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Spring of Spite: Stanley Elkin, “A Poetics for Bullies”

Today’s episode is sponsored by 21st Century Prose, an open-access book series published by the University of Michigan Press. Go here to check out their books (use promo code BOOKFIGHT for 30% off any orders) and even read them for free. Go here to read series editor Matthew Vollmer’s mission statement for the series.

This week’s spite-related reading comes from Stanley Elkin, who described it as the best story he ever wrote. “A Poetics for Bullies” is pretty widely available; here’s just one of the many places online where you can read it for free. The story centers on Push the Bully, who runs up against his most difficult challenge: a new kid at school who’s beloved by his classmates and seems impervious to Punch’s attempts to knock him down a peg.

Special shout out to friend-of-the-show Christian Tebordo, who suggested this Elkin story to us, and whose newest book, Toughlaghoma, is available now from Rescue Press.

Also this week, we talk about Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer, two grown men who did not particularly care for each other! Check out their appearance on the Dick Cavett Show to get a sense of their stormy relationship.

In 2007, Cavett wrote a piece about this famous episode for The New York Times, which you can still read online. A couple more quick links: an Edmund Wilson interview in which he talks about his beef with Vidal; and Vidal on Timothy McVeigh, from Vanity Fair.

As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach a wider audience.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about what we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

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Spring of Spite: Harlan Ellison, “The Three Most Important Things in Life”

This week’s reading is an essay by Harlan Ellison, which you can read for free here. Not that you need to read the essay before listening to the episode, but the option is there if you want it. We were directed to that particular essay by a listener, who said we couldn’t do a season of spite-themed shows without talking about Ellison. In addition to the essay itself, we talk about some of his many personal beefs and lit-world dustups. We also talk about his super-janky website (with apologies to Webmaster Rick, whose rants you can check out here).

For the curious, here’s a video of Ellison’s “performance” at the Hugo Awards that touched off what’s become known as GropeGate.

Also this week: Another lit feud, this one between Vladimir Nabokov and Edmund Wilson, who has one of the scowliest Wikipedia photos of all time. And the stories of successful companies started out of spite.

As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the things we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

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Episode 85: Donald Antrim, Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World

This week we’ve got our second donor pick of 2015: Donald Antrim’s 1993 debut novel, which imagines a dystopic suburbia: people have dug moats around their houses, the woods between two warring families are filled with mines, and the mayor, in the book’s opening scene, is drawn and quartered. We talk about the limits of irony, and try to figure out why neither of us loved this book as much as we thought we might.

Antrim

Also this week, we’ve got another installment of Fan Fiction Corner. We don’t want to ruin the surprise in this week’s surprising character pairings, but let’s just say they are … surprising!

As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the things we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

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Spring of Spite: Thomas Bernhard, My Prizes

This week we’re diving into the spiteful wormhole that is Thomas Bernhard’s brain. We went there once before, back in Episode 21, when Owen King joined us to talk about Bernhard’s novel Correction. This time it’s nonfiction, specifically some selections from Bernhard’s book My Prizes, which documents his experiences with several literary prizes and also includes some of the speeches he made over the years at prize ceremonies. There’s plenty of spite to go around: for other writers, for prize committees, for his native Austria, and for the idea of prizes in the first place.

Here’s a picture of Bernhard spitefully eating an ice cream cone:

Bernhard_icecream

We’ve also got stories this week about neighbors who took their spite game to the next level, including a woman who filled her own yard with feces to piss off her neighbors and a guy who faked multiple injuries to get his neighbor thrown in jail. Here’s a picture of the latter; if you see this guy in your neighborhood you might want to move:

Dated 10/03/2009 Neighbour from Hell .. Former Hells Angel David Constantine, who has been allowed by a judge to return to his home in Lanchester, County Durham, despite subjecting his next door neighbours Lucy and Stefan Ward to a catalogue of harassment, which culminated in him trying to frame Mr Ward for attempted murder when he stabbed himself in the chest. See story North News

As always, you can listen to this week’s episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

And if you want to support Powell’s, and our show, just click on any of the store links around the site, or visit their staff picks to find new books.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the stuff we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

Thanks for listening! Tell your friends!

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Spring of Spite: Flannery O’Connor, “Enoch and the Gorilla”

Welcome to the second installment of our Spring of Spite! This week’s spiteful story is a Flannery O’Connor joint, from the collection Wise Blood. In “Enoch and the Gorilla,” a put-upon young man is very, very excited about the chance to insult a famous ape, though things don’t turn out exactly how he’d planned.

Also this week, we’ve got more examples of spiteful behavior, including several spiteful wills and obituaries. Speaking of the latter, here’s a link to the full text of Marianne Johnson-Reddick’s obituary. And here two newspaper articles with roundups of spiteful wills, one from a very old edition of The Quebec Observer and one from the New York Times. Tom’s got the story this week of the literary feud between H.G. Wells and Henry James. If you want to read the spite-fueled “satire” Wells wrote as a burn on James, you can do so here, via Project Gutenberg. And Mike’s got the story of two 19th-century paleontologists whose simmering hatred for each other led to trumped-up scholarship, angry newspaper articles and, eventually, both men going broke. You can watch the full PBS documentary, “Dinosaur Wars,” via YouTube.

As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

And if you want to support Powell’s, and our show, just click on any of the store links around the site, or visit their staff picks to find new books.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the things we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

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Spring of Spite: Richard Yates, “Oh Joseph, I’m So Tired”

Welcome to your first installment in the Spring of Spite! For the next several weeks we’ll be reading stories and essays that take “spite” as their theme (or that seem to have been motivated by it) while also discussing spite in all its many forms. Or at least some of its forms! We hope that you’ll join us.

This week, we’re reading a Richard Yates story from his second collection, Liars in Love. The story takes aim at Yates’s mother, with whom he had a rather complicated relationship. In “Oh Joseph, I’m So Tired,” her (barely) fictional stand-in sculpts a bust of FDR but fails to make the splash she’d hoped for. She also hears some mean-spirited gossip about herself, though she then turns around and blasts the perpetrator of said gossip with some pretty gross, anti-semitic insults. The reader is likely to feel toward her a mix of pity and scorn.

You can read the original New York Times review of Liars in Love here; it includes some specific praise for this story. The reviewer notes that the character of Helen appears, more or less, in several other Yates stories, as well as in the novel A Special Providence, but says “she has never been more comically or pathetically portrayed” than in today’s story pick.

As for spite: We spend some time this week talking about the psychology behind it, and whether it might be useful to us, as a society if not individually. Tom also dug up this NPR piece about the science behind spite.

Mike’s got a report on spite houses, which until doing research for this show he never knew existed. Here’s a pretty good explanation of the phenomenon from the Atlantic’s City Lab blog, including some specific examples. And here’s a blog write-up about Charles Crocker’s Nob Hill spite fence, which includes a link to these famous (and really cool) panoramic images of San Francisco. If you scroll to the right (and a little bit down) on the photograph, you’ll see both Crocker’s mansion and the crazy fence he built to wall off his neighbor’s house.

As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the things we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

Thanks for listening! And please come on back next week!

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