Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

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Episode 143: Summer of Second Chances, Sheila Heti (“My Life Is a Joke”)

Way back in Episode 15, we talked about Sheila Heti’s novel How Should a Person Be, a book we were both pretty harsh on. This week we’re giving Heti a second chance (not that she needs one from us; she seems to be doing just fine) by reading a recent story of hers from The New Yorker, “My Life Is a Joke.”

We talk about whether we were too quick to judge Heti’s novel, and whether our reaction came more from the book’s marketing materials than from the book itself. We also talk about what we want from fiction, and what it takes for fiction to feel “real.”

Here’s a picture of the author looking like kind of a bad ass while doing her best impression of Bjork.


Also this week: Mike shares some lessons learned from spending the summer reading book manuscripts. And we talk a lot about snacks, possibly because we were both hungry when we recorded.

You can read the Elisa Gabbert essay we discussed here, at The Smart Set.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or, visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free!) so that you never miss another episode.


Download Episode 143 (right-click, save-as)

Thanks for listening!


Episode 47: John Updike, Rabbit, Run

A jam-packed episode this week. We talk about the first of John Updike’s Rabbit series, in particular its portrayal of sex and the Male Pre-Middle-Life Crisis. Harry Angstrom is a 26-year-old former high-school basketball star who feels trapped in his marriage and his life, so he decides to take off, at least temporarily. We try to figure out whether we’re meant to sympathize with Harry or be critical of his life choices.


Also this week, Mike’s got an update on his NaNoWriMo-ing. And our first ever Rating Reconsidered, in which one of us has decided to change his rating of a book from a previous episode. Plus we try some brandy (and also try to figure out what brandy is).

We’re still running our fundraising drive, and we’d love to have your support. If we raise $2,000 we’ll record a bonus episode about a book chosen by our listeners (i.e., you). We’ve also got some great donor gifts, like our friends and family anthology, with stories by past guests Owen King, Katherine Hill, Paul Lisicky, and more. Please visit our support page, where you can donate quickly and easily using PayPal.

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


Download Episode 47 (right-click, save-as)

Thanks for listening! If you’ve got feedback, you can email us at bookfight(at)gmail(dot)com, you can follow us on Twitter, or contact us through our website. And come back next week for even more good times.

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Episode 15: Sheila Heti, How Should a Person Be?

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all: a lesson pressed upon your Book Fight podcasters by their mothers, and summarily ignored. That’s right, fans. In this one we’re bringing the fight.

We’re also welcoming back to the Book Fight basement our first repeat guest, fan favorite Katherine Hill. You may remember Katherine from her contributions to Episode 4, on Judy Blume’s YA classic Forever. This time, she’s tasked with defending Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life to your skeptical Book Fight hosts. Continue reading