Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 408: Elizabeth McCracken

We’re joined by Elizabeth McCracken (author, most recently, of the novel The Hero of This Book, out Oct. 4 from Harper Collins) to discuss Mary Gaitskill’s 2005 novel Veronica, a book that until recently Elizabeth was scared to re-read. We talk carnality in fiction, and the sweatiness of early 80s New York City. Plus: we compare notes on our time at the Iowa Writers Workshop, discuss trigger warnings for undergrad classes, and Elizabeth explains why for years she quietly pretended to have read Dostoevsky.

You can order Elizabeth’s newest book here: https://bookshop.org/books/the-hero-of-this-book/9780062971272

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

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Episode 407: Kevin Kearney

We’re joined by Kevin Kearney (author of the forthcoming novel How to Keep Time, and a staff writer for PopMatters) to discuss John McPhee’s 1968 book The Pine Barrens, which taught America about the relatively small pocket of New Jersey that seemed to exist outside of time. We also talk to Kevin about his own book, and the process of finding a publisher for it, which can sometimes feel overwhelming or intimidating, especially for books that might not be a fit for one of the big commercial publishing houses.

You can find out more about Kevin, and stay up to date on his work, at his website: https://www.kevinmkearney.com/. Also, you can preorder his book, which comes out on November 4: https://www.thirtywestph.com/shop/howtokeeptime

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

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Episode 406: Adalena Kavanagh

We’re joined by Adalena Kavanagh (work in Electric Lit, The Believer, lots of other places) to discuss three stories from Best American Short Stories 1985, an anthology that for some reason was lying around her house when she was a kid, prompting her to read some Serious Literary Fiction at a young age. Adalena wanted to revisit the stories to see if they would hold up, or even conform to her memories of them.

You can find out more about Adalena, and follow her work, on Twitter: https://twitter.com/adalenakavanagh. Or on her website: https://adalenakavanagh.com/

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 405: Celeste Doaks

We’re joined by poet Celeste Doaks, whose most recent book, American Herstory, focuses on the experience of former first lady Michelle Obama’s years in the White House, including the art and decor choices she made while living there. So it’s fitting that Celeste had us read an essay by art historian Richard Powell about the official Obama portraits, which in many ways broke with established tradition for presidential portraiture.

We talk about the relationship between writing and visual art, how to use art in a creative writing classroom, and the gender and racial politics of portraiture, among other subjects. Plus we close out the episode with Celeste reading a poem about lightning, so make sure you stay tuned for that!

You can find out more about Celeste–including how to get a hold of her books–at her website: https://doaksgirl.com/

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 404: Matthew Vollmer

We’re joined by Matthew Vollmer, author of several books (most recently, This House is Not Your Home, 2022) and also our former grad-school classmate. We talk about our experiences at Iowa, and how our writing and teaching have evolved in the years since. Also Clarice Lispector’s book The Hour of the Star, which Vollmer loves and Tom finds a little confusing.

You can find more about Matthew–and links to his work–at his website, http://matthewvollmer.com/

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

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Episode 403: Catherine Nichols

We’re joined by Catherine Nichols, writer and host of the Lit Century podcast, to discuss Katie Kitamura’s novel Intimacies, which Barack Obama loved and at least one of us kinda hated. Plus: what makes an ideal audiobook, why Shakespeare would be useful in a fight, and the subtle joys of a semicolon.

You can find Catherine on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/clnichols6. And check out the Lit Century podcast here: https://lithub.com/author/litcentury/

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 402: Michael Schaub

We’re joined by long-time book reviewer Michael Schaub (NPR, Kirkus, Bookslut, elsewhere) to discuss a book that changed the way he thought about books: Ander Monson’s debut, Other Electricities. We talk about what separates experiments in form that feel organic to a story versus those that feel superfluous or inscrutable. Also: the ethics of book reviewing, horse ownership, and is everything actually bigger in Texas?

You can find Michael on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/michaelschaub. And see his reviews at NPR here: https://www.npr.org/people/151841337/michael-schaub

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 401: Kristin Keane

We’re joined by Kristin Keane, author of An Encyclopedia of Bending Time, to discuss A Ghost in the Throat, a genre-crossing memoir by Irish writer Doireann Ní Ghríofa. We talk about strategies for incorporating research into creative nonfiction, what counts as “text” beyond traditional words on a page, and some of the challenges Kristin faced when she decided to structure her own memoir as an encyclopedia. Plus: Quantum Leap, foot massagers, and none of us understands what the metaverse is.

You can read an excerpt of Kristin’s book here, via the Washington Post.

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

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Episode 400: Becky Barnard and Dave Housley

It’s our 400th episode! Which, to be honest, we didn’t realize when we were recording this, because we’re bad at math. But that doesn’t make it any less exciting! And we inadvertently planned a pretty special one to mark the milestone: we’re joined by Becky Barnard and Dave Housley, Barrelhouse editors and authors of the new YA novel The Greys, to discuss one of the craziest movie novelizations of all time: E.T., The Extraterrestrial, by William Kotzwinkle. It’s the adorable little alien character you know and love, except super horny?

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

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Episode 399: Elena Passarello & Justin St. Germain

Two guests this week, as we’re joined by the co-hosts of the literary nonfiction podcast I’ll Find Myself When I’m Dead. Though Elena and Justin are also quite accomplished nonfiction authors in their own right. Justin St. Germain is the author of the memoir Son of a Gun, and more recently a book-length essay about Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Elena Passarello is the author of the essay collections Let Me Clear My Throat and Animals Strike Curious Poses.

The book they chose for us to read is a collection by Donald Hall, former U.S. poet laureate, called Essays After Eighty. We talk about the occasional essay as a form, what makes an essay an essay–as opposed to a random assortment of thoughts–and lots, lots more.

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Stream or download the episode here:

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