Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


Leave a comment

Episode 85: Donald Antrim, Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World

This week we’ve got our second donor pick of 2015: Donald Antrim’s 1993 debut novel, which imagines a dystopic suburbia: people have dug moats around their houses, the woods between two warring families are filled with mines, and the mayor, in the book’s opening scene, is drawn and quartered. We talk about the limits of irony, and try to figure out why neither of us loved this book as much as we thought we might.

Antrim

Also this week, we’ve got another installment of Fan Fiction Corner. We don’t want to ruin the surprise in this week’s surprising character pairings, but let’s just say they are … surprising!

As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the things we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

Stream:

Download Episode 85 (right-click, save-as)

Thanks for listening!


Leave a comment

Spring of Spite: Thomas Bernhard, My Prizes

This week we’re diving into the spiteful wormhole that is Thomas Bernhard’s brain. We went there once before, back in Episode 21, when Owen King joined us to talk about Bernhard’s novel Correction. This time it’s nonfiction, specifically some selections from Bernhard’s book My Prizes, which documents his experiences with several literary prizes and also includes some of the speeches he made over the years at prize ceremonies. There’s plenty of spite to go around: for other writers, for prize committees, for his native Austria, and for the idea of prizes in the first place.

Here’s a picture of Bernhard spitefully eating an ice cream cone:

Bernhard_icecream

We’ve also got stories this week about neighbors who took their spite game to the next level, including a woman who filled her own yard with feces to piss off her neighbors and a guy who faked multiple injuries to get his neighbor thrown in jail. Here’s a picture of the latter; if you see this guy in your neighborhood you might want to move:

Dated 10/03/2009 Neighbour from Hell .. Former Hells Angel David Constantine, who has been allowed by a judge to return to his home in Lanchester, County Durham, despite subjecting his next door neighbours Lucy and Stefan Ward to a catalogue of harassment, which culminated in him trying to frame Mr Ward for attempted murder when he stabbed himself in the chest. See story North News

As always, you can listen to this week’s episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

And if you want to support Powell’s, and our show, just click on any of the store links around the site, or visit their staff picks to find new books.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the stuff we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

Thanks for listening! Tell your friends!

Stream:

Download Spring of Spite #3 (right-click, save-as)


Leave a comment

Episode 84: Alexander von Humboldt, Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent

This week’s book was chosen for us by a donor to our winter fund drive. A famous work of early 19th century natural history, it’s a little outside our usual comfort zone, but we’re always happy to give new things a go. Still, don’t expect that you’re going to hear an expert breakdown of von Humboldt’s findings, or his place in the history of science. Instead you’ll hear us trying to wade through a lot of measurements and descriptions of rocks in search of the good stuff: jaguar-related adventures, fishing for eels, and making jellyfish mad.

You can read (or maybe skim?) the roughly 2,000-page book here, via Project Gutenberg, though we’d probably recommend the abridged Penguin version, which is only 300-some pages and presumably cuts out some of the stuff about water temperatures.

Alexandre_humboldt

Also this week: a new installment of Raccoon News, which includes a dispatch from our hockey-loving friends to the north. Plus a new segment: James Patterson Novel or Eric Stoltz Movie From the 90s?

As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the things we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

Stream:

Download Episode 84 (right-click, save-as)


Leave a comment

Spring of Spite: Flannery O’Connor, “Enoch and the Gorilla”

Welcome to the second installment of our Spring of Spite! This week’s spiteful story is a Flannery O’Connor joint, from the collection Wise Blood. In “Enoch and the Gorilla,” a put-upon young man is very, very excited about the chance to insult a famous ape, though things don’t turn out exactly how he’d planned.

Also this week, we’ve got more examples of spiteful behavior, including several spiteful wills and obituaries. Speaking of the latter, here’s a link to the full text of Marianne Johnson-Reddick’s obituary. And here two newspaper articles with roundups of spiteful wills, one from a very old edition of The Quebec Observer and one from the New York Times. Tom’s got the story this week of the literary feud between H.G. Wells and Henry James. If you want to read the spite-fueled “satire” Wells wrote as a burn on James, you can do so here, via Project Gutenberg. And Mike’s got the story of two 19th-century paleontologists whose simmering hatred for each other led to trumped-up scholarship, angry newspaper articles and, eventually, both men going broke. You can watch the full PBS documentary, “Dinosaur Wars,” via YouTube.

As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

And if you want to support Powell’s, and our show, just click on any of the store links around the site, or visit their staff picks to find new books.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the things we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

Stream:

Download Spring of Spite #2 (right-click, save-as)


4 Comments

Episode 83: D.J. Waldie, Holy Land

This week’s book is an unconventional memoir: in 300 short, numbered sections, D.J. Waldie investigates the origins of his hometown, a suburb outside of Los Angeles considered the Levittown of Southern California, as well as his own life and the lives of his parents. We talk about the book’s unusual construction, and how it creates connections and meaning through surprising juxtapositions.

HolyLand

Also this week: Fan Fiction Corner makes its long-awaited, triumphant return! Have you ever wanted to travel through time so you could hang out with the Beatles? Have you ever dreamed of impregnating an in-his-prime Paul McCartney? Have you ever wondered what it might be like if the Lads from Liverpool boned each other?

As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the things we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

Thanks for listening! And please come on back next week!

Download Episode 83 (right-click, save-as)


5 Comments

Bonus episode final voting

Because we’re making the rules up as we go along, and because the first round of bonus episode voting offered an unwieldy number of options, we’re running a second round of voting here, in which we’ve selected all the books that had at least 1% of the vote in the previous round. Just like last time, we’ll run this poll for one week, and the winner of this round will be the book for our bonus episode.

At least one of these books appears to have a very strong backing (or maybe just one person who keeps voting over and over and over. And over.) so you’ll have to campaign hard to rally support for your book choice.


2 Comments

Spring of Spite: Richard Yates, “Oh Joseph, I’m So Tired”

Welcome to your first installment in the Spring of Spite! For the next several weeks we’ll be reading stories and essays that take “spite” as their theme (or that seem to have been motivated by it) while also discussing spite in all its many forms. Or at least some of its forms! We hope that you’ll join us.

This week, we’re reading a Richard Yates story from his second collection, Liars in Love. The story takes aim at Yates’s mother, with whom he had a rather complicated relationship. In “Oh Joseph, I’m So Tired,” her (barely) fictional stand-in sculpts a bust of FDR but fails to make the splash she’d hoped for. She also hears some mean-spirited gossip about herself, though she then turns around and blasts the perpetrator of said gossip with some pretty gross, anti-semitic insults. The reader is likely to feel toward her a mix of pity and scorn.

You can read the original New York Times review of Liars in Love here; it includes some specific praise for this story. The reviewer notes that the character of Helen appears, more or less, in several other Yates stories, as well as in the novel A Special Providence, but says “she has never been more comically or pathetically portrayed” than in today’s story pick.

As for spite: We spend some time this week talking about the psychology behind it, and whether it might be useful to us, as a society if not individually. Tom also dug up this NPR piece about the science behind spite.

Mike’s got a report on spite houses, which until doing research for this show he never knew existed. Here’s a pretty good explanation of the phenomenon from the Atlantic’s City Lab blog, including some specific examples. And here’s a blog write-up about Charles Crocker’s Nob Hill spite fence, which includes a link to these famous (and really cool) panoramic images of San Francisco. If you scroll to the right (and a little bit down) on the photograph, you’ll see both Crocker’s mansion and the crazy fence he built to wall off his neighbor’s house.

As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the things we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

Thanks for listening! And please come on back next week!

Stream:

Download Spring of Spite: Richard Yates (right-click, save-as)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 118 other followers