Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

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Episode 172: George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

We’re back, baby! And we’re talking about George Saunders’ new novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, a story about a bunch of spooky ghosts hanging out in a graveyard with Abraham Lincoln’s son. We’re both fans of Saunders’ work, so we were curious to see whether we’d like this new one, which is a bit of a departure for him–or perhaps an evolution?

Also: Cheers fan fiction! So that’s pretty exciting.

Oh, and here’s a link to the Laura Miller piece we talked about in the second half, if you’d like to read it for yourself.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or check us out in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another weekly installment.

Stream Episode 172:

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Episode 25: Svetislav Basara

This week’s book, a Dalkey Archive translation of the Serbian writer Svetislav Basara’s Chinese Letter (Eastern European Literature), basically landed in Tom’s lap, and we figured we might as well read it. Luckily, the book turned out to be crazy in all the best possible ways. Talking points include: surrealism, humor as rapid-fire truth telling, white slave merchants, Raymond Queneau, and whether it’s ever okay for a book reviewer to use the phrase “show, don’t tell.” Also, Mike ambushes Tom a little about The Silver Linings Playbook, forcing him to finally explain why he hates that book and will never see the movie.


Our episode this week is sponsored by Outpost 19, a press with offices in New York and San Francisco, and specifically by Matthew Vollmer’s Inscriptions for Headstones. Each short piece in Vollmer’s collection is a single sentence, meant as a headstone inscription, and the constraint of form opens up really cool avenues for Vollmer to explore. You can hear Mike read one of the pieces at the 36:00 mark, and we pretty much dare you to listen to that and then NOT go buy the book immediately. Click on the link above, or the image below, to check it out on the Powell’s site, where it was a featured indie book (and if you buy it from Powell’s, we’ll get a small cut of the purchase price, so win-win).


If you don’t believe us, you can read a review of Vollmer’s book here, or an excerpt here. See? We like the book so much we’re willing to link to Hobart; every now and then they accidentally get something right.

As always, you can stream the episode here on the site, or you can download the mp3 file. Or, click the iTunes link to download it (for free) in iTunes, or subscribe to the show and never miss another episode. While you’re in the iTunes store, it would be really great if you’d leave us a brief review and a rating, as those help us reach more new listeners. Thanks!

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Download Episode 25: Svetislav Basara, Chinese Letter (right-click, save-as)