Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


1 Comment

Episode 165: John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things

This week’s book was a Mike pick. A novel that draws on elements of familiar fairy tales and mythic stories, yet plays with them in a way that feels original. The author was new to us, but he’s well-known by readers of crime novels–he’s written a series of books featuring a private detective named Charlie Parker. This book seems like a departure for him, though.

bookoflostthings

We also talk this week about raccoons, because that’s something we do. Plus: the return of a long-dormant segment that has to do with Tom’s pants.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the little player thingy below. Or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts.

Stream Episode 165:

Download Episode 165 (right-click, save-as)

Advertisements


2 Comments

Episode 135: Summer of Second Chances, Harlan Ellison (“I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream”)

Welcome to a new season of Book Fight, in which we revisit writers we’ve panned in the past and give their work another go. Last spring, we didn’t much care for Ellison’s spite-fueled essay, “The Three Most Important Things in Life.” Now, we’ve read one of his most lauded stories, “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.” Will it change our assessment of Ellison, or will we double down on the hate?

Here’s a picture of Ellison just chillaxing at home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We also talk about when you should give your own work a second (or a third, or a fourth) chance. How do you know when to keep revising, and when to give up on a piece and move on? Plus, another installment of Raccoon News!

As always, you can stream the episode below, or download it from the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts.

Thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 135:

Download Episode 135 (right-click, save-as)


1 Comment

Episode 112: Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl

Here’s a prediction: Some people in our listening audience are going to feel vindicated by our opinions about the wildly popular novel Gone Girl. Some other people in our listening audience are going to be really angry and send us emails telling us how wrong we are about everything. And still other people won’t care one way or another, because they’re just tuning in for Raccoon News, or because they’re using our podcast to learn English, or because they have a very specific kink that involves listening to dudes talk semi-seriously about books.

Which camp will you fall into? Let us know in the comments!

GoneGirl

You know what the book is about, right? At least basically? It’s right there in the title! Also they made a movie out of it. Ben Affleck’s in it. Remember when Ben Affleck was on that PBS genealogy show and they found out his ancestry included a slave owner and then Ben Affleck somehow convinced PBS to cut that part out of the show, even though it was probably the only interesting part of the show, and then later still people on the internet found out about it and Ben Affleck had to apologize?

Stars! They’re just like us!

Actually, at least one of your Book Fight co-hosts has a slave owner in his ancestry. It wasn’t great to find that out, but it wasn’t entirely surprising, either. PBS can talk about it all they want. Maybe we’ll talk about it on a future episode.

Anywhoo, speaking of stars, here is a video that will help remind you about Ray Pruitt, and his shirting preferences:

Side note: Both your Book Fight hosts really wish the above video didn’t have that cartoony music at the end, which seems to perhaps make light of a woman being pushed down the stairs. We’re not endorsing that shit. Ray Pruitt was a monster, though he was a monster with a voice that can make your pants just melt right off.

Side note #2: If you’d forgotten about The Heights, the short-lived show starring Ray Pruitt (aka Jamie Walters), this synopsis from IMDB is … sort of helpful?

‘The Heights’ is not only the name of the suburb a group of young adults lives in, it’s also the name of the rock band they’ve set up. During its 12 episodes, the show tells partly comedian, partly serious and melancholy about relations, crises and important events in the lives of the young people. Each shows features a song of the band.

The Heights actually pre-dated Walters’s turn on Beverly Hills, 90210. Apparently he didn’t much care for the plot arc that turned him into an abusive boyfriend. He was touring in support of his hit single “Hold On” and teenage girls were holding up signs at concerts that said “Leave Donna Alone.” Speaking of Donna Martin, you should really go read her Wikipedia entry, which is just fantastically odd.

Here’s a link to a People Magazine story about the raccoons invading Brooklyn and turning it into a “frat party.”

Here’s a video of Waxahatchee performing live on KEXP:

To listen to this week’s episode, just click on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free) and never miss another episode. While you’re over there in iTunes, leave us a rating and review. Once we hit 100 reviews, Mike will finally read Harry Potter, and we’ll talk about it on the show!

Stream Episode 112:

Download Episode 112 (right-click, save-as)


4 Comments

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.

AcademyGothic

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!

Stream:

Download Episode 101 (right-click, save-as)


4 Comments

Marguerite Duras, The Lover

Marguerite Duras wrote this short novel late in her career (it was published in 1984, when she was 70), but it describes an episode early in her life, when at age 15 she began an affair with a 27-year-old man in what was then known as French Indochina. Duras called the novel “purely autobiographical,” though later she made other statements that cast shades of doubt on some of its details. Still, the central story of the book would appear to be true, which caused a minor scandal in certain corners upon its publication.

Duras_cover

We talk about the book’s presentation of its central relationship, and how it subverts some expectations for a relationship with that particular age difference at play. We also talk about short novels more generally, and writing in the confessional mode.

In the second half of the show, we find out whether we’re smart enough to answer some grad-school questions about the novel. Plus Tom’s got another installment of Raccoon News. As promised, here are some links, if you’d like to explore this week’s Raccoon News in greater depth:

Adorable Raccoon Rides Scooter, Adorably

NY Mets Sign New Shortstop, Interests Include Eating Garbage, Being a Raccoon

Canadians Are Odd, Do Odd Things, Probably To Get Our Attention

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.

Stream Ep. 92:

Download Ep. 92 (right-click, save-as)


1 Comment

Episode 84: Alexander von Humboldt, Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent

This week’s book was chosen for us by a donor to our winter fund drive. A famous work of early 19th century natural history, it’s a little outside our usual comfort zone, but we’re always happy to give new things a go. Still, don’t expect that you’re going to hear an expert breakdown of von Humboldt’s findings, or his place in the history of science. Instead you’ll hear us trying to wade through a lot of measurements and descriptions of rocks in search of the good stuff: jaguar-related adventures, fishing for eels, and making jellyfish mad.

You can read (or maybe skim?) the roughly 2,000-page book here, via Project Gutenberg, though we’d probably recommend the abridged Penguin version, which is only 300-some pages and presumably cuts out some of the stuff about water temperatures.

Alexandre_humboldt

Also this week: a new installment of Raccoon News, which includes a dispatch from our hockey-loving friends to the north. Plus a new segment: James Patterson Novel or Eric Stoltz Movie From the 90s?

As always, you can listen to the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the streaming player below. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can listen to back episodes and subscribe (for free!) to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re in iTunes, please take a second to leave us a rating and a review. Both those things help the show move up the charts and ultimately allow us to reach more people.

We’re always happy to hear what you think about the things we discussed on the show. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: As of a few days ago, we’re now on Facebook! So come visit us over there, where we’ll post occasional photos and show notes, and maybe preview upcoming show features.

Stream:

Download Episode 84 (right-click, save-as)


Leave a comment

Episode 69: Andre Dubus III, Townie: A Memoir

This week we’re talking about the 2011 memoir from Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog and son of the acclaimed short story writer Andre Dubus. The book details the younger Dubus’s childhood in a series of rough New England neighborhoods, his eventual prowess as a fighter, his struggles to find better outlets for his anger, and his evolving relationship with a mostly absent father.

Townie

Also: the first installment of a new feature, Raccoon News.

As for the book, we talk about the need to balance thoroughness with concision in memoir, the arc of Dubus’s life and whether aspects of that arc have been artificially shaped in the narrative. Though there’s a lot to admire about the memoir, including its examination of male violence, and the transformation Dubus underwent as he learned to replace his anger with empathy.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or check us out in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another installment.

Thanks for listening! And we hope we’ll see some of you this Thursday (Sept. 25) at our first-ever live event at the Spiral Bookcase in Philadelphia!

Stream:

Download Episode 69 (right-click, save-as)