Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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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

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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

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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

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Episode 398: Michelle Hart

We’re joined by Michelle Hart, author of the novel We Do What We Do in the Dark and a former editor for Oprah Daily. For our reading this week, Michelle chose a short story by Leopoldine Core, “Hog for Sorrow,” about a young sex worker with complicated feelings towards one of her clients and toward one of her coworkers.

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 397: Dan Brady

Our guest this week is longtime Barrelhouse poetry editor Dan Brady, whose most recent book, Subtexts, uses some interesting constraints to create erasures and layerings of language. His pick for us was another book of poems created through an innovative process: White Bull, by Elizabeth Hughey. The poems in Hughey’s book are all assembled from the words of Bull Connor, Birmingham, Alabama’s famous segregationist public safety commissioner.

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 396: Laura McGrath

Our guest this week is Laura McGrath, an assistant professor of English at Temple University, where she teaches literary criticism and contemporary literature–including a class about best sellers. It’s in that context that she chose our book, Valley of the Dolls, the 1966 camp classic by Jacqueline Susann. We talk about the book as both a novel and a cultural phenomenon, and what McGrath’s students make of it all these years later.

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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