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're continuing our Spring Forward season by reading J.G. Ballard's 1973 novel High Rise, considered by many critics to be an under-appreciated gem. The book follows several characters as they deal with the breakdown of social order in a residential high-rise tower. The residents of the complex form clans, pitting the upper floors against the middle and lower floors, and what started as petty squabbling soon turns violent and deadly.

We talk about whether the book's premise feels dated, tied as it is to the rise (pun sort of intended) of residential towers in both the U.K. and the U.S. during the 60s and early 70s. We also talk about Ballard's vision of human nature, which seems especially bleak, even cynical--though perhaps not entirely unrealistic.

In the second half of the show, we talk a bit about architecture and urban planning in science fiction, from the Jetsons to Blade Runner, as well as Korea's "city of the future," which has loads of smart-city technology but not nearly as many people as planners had hoped for.

 

Direct download: Ep281_Ballard_HighRise.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're continuing our Spring Forward season by diving into Mark O'Connell's book To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death. O'Connell, an Irish journalist and writer, throws himself into the world of transhumanism, spending time with a number of people who are trying, in various ways, to "solve the problem of death." That includes a company that will cryogenically freeze your head, scientists working to dramatically extend humans' life spans, and "grinders," who surgically implant pieces of technology inside themselves, in an attempt to become part machine.

In the second half of the show, we revisit some early-80s predictions for jobs that would be "stolen" by robots, and try to figure out how many of those predictions came true.

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, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Battleship (yes, based on the popular board game).

Direct download: Ep280_Transhumanism_-_6219_8.56_PM.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

As we continue our Spring Forward season--in which we're reading forward-looking books, stories, and essays--this week we checked out four famous Ray Bradbury stories and talked about Bradbury's visions of the future. The stories we read include one about a sentient house, one that introduced the idea of the butterfly effect to the world, one about a veldt (and some evil children) and one about a man out for an evening walk in a future society in which that kind of behavior can get you locked up.

Also: Ray Bradbury fun facts! And an early-20th-century plan to give New York City a central vacuum system.

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, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Battleship (yes, based on the popular board game).

Direct download: Ep279_Bradbury.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Since we're doing an entire season on future-looking books, stories, and essays, it seemed like it would be a real oversight to not consider at least one utopian novel. Ernest Callenbach wrote Ecotopia while living in Berkeley and working as an editor for the University of California Press. He couldn't find a publisher, but managed to get the money together to self-publish the novel (a more expensive, and more difficult proposition in 1974 than it is today). The book built up a cult following, and after an excerpt appeared in Harper's Magazine, Ecotopia was picked up by Bantam and given a wider release. Now, more than forty years after its release, it's a book that's still taught at universities and discussed in environmental circles.

The novel is set in 1999, a few years after the Pacific Northwest and Northern California have seceded from the United States. The book's narrator is the first journalist to visit and report from inside Ecotopia; the book alternates between his newspaper dispatches and his personal journals. We talk about the book's utopian vision, and to what degree it still feels environmentally relevant. We also talk about utopians more generally. We live in a time when dystopian stories are everywhere--in novels, on movie screens, and on television. Is there room in our current world for utopian storytelling? And what might that look like?

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, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Battleship (yes, based on the popular board game).

Direct download: Ep278_SpringForward_Ecotopia.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

In October 1951, Collier's Magazine gave over an entire weekly issue to imagining a possible war with the Soviet Union and its aftermath. Perhaps in the midst of American Cold War anxiety, this issue seemed less patently insane. But to a modern reader it's hard to fathom how Collier's got more than twenty authors to embark on a project that feels like one part anti-communist propaganda and one part teenage war fantasy.

Also this week: a special issue of Penthouse that imagined sex in outer space (while also previewing the launch of OMNI Magazine).

Direct download: Ep277_Colliers_vs_Russia.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we read a science fiction story by someone you probably don't associate with science fiction. In 1909, E.M. Forster wrote a story called "The Machine Stops" that imagines people living in isolation, in apartments under the earth, and communicating to each through technology that looks a lot like Skype. Also this week, we talk about futuristic stick-shaped foods. 

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, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Battleship (yes, based on the popular board game).

Direct download: Ep276_TheMachineStops.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT