Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 387: Christian Tebordo

We’re joined by Christian Tebordo, author of several books and director of the MFA program at Roosevelt University in Chicago. We talk about how current students respond to ambiguity in stories, how small presses have evolved over the last several years, and why The Apology might be the most earnest book Tebordo will ever write.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

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Episode 386: Kory Stamper

We’re joined by Kory Stamper, professional lexicographer and author of the book Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, who chose a modern retelling of Beowulf for us to read. We consider how the epic poem translates to the contemporary American suburbs, and also why Beowulf has been so enduring in the first place. We also talk to Kory about her former job at Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the politics of language, and why we’re right to roll our eyes at people who correct our grammar.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

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Episode 385: Elisa Gabbert

We’re joined by Elisa Gabbert (The Unreality of Memory) to discuss Benjamin Labatut’s When We Cease to Understand the World, a book that is mostly nonfiction–about scientists whose discoveries pushed them in the direction of madness–with some fictional flourishes. We talk about genre distinctions, reading works in translation, and why fall is the best season.

We also rope Elisa into helping us answer a couple questions from the NaNoWriMo forums about naming cars and what life is like under the sea.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

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Episode 384: Katherine Hill

It’s been a minute since we had Katherine Hill on the show, but long-time listeners may remember her multiple past appearances, including one in which we discussed Judy Blume’s Forever and another in which Mike failed to finish the very long book that Katherine picked. But now she’s back, and we’re delving into one of her recent favorites, The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevson, a three-part memoir that was recently released in a single hardback edition, to much buzz on the literary internet. We talk about the book’s blunt, unsentimental style, and why critics are so keen on putting it into the category of “autofiction.”

We also rope Katherine into taking a trip with us to the National Novel Writing Month forums, where we try to help writers with their world-building and character naming.

You can learn more about Katherine–and her books!–on her website, here: https://www.katherine-hill.com/

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

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Episode 383: A.R. Moxon

This week, we’re joined by the writer Andrew Moxon (author of the novel The Revisionaries), who read Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion as an undergrad and wanted to see if it would hold up some twenty years later. We talk about our respective relationships with historical fiction, as well as what it’s like–for Andrew, at least–to gain more than 30,000 Twitter followers in a single day.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

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Episode 382: Dan McQuade

This week, we’re joined by Dan McQuade (Defector Media) to discuss humor columnist Dave Barry’s debut novel, Big Trouble. Both Dan and Mike were big fans of Dave Barry’s humor writing as teens, while Tom apparently skipped right over his newspaper column each week on his way to The Family Circus and Heathcliff. We talk about how difficult it can be to maintain a consistent tone in a “wacky” novel, as well as the ill-fated movie version of the book, which had the bad fortune of having a September 2001 release date as well as a climactic scene featuring a bomb on a plane. We also talk to Dan about Defector Media, the worker-owned company he’s been writing for since the collapse, via venture capital shitheads, of Deadspin.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

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Episode 381: Ben Winters

This week, we’re joined by Ben Winters (Golden State, The Quiet Boy) to discuss a Stanley Fish book about how to write great sentences. We talk about our love-hate relationships with craft books, why our first drafts are such a mess, and the false dichotomy of “language” vs “plot” when attempting to categorize writers. We also chat with Ben about his unusual writing career, which began with being hired to write the novel Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters for Quirk Books.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

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Episode 380: Lilly Dancyger

This week, Lilly Dancyger (Negative Space) joins us to discuss an essay about creepy men and harassment by Melissa Febos, “Intrusions.” We talk about what makes this essay stand out in a crowded field of personal essays, and what writers of creative nonfiction can learn from it, particularly the way it operates in multiple modes that allows the author to approach her subject from a variety of angles. We also talk to Lilly about teaching creative nonfiction, why editing personal essays started to give her “trauma fatigue,” and how to balance your desire for “exposure” with your desire for being able to pay your rent.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

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Episode 379: Adam O’Fallon Price

This week, novelist Adam O’Fallon Price (The Hotel Neversink) joins us to discuss a strange, short novel by Muriel Spark called The Driver’s Seat, in which a woman travels to the south of Italy to find someone who will murder her. We talk about the book’s detached, somewhat cold point of view, its narrative leaps into the future tense, and just what to make of its odd cast of characters. We also talk to Adam about his relationship to the mystery genre, how his agent talked him out of writing a linked story collection, and why he left his music career to make a life as a writer instead.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

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Episode 378: Emily Adrian

This week, Emily Adrian (The Second Season) joins us to discuss a book she’d never read, Frederick Exley’s 1968 “fictional memoir” A Fan’s Notes. The book mirrors Exley’s own experience with mental health facilities, as well as his lifelong obsession with the New York Giants’ star Frank Gifford. We also talk about Emily’s new novel, about a trailblazing female sportscaster, why certain men can’t seem to believe she understands basketball, and the differences between podiums and lecterns.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

Stream or download Episode 378 here:

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