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Tough love for literature


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Episode 108: Elizabeth Hardwick, Sleepless Nights

Welcome, Book Fighters, to 2016! It’s a new year, and things are going to be different around here. No more messing around. Just professional, serious book criticism. After, that is, our usual 7-15 minutes of idle chit chat. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that you don’t want to change your life too suddenly. Resolutions need to be phased in!

Anyway, we do have a book to discuss this week, which is Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights. It’s another short novel, one more in Mike’s series of “first person, loosely plotted” picks of the past few months. It is okay. It maybe left us both a little underwhelmed. Or maybe we’re just tired and cranky, here at the tail end of the holiday season.

Hardwick

We try to figure out why the book left both of us a little cold, given that we’ve both liked other, similar novels. We also do our other, usual Book Fight-y things, like catch up about our respective Christmases, and bicker about which of us is the nice one and which of us is the mean one.

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.

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 also support the show by shopping at Powell’s: if you click on any of the links around our site, then shop as you normally would, we’ll get a small percentage of every dollar you spend.

Stream:

Download Episode 108 (right-click, save-as)

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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!

Stream:

Download Episode 103 (right-click, save-as)