Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


Leave a comment

Episode 334: When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

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.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

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.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 334:

Download Episode 334


Leave a comment

Episode 333: What Are Personal Essays For?

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.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

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.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 333:

Download Episode 333


Leave a comment

Episode 332: Rich People Problems

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?

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

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.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 332:

Download Episode 332


Leave a comment

Episode 331: Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

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!

For those of you playing along at home, here are the covers from our Judge A Book By Its Cover segment:

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

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.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 331:

Download Episode 331


Leave a comment

Episode 330: The Politics of Absurdity

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!

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

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.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 330:

Download Episode 330


Leave a comment

Episode 329: Elon Musk Shoots a Rocket to Mars

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 some 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 has seen.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

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.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 329:

Download Episode 329


1 Comment

Episode 328: A.S. Byatt, “Art Work”

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!

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

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.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 328:

Download Episode 328


Leave a comment

Episode 327: John Jeremiah Sullivan, “Upon This Rock”

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 each year in rural Pennsylvania and attracts upwards of 50,000 people a 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.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

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.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 327:

Download Episode 327


Leave a comment

Episode 326: Rachel B. Glaser, “Pee On Water”

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.

Here are the covers in question, if you’d like to play along at home.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

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.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 326:

Download Episode 326


Leave a comment

Episode 325: Zadie Smith on Writing Outside Your Experience

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 show, we try out a new segment in which Tom explores his old CD collection and rates his former self.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

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.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 325:

Download Episode 325