Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 169: Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

Welcome back, listeners, to our weekly podcast that occasionally talks about good books, instead of books that, frankly, have very little reason to exist. Sorry, one of us is still a bit salty about that one. But this week we’ve got a veritable classic: Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, which nearly everyone agrees is great, except perhaps Tom, but that’s only because he has questionable taste.

Mike has been wanting to revisit Rhys’s 1966 novel for some time now, since it often comes up in discussions of fan fiction: the book is a sort of prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, telling the story of Rochester’s first wife, who in that novel is presented as a “madwoman in the attic.” Rhys explores her fractured family life in Jamaica, her Creole heritage, and the early stages of her marriage to Mr. Rochester.

In the second half of the show, we debut a new segment about academic writing called “Do What?” Also: a quick installment of Fan Fiction Corner. Prepare to have your motor revved, listeners!

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 directly. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or wherever you get your podcasts. We welcome your feedback: shoot us an email, leave a comment here on the site, or find us on social media (we’re on both Twitter and Facebook these days).

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 163: Sara Novic, Girl at War

Our book this week is Sara Novic’s Girl at War, a novel about a young woman whose life was ripped apart by the Yugoslav Civil War. It took her parents from her, and briefly turned her into a child soldier, before she was able to escape to Philadelphia, where she did her best to put the past in the past and live as an American.

The book received mostly positive reviews, like this one in the New York Times, though we also discuss the book’s most over-the-top takedown, from the Irish Times.

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In the second half of the show, we’ve got the return of Fan Fiction Corner! Have you ever wondered what kind of fan fiction people were writing about HGTV programs? No? Well, you’re going to find out anyway!

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As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the player thingy below. Or download the mp3 file and do with it what you will. You can also find us in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another installment again.

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Episode 144: Javier Marias, A Heart So White

This week we’re discussing a book by an author we’ve both been wanting to read for a while now. Marias has been widely praised, and this book is considered one of his best. Friend-of-the-show Elisa Gabbert recently wrote an essay for The Smart Set in which she used this book to explore what it is she loves about reading novels. So: lots of good reasons to finally check it out.

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We talk about our expectations for novels, and the kind of book you can sink into without worrying or even caring where it’s going.

In the second half of the show we’ve got another installment of Fan Fiction Corner, featuring Alvin and the Chipmunks, as well as the Chipettes. Things get unexpectedly dark.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also visit us in the iTunes store, where you can catch up on back episodes and subscribe (for free!) so you never miss another installment.

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Episode 138: Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress

This week is Tom’s pick, the first published novel by Walter Mosley, and the first in his long-running Easy Rawlins series: Devil in a Blue Dress. The book first came out in 1990, and a few years later inspired a Denzel Washington film of the same name. In the book, we first meet Rawlins, a WWII vet and reluctant detective living in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, circa 1948. Rawlins gets pulled into a mystery he doesn’t fully understand, and isn’t sure he wants to understand, but pretty quickly he’s too enmeshed to get out.

Mosley

In the second half of the show, we bring back Fan Fiction Corner, i.e. the segment in which Mike finds interesting or weird fan fiction on the internet and Tom gets confused and possibly angry about it. In this week’s segment: a Christian version of Harry Potter that won’t turn your kid toward withcraft, plus maybe the lamest dystopia ever.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, download the mp3 file, or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another installment. We’re also on all the major podcast apps, including Stitcher and Instacast.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 85: Donald Antrim, Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World

This week we’ve got our second donor pick of 2015: Donald Antrim’s 1993 debut novel, which imagines a dystopic suburbia: people have dug moats around their houses, the woods between two warring families are filled with mines, and the mayor, in the book’s opening scene, is drawn and quartered. We talk about the limits of irony, and try to figure out why neither of us loved this book as much as we thought we might.

Antrim

Also this week, we’ve got another installment of Fan Fiction Corner. We don’t want to ruin the surprise in this week’s surprising character pairings, but let’s just say they are … surprising!

As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the things we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

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Episode 64: Anita Konkka, A Fool’s Paradise

This week Tom continues his year of reading books outside his usual comfort zones, with Finnish author Anita Konkka’s A Fool’s Paradise, from Dalkey Archive Press. The book is written much like a diary, following the daily musings of an unemployed woman who is having an affair with a married man. We talk about the risks and potential rewards of writing a book without much in the way of plot, the novel’s aphoristic style, and how many recountings of one’s dreams are too many recountings of one’s dreams.

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We’ve also got a new installment this week of Fan Fiction Corner, during which we get to know some popular fan fiction tropes. We’ve got a little bit of everything: accidental marriages, non-sexual showers, alien pheromones, and erotic tentacles. All trope definitions come from Fanlore, in case you’d like to explore any of them further (no judgment!)

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. Or check us out in the iTunes store, Instacast, Stitcher Radio, or just about any other podcast app you can find. We’d love to hear 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.

Thanks for listening!

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