Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 104: Elspeth Davie, “The Night of the Funny Hats”

This week’s story is a Tom pick, from a collection he stumbled upon in the library and picked up entirely based on the title. As it turns out, Elspeth Davie, who passed away in 1995, was a celebrated Scottish novelist and story writer, though her reputation didn’t much travel outside of the UK, and it would appear she’s been largely forgotten. We talk about the title story from this 1980 collection, in which a group of tourists take a bus trip across the Australian outback.

We also talk about what separates writers who are remembered from those who aren’t. And to what (if any) extent can writers control their own legacies?

In this piece, from the blog Writers No One Reads, Katrina Dixon notes that Davie was acclaimed in her time, and makes a case that she deserves a larger audience. In her obituary from The Independent, Davie is said to be “implacably modest,” never one to seek out fame. The Independent also argues that while she wrote a couple novels, it was her stories that were most notable, if not exactly flashy.

She was perhaps old-fashioned in her approach to writing, content to produce quirky, finely honed gems rather than sprawling sagas. Every word told: it was very often what she left out rather than what she put in that was of note.

In the second half of the show, we take one final dive into the National Novel Writing Month forums, where we may have uncovered a game-changing conspiracy afoot. Hold on to your butts!

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.

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Writers Ask: Suicide, Don’t Do It

This week, Tom and Mike tackle questions about literary magazines, small presses, and stories that end in suicide. Plus: the proper etiquette for asking a question, the pros and cons of diamond floors, and ruby-studded teeth. Free wisdom, people. You can thank us later.

Or you can start thanking us now, by clicking on the Powell’s button over there on the sidebar. Anything you buy once you’re on their site will result in a little kickback–er, “donation”–coming our way. Plus you’ll be supporting a great indie bookstore. Continue reading


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Writers Ask: Cousin Joey

Are people always telling you what you should write about at parties and family gatherings? “Honey, why don’t you at least try to write a bestseller? People love those vampire books!” We’re here to tell you how to fend off their queries without being a jerk. We’ve also got advice about recommending books to your friends, how to end that short story you’ve been working on, and the place of dragons in literature. Continue reading


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Writers Ask: Episode 1

This week, we debut our new feature: mini-episodes called Writers Ask, in which we dispense life and writing advice to inquisitive listeners. For the foreseeable future, the plan is to alternate between Writers Ask episodes and our standard, longer book discussions, posting new episodes every Monday.

This week’s questions:

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