Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 174: Spring Fling, A.M. Homes (“A Real Doll”)

This week’s story is about an adolescent boy who starts “dating” his sister’s Barbie doll, and later he does some weird stuff with Ken. You can read “A Real Doll’ via The Barcelona Review. The story is also collected in A.M. Homes’ book The Safety of Objects.

Also this week, we discuss the time Robert Olen Butler went viral for the wrong reasons (his wife left him for Ted Turner and he wrote a weird email about it). We also pay homage to the HBO series Real Sex, a show that was sex-positive before sex-positive was a term. And Mike gives some more dating advice, this time on ghosting.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to play on your preferred device. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or through whichever app you use to get your podcasts.

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Episode 173: Spring Fling, Mary Gaitskill (“The Secretary”)

This week we’re starting a new seasonal feature: Spring Fling. We’ll be reading stories about romance, sex, lust, love, and other affairs of the heart. First up is Mary Gaitskill’s spare, understated story “The Secretary,” which some of you may know as the source material for the 2002 Maggie Gylenhaal / James Spader film. But while the film and story definitely share some DNA, the two are quite different, both in terms of plot and their main characters’ attitudes toward the dominant/submissive relationship they’ve stumbled into.

During Spring Fling we’ll also be bringing you stories of authorial romances and affairs. This week we’ve got some tales of H.G. Wells’s sexual adventurings. Plus an exploration of the science behind spring-time romance. And dating advice!

Strap yourselves in, listeners.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, by clicking the player below. Or download the mp3 file to play on whatever device you’d like. You can also find us in the iTunes store, which is probably the easiest option: download back episodes and subscribe (for free!) so you never miss another installment.

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Episode 172: George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

We’re back, baby! And we’re talking about George Saunders’ new novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, a story about a bunch of spooky ghosts hanging out in a graveyard with Abraham Lincoln’s son. We’re both fans of Saunders’ work, so we were curious to see whether we’d like this new one, which is a bit of a departure for him–or perhaps an evolution?

Also: Cheers fan fiction! So that’s pretty exciting.

Oh, and here’s a link to the Laura Miller piece we talked about in the second half, if you’d like to read it for yourself.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or check us out in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another weekly installment.

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Please Stand By: We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Hi, everybody! In his recent move, apparently Mike misplaced a cord required for editing episodes we’ve recorded with our portable recorder. A new one is on the way! And we’ll get the new episode–on Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders–up as quickly as we can!

Sorry for any disturbances this has caused in your weekly routine. Please rest assured that Mike has been punished appropriately. We should have the new episode up in the next day or two, depending on when the cord arrives.


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Book Fight Classic: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (from April 2013)

Hey, everybody. Due to a death in Tom’s family, there’s no new episode this week. Instead we’re re-releasing an episode from the archives, for those of you who haven’t been listening since 2013, or just want to revisit a “classic” Book Fight. We were both so much younger! You can probably hear it in our voices.

In this episode, Tom’s former college roommate, Kevin Greway, joins us to talk about Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. Kevin’s an avowed non-reader, so we were curious to hear how his take on this popular book might be different from ours. You can read the original post here.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or check us out in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free) and get each new episode automatically delivered to your mobile device.

We’ll be back next week with an all-new episode. Hope you enjoy this blast from the (not-so-distant) past!

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Episode 177: Evan Connell, Mrs. Bridge (with Lauren Grodstein)

We welcome special guest Lauren Grodstein (author of, most recently, the novel Our Short History) to discuss a 1959 book that’s become something of a cult classic over the years, one of those books that many writers claim as a favorite. Not that Mrs. Bridge (and its sequel, Mr Bridge) was completely overlooked in its time. But Connell didn’t garner nearly the accolades that other sardonic chroniclers of the WASPy suburbs did (think Richard Yates and J.D. Salinger, both of whom were putting out their best-known work in the same era).

We talk about the book’s humor, and its short chapters, each of which is like a small vignette in the life of its title character. We speculate about why it wasn’t more popular in its time, and go back to look at what reviewers had to say when the novel first came out.

Of course we also talk about Lauren’s new book, which has been getting great reviews. It’s her fourth book, and we ask her about the work habits that allow her to put out so much writing while also teaching, raising a child, and doing all the other daily things required of humans on Earth. Plus our usual lightning-round questions!

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 listen on your favorite device. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts. If you like the show, make sure to subscribe (for free!) so you never miss another episode.

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Episode 170: Winter of Wayback, 1866 (Silas Weir Mitchell)

This week we’re setting our time-machine for 1866, our earliest year yet. The Civil War had recently ended. Americans were still mourning the loss of Abraham Lincoln, and trying their best to tolerate the dope who’d replaced him. Also, people were, by and large, really fucking racist.

Our story this week is called “The Case of George Dedlow,” by Silas Weir Mitchell, and you can read it here, via Cornell University’s free Making of America archives. For context, we’d also suggest this 2009 article from The Lancet. You may recognize Mitchell’s name: he later became famous, as a physician, for coming up with “the rest cure.” But he also wrote fiction, including this story that attempted to build upon his experiences as a surgeon in the Civil War.

Here’s the author in a more contemplative moment, perhaps still thinking about the many amputees he encountered in the war.

Lots of other stuff to talk about this week, too: debates over reconstruction; the sex lives of mermaids; racist medical practices; conspiracies about Lincoln’s assassination; and a man who was sued for $100k by the woman he failed to marry.

A couple links for further reading: Three Months Among the Reconstructionists, by Sidney Andrews, and a case for more aggressive reconstruction by Frederick Douglas, both published in 1866 in The Atlantic.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can catch up on back episodes and subscribe (for free!) so you never miss another weekly installment. Our show should also be available through any of the popular podcasting apps. If you can’t find us with your preferred app, please let us know! We’re also happy to hear your feedback on the things we talked about. You can always email us, leave a comment here on the site, or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.

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