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Tough love for literature

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Episode 197: Fall of Frauds, Robert Olen Butler (“Mid-Autumn”)

To be clear, right from the start, the point of this week’s episode is not to call Robert Olen Butler a fraud. In fact we both quite enjoyed his story, “Mid-Autumn,” from his 1992 collection, A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain. But it occurred to us that if this book were published today, it might get a few more sideways glances, since it’s a white American author telling the first-person stories of Vietnamese immigrants and refugees. So we thought it could be a good jumping-off point for a discussion of where those lines are. Should writers be able to tell whatever stories they want, as Lionel Shriver famously argued last year? At what point should we be concerned about issues of cultural appropriation?

In the second half of the show, we talk about the case of Michael Derrick Hudson, who in 2015 set off a lit-world firestorm when he admitted that he’d submitted a poem to a bunch of journals using a fake Chinese name. One of those poems was eventually selected by Sherman Alexie to be part of the Best American Poetry anthology for that year, at which point Hudson came clean, and Alexie did some soul-searching.

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.

Stream Episode 197:

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Thanks for listening!


Episode 145: Summer of Second Chances, Matthew Quick (“Don’t Hate Them Very Much”)

It’s the last week of our summer season, listeners, and we’ve got a special one to close it out. As long-time fans of the show will remember, Tom has occasionally taken issue with Matthew Quick’s work, his life, and basically his whole “thing.” So we thought that reading one of Quick’s early publications, originally featured in Agni, would provide a good chance for Tom to open up his heart and give “Q” a second chance.

You can read Quick’s story for free online, via Agni.

If you’re a newer listener, and you’re curious about Tom’s beef with Q, you can check out this free bonus episode from April 2014, in which we talk about their history and also Quick’s breakout book, The Silver Linings Playbook.

Here’s a picture of the storyteller in his natural habitat.


In the second half of this week’s episode, we eat some Pop Tarts and talk about them. Look, we never promised this show was 100% about writing and literature. Sometimes you just want to eat some breakfast pastries and try to figure out which flavor is least disgusting.

If you have opinions about Pop Tart flavors–and we suspect that nearly all of you do–you can send us an email, or leave a comment on the site, or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook. So many options! It’s sort of exhausting just thinking about it.

As always, you can stream this week’s episode right here on the site, by clicking on the little player thingy below. Or download the mp3 file, and do with it what you will You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any podcasting app, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another installment.

Thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 145:

Download Episode 145 (right-click, save-as)