Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

Episode 260: Winter of Wayback, 1991 (Nelson Algren Prize Winners)


It’s the second week of our tour through the 1990s, which means we’re on to 1991. For our reading this week we chose two stories: the winner and runner-up in the annual Nelson Algren Fiction Prize. The contest, which is still active, awards cash prizes and prints the winning stories in the pages of the Chicago Tribune. The winner for 1991 was Tom Barbash’s story “Howling at the Moon,” and the runner-up was Patricia Stevens’ “Leaving Fort Ord.” You can also read an article about all the winners here.

Also this week, we talk about a Jacob Weisberg piece that rocked the publishing world in 1991. Weisberg laid into several of the big New York publishers for putting out hastily edited books that were nearly unreadable. He also called out a couple big-time editors by name, accusing them of not even reading the books on their lists. As might be expected, there was some serious blowback, though Howard Kurtz’s prediction that Weisberg would be blackballed from American publishing turned out to be pretty far off the mark.

1991 was also a big year for video games, with new higher-bit consoles and the introduction of Street Fighter II, considered to be a landmark in the industry.

And of course there’s lots, lots more: an unsolved murder, the Gulf War, Mike’s first cigarette, another edition of Nineties Movie Club, and the tantalizing smells of teen spirit.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps us make a bit of money each month and keep the show going. For just $5 a month, you’ll get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we visit some of the weirder, funnier corners of the literary world. Recently, that’s involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore’s Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Battleship (yes, based on the popular board game).

Thanks for listening!

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Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

3 thoughts on “Episode 260: Winter of Wayback, 1991 (Nelson Algren Prize Winners)

  1. Murakami’s Killing Commendator made international news last year when Hong Kong required it to be shrinkwrapped due to “indecent content.”

  2. Funny how you assume the opposition to AMERICAN PSYCHO came from the right.

    “Leading the outcry is Tammy Bruce, 28, coordinator of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization of Women. She is proposing a boycott of Random House publications and has started a local telephone hot line that allows callers to hear the “Psycho” excerpt describing Bateman’s nail-gun attack.

    ” ‘American Psycho’ ” is the most misogynistic communication we have ever come across,” Bruce tells listeners on the hot-line tape. “The book is . . . in effect, a how-to novel on the torture and dismemberment of women. . . .”

    Someone also decided to pull the old submit-the-writing-anonymously trick.

    “In its January issue, Spy will continue to track Patrick Bateman. The editors have submitted an anonymous 2,000-word excerpt from the book to 10 skin magazines, including Hustler and Swank, and to two vanity publishers. Kurt Anderson, a co-editor of Spy, says that one vanity house said it would not take this person’s money to publish the book, and all 10 magazines rejected the submission. “It’s too violent for our readership. This really isn’t eroticism. It’s horror fiction with brutal sexuality,” the editors of Cavalier magazine wrote in their rejection letter.”

  3. Thanks for mentioning The Fourth State of Matter – I read it when it came out in the New Yorker. I found it so moving back then. I re-read after your mention and it is still sad and beautiful.

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