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Tough love for literature


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Episode 192: Summer of Selfies, Gaute Heivoll (Before I Burn)

This week we’re continuing our discussion of literary “selfies” with this novel by Gaute Heivoll, which is about a string of arsons in 1970s Norway, though it’s also about the writer who is haunted by those fires, even years later, enough to write a book about them. Though it’s categorized as a novel, it seems clear the book’s main character is closely aligned with Heivoll himself.

In the second half of the show, we talk about the phenomenon of the Mary Sue in fan fiction, and in the larger world of pop culture. Is it a useful term to describe stories in which writers create characters who are too-perfect versions of themselves? Or is it merely cover for men to offer misogynistic critiques of female characters?

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, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, you can subscribe to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we discuss the wide world of romance novels.

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Episode 191: Summer of Selfies, Jennifer Lundun (“Evidence, in Track Changes”)

This week we continue our discussion of literary “selfies” with a piece by Jennifer Lundun that appeared recently in Diagram, called “Evidence, in Track Changes”). The piece includes an essay written by Lundun, plus margin notes added by her mother and Lundun herself. The original essay was published in the journal River Teeth, Lundun explains. But after some back and forth with her mother over details in the piece–as well as their relationship more generally, which was fractured when her mother left while Lundun was still a girl–she decided to publish this modified, inter-textual piece.

We talk about what makes an experiment like this feel organic, rather than gimmicky, and what sorts of writing lessons that line might offer. Also, plenty of our usual foolishness, including some discussion of trends that (like selfies) might stick around and become more or less accepted, another installment of Millennial M0m3nt, and for some reason a digression into the relative merits of Three Musketeers and its #ThrowShine hashtag. What do you expect from us, high-minded literary talk?

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, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, you can subscribe to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we discuss the wide world of romance novels.

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Episode 97: Jeff Sharlet, “#Nightshift”

This week we’re checking out something a little different, an Instagram “essay” created by the journalist Jeff Sharlet. After joining the social media site, Sharlet started taking portraits of people and writing brief narratives about their lives. Several of these profiles were later collected and reprinted in two parts by Longreads.

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In the second half of the show, we discuss Tom’s penchant for arguing with idiots on the internet, and offer some advice to a listener who keeps getting encouraging rejections on a story, Also, in preparation for National Novel Writing Month (which starts November 1), we visit the NaNoWriMo forums to see what we should be doing to get ready for the competition.

As always, we’re happy to hear what you think about the stuff we talked about this week. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: we’re on Facebook, and gradually getting better about posting studio pics and links and such. So come visit us over there, like our page, etc. etc.

You can stream today’s episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

Thanks for listening! And if you like the show, tell your friends!

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Fall of Failure Episode 4: Eula Biss and Failed Amusement Parks

This week’s short is a Tom pick, an essay by Eula Biss called “Time and Distance Overcome,” which is about, among other things, early telephone technology, resistance to telephone poles, and the widespread lynching of black men in early-20th century America. We talk about non-linear essays, and whether it’s more interesting or less interesting to know something about the behind-the-scenes construction of a piece.

We also talk this week about failed amusement parks: some that were proposed but never built, like an entire theme park in Indiana that would’ve been devoted to Garfield, and some that probably shouldn’t have been built, all things considered, including a wild-animal safari in New Jersey responsible for at least two deaths, and Dickens World in the UK, which seems like the Saddest Place on Earth.

You can read more about Dickens World here, in a great New York Times Magazine piece by Sam Anderson. Here’s a link to some photos of the creepy (and now demolished) Gulliver’s Kingdom in Japan.

Finally, here’s a Dailymotion mini-documentary about Action Park, featuring comedian Chris Gethard. We would highly recommend you spend the next twelve minutes of your life watching it. That starting image is an actual, non-photoshopped picture of the park’s looping waterslide, in case you thought Mike was making that up.

And in case you missed the link above, you can read the essay here.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the little player thingy below. Or download the mp3 file, and do with it what you will. We’re also in the iTunes store, and in just about any of the available podcast apps floating around in the world. If you subscribe, through one of those methods, you’ll never miss another episode.

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We’d love to hear your feedback on what we talked about. You can send us an email, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment right here on this post.


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Episode 63: Michael W. Clune, White Out

We welcome a special guest, Leslie Jamison (author of The Empathy Exams) to discuss Clune’s memoir of heroin addiction. While a graduate student in literature at Johns Hopkins University, Clune was also a daily heroin user, a life he chronicles in dreamy, often beautiful prose. We also talk about addiction memoirs more generally, Jamison’s approach to essay-writing, pie shakes, Iowa City, and Haley Joel Osment.

WhiteOut

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or find us in the iTunes store, where you can catch up on previous installments and subscribe (for free!) to never miss another one. We welcome your feedback on what we talked about. You can email us, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site.

If you’d like to support the show, you can donate by clicking on the little piggy back on the right (in exchange for your donation, we’ll write you a blurb and read it on the show). You can also support us by supporting our sponsor, Powell’s Books. Just click on any of the Powell’s links around our page–including the cover image of Clune’s book, above–and anything you buy from the Powell’s store will send a little money back our way.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 41: Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Just a little light summer reading: Joan Didion’s 2005 memoir about grief and illness and loss. We talk about what distinguishes good nonfiction from bad, whether rich people are allowed to have problems, and gendered expectations for memoirs.

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Hey, if you’re in the Philadelphia area, check out our fall writers’ conference on Saturday, Sept. 28. A full day of craft sessions and panels, plus a keynote address by J. Robert Lennon. At $65 ($55 for students) it’s a great bargain. Get more info, and register, here.

Get more info on Mike’s recommendation here, and more on Tom’s here.

As always, you can stream the episode here on the site, download the mp3 file, or check us out in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe and never miss another episode. Thanks for listening!

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