Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Where to start

Hello, new friends and/or future enemies: thanks to this post at The Millions, we’ve been getting lots of traffic today from people presumably trying to figure out what our whole deal is. It can be pretty daunting to figure out where to start any new podcast, but especially one that has a 4 year backlog of weekly episodes (understandably, the author of the post at The Millions was a little thrown by our… unorthodox… episode numbering system, and though that post says we have 130 episodes, we have something closer to 250).

So, if you’re new here and trying to figure out where to begin, some suggestions:

1) Our 2015 Year in Review post will point you to a lot of the highlights

2) This post from April 2015 was my previous attempt to help people find an entry point

3) This very generous review by Marie Manthe names some of her favorite all-time episodes

4) My favorite episodes from this year, which for obvious reasons aren’t included in the 2015 recap:

5) UPDATED 1/3/17: We recently posted our 2016 highlights, in case you’re looking for even more suggestions.

People love different things about this show, so your favorites might differ from mine. But hopefully this helps you get started.

 


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Episode 178: Kiese Laymon, Long Division

This week we welcome special guest andre carrington, professor at Drexel University and author of the book Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction. Andre chose our reading, Long Division, a novel by Kiese Laymon that involves time travel, overlapping narratives and some rather complex metafiction.

We talk about the book’s complicated plot, and whether it’s a strength or a weakness of the novel. We also talk about genre lines, how we draw them, and whether it’s even worth drawing them. In the second half of the show, we talk to andre about his work, race in science fiction, fan fiction, and writing for academic versus non-academic audiences.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, by clicking on the player below. You can also download the mp3 file, and play it on your preferred device. Or check us out in the iTunes store, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Long Division


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Episode 177: Spring Fling, William Trevor (“A Bit on the Side”)

This week we’re talking about a William Trevor story, “A Bit on the Side,” which traces the final moments of an affair. The story comes from his collection of the same name, first published in 2005.

We also discuss the curious case of Alexander Maksik, whose debut novel, You Deserve Nothing, was perhaps based on his own illicit affair with a 17-year-old student while he was teaching in Paris. The novel earned rave reviews, and this piece of reporting by Jezebel, which included interviews with former students of Maksik’s, didn’t seem to get much traction in the literary world.

Plus: literary gossip! Dating advice! And much, much more.

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

Stream Episode 177:

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Episode 176: Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (w/ Dave Housley)

We welcome special guest Dave Housley, founding editor of Barrelhouse Magazine, and author of several books, most recently the short story collection Massive Cleansing Fire. Dave chose this week’s book, the best-selling post-apocalyptic Station Eleven.

In the second half of the show, Dave reads a bit of fanfiction, and the less said about that the better.

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

We’ve also joined Patreon, if you’d like to support the show. We’ll be recording bonus episodes that will only be available to listeners who kick in $5 a month–a pretty great bargain, considering that all our regular episodes (4 a month!) are free.

Stream Episode 176:

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Episode 175: Adrian Tomine, Killing and Dying

Look, here’s the thing: These episodes can’t all be winners. Sometimes we’re tired, and scattered, and overworked, and we spend upwards of ten minutes talking about onions? On the other hand, maybe that sort of thing is exactly what you like. Who can say? It’s difficult to quantify our particular desires.

The book we talked about this week is definitely worth checking out: Adrian Tomine first popped up on Mike’s radar after he checked a couple books of his out of the university library, including his graphic novel, Shortcomings, and a story collection, Summer Blonde.

Tomine’s newest book, Killing and Dying, contains six stories representing a wide range of styles and characters.

Anyway, we talked about a bunch of nonsense. But also the book, sort of. Sorry, everybody. We’ll run wind sprints and do squat thrusts until we’ve learned our lesson.

As always, you can stream the episode by clicking on the player below, or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another installment.

Stream Episode 175:

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Episode 174: Spring Fling, A.M. Homes (“A Real Doll”)

This week’s story is about an adolescent boy who starts “dating” his sister’s Barbie doll, and later he does some weird stuff with Ken. You can read “A Real Doll’ via The Barcelona Review. The story is also collected in A.M. Homes’ book The Safety of Objects.

Also this week, we discuss the time Robert Olen Butler went viral for the wrong reasons (his wife left him for Ted Turner and he wrote a weird email about it). We also pay homage to the HBO series Real Sex, a show that was sex-positive before sex-positive was a term. And Mike gives some more dating advice, this time on ghosting.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to play on your preferred device. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or through whichever app you use to get your podcasts.

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Episode 173: Spring Fling, Mary Gaitskill (“The Secretary”)

This week we’re starting a new seasonal feature: Spring Fling. We’ll be reading stories about romance, sex, lust, love, and other affairs of the heart. First up is Mary Gaitskill’s spare, understated story “The Secretary,” which some of you may know as the source material for the 2002 Maggie Gylenhaal / James Spader film. But while the film and story definitely share some DNA, the two are quite different, both in terms of plot and their main characters’ attitudes toward the dominant/submissive relationship they’ve stumbled into.

During Spring Fling we’ll also be bringing you stories of authorial romances and affairs. This week we’ve got some tales of H.G. Wells’s sexual adventurings. Plus an exploration of the science behind spring-time romance. And dating advice!

Strap yourselves in, listeners.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, by clicking the player below. Or download the mp3 file to play on whatever device you’d like. You can also find us in the iTunes store, which is probably the easiest option: download back episodes and subscribe (for free!) so you never miss another installment.

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Episode 172: George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

We’re back, baby! And we’re talking about George Saunders’ new novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, a story about a bunch of spooky ghosts hanging out in a graveyard with Abraham Lincoln’s son. We’re both fans of Saunders’ work, so we were curious to see whether we’d like this new one, which is a bit of a departure for him–or perhaps an evolution?

Also: Cheers fan fiction! So that’s pretty exciting.

Oh, and here’s a link to the Laura Miller piece we talked about in the second half, if you’d like to read it for yourself.

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 weekly installment.

Stream Episode 172:

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