Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

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Episode 154: Han Kang, The Vegetarian (with guest Sam Allingham)

This week we welcome guest Sam Allingham, author of the recently published story collection The Great American Songbook, to talk about Han Kang’s novel The Vegetarian, which won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize.


We talk about the book’s initial humor, and its ultimate bleakness. We also talk a bit about novels in translation, and why people tend to think of foreign books as “weird.” And of course we put Sam through our usual lightning-round tomfoolery.

As always, you can stream the show here on our website, by clicking on the link below, or you can download the mp3 file and do with it what you will. Or, visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you usually get your podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another installment.

Thanks for listening!


Download Episode 142 (right-click, save-as)


Episode 66: Aglaja Veteranyi, Why The Child Is Cooking In The Polenta

We’re joined this week by returning guest Matt Jakubowski–writer, critic, and interviews editor for the international journal Asymptote–to discuss the English translation of Aglala Veteranyi’s Why the Child is Cooking in the Polenta. The book, originally published in German, was translated by Vincent Kling, a professor at LaSalle University (and one of Tom’s former teachers).


We discuss the book’s odd but compelling voice, which includes a lot of poetic sentence fragments and line breaks, plus more abundant use of all-caps than Tom and Mike are usually comfortable with. We also wonder about the links between the book’s story and the author’s own life–Veteranyi was born in Bucharest but traveled with her circus-performing family as a girl before finally settling in Switzerland.

We also talk about Matt’s decision to read only women in 2014: what led him to the decision, how the hashtag #ReadWomen2014 took off, and what he’s learned from the project. You can read more about Matt’s resolution for the year here, in a blog post for Asymptote. Finally, we put Matt through a lightning round of questions while outside the window actual lightning explodes across the sky (and a couple times buzzes our recording equipment).

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another episode. We’re also available via Stitcher Radio, Instacast, Downcast, or just about any other podcast application you can find.

Thanks for listening!


Download Episode 66 (right-click, save-as)

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Episode 59: Tatyana Tolstaya, The Slynx

A dystopian Russian novel that explores life after a mysterious “blast” has turned back history, leaving a barely-literate population toiling in mind-numbing jobs and trapping rodents for currency. We try to put the book into some context, talk about Tolstaya’s other work, and Tom mulls a new segment that involves him watching terrible daytime television.


Talking points this week include: exclamation points, The View, Chernobyl, when history runs backwards, feminist icons, NBA basketball, rational decision-making, and totalitarian nightmares.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on the site, or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can catch up on our back catalog and subscribe (for free) so you never miss another installment. If you want to help support the show, please click on any of the Powell’s links around our site (including the book cover image above). Anything you buy from Powell’s will throw a little money back our way, at no extra cost to you. Also: We welcome feedback, so feel free to drop us a line, either by email at bookfightpod(at)gmail(dot)com, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site.

Thanks for listening!


Download Episode 59 (right-click, save-as)