Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

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Episode 86: Maggie Nelson, Bluets

This week is a Mike pick, as he continues to seek out unconventional memoirs and other works of creative nonfiction. Like our book from Episode 83, D.J. Waldie’s Holy Land, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets proceeds in short, numbered sections that build meaning through accretion and juxtaposition, rather than a traditional narrative arc. The book is, ostensibly, about Nelson’s obsession with the color blue, but she uses that more as a jumping-off point for discussions of love and loss, pain and pleasure, and to what degree we can, or should, trust our own perceptions.


We also talk this week about Tom’s recent Italian vacation, and his newfound hatred of Rome. Plus Mike’s growing hatred of online user reviews (including some particularly idiotic ones for this book).

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: 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.


Download Episode 86 (right-click, save-as)

Thanks for listening!


Summer of Shorts Episode 3: Beard and Skorts

This week’s short-story pick is actually an essay: Jo Ann Beard’s “Werner,” which appears in the 2007 edition of Best American Essays, edited by David Foster Wallace. Actually, much of our discussion concerns whether it’s fair to call this an “essay.” It’s based on real events, but pretty clearly takes fictional liberties, such as inhabiting the mind of its protagonist (not the author) in a move more frequently seen in short stories. The essay isn’t available for free online, but you can read another Jo Ann Beard piece, “The Fourth State of Matter,” on The New Yorker website.

Our shorts for the week are another genre-bender: skorts, against which Mike has a long-standing personal grudge. We explore that grudge in depth, as well as several of Tom’s childhood grudges. Talking about shorts, it turns out, tends to be a real walk down memory lane.


Talking points this week include: genre distinctions, recess, bird poop, disappointing limo rides, condiments, lisps, Pee Wee football, magazine sales, enviable prose, and burning buildings.

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

Thanks for listening!


Download Summer of Shorts: Beard and Skorts (right-click, save-as)