Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 302: Ripped From the Headlines

This week we’re looking at two stories that take on current events–in one case, a story about refugees at the American-Mexico border, and in the other, a story about a white college student who gets called out after posting a picture of herself in a Confederate-flag bikini. We talk about the benefits, and potential drawbacks, of teaching stories about current political controversies in a creative writing class, and how we might approach those stories with our students. Also: in a landscape crowded with really compelling narrative nonfiction, what can fiction, specifically, add to the political discourse?

The stories this week are Danielle Evans’s “Boys Go To Jupiter” (you can read it in The Sewanee Review with a subscription; it’s also in the most recent Best American Short Stories anthology) and Cristina Henriquez’s “Everything is Far From Here” (you can read that one in The New Yorker).


As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you’ll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of 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.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 301: Stories That Do Interesting Things With Time

This week, we’re on the hunt for stories that do interesting things with time. More specifically, we talk about how “time” can be a useful angle into talking about story structure in a creative writing class. Our story picks are Stuart Dybek’s “Paper Lanterns” and Raymond Carver’s “Are These Actual Miles?” (or, “What Is It,” depending on what version of the story you’ve got). Also: it’s November, which means it’s National Novel Writing Month, which means it’s time for us to visit the NaNoWriMo forums!

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you’ll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of 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.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 205: Mary H K Choi, “Korean Thanksgiving”

This is the second week of our special 2017 holiday mini-season, and we decided to do a second round of Thanksgiving, with an essay published in the online magazine Aeon. In the essay, Mary H K Choi talks about her family’s Thanksgiving tradition of eating in a cemetery to commune with their ancestors.

We talk about our expectations for essays, and how the term’s amorphousness can result in a lumping together of many different kinds of pieces, written for many different audiences and purposes. We also talk about authorial perspective, and how it may shift over time. Plus all our usual bullshit.

Speaking of our bullshit (and being back on it), we’ve got another installment of Fan Fiction Corner this week, featuring some heartwarming stories about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Plus a final dive into the NaNoWriMo forums, where we try our best to help struggling writers with their pressing questions.

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 204: Ann Beattie, “The Women of this World”

This year, listeners, we’ve decided to give you a mini-season themed around the holidays. We’re starting with Thanksgiving, and this Ann Beattie story, “The Women of this World,” first published in November 2000 in The New Yorker. Mike really loved Ann Beattie’s stories, back when he was in college and first taking creative writing classes, so he was curious to see if her work would still work on him in the same ways.

In the second half of the episode, we dive back into the NaNoWriMo forums, to see what kind of help this year’s crop of writers is looking for.

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, you can subscribe 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 203: Tom Williams, Don’t Start Me Talkin’

This week we’re discussing our final novel of the Fall of Frauds, a book about two “authentic” bluesmen who turn out to be not quite what they seem. The music is real enough, but they’ve adopted the kinds of personas they assume their (mostly white) audiences want: uneducated, boozy, physically ailing black men from the deep south who speak in homespun slang, when they deign to speak at all. Don’t Start Me Talkin is Tom Willams’ second book, published in 2014 by Curbside Splendor.

Also this week: It’s November, which means it’s NaNoWriMo, which means it’s time for us to dive into the NaNoWriMo forums, where participants are looking for advice on everything from what to name their characters to how to depict the Wars of the Roses, but with talking rats.

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, you can subscribe 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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Bonus Episode: NaNoWriMo 2016

How many words did you write in the past month? Was it fifty thousand? If not, then what’s up with that, slacker? All across this great land of ours, participants in National Novel Writing Month have spent November drafting an entire novel, beginning to end, and what the hell have YOU been doing? Maybe an essay? A couple blog posts? Some tweets? Did you write some nice tweets?

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As long-time listeners know, we have something of a complicated relationship with NaNoWriMo. When we first discussed it, way back in 2012, it made Tom very angry. Though in subsequent years, Tom softened his stance a little. In 2013, Mike even (sort of) participated. What we’ve always enjoyed most is checking in on the NaNoWriMo forums. They’re a real treasure trove of the weird questions people have as they’re trying desperately to finish novel drafts and probably operating on too much caffeine and too little sleep.

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So this week we’re once again diving in, here at the tail end of November, to see what queries our fellow writers have had. What problems they’ve encountered. What things they’ve had difficulty naming. We’ll also see if there’s any update on last year’s theory that the NaNoWriMo forums are really just a clever cover for aliens (or robots) trying to learn how humans behave so they can blend in and eventually enslave us.

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 wherever you normally get your podcasts.

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Episode 104: Elspeth Davie, “The Night of the Funny Hats”

This week’s story is a Tom pick, from a collection he stumbled upon in the library and picked up entirely based on the title. As it turns out, Elspeth Davie, who passed away in 1995, was a celebrated Scottish novelist and story writer, though her reputation didn’t much travel outside of the UK, and it would appear she’s been largely forgotten. We talk about the title story from this 1980 collection, in which a group of tourists take a bus trip across the Australian outback.

We also talk about what separates writers who are remembered from those who aren’t. And to what (if any) extent can writers control their own legacies?

In this piece, from the blog Writers No One Reads, Katrina Dixon notes that Davie was acclaimed in her time, and makes a case that she deserves a larger audience. In her obituary from The Independent, Davie is said to be “implacably modest,” never one to seek out fame. The Independent also argues that while she wrote a couple novels, it was her stories that were most notable, if not exactly flashy.

She was perhaps old-fashioned in her approach to writing, content to produce quirky, finely honed gems rather than sprawling sagas. Every word told: it was very often what she left out rather than what she put in that was of note.

In the second half of the show, we take one final dive into the National Novel Writing Month forums, where we may have uncovered a game-changing conspiracy afoot. Hold on to your butts!

As always, we’re happy to hear what you think about the stuff we talked about this week. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: we’re on Facebook, and gradually getting better about posting studio pics and links and such. So come visit us over there, like our page, etc. etc.

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