Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 412: Shannon Wolf

We’re joined by Shannon Wolf, a British writer and poet currently making her home in the U.S., who picked this episode’s book after hearing us on a previous episode ask, hypothetically, whether there might be a novelization of the movie Legally Blonde. Shannon, a superfan of the film, knew it was actually based on a novel, though the story of that novel’s publication is a bit of a twisty one. And while Amanda Brown’s book lays out the basic plot and character arcs that we all know and love from the film, the tone of the novel is a lot less cheerful and winning.

You can learn more about this episode’s guest, and her work, at her website: https://helloshanwolf.com/

If you like the podcast, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

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Episode 411: Amy Butcher

We’re joined by Amy Butcher—author, most recently, of Mothertrucker—who tells us about the outsized influence Jo Ann Beard’s work has had on her own writing, including her decision to write creative nonfiction in the first place. We also dig into some of the difficult genre questions posed by Beard’s work. Is it fair to call a piece nonfiction when so much of it involves the invention of another person’s interior life? What does the term “essay” really encompass? And do these genre distinctions really matter?

You can learn more about this episode’s guest, and about her books, at her website: https://www.amyebutcher.com/

If you like the podcast, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

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Episode 410: Jen A. Miller

We’re joined by Jen A. Miller–freelance writer and author of Running: A Love Story–to talk about why she loves regency romance novels, and in particular those that explore queer relationships. Jen’s book pick for us was The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, the first book in a new series from Cat Sebastian. We talk about the “rules” of romance novels, why they often don’t get the respect of other kinds of books, and how contemporary romance authors are challenging the heteronormative traditions of the genre in interesting ways. Plus: the return of Jen’s book-a-week blog, and why she loves celebrity memoirs in audiobook form.

You can keep up with Jen’s weekly reading here, at Book a Week With Jen: https://www.bookaweekwithjen.com/.

You can also learn more about her work, and subscribe to her free newsletter on freelancing, at her website: https://jenamiller.com/

If you like the podcast, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 409: Stephanie Feldman

We’re joined by Stephanie Feldman–author, most recently, of the novel Saturnalia (The Unnammed Press, 2022)–who introduces us to a funny, and surprisingly moving short story about a fictional New Jersey cryptid, Walkdog. The story, by Sofia Samatar, takes the form of a student research paper, but as it progresses we realize it’s less about the cryptid in question than about the paper writer’s secret relationship with a boy everyone in school makes fun of for being a nerd.

You can learn more about Stephanie’s novel here: https://www.stephaniefeldman.com/books/saturnalia/

And you can find more about Sofia Samatar, with links to her various books, here: https://www.sofiasamatar.com/

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

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Episode 408: Elizabeth McCracken

We’re joined by Elizabeth McCracken (author, most recently, of the novel The Hero of This Book, out Oct. 4 from Harper Collins) to discuss Mary Gaitskill’s 2005 novel Veronica, a book that until recently Elizabeth was scared to re-read. We talk carnality in fiction, and the sweatiness of early 80s New York City. Plus: we compare notes on our time at the Iowa Writers Workshop, discuss trigger warnings for undergrad classes, and Elizabeth explains why for years she quietly pretended to have read Dostoevsky.

You can order Elizabeth’s newest book here: https://bookshop.org/books/the-hero-of-this-book/9780062971272

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 407: Kevin Kearney

We’re joined by Kevin Kearney (author of the forthcoming novel How to Keep Time, and a staff writer for PopMatters) to discuss John McPhee’s 1968 book The Pine Barrens, which taught America about the relatively small pocket of New Jersey that seemed to exist outside of time. We also talk to Kevin about his own book, and the process of finding a publisher for it, which can sometimes feel overwhelming or intimidating, especially for books that might not be a fit for one of the big commercial publishing houses.

You can find out more about Kevin, and stay up to date on his work, at his website: https://www.kevinmkearney.com/. Also, you can preorder his book, which comes out on November 4: https://www.thirtywestph.com/shop/howtokeeptime

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

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Episode 406: Adalena Kavanagh

We’re joined by Adalena Kavanagh (work in Electric Lit, The Believer, lots of other places) to discuss three stories from Best American Short Stories 1985, an anthology that for some reason was lying around her house when she was a kid, prompting her to read some Serious Literary Fiction at a young age. Adalena wanted to revisit the stories to see if they would hold up, or even conform to her memories of them.

You can find out more about Adalena, and follow her work, on Twitter: https://twitter.com/adalenakavanagh. Or on her website: https://adalenakavanagh.com/

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

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Episode 405: Celeste Doaks

We’re joined by poet Celeste Doaks, whose most recent book, American Herstory, focuses on the experience of former first lady Michelle Obama’s years in the White House, including the art and decor choices she made while living there. So it’s fitting that Celeste had us read an essay by art historian Richard Powell about the official Obama portraits, which in many ways broke with established tradition for presidential portraiture.

We talk about the relationship between writing and visual art, how to use art in a creative writing classroom, and the gender and racial politics of portraiture, among other subjects. Plus we close out the episode with Celeste reading a poem about lightning, so make sure you stay tuned for that!

You can find out more about Celeste–including how to get a hold of her books–at her website: https://doaksgirl.com/

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

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Episode 404: Matthew Vollmer

We’re joined by Matthew Vollmer, author of several books (most recently, This House is Not Your Home, 2022) and also our former grad-school classmate. We talk about our experiences at Iowa, and how our writing and teaching have evolved in the years since. Also Clarice Lispector’s book The Hour of the Star, which Vollmer loves and Tom finds a little confusing.

You can find more about Matthew–and links to his work–at his website, http://matthewvollmer.com/

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 403: Catherine Nichols

We’re joined by Catherine Nichols, writer and host of the Lit Century podcast, to discuss Katie Kitamura’s novel Intimacies, which Barack Obama loved and at least one of us kinda hated. Plus: what makes an ideal audiobook, why Shakespeare would be useful in a fight, and the subtle joys of a semicolon.

You can find Catherine on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/clnichols6. And check out the Lit Century podcast here: https://lithub.com/author/litcentury/

If you like the show, and would like more of it, we’re releasing two bonus episodes a month to our Patreon subscribers, for only $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Stream or download the episode here:

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