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Tough love for literature


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Episode 187, Summer of Selfies: Hunter S. Thompson

This week we’re discussing Hunter S. Thompson’s famous essay on the Kentucky Derby, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” which many credit as the starting point for the author’s gonzo style of journalism. Neither of us had read the piece before, and we realized that a lot of our impressions of Thompson were based on his legend, more so than on the work itself.

You can read the essay itself, as well as some notes on its creation and publication, in this piece put together by Grantland a few years ago.

Also this week, we discuss the phenomenon of raccoon selfies, and animal selfies more generally. Plus: tourists who pay to take pictures with docile (and likely mistreated) tigers and elephants, and why are there so many car selfies on dating sites? As always, you can count on Book Fight to tackle the big questions.

Stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or, find us in the iTunes store, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you like the show, please consider joining our Patreon: for a measly $5 a month, you’ll get a monthly bonus episode (Book Fight After Dark!) and we’ll blurb you on the show.

Stream Episode 187:

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Episode 186: Summer of Selfies #1 (Jia Tolentino, “The Personal-Essay Boom is Over”)

This week we’re kicking off a new season of Book Fight, and also retooling the show a bit. From here on it, all of our readings–books, essays, and stories–will correspond to that season’s theme. For each season, we’ll read three books (a Mike pick, a Tom pick, and a joint pick neither of us has read before). We’ll also read a bunch of stories, essays, and even some criticism, to fully explore that season’s topic.

For summer, we’ll be doing what we’re calling the Summer of Selfies, in which all our readings will be autobiographical pieces. But we’re not just reading first-person books and stories, along with some personal essays. We’ll be exploring the various dimensions of autobiographical writing, and delving into various controversies around personal writing, whether that’s authors alienating people in their lives or sowing doubt about what’s real and what’s not.

In our first installment for the Summer of Selfies, we’ve chosen a Jia Tolentino essay from The New Yorker. It’s not a personal essay itself, but instead a think piece on the state of the personal essay. So it seemed like a good starting point for talking about first-person writing in 2017.

We talk about whether the personal essay is dead, and whether the term “personal essay” is, itself, too broad a term to really be useful. We revisit the internet writing of the early 2000’s, and speculate about how internet culture shaped the literary essay.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the player below. Or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe (for free!) so you never miss another installment.

Stream Summer of Selfies #1:

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