Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 382: Dan McQuade

This week, we’re joined by Dan McQuade (Defector Media) to discuss humor columnist Dave Barry’s debut novel, Big Trouble. Both Dan and Mike were big fans of Dave Barry’s humor writing as teens, while Tom apparently skipped right over his newspaper column each week on his way to The Family Circus and Heathcliff. We talk about how difficult it can be to maintain a consistent tone in a “wacky” novel, as well as the ill-fated movie version of the book, which had the bad fortune of having a September 2001 release date as well as a climactic scene featuring a bomb on a plane. We also talk to Dan about Defector Media, the worker-owned company he’s been writing for since the collapse, via venture capital shitheads, of Deadspin.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

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Episode 381: Ben Winters

This week, we’re joined by Ben Winters (Golden State, The Quiet Boy) to discuss a Stanley Fish book about how to write great sentences. We talk about our love-hate relationships with craft books, why our first drafts are such a mess, and the false dichotomy of “language” vs “plot” when attempting to categorize writers. We also chat with Ben about his unusual writing career, which began with being hired to write the novel Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters for Quirk Books.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

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Episode 380: Lilly Dancyger

This week, Lilly Dancyger (Negative Space) joins us to discuss an essay about creepy men and harassment by Melissa Febos, “Intrusions.” We talk about what makes this essay stand out in a crowded field of personal essays, and what writers of creative nonfiction can learn from it, particularly the way it operates in multiple modes that allows the author to approach her subject from a variety of angles. We also talk to Lilly about teaching creative nonfiction, why editing personal essays started to give her “trauma fatigue,” and how to balance your desire for “exposure” with your desire for being able to pay your rent.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

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Episode 379: Adam O’Fallon Price

This week, novelist Adam O’Fallon Price (The Hotel Neversink) joins us to discuss a strange, short novel by Muriel Spark called The Driver’s Seat, in which a woman travels to the south of Italy to find someone who will murder her. We talk about the book’s detached, somewhat cold point of view, its narrative leaps into the future tense, and just what to make of its odd cast of characters. We also talk to Adam about his relationship to the mystery genre, how his agent talked him out of writing a linked story collection, and why he left his music career to make a life as a writer instead.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

Stream or download Episode 379 here:

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Episode 378: Emily Adrian

This week, Emily Adrian (The Second Season) joins us to discuss a book she’d never read, Frederick Exley’s 1968 “fictional memoir” A Fan’s Notes. The book mirrors Exley’s own experience with mental health facilities, as well as his lifelong obsession with the New York Giants’ star Frank Gifford. We also talk about Emily’s new novel, about a trailblazing female sportscaster, why certain men can’t seem to believe she understands basketball, and the differences between podiums and lecterns.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, Sean Penn, and–most recently–Morrissey.

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Episode 377: J. Robert Lennon

This week, J. Robert Lennon (Subdivision, Pieces for the Left Hand) joins us to discuss a story he loves to teach: Ted Chiang’s “Hell is the Absence of God.” We talk about what he hopes his students take from that piece, and why there are so few omniscient narrators in contemporary literary fiction. Plus: Christian summer camps, why you should never read your Goodreads reviews, and why John doesn’t want to fight anyone.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, and Sean Penn.

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Episode 376: Lynn Coady

When this week’s guest, Lynn Coady, won Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize for her book of short stories, Hellgoing, the comparisons to Alice Munro were probably inevitable. So it’s fitting that the story Coady chose for this episode of the podcast is by Munro, and is one Coady says she’s returned to again and again. “Save the Reaper,” from The Love of a Good Woman, is a bit more menacing than the typical Munro story, though it makes us wonder if the menace is there in other Munro stories, too, just less obviously on the surface. We also talk to Coady about her own work, including her most recent novel, Watching You Without Me, and why she decided she wanted to write a book about–and for–middle-aged women.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which has forced us to read books by Tucker Max, Danielle Steel, and Sean Penn.

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Episode 375: David Roth

We’re joined by David Roth (writer and co-owner, Defector Media) to discuss the debut novel by Pete Beatty, which spins a tall tale of a mythological character, Big Son, and his various feats in 1830s Ohio. We talk about how the novel complicates and subverts stories of American myth, and just how much fun it is to read. We also chat with David about his own work, including blending sports and politics at Deadspin (R.I.P.), and how reading Kurt Vonnegut prepared him for writing about Donald Trump.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which most recently forced us to read actor Sean Penn’s “novel,” Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff.

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Episode 374: Lauren Grodstein

We’re joined by Lauren Grodstein, author of several novels, including the New York Times bestseller A Friend of the Family, to discuss Philip Roth’s Everyman. As a Jewish author from New Jersey, Grodstein says Roth has loomed large throughout her life, and she’s wrestled with how to think about his legacy, particularly in light of the recent scandal involving his biographer, Blake Bailey. But even more broadly, how are we meant to reckon with an author who is wise in so many ways, but also clearly limited in others?

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, and The Scarlet Letter

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Episode 373: Jeff Chon

We’re joined by Jeff Chon, author of the new novel Hashtag Good Guy With a Gun, to talk about political fiction, conspiracy theories, and why some editors are cowards. We also talk about the South Korean novel The Disaster Tourist, by Yun Ko-Eun (translated by Lizzie Buehler), which Jeff says he picked up as part of a project to be “a better Korean,” but then fell in love with because of its lively voice and dark humor.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, and The Scarlet Letter

Stream or download the episode here:

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