Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 296: Second Person Stories

This fall, we’re exploring the canon of creative writing, trying to find the best stories to teach in creative writing classes. Each week we’ll have a different theme, either a craft element or type of story, and we’ll each nominate a story we think works particularly well in the classroom. We’ll pit the stories against each other and by the end of the episode crown a winner.

This week we’ve got two second person stories: “How to Leave Hialeah,” by Jennine Capo Crucet, going up against Lorrie Moore’s “How to Be an Other Woman.”

We talk about the internet logic of the second person, and the closeness it creates between narrator and reader. We also discuss our approaches to teaching second person, especially for students who might initially be put off by it. Also, there’s some cat talk that has nothing whatsoever to do with writing or teaching. But people like cats, right?

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you’ll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of 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.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 295: Unreliable Narrators

It’s a new season on the calendar, and that means a new season of Book Fight. This fall, we’re going to be exploring the canon of creative writing, trying to find the best stories to teach in creative writing classes. Each week we’ll have a different theme, either a craft element or type of story, and we’ll each nominate a story we think works particularly well in the classroom. We’ll pit the stories against each other and by the end of the episode crown a winner.

This week we’ve got Denis Johnson going up against Matthew Vollmer, with two stories featuring unreliable narrators: “Emergency” and “Will and Testament.”

We talk about drug stories, different ways of thinking about “unreliability,” and the difficult guesswork of figuring out what stories students might respond to. Also, the difference between a “good” story and a “teachable” story.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you’ll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of 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.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 294: Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

It’s the last week of our Summer School season, and we’re ending on a book (and author) Tom had never read. Topics include: Diner en Blanc, the titular lighthouse (and whether they’ll ever reach it), mental health, donut holes, pumpkin spice, and why the kids these days love the TV show Friends.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you’ll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest romance 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.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 293: Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

For years, Mike would see references to Ford Madox Ford in articles about famous modernist writers and think: “I should really check that guy out one of these days.” Well, listeners, that day is today. Mike drags Tom along for an exploration of The Good Soldier, Ford’s most famous book, a short novel about two couples whose lives intersect at a German spa for people with heart ailments. “This is the saddest story I have ever heard,” the book begins, before plunging readers into a sometimes disorienting tale of infidelity and (maybe?) murder.

We talk about the book’s non-chronological storytelling technique, as well as the unreliable narrator at its center, whose version of events we’re never quite sure how much to trust. Also this week: #DonutQuest2019 continues, with Tom bringing over a couple samplings from his home state of New Jersey.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you’ll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest romance novels. And starting this week, we’ll be adding new mini-episodes in a series called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 292: Jim Harrison, “The Summer He Didn’t Die”

This week is a Tom pick: a novella by Jim Harrison featuring his beloved character Brown Dog. In “The Summer He Didn’t Die,” Brown Dog has some tooth problems, and also some sex. Just regular old Brown Dog stuff. Harrison is considered a master of the novella form, and a chronicler of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Is this his best work? Reviews are mixed.

Pictured: Jim Harrison with a brown dog. Not to be confused with Brown Dog, a human character.

Also this week: Mike continues his summer-long quest for a good donut, with a return trip to Philly favorite Federal Donuts.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you’ll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest romance novels. And starting this week, we’ll be adding new mini-episodes in a series called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 291: Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

Welcome to Week Two of a series we didn’t intend to undertake: Tom and Mike Read Books They’re Not Quite Smart Enough to Understand. Actually, we did a slightly better job with this one than we did with last week’s reading, Jenny Boully’s The Body. Though we can already hear the sound of 1,000 grad students rolling their eyes in response to our discussion of Barthes. But hey, we’re giving it our best. We can’t help it if there are rocks where our brains are supposed to be.

This week’s book was a Mike pick, because he’s been on the English department faculty of a major university for too long to not have read anything by Roland Barthes. A Lover’s Discourse was billed as one of his more accessible works, so we figured it could make a good starting place. And it wasn’t bad! At least the parts that we understood. Which were some of the parts!

Look at those punctuation marks, just going to town on each other.

Anyway, we talked this week about the Barthes book, and about books that make us want to be smarter versus books that make us feel like we’re ok being kinda dumb. Also, we’ve got another chapter in Mike’s continuing quest to eat a good donut in Philadelphia.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps us make a bit of money each month and keep the show going. For just $5 a month, you’ll get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we visit some of the weirder, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that’s involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore’s Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 290: Jenny Boully, “The Body”

This week we’re talking about a lyric essay that was first published in 2002 and has since become part of a new canon of creative nonfiction: Jenny Boully’s “The Body,” which first appeared in The Seneca Review and was re-released in book form by Essay Press.

The big question of this episode: are we smart enough to understand this piece, which is written in footnotes to an invisible text? Or is it even a thing meant to be “understood” in a traditional narrative sense? Is “The Body” a beautiful evocation of a language just beyond conventional meaning? Is it a whole bunch of word salad? And, seriously, are we big dummies who just barely manage to get our pants on each morning?

We do our best to unpack the piece, and also to trace its path to becoming a regular touchstone for writers and teachers of creative nonfiction.

Also this week: In Mike’s continuing search for a good donut, he pits two bitter Pennsylvania rivals against each other. That’s right, it’s Sheetz vs. Wawa.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps us make a bit of money each month and keep the show going. For just $5 a month, you’ll get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we visit some of the weirder, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that’s involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore’s Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 290:

Download Episode 290