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Book Fight

Updated 6 days ago

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A weekly podcast about books, writing, reading, and raccoons. Hosted by Mike Ingram and Tom McAllister, editors at Barrelhouse Magazine and authors of fiction and creative nonfiction. Winner of a 2015 Philadelphia Geek Award for Best Streaming Media Project. You don't need to read the books to enjoy the show!

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A weekly podcast about books, writing, reading, and raccoons. Hosted by Mike Ingram and Tom McAllister, editors at Barrelhouse Magazine and authors of fiction and creative nonfiction. Winner of a 2015 Philadelphia Geek Award for Best Streaming Media Project. You don't need to read the books to enjoy the show!

iTunes Ratings

195 Ratings
Average Ratings
154
15
9
6
11

Funny and smart

By fefdshjutd - Oct 04 2019
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Mike and Tom just get better and better. Love the banter and the honesty.

Great Banter and Great Thoughts About Books

By EulerIsAPimp - Jul 31 2019
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I don't have much to say other than the title. I've been listening to this podcast for years. It makes me laugh out loud like an idiot in public, helps me appreciate the books I've read more, and adds to my ever growing TBR shelf.

iTunes Ratings

195 Ratings
Average Ratings
154
15
9
6
11

Funny and smart

By fefdshjutd - Oct 04 2019
Read more
Mike and Tom just get better and better. Love the banter and the honesty.

Great Banter and Great Thoughts About Books

By EulerIsAPimp - Jul 31 2019
Read more
I don't have much to say other than the title. I've been listening to this podcast for years. It makes me laugh out loud like an idiot in public, helps me appreciate the books I've read more, and adds to my ever growing TBR shelf.

Listen to:

Cover image of Book Fight

Book Fight

Updated 6 days ago

Read more

A weekly podcast about books, writing, reading, and raccoons. Hosted by Mike Ingram and Tom McAllister, editors at Barrelhouse Magazine and authors of fiction and creative nonfiction. Winner of a 2015 Philadelphia Geek Award for Best Streaming Media Project. You don't need to read the books to enjoy the show!

Ep 225-Michel Houellebecq, The Elementary Particles

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This week we're continuing our Spring of Scandal by discussing author Michel Houllebecq, who's been a polarizing figure in the literary world for years now, particularly in France, where his books have been much-discussed best sellers but he's been largely rebuked or ignored by the literary establishment. He didn't necessarily help his cause when, in a 2001 interview, he went on a rant about Islam and its practitioners.

The book we read was The Elementary Particles, a novel about two brothers whose adult lives are--in different ways--rather isolated and unhappy. The book offers a pretty pointed critique of liberal French politics, though one wonders how seriously we're meant to take the book's various political rants.

Apr 30 2018

1hr 4mins

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Ep 221: Chuck Palahniuk, "Guts"

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This week we kick off the spring season of Book Fight with a discussion of a Chuck Palahniuk story that apparently made upwards of 50 people pass out. You can check out the story for yourself at the official Chuck Palahniuk fan site. We talk about transgressive literature, and whether this story fits in the category. We also talk about what it is that makes people want to read stories that make them squirm. Also, we eat a Pop Tart.

Apr 02 2018

57mins

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Ep 270: Chuck Klosterman, Sex Drugs & Cocoa Puffs

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Our special 90s season has come to an end, but we're capping it off by reading a book that has been described as "the ultimate 90s project" despite actually being published in the early 2000s. Chuck Klosterman made his reputation by taking silly pop culture seriously, a mission not too far removed from a certain literary magazine your humble hosts have some involvement with. One of us (Mike) read this book of essays when it came out. The other of us (Tom) was familiar with Klosterman's sports-adjacent work, but less familiar with his other writing.

We talk about whether the book has aged well or poorly, and what we think of Klosterman's opinions about music, reality television, and sports.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps us make a bit of money each month and keep the show going. For just $5 a month, you'll get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we visit some of the weirder, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Battleship (yes, based on the popular board game).

Mar 25 2019

1hr

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Ep 255: Fall of Finales, Denis Johnson

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This week we're talking about Denis Johnson's final book, the short story collection The Largesse of the Sea Maiden. Prior to reading this one, we'd both been fans of Johnson's work, and had even met him once, in grad school. We talk about how his final stories compare to the ones that sparked his career as a fiction writer, in particular how the narrators in these pieces feel almost like more mature, more contemplative versions of the main character in Jesus' Son.

In the second half of the show, we wrestle with some bad reviews of Johnson's work, and then we take one more dive into the NaNoWriMo forums to help people with their pressing fiction questions.

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. In our most recent episode, we discussed A Shore Thing, a novel by Jersey Shore star Nicole "Snookie" Polizzi. 

Nov 26 2018

1hr 3mins

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Ep 259: Winter of Wayback, 1990 ("The Things They Carried")

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Welcome to another Winter of Wayback season, Book Fight friends! After last year's run through the 1950s, this year we're skipping ahead to take on the 90s. Over the next ten weeks, we're going to dig into some of the best, most interesting, and weirdest writing published over the course of the decade, while looking at ways publishing changed over those years--the rise and fall of print magazines; the dawning of the internet age; and a generation of supposed "slackers" who embraced the DIY ethic of the previous decade's punk scene to carve out their own alternative cultural niche. We hope you'll come along with us for the ride!

On this first episode, we're reading the title story from Tim O'Brien's 1990 book The Things They Carried. It's sort of unbelievable that neither of us had read it before, and we figured it was time to remedy that. We talk about why the early 90s featured so many Vietnam stories, and why this story's become such a touchstone in both literature and creative writing classes. Also: We trace the brief history of a magazine targeted specifically at doctors' offices, Tom dips into the Nintendo-dominated video game landscape of the early 90s, and Mike revisits Pump Up The Volume, a movie he loved as a teen and which may have indirectly spawned this podcast.

Thanks for listening!

Jan 07 2019

1hr 8mins

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Ep 227: Robert Clark Young, Brad Vice, Barry Hannah and Wikipedia

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This week we've got a real scandal to unpack: the strange case of a writer named Robert Clark Young, who apparently "revenge-edited" the websites of several authors connected to the Sewanee Writers Conference, including Barry Hannah. He was eventually outed by a reporter for Salon, but there are still several lingering questions.

A few of those revolve around the writer Brad Vice, who was the subject of a rather vitriolic takedown by Young, after Vice had been accused of plagiarizing elements of his story collection, The Bear Bryant Funeral Train, which was eventually pulped by the University of Georgia Press. Though Vice maintained his story was an intentional homage, not a plagiarism.

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!

May 14 2018

53mins

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Ep 233: Summer of Spouses!

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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.

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!

Jun 25 2018

1hr 8mins

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Crossover Special: Book Fight vs The Drunken Odyssey

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Tom, along with Barrelhouse Poetry Editor Dan Brady, joined the hosts of The Drunken Odyssey for a special crossover episode, recorded at this year's AWP conference in Tampa. Enjoy!

For more of The Drunken Odyssey, check out their website.

Mar 12 2018

40mins

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Ep 235: Summer of Spouses, Michael Dorris

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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.

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.

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!

Jul 09 2018

57mins

Play

Ep 300: Quest Stories

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This week, you might say that we're on a quest to find the best quest story to teach in a creative writing class. For years, both of us have taught Sherman Alexie's "What You Pawn I Will Redeem," but for a variety of reasons--including accusations of sexual harassment against the author--we're looking for something new. Will it be Charles Yu's story "Fable," or Chris Offutt's "Out of the Woods"?

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Oct 28 2019

54mins

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Ep 247: Fall of Finales, Barry Hannah

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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.

Oct 01 2018

52mins

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Ep 232: Erika Krouse, Comfort Woman

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This week is the final installment in our Spring of Scandal season, and we're wrapping it up with an essay by a writer who saw a scandal from a unique perspective: as a private investigator hired to get information from college football players, and from a madam, related to a sexual assault case filed against a large university's football program. Erika Krouse details her involvement in the case, and her mixed feelings about the relative ethics of the job, for this piece in Granta.

In the second half of the show, we tackle a writing question: specifically, what you do when you're between projects and can't seem to get going on something new. Not that we have any great advice. But commiseration is helpful, right?

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!

Jun 18 2018

50mins

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Ep 266: Winter of Wayback, 1998 (Meghan Daum)

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For this week's episode we're talking about Meghan Daum's 1998 essay, "On the Fringes of the Physical World," which details her mostly-online relationship with a man who reached out to her with a fan email. 

We also talk about the promise (and disappointment?) of hypertext fiction, the beginnings of fantasy football, and the movie You've Got Mail.

Mar 04 2019

1hr 1min

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Ep 228-Edna O'Brien, The Country Girls

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This week we're discussing Irish writer Edna O'Brien, and her debut novel from 1960: The Country Girls. The book's frank depiction of sex--or, more accurately, the sexual thoughts of young girls and women--was enough to get it banned, and even burned, in its native country. We consider how the book has aged, and whether it still feels scandalous today. We also talk a bit about O'Brien's trajectory as a writer, and as a young woman, enduring what seemed to be a pretty lousy marriage before breaking free and joining swinging London society.

In the second half of the show, we talk about the recent scandal at the Swedish Academy that has forced the Nobel Prize in Literature to go on hiatus for a year. We unpack the scandal's details, and consider how a group of Swedes got into a position to dole out the biggest prize in letters in the first place.

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!

May 21 2018

1hr 8mins

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Ep 250: Fall of Finales, Ernest Hemingway

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This week we continue our Fall of Finales season, in which we read and discuss the last published work of various authors. The Strand Magazine recently published a previously unpublished Ernest Hemingway story, written in the last decade of his life. It's called "A Room on the Garden Side," and is a semi-autobiographical piece about his time as an irregular soldier in WWII in Paris.

In the second half of the show, we talk about last meals. Where did the tradition of giving death-row prisoners a final "special" meal come from? And how does it actually work in practice?

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!

Oct 22 2018

53mins

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Ep 287: Sally Rooney, Conversations With Friends

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Neither of us had read anything by Sally Rooney, who has been called "the first important Millennial novelist" and "Salinger for the Snapchat generation." Both of her novels have garnered high praise from both critics and celebrities, including Zadie Smith and Sarah Jessica Parker. So it seemed like time for America's Most Important Books Podcast to finally weigh in.

We chose Rooney's first novel, Conversations With Friends, about a kind of love triangle (love rhombus?) between a young woman named Frances, her former girlfriend/current best friend Bobbi, and an older married couple, Melissa and Nick.

We talk about the book's politics, the narrator's voice, and what it means to be a "Millennial novelist." Also this week: Mike's continuing quest to find a good donut gets complicated.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps us make a bit of money each month and keep the show going. For just $5 a month, you'll get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we visit some of the weirder, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Jul 29 2019

1hr

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Ep 234: Tess Gallagher, "Instead of Dying"

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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 "

Jul 02 2018

52mins

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Ep 279: Ray Bradbury

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As we continue our Spring Forward season--in which we're reading forward-looking books, stories, and essays--this week we checked out four famous Ray Bradbury stories and talked about Bradbury's visions of the future. The stories we read include one about a sentient house, one that introduced the idea of the butterfly effect to the world, one about a veldt (and some evil children) and one about a man out for an evening walk in a future society in which that kind of behavior can get you locked up.

Also: Ray Bradbury fun facts! And an early-20th-century plan to give New York City a central vacuum system.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps us make a bit of money each month and keep the show going. For just $5 a month, you'll get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we visit some of the weirder, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Battleship (yes, based on the popular board game).

May 27 2019

59mins

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Ep 245: Romance novels with Dave Thomas

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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. 

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.

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!

Sep 17 2018

1hr 16mins

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Ep 295: Unreliable Narrators

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It's a new season on the calendar, and that means a new season of Book Fight. This fall, we're going to be exploring the canon of creative writing, trying to find the best stories to teach in creative writing classes. Each week we'll have a different theme, either a craft element or type of story, and we'll each nominate a story we think works particularly well in the classroom. We'll pit the stories against each other and by the end of the episode crown a winner.

This week we've got Denis Johnson going up against Matthew Vollmer, with two stories featuring unreliable narrators: "Emergency" and "Will and Testament."

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Sep 23 2019

1hr 10mins

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Ep 305: Multiple Points of View

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This week, we're discussing stories told from multiple points of view. It can be difficult enough to successfully capture a single character's consciousness on the page, which makes our first story pick especially impressive: "The Casual Car Pool," by Katherine Bell, which originally appeared in the fall 2005 issue of Ploughshares. Our second pick takes a different tack to exploring multiple characters, keeping a distanced, fly-on-the-wall perspective: J.D. Salinger's "A Perfect Day for Bananafish."

We talk about how we approach point of view when teaching creative writing classes, particularly when it comes to the varieties of third person narration. We also talk about the difficulty of writing from multiple points of view in a single story, and whether it's something we'd encourage or discourage our students from trying.

Also this week: one last trip into the NaNoWriMo forums!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Dec 02 2019

1hr 13mins

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Ep 304: Dialogue

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This fall, we've been talking about the best stories to teach in a creative writing class. For this week's competition, we're discussing dialogue, and pitting a story by Mary Miller against one by George Saunders. In Miller's story, "Aunt Jemima's Old-Fashioned Pancakes," a teenage girl navigates friendship, romance, and weird dads. In Saunders' "Pastoralia," a man navigates a very strange job and a difficult coworker.

Also this week: another trip into the NaNoWriMo forums!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Nov 25 2019

1hr 19mins

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Ep 303: Special Guest Steph Cha

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This week we welcome author Steph Cha (Your House Will Pay) to discuss a book she read as a kid and wanted to revisit: Amy Tan's novel The Joy Luck Club. Cha says she first read the novel in large part because she'd seen her mother reading it. Now, having written several books of her own, and having thought more deeply about Asian-American literature, what would she think of Tan's breakout book?

We also talk about basset hounds, crime novels, Los Angeles in the '90s, the politics of Nest cameras, and being a top Yelp reviewer.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Nov 18 2019

1hr 11mins

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Ep. 302: Ripped From the Headlines

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This week we're looking at two stories that take on current events--in one case, a story about refugees at the American-Mexico border, and in the other, a story about a white college student who gets called out after posting a picture of herself in a Confederate-flag bikini. We talk about the benefits, and potential drawbacks, of teaching stories about current political controversies in a creative writing class, and how we might approach those stories with our students. Also: in a landscape crowded with really compelling narrative nonfiction, what can fiction, specifically, add to the political discourse?

Also, it's November, which means more fun with the NaNoWriMo forums!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Nov 11 2019

57mins

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Ep 301: Stories And Time

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This week, we're on the hunt for stories that do interesting things with time. More specifically, we talk about how "time" can be a useful angle into talking about story structure in a creative writing class. Our story picks are Stuart Dybek's "Paper Lanterns" and Raymond Carver's "Are These Actual Miles?" (or, "What Is It," depending on what version of the story you've got). Also: it's November, which means it's National Novel Writing Month, which means it's time for us to visit the NaNoWriMo forums!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Nov 04 2019

1hr 1min

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Ep 300: Quest Stories

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This week, you might say that we're on a quest to find the best quest story to teach in a creative writing class. For years, both of us have taught Sherman Alexie's "What You Pawn I Will Redeem," but for a variety of reasons--including accusations of sexual harassment against the author--we're looking for something new. Will it be Charles Yu's story "Fable," or Chris Offutt's "Out of the Woods"?

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Oct 28 2019

54mins

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Ep 299: Setting

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This week, we're continuing our quest for the best stories to use in a creative writing course, with pieces where setting plays a strong role: Tony Earley's "The Prophet From Jupiter" and "Roots" by Michael Crummey. We talk about how both authors evoke a strong sense of place through small details, and how to discuss that kind of world-building with creative writing students.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Oct 21 2019

56mins

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Ep 298: Breakup Stories

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This week, we're continuing our quest for the best stories to use in a creative writing course, with pieces about breakups: Courtney Bird, "Still Life, With Mummies" and "Cat Person" by Kristen Roupenian. You might remember the latter as "that story that went viral and briefly broke the internet," spurring hot takes from a bunch of people who seemingly hadn't read a short story in a very long time.

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Oct 14 2019

52mins

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Ep 297: Magical Realist Stories

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This week, we're continuing our quest for the best stories to use in a creative writing course, with pieces that incorporate magical elements: "The Healer" by Aimee Bender versus a trio of very short stories by Etgar Keret.

We talk about what the term "magical realism" actually means, and how we introduce it in the classroom. We also discuss ways to open up a fiction class to a diversity of styles and genres while still assuring that students are challenging themselves and trying new things. Plus: Are magicians creeps? And Tom revisits the work of Jim Harrison, mostly out of spite.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Oct 07 2019

1hr 2mins

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Ep 296: Second Person Stories

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This fall, we're exploring the canon of creative writing, trying to find the best stories to teach in creative writing classes. Each week we'll have a different theme, either a craft element or type of story, and we'll each nominate a story we think works particularly well in the classroom. We'll pit the stories against each other and by the end of the episode crown a winner.

This week we've got two second person stories: "How to Leave Hialeah," by Jennine Capo Crucet, going up against Lorrie Moore's "How to Be an Other Woman."

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Sep 30 2019

1hr 5mins

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Ep 295: Unreliable Narrators

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It's a new season on the calendar, and that means a new season of Book Fight. This fall, we're going to be exploring the canon of creative writing, trying to find the best stories to teach in creative writing classes. Each week we'll have a different theme, either a craft element or type of story, and we'll each nominate a story we think works particularly well in the classroom. We'll pit the stories against each other and by the end of the episode crown a winner.

This week we've got Denis Johnson going up against Matthew Vollmer, with two stories featuring unreliable narrators: "Emergency" and "Will and Testament."

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest--and steamiest!--novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Sep 23 2019

1hr 10mins

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Ep 294: Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

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It's the last week of our Summer School season, and we're ending on a book (and author) Tom had never read. Topics include: Diner en Blanc, the titular lighthouse (and whether they'll ever reach it), mental health, donut holes, pumpkin spice, and why the kids these days love the TV show Friends.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest romance novels. We've also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Sep 16 2019

1hr 2mins

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Ep 293: Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

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For years, Mike would see references to Ford Madox Ford in articles about famous modernist writers and think: "I should really check that guy out one of these days." Well, listeners, that day is today. Mike drags Tom along for an exploration of The Good Soldier, Ford's most famous book, a short novel about two couples whose lives intersect at a German spa for people with heart ailments. "This is the saddest story I have ever heard," the book begins, before plunging readers into a sometimes disorienting tale of infidelity and (maybe?) murder.

We talk about the book's non-chronological storytelling technique, as well as the unreliable narrator at its center, whose version of events we're never quite sure how much to trust. Also this week: #DonutQuest2019 continues, with Tom bringing over a couple samplings from his home state of New Jersey.

Sep 09 2019

53mins

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Ep 292: Jim Harrison, "The Summer He Didn't Die"

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This week is a Tom pick: a novella by Jim Harrison featuring his beloved character Brown Dog. In "The Summer He Didn't Die," Brown Dog has some tooth problems, and also some sex. Just regular old Brown Dog stuff. Harrison is considered a master of the novella form, and a chronicler of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Is this his best work? Reviews are mixed.

Also this week: Mike continues his summer-long quest for a good donut, with a return trip to Philly favorite Federal Donuts.

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you'll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world's weirdest romance novels. And starting this week, we'll be adding new mini-episodes in a series called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Thanks for listening!

Sep 02 2019

55mins

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Ep 291: Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse

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Welcome to Week Two of a series we didn't intend to undertake: Tom and Mike Read Books They're Not Quite Smart Enough to Understand. Actually, we did a slightly better job with this one than we did with last week's reading, Jenny Boully's The Body. Though we can already hear the sound of 1,000 grad students rolling their eyes in response to our discussion of Barthes. But hey, we're giving it our best. We can't help it if there are rocks where our brains are supposed to be.

This week's book was a Mike pick, because he's been on the English department faculty of a major university for too long to not have read anything by Roland Barthes. A Lover's Discourse was billed as one of his more accessible works, so we figured it could make a good starting place. And it wasn't bad! At least the parts that we understood. Which were some of the parts!

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps us make a bit of money each month and keep the show going. For just $5 a month, you'll get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we visit some of the weirder, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Aug 26 2019

1hr 2mins

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Ep 290: Jenny Boully, The Body

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This week we're talking about a lyric essay that was first published in 2002 and has since become part of a new canon of creative nonfiction: Jenny Boully's "The Body," which first appeared in The Seneca Review and was re-released in book form by Essay Press. The big question of this episode: are we smart enough to understand this piece, which is written in footnotes to an invisible text? Or is it even a thing meant to be "understood" in a traditional narrative sense? Is it a beautiful evocation of a language that's just beyond conventional meaning? Is it a whole bunch of word salad? And, seriously, are we big dummies who just barely manage to get our pants on each morning?

Also this week: In Mike's continuing search for a good donut, he pits two bitter Pennsylvania rivals against each other. That's right, it's Sheetz vs. Wawa.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps us make a bit of money each month and keep the show going. For just $5 a month, you'll get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we visit some of the weirder, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Aug 19 2019

59mins

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Ep 289: John McPhee, "Levels of the Game"

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Welcome back to our Summer School season, in which we're reading books, stories, and essays we feel like we should have read by now. John McPhee was in that category for Mike, especially as he's been teaching (and writing) more creative non-fiction. McPhee is a celebrated essayist who started out at Time Magazine and then moved on to a lengthy career at The New Yorker. In 1969 he wrote a long piece about a tennis match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner that became a short book, Levels of the Game. Renowned as not just a piece of sports writing, but as a study in two contrasting characters at a pivotal moment in American history, McPhee's essay/book is considered a master of its form.

We talk about the essay, and about the very different turns the lives of its principle subjects took after it was published. We also talk about how McPhee put the piece together, which involved lugging a suitcase-sized projector down to Puerto Rico for a U.S. Davis Cup match.

Also this week: Mike tries again to eat a good donut.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps us make a bit of money each month and keep the show going. For just $5 a month, you'll get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we visit some of the weirder, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Aug 12 2019

1hr 1min

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Ep 288: Thom Jones, "The Pugilist at Rest"

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Thom Jones graduated from the Iowa Writers Workshop in the late 70s, but didn't truly find his voice--and critical success--until "The Pugilist at Rest," which was published in The New Yorker in 1991. After that story, Jones published pieces in other big-name magazines and pretty quickly had a story collection out in the world. Journalists really latched onto the late-bloomer story, as well as the fact that Jones was working as a janitor when "The Pugilist at Rest" was published.

We talk about the story, and also about the mythology around Jones, who died in 2016. Also this week: Mike's continuing quest to eat a good donut, and why Tom is so tired of reading stories about the 60s.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps us make a bit of money each month and keep the show going. For just $5 a month, you'll get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we visit some of the weirder, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Aug 05 2019

57mins

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Ep 287: Sally Rooney, Conversations With Friends

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Neither of us had read anything by Sally Rooney, who has been called "the first important Millennial novelist" and "Salinger for the Snapchat generation." Both of her novels have garnered high praise from both critics and celebrities, including Zadie Smith and Sarah Jessica Parker. So it seemed like time for America's Most Important Books Podcast to finally weigh in.

We chose Rooney's first novel, Conversations With Friends, about a kind of love triangle (love rhombus?) between a young woman named Frances, her former girlfriend/current best friend Bobbi, and an older married couple, Melissa and Nick.

We talk about the book's politics, the narrator's voice, and what it means to be a "Millennial novelist." Also this week: Mike's continuing quest to find a good donut gets complicated.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps us make a bit of money each month and keep the show going. For just $5 a month, you'll get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we visit some of the weirder, goofier corners of the literary world. Recently, that's involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore's Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Robocop.

Jul 29 2019

1hr

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Ep 286: Annie Dillard, "Total Eclipse"

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This week we're discussing Annie Dillard's famous essay, "Total Eclipse," about the time she saw a total eclipse. Neither of us had read it before, and neither of us is quite sure whether we like it. We get Geoff Dyer's opinion, and Robert Atwan's, and a couple dissenting opinions from Goodreads, as we try to decide what to make of it. If you've never read the piece, you can do so here, via The Atlantic.

Also this week: Mike tries Indonesian food, and continues his quest for the perfect donut. And Tom has opinions about the best way to cook a s'more. 

Jul 22 2019

50mins

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