Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Marguerite Duras, The Lover

Marguerite Duras wrote this short novel late in her career (it was published in 1984, when she was 70), but it describes an episode early in her life, when at age 15 she began an affair with a 27-year-old man in what was then known as French Indochina. Duras called the novel “purely autobiographical,” though later she made other statements that cast shades of doubt on some of its details. Still, the central story of the book would appear to be true, which caused a minor scandal in certain corners upon its publication.

Duras_cover

We talk about the book’s presentation of its central relationship, and how it subverts some expectations for a relationship with that particular age difference at play. We also talk about short novels more generally, and writing in the confessional mode.

In the second half of the show, we find out whether we’re smart enough to answer some grad-school questions about the novel. Plus Tom’s got another installment of Raccoon News. As promised, here are some links, if you’d like to explore this week’s Raccoon News in greater depth:

Adorable Raccoon Rides Scooter, Adorably

NY Mets Sign New Shortstop, Interests Include Eating Garbage, Being a Raccoon

Canadians Are Odd, Do Odd Things, Probably To Get Our Attention

As always, we’re happy to hear what you think about the stuff we talked about this week. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: we’re on Facebook, and gradually getting better about posting studio pics and links and such. So come visit us over there, like our page, etc. etc.

You can stream today’s episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

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Summer of Love: Lorrie Moore, “How to be an Other Woman

This week, we’re revisiting a story from Lorrie Moore’s debut collection, Self-Help. We try to pin down what it is we find so charming about Moore’s writing voice, and why we both consistently teach her stories. We also debate the relative ethics of adultery, and give advice to a listener who has concerns about an impending wedding.

Also, Mike explores another love song, this one with some tenuous personal connections, and Tom explores whether it’s possible for your pet to love you back.

Dog-lovers will be happy to read about a study of dogs’ brain activity in response to seeing their owners (and also this story). Here’s a somewhat inspiring, if depressing, list of 6 famously loyal dogs. And, if you have database access, this article is a pretty interesting exploration of the motivations for pet ownership.

We should note that we recorded this episode before we found out we’d won a 2015 Philadelphia Geek Award. You can see some photos of the event, and the two of us in tuxes, at our Facebook page. Thanks so much to the award sponsors, and to the Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia, for hosting the swanky event.

As always, we’re happy to hear what you think about the stuff we talked about this week. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site.

You can stream today’s episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

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Summer of Love: David Sedaris, “I Like Guys”

This week we’re discussing David Sedaris’s essay “I Like Guys,” about an early gay experience at summer camp and how much effort the young Sedaris spent trying to keep his sexuality under wraps. The piece comes from his book Naked, though you can also listen to him read it, for free, on an episode of This American Life. We talk about some of the controversies around Sedaris’s work, including this 2007 New Republic piece accusing him of fabricating details in his stories, and more recent dust-ups over his decision to write about the suicide of his sister.

Also this week: America’s favorite TV couples. Plus we answer a listener question about fighting with your romantic partner. How much bickering and annoyance should you tolerate in a relationship? At what point is it time to bail? If you want to ask us a love-related question, send us an email, or hit us up on Twitter. But get them in soon, because the Summer of Love, sadly, won’t last forever.

Our episode this week is sponsored by a listener, Mike Prask, whose essay, “The Big Deal,” you can purchase as an Amazon single. The piece is about his daughter, who suffers from Rett Syndrome, a severe neurological condition that affects one in every 10,000 girls. All the proceeds from sales of the essay will be donated to The Rett Syndrome Research Trust. You can read more from Mike at his website, where he blogs regularly about his life and his daughter.

As always, we’re happy to hear what you think about the stuff we discussed on this week’s show. Email us, Tweet at us, leave a comment here on the episode post. And come check us out on Facebook, where we are still getting the hang of things, but are gradually posting more content, and where your likes and shares and whatnot will possibly help us find new listeners.

You can stream this week’s episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. You can also visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, to download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

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Episode 90: Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget

This week’s episode is a bit different from our normal routine. After reading Sarah Hepola’s memoir, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, we were prompted to discuss our own drinking habits, and whether we should be concerned about them. We recount our own histories with alcohol, including times we’ve felt we had our drinking under control and times we’ve been concerned about it. All in the service of answering a pretty tough question: how do you know when your drinking has become a problem?

Blackout_Cover

Of course we also talk about the book itself, in which Hepola recounts her own arc of addiction, relapse, and eventual recovery. Hepola is a naturally funny writer, and infuses her story with a good bit of self-deprecating humor, which makes the book stand out in a crowded field of (often melodramatic) addiction narratives. She also examines her drinking through a gendered lens, considering how being a problem drinker as a woman is different from being a problem drinker as a man. You can read an interview with Hepola here, at The Rumpus, in which she talks about the process of acknowledging her own drinking problems and the process of writing the book.

And here’s a link to the Caroline Knapp memoir, Drinking: A Love Story, which Hepola discusses in her book and which Mike also read and discussed a bit during the episode.

As always, we’re happy to hear what you think about the stuff we talked about this week. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we are slowly getting better about posting candid studio photos and links to stuff we’ve talked about on the show.

Stream the episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

Stream:

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Thanks for listening!


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Summer of Love: George Saunders, “The Barber’s Unhappiness”

This week we’re discussing the George Saunders story, “The Barber’s Unhappiness,” about a sad-sack guy with jacked-up toes who wants companionship but can’t seem to get out of his own way. We consider the story’s lessons about love and superficiality, and the line between generous and mean-spirited humor.

Also this week, we discuss the origins of computer dating, and how online dating just gives people new ways to be shallow. Plus America’s favorite wedding songs! And Tom talks about a woman he dated who isn’t his wife!

As always, we’re happy to hear what you think about the stuff we discussed on this week’s show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we are slowly getting better about posting candid studio photos and links to stuff we’ve talked about on the show.

Stream the episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

Stream:

Download Summer of Love #2 (right-click, save-as)

Thanks for listening!


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Episode 89: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens

This week’s book is a bit outside our usual reading habits, but it was chosen for us by a donor to the show during our last fund drive. Neither of us had read anything by either Gaiman or Pratchett before, though we were both aware of their reputations, and we knew this book in particular was something of a cult classic. So we gave it a read, and then tried to figure out what it was, exactly, that made it so beloved to so many people.

Gaiman

During the episode we talk about the book’s humor, and whether it’s appropriate for adults. We try to decide if it’s a satire and, if so, what exactly it’s satirizing. We contemplate the possibility we’re both just a couple of grumps. Oh, and we shit on The Goonies a little, too, just for good measure.

Enjoy!

Here’s a link to the Tom Robbins episode we mentioned a couple times. Here’s a link to Philip Hoare’s The Sea Inside, and his previous book The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea. Speaking of our recommendations, you can follow Mike on Instagram @mikeingram00.

As always, we’re happy to hear what you think about the stuff we discussed. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we are slowly getting better about posting candid studio photos and links to stuff we’ve talked about on the show.

Stream the episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

Stream the episode:

Download the episode (right-click, save-as)

Thanks for listening!

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