Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 354: Therapy-Speak

This week, Mike picks an essay that exemplifies some of what he doesn’t love in contemporary writing about mental health. Too often, there’s a tendency to fall back on abstractions, cliches, and platitudes, rather than to do the (admittedly tough!) work of putting the reader inside the writer’s actual, lived experience.

In the second half of the show, we take one last dive into the NaNoWriMo forums to give our (semi-solicited?) advice to this year’s crop of would-be novelists.

As always, you can listen to the show right here on our site (stream or download below), or check us out in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

If you like the show, and you’d like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 353: Strike-Thru

This week we’re talking Wikipedia vandalism, essays that show their editing work, and creative nonfiction that borrows moves from academic writing. Plus, another deep dive into the NaNoWriMo forums to help out this year’s crop of aspiring novelists.

This week’s reading is a David LeGault essay, “Revision and Collapse,” which was first published in Fourth Genre. Though as always, you don’t have to do the reading prior to listening to the episode.

As always, you can listen to the show right here on our site (stream or download below), or check us out in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

If you like the show, and you’d like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 352: Conservative Comedy?

This week’s episode asks the question: Why aren’t conservatives funny? Or, put another way: Didn’t conservatives used to be funny? At least some of them? And could they ever be funny again?

More specifically, we revisit a P.J. O’Rourke essay from 1982, in which the author takes a cruise to the Soviet Union sponsored by the magazine The Nation, and spends most of his time drinking vodka with the Russians on-board while making fun of the insufferable American passengers, who are sort of like the parents from Family Ties except with even less self-awareness. Shooting fish in a barrel, maybe, but also: what annoying fish!

In the second half of the show, we dig back into the NaNoWriMo forums to offer our (semi-solicited?) advice to this year’s crop of aspiring novelists.

As always, you can listen to the show right here on our site (stream or download below), or check us out in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

If you like the show, and you’d like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 351: Heel Turns

This week we’re talking about professional wrestling, essays with unusual structures, troubled father-son relationships, and what it’s like to be one of the only non-white kids at your school. Plus: it’s still November, which means we’re digging into the NaNoWriMo forums to answer some of the internet’s weirdest questions about writing a novel.

Our reading for the week was Todd Kaneko’s essay “Babyfaces,” originally published in a pop-culture anthology by Barrelhouse Magazine.

As always, you can listen to the show right here on our site (stream or download below), or check us out in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

If you like the show, and you’d like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 350: Eat the Rich

This week: writing about money and social class; righteous anger; and essays that spark actual class debate. Plus we begin out month-long dive into the National Novel Writing Month forums, to offer our (semi-solicited?) advice to this year’s crop of prospective authors.

Our reading for the week was “The Gifted Classes” by Frances Lefkowitz, originally published in The Sun.

As always, you can listen to the show right here on our site (stream or download below), or check us out in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

If you like the show, and you’d like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 349: Family Mysteries

This week we’re talking about research-driven memoir writing, books that are difficult to pin down, and what it means to say that writing feels “poetic.”

Our reading was The Grave on the Wall, the prize-winning memoir by poet Brandon Shimoda, which begins with the author on a search to understand his grandfather’s life.

In the second half of the show, we talk about strategies for talking about student work that might be offensive or otherwise problematic.

As always, you can listen to the show right here on our site (stream or download below), or check us out in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

If you like the show, and you’d like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 348: Counting Crows

This week’s reading is an essay by Elena Passarello about birdsong. But it’s also other stuff! We talk about writing that make you look at the world a bit differently, and writers who can make you care about things you never thought you cared about. In the second half of the show, we discuss a recent Twitter kerfuffle over writing and money and whether publishing a book can (or should) change your life.

The essay we discussed, “Of Singing,” was published in The Iowa Review, but is also available in Passerello’s 2012 collection, Let Me Clear My Throat, from Sarabande Books.

As always, you can listen to the show right here on our site (stream or download below), or check us out in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

If you like the show, and you’d like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 347: Earthquake!

This week we’re discussing a piece of creative nonfiction that really pushes the bounds of the genre, imagining the effects of a California earthquake on animal and plant life, as well as several invented human characters. Daniel Orozco’s “Shakers” appeared in an edition of Best American Essays edited by David Foster Wallace, but is it really an “essay”? 

In the second half of the show, we talk about strategies for running creative writing workshops. When we started teaching, we both adhered to the kinda “free-for-all” model favored in our own grad program, but over the years we’ve begun to experiment with more structured approaches, including tasking small groups with digging into various elements of a story or essay.

As always, you can listen to the show right here on our site (stream or download below), or check us out in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

If you like the show, and you’d like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 346: When the Sixties Died

This week we’re continuing our discussion of creative nonfiction by revisiting a classic in the genre: Joan Didion’s essay “The White Album,” which explores the author’s experiences of anxiety and paranoia at “the end of the 60s.” We talk about things we can learn from a master, and how to write essays that will age well. Plus: a Miss Manners column about famous authors snubbing an academic.

As always, you can listen to the show right here on our site (stream or download below), or check us out in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

If you like the show, and you’d like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 345: Short and Sweet

This week we’re discussing a series of very short essays by J. Robert Lennon, and talking about how we teach students to write very short pieces that aren’t simply tossed-off and incomplete. Plus: Tom gets angry about a rich book influencer who thinks her pandemic problems are unique and interesting. And Mike runs into his first anti-masker in the wild.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes each month, including Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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