Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 199: Fall of Frauds, Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley

This week we’re discussing our first novel of the Fall of Frauds, and it’s pretty much the standard-bearer of the form. When we mentioned on Facebook and Twitter that we were looking for fraud-themed stuff to read, Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley was by far the most suggested title.

Some of you, no doubt, know the story only from its 1999 movie adaptation starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth “Goop” Paltrow. A fine film, for sure, but it’s definitely worth reading the book, too. Even if you’re familiar with the basic plot, there’s plenty in the novel to hold your interest, and keep you guessing.

Also this week, we talk about how to fake your own death! Or, more accurately, how NOT to fake your own death, since the only examples one can find, of course, are of people who were eventually found out. Still: useful tips! Don’t ever say we’re not providing our listeners with a valuable service.

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.

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Episode 198: Fall of Frauds, Carmen Machado (“Help Me Follow My Sister Into the Land of the Dead”)

This week we continue our Fall of Fraud theme by examining a story that is, like the Michael Martone story we discussed a couple weeks ago, something of a “fraudulent artifact.” In “Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead,” Carmen Machado tells a fictional story in the form of a Kickstarter campaign, even adding stretch goals and updates and user comments. As we talk about on the episode, the resulting story is much more than just a gimmicky experiment in form; Machado actually uses the form to tell a compelling story.

Also this week, we continue our exploration of literary frauds with the story of Albania’s second-most popular author, who turned out not to be Albanian at all. Plus: people who fake illnesses online, and the people who have made it their mission to out them.

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.

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

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.

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Episode 196: Fall of Frauds, Michael Martone, by Michael Martone

This week we continue our Fall of Frauds season with a book that’s a kind of “fraudulent artifact.” Michael Martone’s book Michael Martone (published by FC2) is a series of stories in the form of contributor’s notes. We talk about some ways that writers can use existing forms to experiment with both fiction and nonfiction, and what makes these stories interesting, rather than gimmicky.

We also talk about some more literary (and non-literary) frauds, plus all our usual jibber jabber.

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.

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Episode 195: Fall of Frauds, Gordon Haber, “Uggs for Gaza”

This week we’re diving into our new fall season, in which we’ll be reading stories, essays, and books with a “fraud” theme. That could mean stories in which characters are actually defrauding people, but it could also mean stories that are, themselves, frauds, as in fictional pieces masquerading as real-world documents. For this first episode, though, we’ve got a story that’s the former, about a man who invents a charity at a party, while trying to impress a girl, and then has to see it through so he doesn’t lose face. The story is part of a collection by the same name.

In addition to our discussion of the story, which you can read via The Normal School, we talk about a famous literary fraud, in which a couple journalists, annoyed by the popularity of books they found to be vapid and sex-fueled, decided to write a lowest-common-denominator erotic novel, which turned into a best-seller.

We’ve also got stories of romantic fraud, including men who pose as soldiers to rip off lonely women, and one about an accomplished physicist who was convinced a bikini model several decades his junior was in love with him, based entirely on internet correspondence.

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.

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Episode 194: Summer of Selfies, Kevin Fanning (No More Selfies: A Kardashian Dystopia)

This is the last week for our Summer of Selfies, and we’re turning our attention to a story about selfies. It’s also fan fiction (depending on how one defines fan fiction), so it was probably inevitable we’d want to read it. Kevin Fanning, who was recently profiled in The Boston Globe, first made his name on Wattpad with a story called Kim Kardashian: Trapped In Her Own Game. The story we read this week, which is still being regularly updated by the author, also involves Kim Kardashian, this time as a “terrorist” celebrity who continues posting selfies even after President Krump has declared them illegal.

That probably sounds goofy, and the story is certainly funny, but it also offers some surprisingly serious social and political commentary.

In the second half of this week’s show, we’ve got some literary raccoon news, plus another installment of Millennial M0m3nt. What is America’s most maligned generation killing off this week?

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.

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Episode 193: Summer of Selfies, Karl Ove Knausgaard (My Struggle, Book 2)

This week we’re continuing our discussion of literary “selfies” with a book you’ve certainly heard of, even if you’ve never read it. When we decided on this season’s theme, we figured we’d pretty much be required to read one of the books in this series by Knausgaard, and we picked the second novel on the recommendation of a friend. Will it live up to the hype? Or will we find it too navel-gazey? Online, it’s easy enough to find a whole range of opinions. The series has been praised by most, though all that praise has also resulted in the inevitable backlash.

We’ve talked about Knausgaard before, way back in Episode 99, when we discussed his novel A Time for Everything, the writing of which he references in Book 2 of My Struggle.

In the second half of this week’s show, we consider some of the gendered arguments that have been made about Knausgaard’s six-book series. Does Knausgaard write like a woman? If the novel had been written BY a woman, would it have received so much praise?

Also this week: another installment of Millennial M0m3nt, in which we find out which fast-casual eatery doesn’t even care whether its Millennial customers ever come back.

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 193:

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