Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

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Writers Ask: Writing Apps and Unlikeable Narrators

In our last Writers Ask segment we talked about ways to jumpstart your work when you’re between projects or feeling listless, which included breaking out of old habits and giving yourself some prompts. This week, Tom goes a step further and dives into the weird world of writing-prompt apps, to see if a smartphone and a few bucks can buy inspiration. In our second segment, we’re joined by Lucas Mann, author of Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere, to answer some questions about the relative importance of “likeability” in nonfiction. Could you dislike the narrator of an essay and still love the essay? How do you write about your uglier impulses while making it clear you understand their ugliness?

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free) and never have to worry about missing another episode. You can also find us in Stitcher, or on just about any of the podcast apps that are floating around out there in the universe.

Thanks for listening! If you’ve got questions you’d like us to answer on the show, or just want to give us some feedback on what we’ve talked about, please don’t hesitate to email us. We almost definitely won’t yell at you!


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Episode 3: Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays

Episode Three is a Mike Suggestion: the 1970 Joan Didion novel Play It As It Lays, which Mike remembered reading on a cross-country flight from Portland and liking quite a bit, though the only specific thing he could remember, in hindsight, was a single line of dialogue toward the book’s end that was so heartbreaking it actually made him stop reading for a few seconds and contemplate its particular bleakness.

So, a cheery book, obviously.

On the podcast, Mike and Tom try to figure out what separates this novel from the thousands of others that traffic in bleak, amoral human landscapes. Tom shares a story about his 14-year-old self he’s never told anyone, including his wife. Mike admits that, as a young person, he romanticized a certain dark worldview that seems kind of silly, even embarrassing, to his 35-year-old self. And they both agree that this novel is a pretty good argument in favor of continuing to fund Planned Parenthood. Continue reading