Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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.


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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Episode 60: Kevin Canty, Into the Great Wide Open

This week’s book, Kevin Canty’s first novel (published in 1996), is one of Mike’s favorites. We talk about what makes you return to a book, what it is Mike finds so beautiful and heartbreaking in this story of doomed teenage love, and whether Tom is on board with declaring this a great book.


We’ve also got a new installment of Fan Fiction Corner, during which we take a look at Wattpad, a free app that allows writers to post their work and get instant feedback from others. Not all the work on Wattpad is fan fiction, but a lot of it is. You can read the New York Times article we discussed here. Also, Mike managed to dig up some fan fiction about NBC’s hit show The Voice, which will make one to three of our listeners very happy.

A couple bits of self-promotion. You can read Tom’s ongoing series about daytime talk shows on his site. Mike has a new story, “The Ruling Classes,” in the new issue of December Magazine, and an essay called “A Curious Inheritance” in the spring issue of The North American Review.

We welcome any and all feedback on the episode: feel free to shoot us an email, tweet at us, or just leave a comment here on the blog. Also, check us out in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free) and never miss another episode. While you’re there, please consider leaving us a review, which will help us connect with new listeners.

Thanks for listening!


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Episode 58: Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question

This 2010 novel won the Man Booker prize, though at least one of us might have thrown it across his living room. We talk about funny novels vs “comic novels,” Jewishness, when it’s okay to give up on a book, and middle-aged male novelists who can’t stop writing about their penises.

Finkler cover

Mike also has a new installment of Fan Fiction Corner, which includes examples of “alternate universe” TV fanfic, plus … well, spanking. Though maybe not the kind of spanking you’re expecting.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, download the mp3 file, or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to all our back episodes and subscribe (for free) so you never miss a new one. You can buy Mike’s recommendation–Jason Isbell’s new solo album, Southeastern–here, on vinyl, CD, or MP3. While we’re not always big fans of Amazon, they’ve got pretty good deals on vinyl, their MP3 files don’t come encoded with all the restrictive iTunes nonsense, and we recognize that not everyone has a good record store within walking or driving distance. For book purchases, check out Powell’s online store, by clicking on the book cover above, or any of the links around our site. You get to support an indie book store without leaving your house, and we get a little on the back end. Win win!


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Episode 57: Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station

Well, we’ve reached the end of March, and finally we’re getting a Mike pick: Ben Lerner’s much-celebrated 2011 novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, about a poet in Spain on a Fullbright struggling through a series of major and minor existential crises. We talk about poetry and “poetry,” people having “profound experiences of art” (or pretending to), and what distinguishes interesting books about writers from self-indulgent ones.


We’ve also got another installment of Mike’s Fan Fiction Corner, much to Tom’ chagrin. This week Mike’s looking at fan fiction written about characters from canonical works of literature. If you liked Of Mice and Men but found it too depressing, or if you always wanted to know more about Gatsby’s sex life, we’ve got you covered.

There’s still time to register for this weekend’s Conversations and Connections conference in D.C., which includes a full day of panels, a box-wined happy hour, and a chance to hang out with your Book Fight hosts (as long as you don’t do anything to creep us out too much).

As always, we’d love your feedback. Drop us a line, or hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Thanks for listening!


Download Episode 57 (right-click, save-as)