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Tough love for literature


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Episode 220: Winter of Wayback, 1959!

This week we’re talking about Allen Ginsberg and Diana Trilling. Specifically, we’re talking about an essay Diana Trilling wrote for The Partisan Review about attending an Allen Ginsberg reading at Columbia University in 1959, one which her husband–famous literary critic Lionel Trilling–chose to skip, despite being Ginsberg’s former teacher. We try to parse Diana Trilling’s attitude toward the reading, which seems to be simultaneously salty and tender.

You can read Diana’s essay, and peruse all of The Partisan Review’s archives, via Boston University.

We also talk about lots of other 1959 goings-on, including monkeys in space!

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we discuss the wide world of romance novels.

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Episode 219: Winter of Wayback, 1958!

This week we continue our season-long exploration of the 1950s with an essay by Truman Capote, first published in Holiday Magazine, called “A House on the Heights.” The piece is essentially Capote’s walking tour of his Brooklyn neighborhood, which was in the process of being gentrified by artists, writers, and various hipster types. One of the houses he describes in the essay–the one he assumes to be the oldest in the neighborhood–went up for sale a couple months ago, for the low low price of $10.5 million.

We also talk about lots of other 1958 goings-on, including the first hit by Little Anthony and the Imperials, South Jersey’s version of Levittown, the Thalidomide tragedy, and the young couple who would inspire the 1994 movie Natural Born Killers.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we discuss the wide world of romance novels.

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Episode 218: Winter of Wayback, 1957!

In 1957, Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Gould Cozzens published the novel By Love Possessed, which took the literary world by storm. Glowing reviews poured in: from Harper’s, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Time Magazine. It was called the best book of the year, and even the best book of its generation. Then, in January 1958, critic Dwight MacDonald–apoplectic over seeing so much praise for a book he thought was terrible–wrote one of the greatest literary take-downs of all time, “By Cozzens Possessed,” for Commentary Magazine.

That review is credited with ruining Cozzens’s literary reputation (though a 1957 Time interview in which Cozzens comes off like a real racist, misogynistic and anti-semitic buffoon probably deserves an assist). At any rate, we decided we had to check out this book, to see what all the fuss was about. And it is … really something. For more, you’ll have to listen to the episode.

In the second half of the show, we dive into other important cultural events of 1957, including a still-unsolved mystery in South Jersey, the life and times of Mickey Mantle, a little book called On The Road, and much, much more.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we discuss the wide world of romance novels.

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Episode 217: Winter of Wayback, 1956!

This week we’re continuing our exploration of the 1950s in both literature and popular culture. And you can’t talk about the 50s without talking about science fiction. We checked out three stories by Isaac Asimov, including one –“The Last Question“–that he would later describe as his favorite.

We looked at two other stories, as well: “Gimmicks Three,” about a man who makes a deal with the devil and then tries to escape it, and “Someday,” about a machine that’s maybe just a radio? Honestly we were both a little confused by the “futuristic” machine called a Bard, but maybe we’re just dumb.

Regular listeners know that Mike tends to not like science fiction all that much, so this week provides a good test: can he be swayed by one of its best practitioners?

In the second half of the show, we move on from science fiction to tell the story of Grace Metalious, author of the best-selling–and scandalous!–novel Peyton Place, which came out in 1956, sold tons of copies, and angered nearly everyone in Metalious’s small New Hampshire town. We talk about the critical response to her book, and why it might be getting a reappraisal, all these years later.

Plus, all kinds of other 1956 goodness, including: Mister Softee! Jello shots! Ant farms! And rock and roll!

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we discuss the wide world of romance novels.

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Episode 216: Winter of Wayback, 1955!

We’re midway through this year’s Winter of Wayback: 1950s edition. For those of you just joining us, we’re walking through the decade one year at a time, reading stories and novels as we go, while also learning about other cultural goings-on from each year. This week, we’re discussing Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, which somehow Mike had never read, despite having owned the book long enough for its pages to start yellowing. Will he love it? Hate it? And what’s it like, in a year when Very Bad Men are being outed left and right (deservedly), to read a book about one of literature’s worst men?

Also this week, we talk Disneyland, which opened its gates in 1955, and about Walt Disney’s odd mixture of nostalgic sentimentality and forward-looking belief in technology.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we discuss the wide world of romance novels.

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Episode 215: Winter of Wayback, 1954!

This week on the Winter of Wayback we’re visiting 1954, which happens to be the year in which John Updike published his first story, “Friends from Philadelphia,” in the New Yorker. He wrote the story just after graduating college and giving himself five years to “make it” as a writer. He really hit the ground running! You can read the story here. Or via The New Yorker’s website, if you’re a subscriber.

We also celebrate the “official” (depending on who you ask) birth of rock and roll, with Bill Haley and His Comets releasing “Rock Around the Clock.” Though the song was originally a B-side (to a song called “Thirteen Women,” about a man stranded with a bunch of women after an H-Bomb attack). And it wasn’t until the next year that “Rock Around the Clock” became a #1 hit, after being featured in the movie Blackboard Jungle.

Also this week: Davy Crockett and coonskin caps; Wildwood, NJ’s claim to musical fame; and much, much more!

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we discuss the wide world of romance novels.

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Episode 214: Winter of Wayback, 1953!

It’s the third week in our Winter of Wayback season, and we’re diving headfirst into 1953. Our reading this week is a story by Margaret St. Claire, a sci fi and fantasy writer who was quite active in the 1950s, and managed to carve out a space for herself in what was a very male-dominated world of genre fiction. You can read about some of the sexism she endured via this post at Unbound Worlds.

Also this week, we talk about how people responded to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, which debuted in 1953. Also, the many incarnations of the band The Drifters, TV dinners, Scientology’s South Jersey roots, and the high-profile divorce of Winthrop Rockefeller.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we discuss the wide world of romance novels.

Stream Episode 214:

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