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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)


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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)


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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.


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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)


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How to be a weird loner on your flight to AWP

This year, we’re both taking a break from the AWP conference, mainly due to scheduling issues but also due to the thing where AWP is exhausting and expensive and dangerous to our fragile psyches, but we will still be with you in spirit, holding our own off-site event in suburban New Jersey, in which just the two of us have a couple beers and talk about how we’re pretty glad we’re not at AWP right now.

However, if you’re looking for a great Barrelhouse experience, and you should be, then check out this post detailing where you can find all the Barrelhouse things you need to find (including Issue 14, which is fresh from the printers today, and the glorious cover of which is pasted below):

BH14

Anyway: on your flight, you will need to keep yourself entertained and also will need to do everything possible to avoid conversations with strangers. So, if you’re new to the show and don’t know where to begin or you’re just looking for a refresher on some classic episodes, here’s a sampling of Book Fight episodes of note that you can download and feed to your brain, except during takeoff and landing because you need to hear those safety instructions.

  1. AWP Dispatches (2013 and 2014) – These aren’t our traditional episodes, but they give you a pretty good sense of the AWP experience, as told by two guys who maybe aren’t cut out for this whole thing. I think the 2013 episodes are a little better than the 2014 ones, but they both are worth a listen.
  2. Silver Linings Playbook – frequently noted as a listener favorite, this was last year’s bonus episode and was a long-awaited confrontation with one of my most hated books. According to Andrew Mangan at The Colorado Review, this “is one of the funnier podcast episodes I’ve listened to that also manages to remain very enlightening craft-wise.”
  3. White Out with guest Leslie Jamison – I’ve noted several times that this might be my favorite episode of the show, because we’re discussing an interesting book in a way that really strikes our ideal balance between serious writing talk and nonsense.
  4. Christmas specials (2012, 2013, & 2014) – if you’d rather avoid really serious book talk and think you’d like the more lighthearted episodes, the Christmas specials are an ideal starting point. In them, we discuss a wide range of pretty terrible books, including Glenn Beck’s dumb Christmas novel, a firefighter romance, and an incomprehensible mystery story about a magic bounty hunter or something?
  5. Leaving the Atocha Station – if you’re interested in the episodes on the more sober end of the spectrum, then this is a pretty good representative, in which we discuss Ben Lerner’s acclaimed novel during the first half (and then, oh yeah, the second half features an installment of Mike’s forays into fan fiction, so maybe the serious stuff is mostly in the first half?)
  6. The Year of Magical Thinking – in which we discuss Joan Didion’s memoir in what actually qualifies as a more sober episode and involves no fan fiction.
  7. The True Deceiver with guest Matt Jakubowski – Matt guides us through the strange Nordic world of Tove Jannson’s fiction, discusses gender disparity in literary awards, and more. This episode also stands as one of the slightly more serious ones, if you’re into that kind of thing.
  8. Writers Ask (various) – In this feature (currently on hiatus) we answered listener questions about MFAs, submission cover letters, MFAs, and other stuff. You can dig through the full archive or just check in on episodes dealing with how to generate new material when you’re between projects, scams that prey on writers, some MFA stuff, writers in academia, literary agents, and, maybe the true fan favorites, our two NaNoWriMo episodes from last year.
  9. Fall of Failure # 7 – my favorite of our fall episodes, in which we discuss Stefan Zweig’s final published story and also look into the long history of failed comebacks (including the discovery of The Gum King himself).
  10. Winter of Wayback 1982 – not only because we’re discussing my birth year, but because of the interesting backstory of James Ferry’s “Dancing Ducks and Talking Anus.”

BONUS: the entire Summer of Shorts, unless you hate fun, in which case, just check out the stuff above.

This ought to be enough audio entertainment to keep you occupied through one layover and/or one delayed flight. If you’re looking for more, you can always dig through the archives on this site or in the iTunes store. And, hey, if you like us, please pass the word on to your friends and also leave a rating for us in iTunes.


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Bonus Episode 2015 – The People’s Choice

[UPDATED 4/9: the poll has been updated, eliminating one book option, not so much because it had been hijacked by a small group of people–we encourage multiple votes, and people championing a book– but because their motivation for voting for that book seemed particularly mean-spirited. Empress Theresa is off the list; the book doesn’t look great, but it’s a self-published book by an unknown writer and we have no interest in joining an extended online bullying campaign against him. We don’t think our fans would enjoy an episode devoted to that kind of meanness, and we, frankly, wouldn’t feel good about recording it.]

Because we hit our fundraising goal this year, we’ve promised to record a special bonus episode, based on a book of your choice. Last year, given the choice between exposing us to some compelling indie literature, you chosen instead to cruelly subject Tom to facing his demons and re-reading a book best described as the airport hot dog of literature.

This year, your choices (based on nominations by listeners) are extensive and varied. The list includes canonical novels, famous YA books about scarred wizards, recent bestselling literary novels, small press story collections, comics, a book about sexy vampires (not the one you’re thinking of), and what appears to be a semen cookbook. This is the sort of list that makes us proud to be your dumb podcast of choice. It’s hard to even tell which ones we should be rooting for (or against).

Because of the size of this list, we may end up running the poll in 2 rounds. Unless there’s an obvious runaway juggernaut in this round, we’ll pick the top contenders based on your votes and then have a runoff next week.

This poll will be open for one week. Check the list carefully and then cast your vote. And then go take a nap – you’ve earned it.

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