Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

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Episode 140: Gregoire Bouillier, The Mystery Guest

Mike first read this book roughly a decade ago, and recently decided to revisit it after randomly plucking it from a shelf and reading the inscription, which he’d totally forgotten about. The short work of (more or less) nonfiction tells the story of a rather unusual party invite brokered by the narrator’s ex-girlfriend. He thinks she might want to give things another go, but soon enough realizes he’s allowed himself to get his hopes up for nothing.


Bouillier is perhaps better known for his first book, Report on Myself, a thin volume about (among other things) the author’s childhood. He also gained some notoriety several years ago when his former girlfriend, Sophie Calle–who features in The Mystery Guest–put together an art installation, Take Care of Yourself, based on the breakup note Bouillier wrote her.

We talk about small-scope books, and Bouillier’s idea of a “report” as its own literary genre. We’ve also got a short installment of Fan Fiction Corner that includes a writing prompt, if any of our listeners want to take a crack at it. You can email us your attempts, if you’d like, and maybe we’ll share some on a future episode.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file directly. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Thanks for listening!

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Marguerite Duras, The Lover

Marguerite Duras wrote this short novel late in her career (it was published in 1984, when she was 70), but it describes an episode early in her life, when at age 15 she began an affair with a 27-year-old man in what was then known as French Indochina. Duras called the novel “purely autobiographical,” though later she made other statements that cast shades of doubt on some of its details. Still, the central story of the book would appear to be true, which caused a minor scandal in certain corners upon its publication.


We talk about the book’s presentation of its central relationship, and how it subverts some expectations for a relationship with that particular age difference at play. We also talk about short novels more generally, and writing in the confessional mode.

In the second half of the show, we find out whether we’re smart enough to answer some grad-school questions about the novel. Plus Tom’s got another installment of Raccoon News. As promised, here are some links, if you’d like to explore this week’s Raccoon News in greater depth:

Adorable Raccoon Rides Scooter, Adorably

NY Mets Sign New Shortstop, Interests Include Eating Garbage, Being a Raccoon

Canadians Are Odd, Do Odd Things, Probably To Get Our Attention

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.

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