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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.

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Episode 192: Summer of Selfies, Gaute Heivoll (Before I Burn)

This week we’re continuing our discussion of literary “selfies” with this novel by Gaute Heivoll, which is about a string of arsons in 1970s Norway, though it’s also about the writer who is haunted by those fires, even years later, enough to write a book about them. Though it’s categorized as a novel, it seems clear the book’s main character is closely aligned with Heivoll himself.

In the second half of the show, we talk about the phenomenon of the Mary Sue in fan fiction, and in the larger world of pop culture. Is it a useful term to describe stories in which writers create characters who are too-perfect versions of themselves? Or is it merely cover for men to offer misogynistic critiques of female characters?

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 191: Summer of Selfies, Jennifer Lundun (“Evidence, in Track Changes”)

This week we continue our discussion of literary “selfies” with a piece by Jennifer Lundun that appeared recently in Diagram, called “Evidence, in Track Changes”). The piece includes an essay written by Lundun, plus margin notes added by her mother and Lundun herself. The original essay was published in the journal River Teeth, Lundun explains. But after some back and forth with her mother over details in the piece–as well as their relationship more generally, which was fractured when her mother left while Lundun was still a girl–she decided to publish this modified, inter-textual piece.

We talk about what makes an experiment like this feel organic, rather than gimmicky, and what sorts of writing lessons that line might offer. Also, plenty of our usual foolishness, including some discussion of trends that (like selfies) might stick around and become more or less accepted, another installment of Millennial M0m3nt, and for some reason a digression into the relative merits of Three Musketeers and its #ThrowShine hashtag. What do you expect from us, high-minded literary talk?

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 190: Summer of Selfies, Curtis Sittenfeld (“Show Don’t Tell”)

This week we’re discussing a recently published story from The New Yorker by Curtis Sittenfeld, author of a number of books, including Prep and American Wife. In “Show Don’t Tell,” Sittenfeld turns her attentions to a fictionalized version of the Iowa Writers Workshop, and the anxious first-year students who are awaiting decisions on their funding for the next year.

Since both of your Book Fight hosts are Workshop grads, we take a little stroll down memory lane and compare our own experiences with those of the story’s characters. Though we also attempt to consider the story on its own merits, and we wonder whether it’s one that people outside the writing world would find compelling.

Also: another installment of Millennial M0m3nt. What American industry are the young people killing this week?

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, where you can catch up on back episodes and subscribe (for free!) so you’ll never miss another installment.

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Episode 189: Summer of Selfies, Tom Chiarella (“My Education”)

This week we continue our Summer of Selfies theme by discussing confessional essays, including one by Tom Chiarella, a long-time writer and editor for Esquire. Chiarella is perhaps best known for his in-depth profiles of celebrities, but in this case he turns the lens to focus on himself, writing about the abuse he suffered at the hands of a Catholic-school teacher. What makes “My Education” particularly interesting is Chiarella’s ambivalence about documenting his experience in the first place. What are the benefits of sharing one’s traumas? What are the benefits of reading about someone else’s?

We also talk more generally about confessional essays, and we catch up with Millennials, to see what they’re killing or not killing 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, where you can catch up on back episodes and subscribe (for free!) so you never miss another weekly installment.

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