Book Fight

de Mike Ingram

Tough love for literature

Episodios

Ep 375: David Roth

por Mike Ingram

We're joined by David Roth (writer and co-owner, Defector Media) to discuss the debut novel by Pete Beatty, which spins a tall tale of a mythological character, Big Son, and his various feats in 1830s Ohio. We talk about how the novel complicates and subverts stories of American myth, and just how much fun it is to read. We also chat with David about his own work, including blending sports and politics at Deadspin (R.I.P.), and how reading Kurt Vonnegut prepared him for writing about Donald Trump.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which most recently forced us to read actor Sean Penn's "novel," Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff.

Ep 374: Lauren Grodstein

por Mike Ingram

We're joined by Lauren Grodstein, author of several novels, including the New York Times bestseller A Friend of the Family, to discuss Philip Roth's Everyman. As a Jewish author from New Jersey, Grodstein says Roth has loomed large throughout her life, and she's wrestled with how to think about his legacy, particularly in light of the recent scandal involving his biographer, Blake Bailey. But even more broadly, how are we meant to reckon with an author who is wise in so many ways, but also clearly limited in others?

If you like the show, and would like more of it in your life (in the form of two monthly bonus episodes) you can join our Patreon for just five bucks: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 373: Jeff Chon

por Mike Ingram

We're joined by Jeff Chon, author of the new novel Hashtag Good Guy With a Gun, to talk about political fiction, conspiracy theories, and why some editors are cowards. We also talk about the South Korean novel The Disaster Tourist, by Yun Ko-Eun (translated by Lizzie Buehler), which Jeff says he picked up as part of his ongoing project to "be a better Korean," but then fell in love with because of its lively voice and dark humor.

Thanks for listening! If you like the podcast, and would like more of it (in the form of regular bonus episodes) you can subscribe to our Patreon here, for just five bucks: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 372: John Kell

por Mike Ingram

We're joined by John Kell (freelance journalist, PR rep for Chobani) to talk about why the pandemic inspired him to read more books featuring gay male characters, which he recently wrote about in a piece for Fortune. We discuss one of those books, Edmund White's Our Young Man, and why John felt somewhat ambivalent about its main character, a gorgeous male model who is trying not to age out of the industry. We also talk about what kinds of gay lives get represented in fiction, which fictional universes we'd like to see get COVID updates, and what it's like to make the move from journalism to public relations.

If you like the show, and would like access to two bonus episodes each month--plus our entire backlog of bonus material--you can subscribe to our Patreon for just $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 371: Christopher Gonzalez

por Mike Ingram

We welcome special guest Christopher Gonzalez (I'm Not Hungry But I Could Eat) to discuss a novel that taught him a lot about flash fiction. Also discussed: the Netflix show Marriage or Mortgage, why flash fiction isn't just about word count, and how to title your novel to give critics an easy talking point.

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, you can join our Patreon and get regular bonus episodes: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

 

Ep 370: Segment-a-palooza!

por Mike Ingram

In celebration of the nine-year anniversary of our podcast, we're bringing back some of our favorite segments from the show's history! We also discuss some exciting changes coming down the pike.

If you like the show, and would like more of it in your life, check out our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 369: 1968 Best & Worst, Snubs and Flubs

por Mike Ingram

This week we're wrapping up our Winter of Wayback season by reviewing what we've learned. Which stories and essays did we love? Which pieces did we hate? What did we learn about 1968, and how did it compare to our previous presuppositions? Also, as a special bonus, Tom reviews a famous 1968 movie he'd never seen before, and Mike eats a Big Mac.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 368: Bernard Malamud (Winter of Wayback)

por Mike Ingram

This week we continue our exploration of 1968 by checking out a Bernard Malamud story, "Man in the Drawer," which won the O'Henry prize that year. Also: what were hippies up to in 1968? We take a deep dive into newspaper archives to learn how that term was being used, and what it could tell us about the state of the counterculture (and the attitudes of squares).

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, for $5/month you can subscribe to our Patreon and get bonus episodes (plus support the work we do): https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 367: Best American Short Stories, 1969

por Mike Ingram

This week we continue our Winter of Wayback season by checking out a couple stories from the 1969 Best American Short Stories anthology (featuring stories published in 1968). We intentionally chose authors we didn't know anything about, though it turns out both writers went on to fairly celebrated careers, albeit in different genres. Norma Klein became a beloved YA author, often compared to Judy Blume, though she died at the tragically young age of 50. Jack Cady, meanwhile, won numerous awards for his horror and sci fi novels and spent a couple decades teaching in the Pacific Northwest.

Also this week: Poetry gets political in the late 60s, in a way that feels very similar to today.

If you like our podcast, and would like access to our regular bonus episodes, subscribe to our Patreon for $5: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep366: Burroughs at the 1968 Democratic National Convention

por Mike Ingram

This week we continue our Winter of Wayback season by reading a dispatch about the 1968 Democratic National Convention written for Esquire by William S. Burroughs. The convention itself was famously contentious, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was criticized for allegedly allowing the cops to run roughshod over protesters outside the convention hall. Burroughs, meanwhile, brings to the party a politics we'd describe as "confusing."

Also this week: The poetry of 1968 presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. And the return of Raccoon News!

If you like our show, and would like more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 and get access to a whole wealth of bonus episodes, including our latest series, The Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 365: Early Alice Munro (Winter of Wayback, 1968)

por Mike Ingram

This week, we're continuing our Winter of Wayback trip to 1968 by reading a story, "Boys and Girls," from Alice Munro's first story collection. We revisit arguments about Munro's stories from our grad school years, and consider the unique structure of her stories, which often rely less on plot trajectory than on a kind of synthesis, looking at a character's life from a variety of angles. Plus: a new game, Munro or No!

You can read the story here: http://www.giuliotortello.it/shortstories/boys_and_girls.pdf

If you like the show, you can subscribe to our Patreon for just $5 and get access to our entire vault of bonus episodes: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 364: 1960s Misogyny w/ Lyz Lenz

por Mike Ingram

This week we're continuing our Winter of Wayback season, in which we've been reading books, stories and essays from 1968, a year that parallels our current moment in a number of ways. Writer Lyz Lenz (God Land, Belabored) joins us to discuss a writer she admires from that era: Ellen Willis, who began her career as a music journalist but did some of her most important work on misogyny within the progressive movement.

Also discussed: internet hate, why men love The Maltese Falcon, and the harassment Lyz has gotten in the wake of her recent profile of famous tweet thread guy Seth Abramson.

You can read Lyz's profile of Abramson here: https://www.cjr.org/special_report/seth-abramson-twitter.php

You can learn more about Lyz, read more of her writing, and subscribe to her Substack here: https://lyzlenz.com/

If you like our podcast, and would like more of it in your life, subscribe to our Patreon for regular bonus episodes: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

 

Ep 363: Winter of Wayback (1968), The South Carolina Review

por Mike Ingram

This week we're continuing our trip through 1968 by checking out the very first issue of a literary journal that still exists, and has published lots of famous writers: The South Carolina Review. The debut issue includes an essay on race relations in South Carolina, by an esteemed journalist, as well as a short story by Max Steele, who had one of the best names in the literary game.

Also this week: 1968 was a big year for children's lit and YA. The National Book Awards started a category for children's lit, and publishers began to invest in books that offered more realistic portraits of teen life.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, and Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

Ep 362: Winter of Wayback (1968), N. Scott Momaday

por Mike Ingram

This week we're discussing the debut novel by N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1968. The book had an interesting road to publication, and the prize seemed to take both the author and his publishing house by surprise. We look at how people were writing about the novel in 1968, and discover that--surprise, surprise--white people were kinda racist about Native American culture! Even in praising Momaday's book, they couldn't help but drag out lots of stereotypical tropes about American Indians.

Also this week: critics worry (in 1968) that the memoir will kill the novel.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which will net you regular bonus episodes, including our ongoing Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep361: Winter of Wayback (1968), Pauline Kael

por Mike Ingram

This week we're discussing a famous Pauline Kael essay about the movie "Bonnie and Clyde," which The New Republic refused to run, and which then accidentally launched her long, storied career at The New Yorker. Kael argued that the movie, which had been panned by many critics, was more interesting than people were giving it credit for, and that the negative reviews actually said something about the current cultural moment.

We also discuss the recent Harper's special section on "life after Trump," and what "the Trump novel" might look like.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, and Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

Ep 360: Winter of Wayback, Elizabeth Hardwick on MLK

por Mike Ingram

This week we're discussing a 1968 Elizabeth Hardwick essay about the Memphis funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. The piece attempts to take the measure of both black and white Memphis after MLK's assassination, and notes tensions within the Civil Rights movement that in certain ways echo arguments within progressive movements today. We also dive into some 1968 debates about whether fiction was up to the task of representing an increasingly fractured, absurdist reality. Plus: women's magazines pull back on publishing short stories, drying up an important market for writers.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, and Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

Elizabeth Hardwick on MLK: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1968/05/09/the-apotheosis-of-martin-luther-king/

Tobi Haslett (in Harper's) on Elizabeth Hardwick: https://harpers.org/archive/2017/12/the-cost-of-living/3/

Our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 359: Winter of Wayback, 1968, Ursula LeGuin

por Mike Ingram

When Playboy Magazine accepted an Ursula LeGuin story in 1968, the editors had only one request for the young author: could they use the byline U.K. LeGuin, so Playboy's readers didn't know the story was written by a woman? This week we discuss the story, and the circumstances of its publication. Plus: what were creative writing grad programs like in 1968? We take a peek at the Iowa Writers Workshop, thanks to a lengthy feature story from The Chicago Tribune, which features beer bars, Kurt Vonnegut, and a woman who the author of the piece chooses to describe, unfortunately, as "stacked."

If you like the show, check us out on Patreon, where $5 gets you lots of bonus content, including our ongoing Hunt for the Worst Book in the World: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 358: Winter of Wayback, 1968, Tom Wolfe

por Mike Ingram

Welcome to our Winter of Wayback season! This year we're diving into 1968, a year that, like our current moment, has often been described as an inflection point in American politics. What we'd like to know: What was the world of literature like that year? Please join us, over the next several weeks, as we try to find out. This week: Tom Wolfe on surfers, slackers, and the culture of parentally-funded hippies.

Unlocked: Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time #1, Ethan Frome

por Mike Ingram

Happy New Year, book friends! We're giving you access to this bonus episode from November, which kicked off our new series: The Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time. For the first edition we re-read Ethan Frome, a novel that is still being foisted upon America's high school students, for some reason.

If you like this episode, and would like to hear future editions of The Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, you can subscribe to our Patreon for just $5 a month. That also helps to support the show more generally, as we continue to bring you free weekly episodes.

Subscribe here: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Thanks for listening! And we hope 2021 has been good to you so far.

Ep 357: 2020 Holiday Spectacular!

por Mike Ingram

It's the most wonderful time of the year: when we break out the eggnog and suffer through a terrible Christmas-themed book so we can goof on it. This year's selection is Swamp Santa, book 16 in Jana DeLeon's Miss Fortune mystery series. We try to make sense of a rather convoluted plot, debate the relative merits of wacky parrots, and get lost in explanatory dialogue.

Check out the website for the town of Sinful, Louisiana, which can fill in some backstory on this week's book: http://sinfullouisiana.com/

And if you like our podcast, and want more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 356: The Monster of Gentrification

por Mike Ingram

This week we welcome two special guests--Amanda Meadows and Geoffrey Golden of the Dirt Cheap podcast--to discuss one of their favorite recent graphic novels: BTTM FDRS, by Ezra Clayton Daniels and Ben Passmore. The book has been compared to Jordan Peele's film Get Out, and features a many-tentacled monster that inhabits an apartment building in a gentrifying Chicago neighborhood.

Our guests help us do some panel analysis of the book, and we talk about the horror genre, and dividing line between effective allegory and allegories that feel heavy-handed. We also talk about their podcast, in which they are reading a very bizarre-sounding pulp novel called Murder in the Glass Room, about an L.A. private investigator who is very obsessed with furniture and elevators.

You can check out their podcast, Dirt Cheap, here: https://www.neonhum.com/show-pages/dirt-cheap.html

You can learn more about the book, BTTM FDRS, at the Fantagraphics site: https://www.fantagraphics.com/products/bttm-fdrs

And if you like our podcast, and want more of it in your life, subscribe to our Patreon. $5 a month gets you access to all our bonus episodes, including our newly launched Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Thanks for listening!

Ep 355: The Long Shadow of DFW

por Mike Ingram

David Foster Wallace famously considered the lobster. This week, we consider him! How has his writing--and his legacy--aged in the nearly twenty years since his most well-known essays were published? Also: how mean should creative writing teachers be about lousy (or lazy) student work?

You can read Wallace's essay "Consider the Lobster" here: http://www.columbia.edu/~col8/lobsterarticle.pdf

You can also join our Patreon--$5/month helps support the podcast and also gets you access to all our bonus episodes, including our recent investigation into whether Ethan Frome is a terrible novel that no one should ever have to read: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 354: Therapy-Speak

por Mike Ingram

This week, Mike picks an essay that exemplifies some of what he doesn't love in contemporary writing about mental health. Too often, there's a tendency to fall back on abstractions, cliches, and platitudes, rather than to do the (admittedly tough!) work of putting the reader inside the writer's actual, lived experience.

In the second half of the show, we take one last dive into the NaNoWriMo forums to give our (semi-solicited?) advice to this year's crop of would-be novelists.

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon! For $5/month, you'll get access to all our bonus episodes, past and future. Check it out here: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Ep 353: Strike-Thru

por Mike Ingram

This week we're talking Wikipedia vandalism, essays that show their editing work, and creative nonfiction that borrows moves from academic writing. Plus, another deep dive into the NaNoWriMo forums to help out this year's crop of aspiring novelists.

This week's reading is a David LeGault essay, "Revision and Collapse," which was first published in Fourth Genre. Though as always, you don't have to do the reading prior to listening to the episode.

If you like the show, and would enjoy having a little more Book Fight in your life, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, where $5/month gets you access to all our bonus episodes: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 352: Conservative Comedy?

por Mike Ingram

This week's episode asks the question: Why aren't conservatives funny? Or, put another way: Didn't conservatives used to be funny? At least some of them? And could they ever be funny again?

More specifically, we revisit a P.J. O'Rourke essay from 1982, in which the author takes a cruise to the Soviet Union sponsored by the magazine The Nation, and spends most of his time drinking vodka with the Russians on-board while making fun of the insufferable American passengers, who are sort of like the parents from Family Ties except with even less self-awareness. Shooting fish in a barrel, maybe, but also: what annoying fish!

If you like the show, and would enjoy having more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon, where you'll get access to three bonus episodes a month: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 351: Heel Turns

por Mike Ingram

This week we're talking about professional wrestling, essays with unusual structures, troubled father-son relationships, and what it's like to be one of the only non-white kids at your school. Plus: it's still November, which means we're digging into the NaNoWriMo forums to answer some of the internet's weirdest questions about writing a novel.

Ep 350: Eat the Rich

por Mike Ingram

This week: writing about money and social class; righteous anger; and essays that spark actual class debate. Plus we begin out month-long dive into the National Novel Writing Month forums, to offer our (semi-solicited?) advice to this year's crop of prospective authors.

Our reading this week was "The Gifted Classes," an essay by Frances Lefkowitz. You can read it via The Sun: https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/325/the-gifted-classes

If you like our show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon, which gets you access to all our bonus episodes and also helps support the making of the podcast: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep349: Family Mysteries

por Mike Ingram

This week we're talking about research-driven memoir writing, books that are difficult to pin down, and what it means to say that writing feels "poetic."

Our reading was The Grave on the Wall, the prize-winning memoir by poet Brandon Shimoda, which begins with the author on a search to understand his grandfather's life.

In the second half of the show, we talk about strategies for talking about student work that might be offensive or otherwise problematic.

You can buy The Grave on the Wall here: https://bookshop.org/books/the-grave-on-the-wall/9780872867901

And if you like our podcast, and would like more of it in your life, you can join our Patreon and get regular bonus episodes: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 348: Counting Crows

por Mike Ingram

This week's reading is an essay by Elena Passarello about birdsong. But it's also other stuff! We talk about writing that make you look at the world a bit differently, and writers who can make you care about things you never thought you cared about. In the second half of the show, we discuss a recent Twitter kerfuffle over writing and money and whether publishing a book can (or should) change your life.

The essay we discussed, "Of Singing," was published in The Iowa Review, but is also available in Passerello's 2012 collection, Let Me Clear My Throat, from Sarabande Books.

If you like the podcast, and would like some more of it in your life, please consider joining our Patreon, which gets you monthly bonus episodes and also helps support the making of the show: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 347: Earthquake!

por Mike Ingram

This week we're discussing a piece of creative nonfiction that really pushes the bounds of the genre, imagining the effects of a California earthquake on animal and plant life, as well as several invented human characters. Daniel Orozco's "Shakers" appeared in an edition of Best American Essays edited by David Foster Wallace, but is it really an "essay"? 

In the second half of the show, we talk about strategies for running creative writing workshops. When we started teaching, we both adhered to the kinda "free-for-all" model favored in our own grad program, but over the years we've begun to experiment with more structured approaches, including tasking small groups with digging into various elements of a story or essay.

If you like the show, and would like some bonus Book Fight episodes in your life, consider joining our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 346: When the Sixties Died

por Mike Ingram

This week we're continuing our discussion of creative nonfiction by revisiting a classic in the genre: Joan Didion's essay "The White Album," which explores the author's experiences of anxiety and paranoia at "the end of the 60s." We talk about things we can learn from a master, and how to write essays that will age well. Plus: a Miss Manners column about famous authors snubbing an academic.

If you like the show, and you'd like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Ep 345: Short and Sweet

por Mike Ingram

This week we're discussing a series of very short essays by J. Robert Lennon, and talking about how we teach students to write very short pieces that aren't simply tossed-off and incomplete. Plus: Tom gets angry about a rich book influencer who thinks her pandemic problems are unique and interesting. And Mike runs into his first anti-masker in the wild.

You can read J. Robert Lennon's essay here: https://www.theliteraryreview.org/essay/ten-short-essays/

If you like the podcast, and would like more Book Fight in your life, for $5/month you can get three bonus episodes per month: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep344: Who's the Boss?

por Mike Ingram

This week we're continuing our ongoing discussion of creative nonfiction by diving into an essay by Hanif Abdurraqib about attending a Bruce Springsteen concert in Jersey and thinking about who gets to romanticize "hard work" in America. Plus: Tom has opinions about Susan Orlean rebranding herself as a fun drunk, and Mike brings you another installment of "The Worst Person in This Month's Architectural Digest."

You can buy Hanif's book here: https://twodollarradio.com/products/they-cant-kill-us

If you like our podcast, and would like to get all our bonus episodes, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5/month: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 343: Grades Are For Squares

por Mike Ingram

This week we're talking about a second-person essay by Jennifer Murvin that was first published in The Cincinnati Review. We also talk about grading in creative writing classes, and how to arrive at standards that are fair without being either too mean or a pushover. Plus at least one tantalizing blind item!

Links:

You can learn more about Jennifer Murvin and her writing here: https://www.jennifermurvin.com/

Check out the bookstore she owns (and order books online) here: https://paginationbookshop.com/

And if you like our Podcast, and would enjoy getting bonus episodes of it each month, you can join our Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

 

Ep 342: Writing About Pop Culture

por Mike Ingram

This week we're discussing an Alice Bolin essay from The Toast, "A Meditation on Britney's 'Baby One More Time,'" which uses the pop star's music as a jumping-off point for an exploration of loneliness, isolation, and the ways in which we hold ourselves apart from others. We talk about ways that writers can use their pop culture obsessions to get into some pretty interesting personal territory, and how we can get students, in particular, to wade out into those deeper waters, rather than simply writing essays about music they like.

Also: Tom is mad about a writing conference that emailed him, and Mike hate-reads Architectural Digest.

You can read the Alice Bolin essay here: https://the-toast.net/2014/06/17/meditation-britneys-baby-one-time/

And if you like the show, and would like more of it in your life, you can join our Patreon, for just $5/month, and get all our bonus episodes: https://www.patreon.com/BookFight

Thanks for listening!