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Tough love for literature


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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.

You can stream today’s episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

Thanks for listening! And if you like the show, tell your friends!

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Episode 103: Renata Adler, Speedboat

This week’s book is a Mike pick, Renata Adler’s 1976 novel Speedboat, a book that’s been a touchstone to many other writers, including David Shields and David Foster Wallace. The novel received its share of praise when it was first released, but then fell out of print before the New York Review of Books published a new edition in 2013 (along with a reissue of her book Pitch Dark).

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In the first half of the show we try our best to figure out this slim novel, which is made up of a bunch of loosely connected vignettes and essayistic asides. In the second half of the show we talk about Adler’s famous 8,000-word take-down of Pauline Kael, “The Perils of Pauline,” published in the New York Review of Books in 1980.

We also talk about the strange (and ultimately sad) case of Richard Brittain, who in 2014 tracked down and assaulted someone who wrote a negative review of his self-published novel. Previously, Brittain had gained some internet infamy for a very creepy post he wrote on his own website, called “The Benevolent Stalker.” He’s since updated that post to indicate he knows how “deeply disturbing” his behavior was, and that he’s entered therapy.

Finally, we take another deep dive into the National Novel Writing Month forums to see what our intrepid NaNo-ers are fretting about as their month of intense world-building (and word count building!) continues.

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.

You can stream today’s episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

Thanks for listening! And if you like the show, tell your friends!

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Episode 101: James Tate Hill, Academy Gothic

This week’s book was the winner of the Nilsen Prize for a First Novel, sponsored and funded by Southeast Missouri State University. James Tate Hill‘s book is both a detective novel and an academic satire, set at a small private college where the dean has either killed himself or (more likely) been murdered.

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We try our best to talk about the book without giving away any plot spoilers. We also talk about the conventions of detective novels, and the vagaries of academic life.

In the second half of the show we’ve got a new installment of Raccoon News, which this week features some historical raccoon news. Plus we pay another visit to the NaNoWriMo forums to answer questions about how college kids talk, what tweens are like, and how to make friends.

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.

You can stream today’s episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

Thanks for listening! And if you like the show, tell your friends!

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