Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

Episode 50: 2013 Christmas Spectacular

9 Comments

What’s that under the tree? Is it a very special episode of your favorite literature-adjacent podcast? (Spoiler: it is.) Since last year’s Christmas episode was such a fan favorite, this year we’re back with another supersized, end-of-the-year holiday blowout. We’ve read two books–one a steamy, Christmas-themed romance, the other … some dumb thing by James Patterson. Both of which we’ll dissect for your entertainment. So throw another yule log on the fire, add an extra shot of brandy to your eggnog, and tune out your loved ones by listening to the dulcet tones of your two favorite podcasters as they get increasingly angry about crimes against both Christmas and literature.

First up is a novella, “The Christmas Present,” by New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster, part of a three-novella collection of Christmas-themed romances. It is delightfully odd, the story of a man who trails a woman across several states and attempts to bludgeon her into marrying him. That might sound like the plot of a horror film, but we’re pretty sure it’s meant to be sweet and romantic.

I_m_Your_santa

Next up, we consider James Patterson’s The Christmas Wedding, a book that, frankly, is a crime against humanity. That it took two people to write this book, both of whom are presumably native English speakers (Richard DiLallo gets a co-author credit) is perhaps the strangest thing about this very strange book. The story’s protagonist, a mid-50s widow, has been proposed to by three men, and she’s given each of them a provisional yes: she’ll have a wedding on Christmas, and only on the wedding day will she reveal which man she’ll choose. Like the male lead in Foster’s novella, we’re pretty sure this narcissistic lunatic is meant to be sympathetic, even “adorably quirky.”

PattersonChristmas

For more on Patterson’s “writing factory,” which neither of us knew all that much about at the time of recording, here’s a not-entirely-unsympathetic article from The Guardian. If you’d like to read more about Lori Foster–who apparently releases six to ten books a year (!)–check out her profile on the Harlequin website.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the file to play on whatever mobile device you prefer. You can also subscribe to the show (for free) in iTunes, or using just about any podcast app (we’re fans of Instacast, but live your life however you want).

Stream:

Download the 2013 Christmas Spectacular (mp3 file)

This is your last week to donate to our end-of-year fund drive and claim your donor gift(s). We’re still a couple hundred bucks short of our overall goal; if we hit that goal we’ll put together a special bonus episode on a book chosen by our listeners. So maybe you’d like to throw a little bit of your Christmas money our way? Visit our support page, where you can see all the details on donor gifts and make a secure donation with Paypal.

And thanks, everyone, for another great year. We’re taking next week off, though if you donated $20 or more to our annual fund drive (it’s not too late!), we’ll send out a link for a special bonus episode on Rush Limbaugh’s YA novel Rush Revere, so you can get your weekly Book Fight fix. For everyone else, we’ll be back in the new year with new episodes.

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Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

9 thoughts on “Episode 50: 2013 Christmas Spectacular

  1. I read a shit ton of romance novels in high school. I’ve never read any Lori Foster, but many romance novel authors with similar mega-prolific careers (Nora Roberts, Johanna Lindsey, Sherrilyn Kenyon, etc.) will take one family or group of friends and drag their stories out into a series of books (usually 3-5 books per series with one couple per book). A common trope in these series is checking back in on the other couples from earlier novels and showing a brief scene of each of them in a state of uncomplicated marital bliss (so that would explain your confusion about the lack of characterization for the rest of the family). There’s also a kind of shorthand for avid readers in all romance novels that the main male character is inherently good, so that tends to excuse him of behaviors that no real human could get away with (up to and including stalking and rape–seriously). This fact is emphasized even more when the story is 1/3 of the length of a traditional book (if they spent more time justifying his actions, there’d be less time for sex scenes!). While it’s easy to pick apart the books as an adult, I think the appeal of them to me as a teenager was how simple relationships were portrayed–even when there were deep, dramatic conflicts (pirates, for example), you knew that around page 286, the couple would be reunited and would literally never have a problem again for the duration of their relationship.

    I enjoy all your episodes, but this one was particularly interesting to hear some men talk about the absurdity of a genre whose tropes are so deeply familiar to me.

    Also, this is a throwback, but I just heard the episode from a while ago when you got that aggro Young Adult reader who harassed you about your lack of understanding in the genre. Personally, I think it’s cool that you read any of it (it’s weird to assume that adults should HAVE to read it). That being said, if you guys ever decide to discuss another one, I would really like to hear your take on John Green’s _Looking for Alaska._ I mostly read literary fiction and it’s the best YA novel I’ve come across.

    • Thanks for the comment, Louise. Interesting to hear the background on some of these romance novel tropes; obviously, we’re both new to these, so it’s helpful to know that Lori Foster is working within the conventions of the genre, rather than being sort of a crazy person.

      We’ll add the John Green book to the list of considerations, too. As my nieces get older, I want to be able to buy them good books instead of terrible books, so it’ll be nice to have some familiarity with high quality YA writing.

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  3. (sorry it took a week to get back to you. I’m bad at this).

  4. I just started listening to your podcasts and am working my way through them all. I have to say I am now addicted – thanks for the hilarity and insight. Just wanted to make mention that it was great to hear two guys talk about how silly and just plain unacceptable the main characters behaviours were. While I have never read either of these books, and hopefully never have to, I can explored a few romance novels in my youth and they all seem to be the same sad sack of bleep, over and over again, just in slightly different packaging from what I can tell. Unfortunately these books are written for an audience whose minds have been shaped by society to believe that this is what “love” looks like and that this is how men and women should act. Or at least the less critical thinking ones? Bah. Anyways, addressing the gender stereotype that is perpetuated by the romance genre, media, crap magazines (that women are weak-willed, stupid, have no emotional awareness and need a constantly sexually aroused man to set us straight, men should be jacked on steroids and buffoons) the way you did was pretty great. Light with humour but also sensibly pointing out that some of what the author has written as desirable traits are just bullshit. Also, your dramatic reading of the scene between Beth and Levi was brilliant. I’d like to request more of those (the readings, that is). The delivery seemed on.
    I’m really looking forward to listening to more of your podcasts.

  5. Thanks, Kristen! Glad to hear you’re enjoying the show, and that we managed to say some useful things between our dumb jokes.

    This year’s Christmas episode likely won’t have a romantic plot (well, one sort of does? It’s hard to explain), but I can at least assure you that it’s another very bad book.

    • Thanks for the speedy response. Amazing (or not?) to hear about the next Christmas book. Should be entertaining. Just reread my comment, apologies. Long day led to a few extra/misplaced words. You got the gist though.

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