Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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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!

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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:

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Episode 242: Summer of Spouses, Margaret Millar (and Ross Macdonald)

We’ve got another installment this week in our Summer of Spouses, in which we’ve been reading work by the less-famous partners of well-known authors. Interestingly, early on Margaret Millar’s marriage to Ross Macdonald, whose real name was Kenneth Millar, she was the more famous of the two. Though eventually his reputation would take off, particularly after he created the character of Lew Archer. But she remained a well-respected crime writer in her own right, and is often credited with lending psychological depth to the types of characters who, in lesser writers’ hands, tended to be rather flat and stereotypical.

In the first half of the show, we talk about Millar’s prize-winning 1955 novel, Beast in View. Both of us found things to like in the book, but also some things we grew frustrated with. In the second half of the show, we talk about Millar’s relationship with Macdonald, plus we dig into some more Yahoo Answers! questions about marriage, divorce, and flatulence.

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 242:

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Episode 241: Summer of Spouses, John Bayley (and Iris Murdoch)

This week we’re returning to our Summer of Spouses season to discuss John Bayley’s Elegy for Iris, a memoir about his marriage to Iris Murdoch, written while she was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Both of us had heard good things about the book, and were eager to check it out. We’d also read a number of articles about Bayley’s and Murdoch’s sex life–which seems to come up nearly any time someone discusses their marriage–and so were curious about how the book might treat that subject.

In the second half of the show, we talk about the way spouses can support (or not support) their writer spouses, and how having a supportive spouse can make a huge–and often unacknowledged–difference in a writer’s life. This article from The Atlantic (which we discuss briefly) delves into a number of contemporary examples. We also go to Yahoo Answers to see what kinds of problems people need help with in their marriages. This week, those problems include a husband who eats too much quiche, and one who’s a little too into the single mom next door.

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 241:

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Episode 238: Summer of Spouses, Margerie Bonner Lowry

We’re still in our Summer of Spouses season, in which we’re exploring the lesser-known spouses of famous writers. This week’s marriage is a particularly interesting one, and a particularly sad one. Margerie Bonner married Malcolm Lowry when both were in their thirties–she’d been an actress and a personal assistant, while he’d been working on the novel that would eventually be regarded as one of the twentieth century’s best. Without her help, it seems unlikely he ever would have finished it (or, at the very least, it wouldn’t have been as coherent). After Under the Volcano was published, Lowry became an even more spectacular drunk than he was while writing the book, and his life sort of spiraled out of control. Then, it’s possible his wife killed him.

In addition to our discussion of the Lowrys and their marriage, we also eat some snacks (and drink some coffee) sent to us by a listener. We also dive into the internet’s top forum for good advice on marriage and divorce, Yahoo Answers!

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 238:

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Episode 237: Summer of Spouses, Siri Hustvedt

Welcome to another week in our Summer of Spouses season, in which we read and discuss the work of writers who are married to (or otherwise partnered with) more famous authors. For this week’s show we read a couple pieces by the writer Siri Hustvedt, an accomplished essayist and also the wife of writer Paul Auster. We discuss her mix of research with personal essay, which sometimes toes the line of academic writing.

In the second half of the show, we taste test some frozen abomination that is somehow allowed to trade on the Icee name.

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 237:

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Episode 236: Summer of Spouses, John Gregory Dunne

Welcome to another week in our Summer of Spouses season, in which we read and discuss the work of writers who are married to (or otherwise partnered with) more famous authors. We’re interested in how those relationships work, how they collaborate with each other, or don’t, and whether it ever becomes frustrating to feel as if you’re working in someone else’s shadow. This week the couple is a happy one, at least by most accounts: Joan Didion and her husband John Gregory Dunne. For our reading, we checked out one of Dunne’s essays about Hollywood, in which he discussed the work he and Didion did as screenwriters and recalled some of their more comical and frustrating moments inside that world.

In the second half of the show we visit that bastion of internet wisdom, Yahoo Answers, in search of helpful marriage and relationship advice.

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 236:

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Episode 235: Summer of Spouses, Michael Dorris

We’re continuing our Summer of Spouses, in which we read work by the less-famous halves of literary couples. This week it’s a couple stories by Michael Dorris, who was married to the writer Louise Erdrich. He had some pretty big successes of his own, including a nonfiction book called The Broken Cord, which is credited with raising awareness around fetal alcohol syndrome. He and Erdrich were, for a time, also quite the literary power couple, working together on some projects and editing each others’ work. Then Dorris’s life took a very dark turn.

Here’s a link to a lengthy Minneapolis Star-Tribune story about Dorris’s life.

In the second half of the show, we talk about some of their happier days–or at least they seemed happy from the outside–when the two regularly helped each other with their writing and referred to each other as “indispensable.” Also: a follow-up on Tom’s previous use of the term “horse bath,” and the various regional colloquialisms people use for quick washes in the sink.

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 235:

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Episode 233: Tess Gallagher, “Instead of Dying”

We’re continuing our Summer of Spouses, in which we read work by writers who may have sometimes been overshadowed by their more famous partners. This week our author is Tess Gallagher, a celebrated poet and also the second wife of the late Raymond Carver. Gallagher was already a successful poet by the time she met Carver, who had recently stopped drinking, and who seemed to enjoy a second lease on life with her. We talk about Gallagher’s 2006 essay “Instead of Dying,” published in The Sun, about her years with Carver. The essay depicts a pretty idyllic partnership, though it’s also important to consider what’s left out of that version of Carver’s story, including his first wife and their children.

In the second half of the show, we share some bad marriage advice from the past, and Mike taste-tests some cold brew coffee to see if he can finally get onboard with a thing everyone else in the world seems to (wrongly?) enjoy.

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 234:

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Episode 233: Summer of Spouses!

This week we’re starting our new summer season, in which we’ll read work by the less-famous halves of writer couples. To kick it off, we discuss an essay called “Envy” by Kathryn Chetkovich, in which she writes about the crippling jealousy she felt after her boyfriend, Jonathan Franzen, published a little book called The Corrections. The essay caused a bit of a lit-world stir when it came out in 2003 from Granta.

We also talk about the upcoming season, and why we’re interested in exploring these spousal relationships. Plus, Tom reads tweets to Mike against his will.

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 233:

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