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Tough love for literature


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Episode 361: Winter of Wayback, 1968, Pauline Kael

This week we’re discussing a famous Pauline Kael essay about the movie “Bonnie and Clyde,” which The New Republic refused to run, and which then accidentally launched her long, storied career at The New Yorker. Kael argued that the movie, which had been panned by many critics, was more interesting than people were giving it credit for, and that the negative reviews actually said something about the current cultural moment.

We also discuss the recent Harper’s special section on “life after Trump,” and what “the Trump novel” might look like.

If you like the show, and would like to have 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, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, and Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

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Episode 360: Winter of Wayback, 1968, Elizabeth Hardwick

This week we’re discussing a 1968 Elizabeth Hardwick essay about the Memphis funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. The piece attempts to take the measure of both black and white Memphis after MLK’s assassination, and notes tensions within the Civil Rights movement that in certain ways echo arguments within progressive movements today. We also dive into some 1968 debates about whether fiction was up to the task of representing an increasingly fractured, absurdist reality. Plus: women’s magazines pull back on publishing short stories, drying up an important market for writers.

If you like the show, and would like to have 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, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, and Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

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Episode 359: Winter of Wayback, 1968, Ursula LeGuin

When Playboy Magazine accepted an Ursula LeGuin story in 1968, the editors had only one request for the young author: could they use the byline U.K. LeGuin, so Playboy’s readers didn’t know the story was written by a woman? This week we discuss the story, and the circumstances of its publication. Plus: what were creative writing grad programs like in 1968? We take a peek at the Iowa Writers Workshop, thanks to a lengthy feature story from The Chicago Tribune, which features beer bars, Kurt Vonnegut, and a woman who the author of the piece chooses to describe, unfortunately, as “stacked.”

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, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, and Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 358: Winter of Wayback, 1968, Tom Wolfe

Welcome to our Winter of Wayback season! This year we’re diving into 1968, a year that, like our current moment, has often been described as an inflection point in American politics. What we’d like to know: What was the world of literature like that year? Please join us, over the next several weeks, as we try to find out. This week: Tom Wolfe on surfers, slackers, and the culture of parentally-funded hippies.

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, including a special episode next week, where we’ll be discussing a novel based on perhaps the most annoying holiday song of all time, The Christmas Shoes.

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Episode 357: 2020 Holiday Spectacular

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: when we break out the eggnog and suffer through a terrible Christmas-themed book so we can goof on it. This year’s selection is Swamp Santa, book 16 in Jana DeLeon’s Miss Fortune mystery series. We try to make sense of a rather convoluted plot, debate the relative merits of wacky parrots, and get lost in explanatory dialogue.

You can learn more about the universe of the novel at the Sinful, Louisiana website: http://sinfullouisiana.com/

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, including a special episode next week, where we’ll be discussing a novel based on perhaps the most annoying holiday song of all time, The Christmas Shoes.

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Episode 356: The Monster of Gentrification

This week we welcome two special guests–Amanda Meadows and Geoffrey Golden of the Dirt Cheap podcast–to discuss one of their favorite recent graphic novels: BTTM FDRS, by Ezra Clayton Daniels and Ben Passmore. The book has been compared to Jordan Peele’s film Get Out, and features a many-tentacled monster that inhabits an apartment building in a gentrifying Chicago neighborhood.

Our guests help us do some panel analysis of the book, and we talk about the horror genre, and dividing line between effective allegory and allegories that feel heavy-handed. We also talk about their podcast, in which they are reading a very bizarre-sounding pulp novel called Murder in the Glass Room, about an L.A. private investigator who is very obsessed with furniture and elevators.

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.

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Episode 355: The Long Shadow of DFW

David Foster Wallace famously considered the lobster. This week, we consider him! How has his writing–and his legacy–aged in the nearly twenty years since his most well-known essays were published? Also: how mean should creative writing teachers be about lousy (or lazy) student work?

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.

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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:

Download Episode 351