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 187, Summer of Selfies: Hunter S. Thompson

This week we’re discussing Hunter S. Thompson’s famous essay on the Kentucky Derby, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” which many credit as the starting point for the author’s gonzo style of journalism. Neither of us had read the piece before, and we realized that a lot of our impressions of Thompson were based on his legend, more so than on the work itself.

You can read the essay itself, as well as some notes on its creation and publication, in this piece put together by Grantland a few years ago.

Also this week, we discuss the phenomenon of raccoon selfies, and animal selfies more generally. Plus: tourists who pay to take pictures with docile (and likely mistreated) tigers and elephants, and why are there so many car selfies on dating sites? As always, you can count on Book Fight to tackle the big questions.

Stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or, find us in the iTunes store, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you like the show, please consider joining our Patreon: for a measly $5 a month, you’ll get a monthly bonus episode (Book Fight After Dark!) and we’ll blurb you on the show.

Stream Episode 187:

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Episode 186: Summer of Selfies #1 (Jia Tolentino, “The Personal-Essay Boom is Over”)

This week we’re kicking off a new season of Book Fight, and also retooling the show a bit. From here on it, all of our readings–books, essays, and stories–will correspond to that season’s theme. For each season, we’ll read three books (a Mike pick, a Tom pick, and a joint pick neither of us has read before). We’ll also read a bunch of stories, essays, and even some criticism, to fully explore that season’s topic.

For summer, we’ll be doing what we’re calling the Summer of Selfies, in which all our readings will be autobiographical pieces. But we’re not just reading first-person books and stories, along with some personal essays. We’ll be exploring the various dimensions of autobiographical writing, and delving into various controversies around personal writing, whether that’s authors alienating people in their lives or sowing doubt about what’s real and what’s not.

In our first installment for the Summer of Selfies, we’ve chosen a Jia Tolentino essay from The New Yorker. It’s not a personal essay itself, but instead a think piece on the state of the personal essay. So it seemed like a good starting point for talking about first-person writing in 2017.

We talk about whether the personal essay is dead, and whether the term “personal essay” is, itself, too broad a term to really be useful. We revisit the internet writing of the early 2000’s, and speculate about how internet culture shaped the literary essay.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the player below. Or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe (for free!) so you never miss another installment.

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Book Fight After Dark, Free Preview (full episode available to subscribers)

Hey, everybody! Today marks the debut of our new Book Fight After Dark series, which will be available to anyone who subscribes to our Patreon at $5 a month or more. We’re moving to this model, instead of our usual end-of-year fundraising drive, because it seems a bit simpler, and it gives donors more bonus content. Each month, we’ll record a special bonus episode–for the foreseeable future, these will all be about romance novels, as we explore the many, many subgenres of romance/erotica. Neither of us is a regular romance reader, but we’re ready to learn!

First up, this month we’re talking about a NASCAR-themed romance (yes, that’s a thing that exists).

If you’ve already donated to our Patreon, just go straight to that page to access the full episode. You’ll have a few options for listening: 1) Stream the bonus episode directly on Patreon; 2) Download an mp3 file of the episode, via Patreon; or 3) Copy the private RSS feed (you’ll see it over on the Patreon page), then put that into your preferred podcast player–this option should allow the episodes to download automatically, each month, just like our regular episodes do, though they’ll be in their own feed.

If you haven’t donated yet, what are you waiting for? You already get four free episodes a month–which won’t change–and your donation helps keep the show up and running. Plus: romance novels! What more could a person want? If you’re still not convinced, take a listen to this brief excerpt, and see if it’s for you. If it is, here’s your next stop.

Stream Free Preview:

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Thanks for listening! And for supporting the show!


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Episode 185: Bohumil Hrabal, Closely Watched Trains

This week on the podcast, we attempt to answer the age-old question: Do you read the foreward first, or do you wait and go back to it once you’re finished with the book? Also we dig into a classic of Czech literature, talk about translations, and for some reason we do a pretty deep dive into the McDonaldland universe.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our website, by clicking on the player below. 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.

Note: We just recorder our very first episode of Book Fight After Dark, in which we discussed a Harlequin romance novel about a NASCAR driver and an actuary. It’ll be coming out soon, and if you want it, you need to subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month. Your subscription helps support the show, which will continue to deliver 4 free episodes each month, and you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode. Quite the bargain, if you ask us.

Whether you subscribe or not, we appreciate you listening! And if you like the show, please help spread the word to your book-loving friends.

Stream Episode 185:

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See you again next week!


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Episode 184: Daniel Clowes, Patience

This week we’re discussing the latest graphic novel from Daniel Clowes. It’s a bit of a departure from his most popular work, incorporating elements of noir and also science fiction.

Oh, also, in the second half of the show, we dig into some Garfield fan fiction. We bet you’ll be surprised to find what your favorite lasagna-eating feline is up to these days.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, by clicking the player below, or you can download the mp3 file. Even better: find us in the iTunes store, or wherever you get your podcasts, so you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another installment.

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Episode 183: Spring Fling, Lydia Davis (“Break It Down”)

Hello, listeners! It’s the last week of our spring season, in which we’ve been reading stories about various types of flings. For this final installment, we’re discussing the Lydia Davis story “Break It Down,” from her collection of the same name. In the story, a man tries to calculate the literal cost of a love affair, though that accounting is really just a vehicle for considering the ways even a short-lived relationship–especially a short-lived relationship?–can leave lasting psychic marks.

Here’s a picture of the author, along with a quite lovely cat.

Also this week, we wrap up our discussion of literary affairs by looking at romances between writers that were actually successful. Thanks to this Lit Hub piece, by Emily Temple, for providing us lots of discussion fodder.

We’ve also got a final installment of dating advice for writers, plus some literary quotes that may (or may not) help you get that special someone into the sack.

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

Stream Episode 183:

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Episode 182: Carolyn Nowak, Diana’s Electric Tongue (w/ special guests Claire Folkman and Kelly Phillips)

This week we welcome back fan favorites Claire Folkman and Kelly Phillips, comic artists and publishers of the Dirty Diamonds anthology series, which is about to put out its eighth collection of comics by female artists, this time on the theme of sex. The Kickstarter for the anthology is running through the end of the month, so go chip in some money and get a copy of the beautiful book when it comes out.

Claire and Kelly picked our book this week, which is a comic by Carolyn Nowak called Diana’s Electric Tongue. It’s about a woman who mail-order’s a robot companion, on the heels of a rough breakup with a minor celebrity.

Topics of conversation include: personalized book inscriptions; things about comics you only notice on a second or third read; running a small press; working with your friends without driving each other crazy; and why Tom has never taken Mike for a panzarotti.

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

Stream Episode 182:

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Thanks for listening!