Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 343: Grades Are For Squares

This week we’re talking about a second-person essay by Jennifer Murvin that was first published in The Cincinnati Review. We also talk about grading in creative writing classes, and how to arrive at standards that are fair without being either too mean or a pushover. Plus at least one tantalizing blind item!

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes each month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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Episode 342: Writing About Pop Culture

This week we’re discussing an Alice Bolin essay from The Toast, “A Meditation on Britney’s ‘Baby One More Time,'” which uses the pop star’s music as a jumping-off point for an exploration of loneliness, isolation, and the ways in which we hold ourselves apart from others. We talk about ways that writers can use their pop culture obsessions to get into some pretty interesting personal territory, and how we can get students, in particular, to wade out into those deeper waters, rather than simply writing essays about music they like.

Also: Tom is mad about a writing conference that emailed him, and Mike hate-reads Architectural Digest.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes each month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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Episode 341: Back to School

Welcome to our new fall season! Yes, we know that technically it’s not fall, but school’s back in session, and there are some brown leaves on the tree in front of one of our houses (it’s possible the tree is dead). For the next several weeks, we’re going to be delving into the world of creative nonfiction, with a particular eye towards teaching that genre in a classroom. We’re both college professors who have taught both undergrad and grad classes, and this semester we both have occasion to teach some creative essays in our classes.

We’re also interested in exploring the genre lines. What makes something “creative” nonfiction? What all fits under that broad umbrella? And where does creative nonfiction bump up against (and borrow from) other genres?

For this first week, we’re discussing an essay by Joshua Wheeler, “Parachutes,” from Gulf Coast. The essay would later appear in his collection, Acid West.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes each month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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Episode 340: The Adjunct Blues

This week we’re discussing a Deb Olin Unferth story, “Wait Till You See Me Dance,” which you can check out here, via Electric Lit. The story prompts a discussion of our own brief tenure as adjuncts, and our current tenure as (non-tenure-track) professors, and how we’re feeling about the upcoming semester. Also: dark humor, reading for surprise, and falling down wells.

Unferth’s story first appeared in Harper’s, in 2009, and was the title story of her 2017 story collection from Graywolf.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes each month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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Episode 339: White Glove Service

This week we’re talking about an essay by Britni de la Cretaz about her complicated relationship with both the Miami Marlins and her hometown. That leads to a discussion of what makes sports-related writing interesting to non-sports fans, and how to unlearn some of the writing lessons taught to you in school. We also take another dive into #bookstagram, to try to figure out whether book influencers have actually read any books. Plus: Tom waits for a team of men to deliver his fancy new desk.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes each month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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Episode 338: Welcome Back, Angry Tom

This week we’re reading a short story from Nick White’s debut collection that was recommended by author Alissa Nutting. You can read the story here, via Electric Literature. White’s story prompts a discussion of the book business, specifically the rarity of short story collections published by big presses and how both the hype machine for young authors and the pushback against the hype machine for young authors can grow quickly tiresome.

Also this week: We begin what will surely be a multi-week exploration of book influencers (book-fluencers?) on Instagram.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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Bonus Episode: Reading the Room

We ran into some technical difficulties with the book-based episode scheduled to release this week, so instead we’re bringing you this free bonus episode, which was slated to be behind the Patreon paywall. We hope you enjoy it! We talk about what writers owe–and do not owe–to readers who reach out to them with questions, comments, or a desire to continue the conversation started by their work. How can you be kind and generous to your readers, but also set boundaries so that you don’t wind up giving away too much of your time and labor?

This episode was inspired in part by responses Mike’s been getting to an essay he wrote about reckoning with his racist fraternity. Lots of people have reached out with kind comments, and interesting questions, but he’s also gotten requests that feel like a bridge too far.

Thanks for listening, and we hope you enjoy the bonus episode! We do a couple of these a month for our Patreon subscribers, along with a bonus book episode, usually about a goofy romance novel or something else outside our usual reading patterns. If you want more of that content, you can subscribe for just $5 a month. And we’ll be back next week with another regular episode.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

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Episode 337: Bad, Bad Luck

This week’s story is by South Korean writer and filmmaker Lee Chang-Dong, and it’s called “On Destiny.” It basically traces the entire life of its main character, from his youth in an orphanage, separated during the war from his parents, and through stints of poverty, jail time, and then a possible payday. We talk about what makes certain stories feel fable-like, and the surprising little details that crop up when reading fiction in translation, like unexpected metaphors and unfamiliar aphorisms.

Also this week: another installment of Celebrities Recommend, including book picks from a star tennis player and a Food Network star.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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Episode 336: Lost in Translation

This week we’re discussing a story by a celebrated Iranian author, Goli Taraghi, as well as a piece from the Los Angeles Review of Books that attempts to put her work into a cultural context. Are there things we don’t get, as Western readers? Will certain elements of fiction always be culturally dependent, and thus slightly out of reach for readers outside that culture? Or is the story just too long and kind of meandering?

Also this week: Dave Eggers gets roasted.

Here’s a link to the story: “The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons
The piece from the LARB: “The Forgotten Charm of Iranian Storytelling
Dave Eggers in The New York Times: “Testing, Testing

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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Episode 335: I’m Your Huckleberry

This week we discuss a 2018 John Edgar Wideman story from The New Yorker, about a writing teacher trying to decide how to talk to a white student about a well-meaning story she’s writing about the travails of a person of color. You can read that story here. Then we learn what books Val Kilmer thinks we should be reading this summer.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes a month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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