Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Fall of Failure Episode 3: Kseniya Melnik, “Strawberry Lipstick,” and Failed Dog Breeds

This week our short story comes from Kseniya Melnik, whose debut collection, Snow in May, came out this spring from Macmillan. The story we chose, “Strawberry Lipstick,” traces the increasingly troubled marriage of a young woman in 1950s Russia.

SnowInMay

We’re also continuing our Fall of Failure theme by looking into failed dog breeds, including one, the “turnspit,” that people put into their ovens, because humans are total garbage monsters. We also talk about the Moscow Water Dog, the Hawaiian Poi Dog, and several other breeds that, for one reason or another, either went extinct or never quite lived up to their initial billing.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to whenever you want. You can also visit us in the iTunes store, where you can find back episodes and subscribe (for free) to never miss another installment.

We’re always interested in hearing your thoughts on what we talked about. You can send us an email, tweet at us, or just leave a comment on this here post.

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Episode 70: William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

Hey, have you heard of this William Faulkner fellow? Turns out he’s kind of a big deal. If you’ve been waiting to dive in and read (or re-read) Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, now’s the week to do it. Or, just listen to us yap about it for an hour and then you can pretend you’ve read it at various literary parties and state dinners.

AsILayDying

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the little player thingy below. Or download the mp3 file and do with it what you will. You can also visit us in the iTunes store, where you can download individual episodes or subscribe (for free!) and never miss another episode.

Our recommendations this week: Check out Lockjaw Magazine, where you can read lots of cool stuff and submit your own work. Also, Michael Garriga’s The Book of Duels.

And while we’ve got your attention, how about buying yourself–and/or your loved ones–a Book Fight t-shirt? They’re quite handsome/sexy, and everyone will know you’re the kind of cool man or lady who both reads books and understands technology.

Thanks, as always, for listening to the show, and helping to spread the words to your literature-loving friends. If you’ve got feedback for us, we’re happy to hear it. You can email us, Tweet at us, or just leave a comment here on the site.

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Live from the Spiral Bookcase in Manayunk!

This week: Our first-ever live podcast event! We recorded an entire show live, in front of actual humans, at The Spiral Bookcase, a great indie bookstore in Manayunk, just outside Center City Philadelphia and only a couple blocks from Tom’s ancestral home. We talked to Ann Tetreault (owner of said bookstore), Joey Sweeney (musician, writer, proprietor of Philebrity.com), Katherine Hill (fan favorite, author of The Violet Hour) and Lee Klein (author of Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck, and The Shimmering Go-Between).

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Topics on the menu included: what it’s like to run an indie bookstore in 2014, Philadelphia’s culture of complaint, the sometimes annoying ways in which people use Kickstarter, Philadelphia’s upcoming 215 Literary Festival, the Washington Football Team, the ups and downs of being a first-time author, unicorn ties, and what to do when Marilynne Robinson doesn’t like your book about auto-fellation.

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Also, Joey played us some music! And there was an awesome cat!

Sadly, you can’t hear the cat. You can, however, hear the rest of us. As usual, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file and do with it what you will. You can also check us out in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another installment. If you like the show, come on back next week for a new episode, and tell your friends. Thanks for listening!

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Fall of Failure Episode 2: Bechdel and Betamax

Welcome back to the Fall of Failure! This week we’re looking at an excerpt from Fun Home, the 2006 graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, who just a couple weeks ago was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant. So: definitely not a failure. But you know what was a failure? Betamax. Such a failure, in fact, that people still use “betamax” as slang for failed products, or the verb form as the act of failing. Which is, in a weird way, a kind of success? The Fall of Failure is only a couple weeks old and already it’s full of conundrums.

Fun_Home_cover

The bit we chose from the Bechdel book was excerpted in the 2007 edition of The Best American Nonrequired Reading, edited by Dave Eggers. That edition also contains a couple Barrelhouse pieces: Lee Klein’s essay “All Aboard the Bloated Boat,” about Barry Bonds and steroids, and a few Ed Asner poems by Greg Ames, one of which you can read here.

We talk about the ethics involved in writing about family: Who gets to tell your family’s story? What stories belong to you? Should you worry about the repercussions of portraying family members in your work? Should you honor family members’ requests that you keep certain things private? Mike talks about his own family’s reaction to a recent essay about his grandfather, which appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of The North American Review. And Tom talks about a former bully’s reaction to hearing that Tom had written about him in his memoir.

Also: Betamax. Why did it lose out to VHS, despite evidence that it was the superior technology? What did Sony do wrong, and JVC do right? And did pornography have anything to do with it?

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As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to whenever you want. You can also visit us in the iTunes store, where you can find back episodes and subscribe (for free) to never miss another installment.

Thanks for listening! We’re always interested in hearing your thoughts on what we talked about. You can send us an email, tweet at us, or just leave a comment on this here post.

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Episode 69: Andre Dubus III, Townie: A Memoir

This week we’re talking about the 2011 memoir from Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog and son of the acclaimed short story writer Andre Dubus. The book details the younger Dubus’s childhood in a series of rough New England neighborhoods, his eventual prowess as a fighter, his struggles to find better outlets for his anger, and his evolving relationship with a mostly absent father.

Townie

Also: the first installment of a new feature, Raccoon News.

As for the book, we talk about the need to balance thoroughness with concision in memoir, the arc of Dubus’s life and whether aspects of that arc have been artificially shaped in the narrative. Though there’s a lot to admire about the memoir, including its examination of male violence, and the transformation Dubus underwent as he learned to replace his anger with empathy.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or check us out in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another installment.

Thanks for listening! And we hope we’ll see some of you this Thursday (Sept. 25) at our first-ever live event at the Spiral Bookcase in Philadelphia!

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Fall of Failure Episode 1: J.D. Daniels, “Letter from Majorca”

This week we’re debuting a new series: the Fall of Failure. In these episode we’ll be talking about short stories and essays and also discussing failure in all its permutations: artistic failures, personal failures, military failures, and flops of all kinds. If you have suggestions for failures we should discuss, feel free to leave them in the comments, email us, or hit us up on Twitter.

In today’s episode we’re discussing the J.D. Daniels essay “Letter from Majorca,” which you can read on the Paris Review website. Mike recommended the essay way back in Episode 39, before we were discussing short pieces on the show, and wanted to revisit it now.

We also talk about the concept of failure: why it’s artistically interesting, why it’s important for people to fail, and why Americans, in particular, seem so lousy at it.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also check us out in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free) and never miss another installment. Also: we’ve now got t-shirts! Stop walking around shirtless, like some sort of creep. Support the show while hiding your shame!

We’ve also got an upcoming live event, September 25 at the Spiral Bookcase in Philadelphia. If you live in the area, please come out and join us!

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Episode 68: Kenzaburo Oe, A Personal Matter

This week we have another Tom pick, perhaps the best-known novel by Japanese writer Kenzaburo Oe, first published in 1964 (Oe won the Nobel Prize thirty years later). The semi-autobiographical novel follows Bird, a young father deciding whether to save his son–born with what appears to be a severe birth defect–or allow him to die.

a-personal-matter book jacket

We talk about the book’s rather graphic–and sometimes violent–sex scenes, as well as its portrayal of hospitals and medical professionals. Plus we’ve got another edition of our Sticks and Stones segment. And raccoon facts!

As always, you can stream the episode here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or check us out in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another episode. Thanks for listening! We’d love your feedback on what we talked about. Feel free to leave a comment here on the site, send us an email, or hit us up on Twitter.

Oh! And we have t-shirts, which are now available for pre-order in our store.

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