Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

Spring of Spite: Richard Yates, “Oh Joseph, I’m So Tired”


Welcome to your first installment in the Spring of Spite! For the next several weeks we’ll be reading stories and essays that take “spite” as their theme (or that seem to have been motivated by it) while also discussing spite in all its many forms. Or at least some of its forms! We hope that you’ll join us.

This week, we’re reading a Richard Yates story from his second collection, Liars in Love. The story takes aim at Yates’s mother, with whom he had a rather complicated relationship. In “Oh Joseph, I’m So Tired,” her (barely) fictional stand-in sculpts a bust of FDR but fails to make the splash she’d hoped for. She also hears some mean-spirited gossip about herself, though she then turns around and blasts the perpetrator of said gossip with some pretty gross, anti-semitic insults. The reader is likely to feel toward her a mix of pity and scorn.

You can read the original New York Times review of Liars in Love here; it includes some specific praise for this story. The reviewer notes that the character of Helen appears, more or less, in several other Yates stories, as well as in the novel A Special Providence, but says “she has never been more comically or pathetically portrayed” than in today’s story pick.

As for spite: We spend some time this week talking about the psychology behind it, and whether it might be useful to us, as a society if not individually. Tom also dug up this NPR piece about the science behind spite.

Mike’s got a report on spite houses, which until doing research for this show he never knew existed. Here’s a pretty good explanation of the phenomenon from the Atlantic’s City Lab blog, including some specific examples. And here’s a blog write-up about Charles Crocker’s Nob Hill spite fence, which includes a link to these famous (and really cool) panoramic images of San Francisco. If you scroll to the right (and a little bit down) on the photograph, you’ll see both Crocker’s mansion and the crazy fence he built to wall off his neighbor’s house.

As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the things we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

Thanks for listening! And please come on back next week!


Download Spring of Spite: Richard Yates (right-click, save-as)


Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

3 thoughts on “Spring of Spite: Richard Yates, “Oh Joseph, I’m So Tired”

  1. Pingback: Spring of Spite: Richard Yates, “Oh Joseph, I’m So Tired” - Foxhead Books

  2. if you want to hear more about the spite fence, the dollop did an episode about it:, it’s just… amazing

  3. Pingback: 2015: The Book Fight! Year in Review | Book Fight!

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