Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 249: A Grace Paley Reader, w/ Special Guest Emma Eisenberg

This week we welcome Emma Eiesenberg to the show. Emma is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, as well as the co-founder of Blue Stoop Philly, an organization which is pulling together all kinds of literary events and classes across Philadelphia. As is always the case when we have a guest, we let Emma pick our book this week. Her choice was A Grace Paley Reader, which came out in 2017 and collects much of the author’s fiction, essays, and poetry in one place.

In the first half of the episode, we talk to Emma about her relationship to Paley’s work, and the many things she admires about the author’s style and her life. In the second half of the show, we talk about Blue Stoop, literary community, political advocacy, and lots, lots more.

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 explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

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Episode 248: Fall of Finales, Flannery O’Connor

This week we’re reading the last published story by Flannery O’Connor, “Parker’s Back,” which she apparently wrote while in the hospital. We talk about the story itself, O’Connor’s humor–which she maintained even in her final weeks–and her lifelong wrestling with Catholicism.

In the second half of the show, we bring back an old segment, in which we look at some academic writing about the story we read, and try to see if we can make heads or tails of it.

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 explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

Stream Episode 248:

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Episode 247: Fall of finales, Barry Hannah

This fall we’re reading authors’ final works, and talking about whether it’s better to burn out, or to fade away. Barry Hannah is often described as a “writer’s writer,” and while he never had any huge commercial success, he continues to have a fiercely devoted following. A following which might be kind of annoyed when they hear our reaction to this story.

In the second half of the podcast, we talk about musicians who made farewell albums (i.e., albums they recorded while knowing they’d be their last).

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 explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

Stream Episode 247:

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Episode 246: Fall of finales, Oliver Sacks

This week marks the beginning of our fall season, during which we’ll be talking about finales. That will include the last published works of some famous authors, and possibly some more obscure ones as well. In this first installment, we’re discussing a few pieces by Oliver Sacks, who spent years writing about interesting medical diagnoses and, in the end, wrote about his own.


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.

In the second half of the show, we talk about some famous TV finales, including a few we think ended things on the right note and a few that made a real mess of things.

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 explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

Stream Episode 246:

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Episode 245: Romance novels with Dave Thomas

This week we welcome special guest Dave Thomas (no, not that Dave Thomas), a writer of literary fiction–and founding editor of Lockjaw Magazine–who, with his wife, has recently taken a turn toward writing romance novels. Dave felt that the romance novels we’d read in the past were all pretty terrible, and wanted us to read a good one. So his book pick was by Julia Quinn, whose Regency-era novels are praised for their humor and for featuring strong, complex female characters. The specific book we read is called The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy, and it’s the fourth in a series about the Smith-Smythe family (though each book is also meant to stand alone).

We talk with Dave about what separates a good romance novel from a bad one, and why he and his wife decided to write their own. You can find their books under the author name Josephine Banks.

We also talk to Dave about being an expat in Australia, how living there compares to living in the U.S., whether he eats a bloomin’ onion every day–or only every other day–and how many practice-hours it takes to become an expert at the didgeridoo.

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 explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

Stream Episode 245:

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Episode 244: Summer of Spouses, Helen Knode (and James Ellroy)

This is it, folks: the last episode in our Summer of Spouses season. We’re talking about the writer Helen Knode, who was married for a time to James Ellroy, and who seemed unable to escape his shadow, at least as a novelist (nearly every review of her first book mentioned Ellroy within the first few sentences). We also talk about Ellroy’s relationship to women, which he detailed in a memoir a few years’ back. And, since this is the last week of the season, we decide whether marriage is good or bad. If you’re thinking of getting married, you’ll want to hear this!

In the second half of the show, we dig into some more Yahoo Answers! questions about marriage, including: a wife who doesn’t like the gift her husband gave her, a husband who doesn’t like to go “downtown,” and a couple who are at odds over whether to have a threesome.

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 explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

Stream Episode 244:

Download Episode 244 (right-click, save-as)

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Episode 243: Summer of Spouses, Holiday Reinhorn (and Rainn Wilson)

We’re back with another installment in our Summer of Spouses series. This week we’ve read a short story by Holiday Reinhorn, “Last Seen,” from her 2005 collection, Big Cats. The book was well-reviewed, and Reinhorn has done plenty of other interesting work, but nearly every article about her mentions her famous husband, Rainn Wilson, who you might know as Dwight from The Office. By all accounts the two have a happy and successful partnership; they even started a nonprofit, Lide, which works with at-risk adolescent girls in Haiti. They also own a tiny horse, and a zonkey.

In addition to Reinhorn’s story, we talk about the time we saw her read on someone’s porch in Iowa City, plus speculate wildly about what it must be like to be married to a big TV star. Plus, all our usual nonsense.

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 explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

Stream Episode 243:

Download Episode 243 (right-click, save-as)

Thanks for listening!