Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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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

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Episode 372: John Kell

We’re joined by John Kell (freelance journalist, PR rep for Chobani) to talk about why the pandemic inspired him to read more books featuring gay male characters, which he recently wrote about in a piece for Fortune. We discuss one of those books, Edmund White’s Our Young Man, and why John felt somewhat ambivalent about its main character, a gorgeous male model who is trying not to age out of the industry. We also talk about what kinds of gay lives get represented in fiction, which fictional universes we’d like to see get COVID updates, and what it’s like to make the move from journalism to public relations.

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 371: Christoper Gonzalez

We welcome special guest Christopher Gonzalez (I’m Not Hungry But I Could Eat) to discuss a novel that taught him a lot about flash fiction. Also discussed: the Netflix show Marriage or Mortgage, why flash fiction isn’t just about word count, and book titles that give critics an easy talking point.

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 370: Segment-a-palooza!

In celebration of the nine-year anniversary of our podcast, we’re bringing back some of our favorite segments from the show’s history! We also discuss some exciting changes coming down the pike.

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 369: 1968 Best & Worst, Snubs & Flubs

This week we’re wrapping up our Winter of Wayback season by reviewing what we’ve learned. Which stories and essays did we love? Which pieces did we hate? What did we learn about 1968, and how did it compare to our previous presuppositions? Also, as a special bonus, Tom reviews a famous 1968 movie he’d never seen before, and Mike eats a Big Mac.

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 368: Bernard Malamud (Winter of Wayback)

This week we continue our exploration of 1968 by checking out a Bernard Malamud story, “Man in the Drawer,” which won the O’Henry prize that year. Also: what were hippies up to in 1968? We take a deep dive into newspaper archives to learn how that term was being used, and what it could tell us about the state of the counterculture (and the attitudes of squares).

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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