Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

Episode 197: Fall of Frauds, Robert Olen Butler (“Mid-Autumn”)

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To be clear, right from the start, the point of this week’s episode is not to call Robert Olen Butler a fraud. In fact we both quite enjoyed his story, “Mid-Autumn,” from his 1992 collection, A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain. But it occurred to us that if this book were published today, it might get a few more sideways glances, since it’s a white American author telling the first-person stories of Vietnamese immigrants and refugees. So we thought it could be a good jumping-off point for a discussion of where those lines are. Should writers be able to tell whatever stories they want, as Lionel Shriver famously argued last year? At what point should we be concerned about issues of cultural appropriation?

In the second half of the show, we talk about the case of Michael Derrick Hudson, who in 2015 set off a lit-world firestorm when he admitted that he’d submitted a poem to a bunch of journals using a fake Chinese name. One of those poems was eventually selected by Sherman Alexie to be part of the Best American Poetry anthology for that year, at which point Hudson came clean, and Alexie did some soul-searching.

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, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, you can subscribe to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we discuss the wide world of romance novels.

Stream Episode 197:

Download Episode 197 (right-click, save-as)

Thanks for listening!


Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

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