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Last update: 2013-07-01

Writers Ask: Enter Me, Muse

2013-07-01
Length: 39s

What role does academic criticism play for a writer of fiction? Should you outline a novel before starting to write? And how and when should you ask for book blurbs? Bonus knowledge: Mike tells you how to invite the writerly muse into your soul, and Tom finally learns what the word "potluck" means. To ask a question, or for more episodes, visit bookfightpod.com

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Ep 37-Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

2013-06-24
Length: 1s

Mike revisits a book he loved as a 17-year-old, and makes Tom come along for the ride. How could that go wrong? Talking points include: hippies, the band Phish, rubber meatballs, creepy uncles, and gigantic thumbs. For more, including links to stuff discussed in the episode, visit bookfightpod.com.

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Writers Ask: A Bridge Too Far

2013-06-17
Length: 42s

Should you write while you're angry? Is historical fiction on the rise? And should someone's reading habits be a dating dealbreaker? This week we explore Tom's emotional landscape, and the musical preferences of Mike's ex-girlfriends. Also: Tom may have finally pushed Mike to the brink with his toe talk. Will this be the end of the podcast? For more, visit bookfightpod.com.

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Ep 36: Robert Kloss, The Alligators of Abraham

2013-06-10
Length: 1s

Historical magical realism and a mythical origin story for America, this week's book makes us second-guess how we're meant to rate the novels we read. Are we aiming for objectivity, or something more personal and idiosyncratic? Plus we judge a couple books by their covers, recommend a couple Netflix streaming documentaries, and possibly alienate any number of our listeners, as per usual. For more, visit bookfightpod.com.

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Writers Ask: Down Under

2013-06-02
Length: 56s

Last week's guest, Dave Thomas, stuck around to help us answer questions about self-publishing, giving away your work for free, the differences between undergrad and graduate workshops, and the joys and aggravations of academia. Talking points include: free e-books, shrimp on the barbie, Tom getting punched in the face, bloomin' onions, Kiwis, the Rocka-Fire Explosion, and belletriciousness. For more, visit bookfightpod.com.

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Ep 35-James Salter, All That Is

2013-05-27
Length: 1s

We welcome special guest Dave Thomas to talk about Salter's new novel, Tom as a mentor, horse ejaculate and the sexiness of bakeries.

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Writers Ask: On the Nose

2013-05-20
Length: 49s

We talk writers' desks, literary agents, and grad-school recommendations. Plus Garfield, sexual roleplay, eggs (which are delicious!) and Tom's ill-fated turn on reality television. Get more at bookfightpod.com.

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Ep 34-Cory Doctorow, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

2013-05-13
Length: 1s

Would you like to hear us talk about Disney World for half an hour? If so, then this is the episode for you! Also we dig into Doctorow's first novel, in our continuing efforts to explore some work outside our usual genre comfort zones. Talking points include: the defeat of death, Facebook likes as currency, problematic premises, the Haunted Mansion, Mike's childhood propensity for tears, carnival food, the Gravitron, and Battlestar Galactica. Get more at bookfightpod.com.

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Writers Ask: Off With Their Heads

2013-05-06
Length: 52s

We offer tips for organizing your files, dealing with your MFA classmates, and Highlandering your enemies. Got questions for us? Email them to bookfightpod@gmail.com, or tweet them to us at @Book_Fight.

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Ep 33-Ernest Cline, Ready Player One

2013-04-29
Length: 1s

We foist a book upon Tom's college roommate, an avowed non-reader. Will he like it? Will he spit it out, like a child being forced to eat spinach? Talking points include: 80s trivia, Sarah Palin, TV Guide Recommends, info-dumps, dystopian futures, The Princess Bride, and videogames.

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Writers Ask: M.E.N.T.O.R.

2013-04-22
Length: 57s

Heartbreaking church lock-ins, awkward rest stop encounters, and also we answer some questions about writing. How does one find a mentor? Once you get some work accepted, do the rejections lose their sting? And what's the deal with book trailers?

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Ep 32-JM Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians

2013-04-15
Length: 57s

Book Fight road trip! We recorded this episode in a car (Tom's) while driving to the annual Conversations and Connections conference in Washington, D.C. The book this week is Tom's pick, and boy is it a bummer. Though a very well-written, culturally important bummer. We still found stuff to joke about, including bears, Tom's driving skills, tunnels, sharks, and Jay Leno's quest for love and approval. We also talked about the upsides and downsides of allegory, and whether Coetzee's narrator is a creep.

This week's closing music is from Phosphorescent's 2005 album "To Willie," which you can find in the iTunes store.

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Writers Ask: Hurtin' Feelings and Burnin' Bridges

2013-04-08
Length: 48s

To MFA or not to MFA: that is the question. Also, what's our beef with flash fiction? And how should writers use Twitter and Facebook? Plus Tom burns a bridge, and Mike tries to glean some lessons from past failures.

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Ep 31-Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim

2013-04-01
Length: 1s

One of Mike's favorite books, which means if Tom doesn't properly love it Mike might have to punch him. Also: Britishisms, the Middle Ages, academic ambivalence, Jenga, and ballet.

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Writers Ask: Making Lemonade

2013-03-25
Length: 34s

Rejecting your friends. Dealing with overzealous editors. Plus: Tom's bloody nipples, which magazines we dislike, and what editors do with their urine. For more, visit us at bookfightpod@gmail.com.

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Ep 30-Tove Jansson, The True Deceiver

2013-03-18
Length: 1s

This book won the 2011 Best Translated Book Award, for which our guest, Matt Jakubowski, was one of the judges. We talk translations, Nordicness, strong female characters, and rabbits. Also, we recommend some music and argue about snacks.

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Writers Ask: The Waiting Game

2013-03-11
Length: 48s

How long is too long for a journal or press to read your submission? How much can you get paid for a short story? What are the worst writerly affectations? Talking points include: therapy dogs, AWP, porn scripts, jaunty hats, and writing in coffee shops. Got a question for us? Want to tell us we're wrong? Email us at bookfightpod@gmail.com, or visit bookfightpod.com. Thanks for listening!

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AWP Dispatch #5

2013-03-09
Length: 14s

We're joined by Tod Goldberg and Julia Pistell, of Literary Disco, to talk bedouin poetry tents, writer costumes, Val Kilmer as Mark Twain, and which small presses sound most like metal bands.

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AWP Dispatch #4

2013-03-08
Length: 32s

The results of our panel dare: Tom goes to a 75-minute session on therapy, while Mike explores the connections between history and poetry. 

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AWP Dispatch #3

2013-03-08
Length: 5s

Hello, morning! We're a little groggy, but there's important conferencing to be done. Talking points: popping and locking, the guy in the newspaper hat, rejection notes.

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AWP Dispatch #2

2013-03-07
Length: 7s

More jibber jabber from the AWP conference in Boston. This time we're on the conference floor, recapping Day One in the belly of the beast.

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AWP Dispatch #1

2013-03-06
Length: 9s

We're at the annual AWP conference in Boston, i.e. ground zero of the American Writing-Industrial Complex. We'll be filing regular brief dispatches from the conference each day. Here's the first one! Talking points include: train travel, poets in newspaper hats, and rolling VIP style.

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Ep 29-Lynn Coady, The Antagonist

2013-03-03
Length: 1s

A novel-in-emails whose main character is annoyed to discover that a former friend has fictionalized his life in a book. Talking points include: Canadian rock, SARS, aggrieved exes, epistolary novels, and grilled cheese sandwiches. 

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Writers Ask: The Children Are Our Future

2013-02-25
Length: 42s

On this Very Special Episode we field questions from students at Tom's high school alma mater. Changing lives!

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Ep 28-Edward St Aubyn, Some Hope

2013-02-18
Length: 1s

An intensely dark, often comic novel about the British landed gentry and child abuse. Talking points include: the decision to write a memoir or a novel, mean-spiritedness versus generosity, inspirational dog films, and which one of us Frazier and which is Roz. Also, another installment of MATR, and whether Tom's recommendations are to be trusted.

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Valentine's Special: Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife

2013-02-13
Length: 58s

Special bonus episode! Our gift to you, listeners. We read a Harlequin Romance novel about Viking love. 

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Writers Ask: TGIT

2013-02-11
Length: 32s

Low-residency MFA programs. Revisiting your old work. And should writers go to AWP? We also debate some new catch phrases, Mike alienates everybody, and we create a new iteration of MTV's Real World franchise.

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Ep 27-Jami Attenberg, The Melting Season

2013-02-04
Length: 1s

A novel that prompts a discussion of how we pick books, and why certain books stress us out. Talking points include: story structure, penis length versus penis girth, athletes versus writers, Mexican vacations, and Mike's junior tennis career. We also debut a new feature at the end of the show, tentatively titled Mike and Tom Recommend, in which we ... well, recommend stuff (and bicker about said recommendations, as it turns out).

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Writers Ask: Marry Rich

2013-01-28
Length: 41s

We answer questions about writers who don't read, the best jobs for writers, and why literature isn't a commodity. Also: naps! And why Tom lives like an old person.

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Ep 26-Charles Portis, Norwood

2013-01-21
Length: 53s

We talk about Portis's picaresque road novel (his first), why we appreciate humor in books, and why it's so hard to do comedy well. Also: another installment of Judge a Book By Its Cover.

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Writers Ask: Goofus and Gallant

2013-01-14
Length: 39s

How to stand out from the crowd when applying for MFA programs, what's wrong with citing Pushcart Prize nominations in your cover letter, and how to find decent books at a Barnes and Noble.

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Ep 25-Svetislav Basara, Chinese Letter

2013-01-07
Length: 1s

A Dalkey translation of Serbian writer Svetislav Basara's novel basically landed in Tom's lap, so we figured we might as well read it. And it's crazy in all the best ways. Talking points include: white slave merchants, surrealism, literature as a black box, comedy as rapid-fire truth telling, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

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Writers Ask: The Myth of Ganymede

2012-12-31
Length: 52s

We tackle questions about Duotrope's recent decision to charge for its services, how to give a good literary reading, and whether it's okay to drink while writing.

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Ep 24-2012 Holiday Special

2012-12-17
Length: 1s

It's the most wonderful time of the year! This week we put aside our usual reading schedule and tackled two Christmas-themed novels: John Grisham's 'Skipping Christmas' (source material for the Tim Allen movie 'Christmas with the Kranks') and Glenn Beck's 'The Christmas Sweater' (source material for a 'live movie event' that earned 1.9 out of 10 stars on IMDB). Will we deem them New Holiday Classics? Or will we consign them to the dustbin of Christmas history, along with our old pogs and parachute pants and cassingles? Only one way to find out!

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Ep 23-George Singleton, Stray Decorum

2012-12-10
Length: 1s

This week's a Mike pick: George Singleton's new story collection, which is set in small-town South Carolina and populated by men who use their intelligence toward questionable ends. Plus a monkey, and lots of dogs. We also bring back our Judge A Book By Its Cover feature, take a couple potshots at Tucker Max, and read blurbs for a few more supporters of our fund drive. The episode is spnsored by Cobalt; you can get their new print issue for 1/2 price at the following link: cobaltreview.com/purchase/bookfight.

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Ep 22-Jane Bowles, Two Serious Ladies

2012-12-03
Length: 1s

Special guest Paul Lisicky (Unbuilt Projects, Lawnboy, Famous Builder) helps us get a handle on one of his favorite novels, and discusses his own relationship to structure and linearity. And his love of Lil' Wayne.

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Writers Ask: Turkey Day Special

2012-11-26
Length: 38s

This week we tackle questions about personalized rejections, gifts for writers, and how to overcome writers' block. Fair warning: We recorded this after eating a Thanksgiving meal with Tom's relatives, and we're a little punchier than usual. Talking points include: pajamas, Mark Twain, diapers that look like jeans, and why you should consider donating a few bucks to help us upgrade our audio equipment. This week's episode is sponsored by Participants, the new story collection from Andrew Keating. You can learn more about the book, and pre-order it, at participantsbook.com.

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Ep 21-Thomas Bernhard, Correction

2012-11-19
Length: 1s

We welcome special guest Owen King (We're All In This Together, Double Feature) to discuss Thomas Bernhard's novel about a Wittgenstein-like character who builds a cone in the woods for his sister.

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Writers Ask: Swallowed By Anger

2012-11-12
Length: 42s

Tips for revision. Should you pay reading fees? And Tom goes ham on NaNoWriMo in our special lightning round.

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Ep 20-Hurricane Sandy Stir-Crazy Spectacular

2012-11-05
Length: 55s

This week we're flying without a net. By which we mean the hurricane changed our plans. No guest. No book. Just two grown men who, because of Hurricane Sandy, have been spending too much time cooped up indoors. We've got bits! And new segments, including Bookshelf of Shame and Judge A Book By Its Cover. Sh*t's about to get real, Book Fighters.

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Writers Ask: Book Fight Island

2012-10-29
Length: 38s

This week, we tackle questions about how to promote your book without annoying people, whether writing can be taught, and if you should worry too much about your stylistic influences. Talking points include: Facebook baby photos, giving out healthy treats for Halloween, John Gardner's On Becoming a Novelist, Tom's love of animals, and The Lockhorns, America's least happy cartoon couple.

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Ep 19-Zadie Smith, NW

2012-10-22
Length: 1s

Zadie's new one is so good it leads us into a larger discussion of the relationship between truth and art. Also, we squabble over the word 'relatable,' Tom's generation vs. Mike's generation, and whether we're ready to take over for the retiring Car Talk guys.

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Writers Ask: Airing of Grievances

2012-10-15
Length: 38s

What kind of blowback can you expect when you portray someone ungenerously in your memoir? What if that person ends up sitting next to you, in your basement, with a belly full of scotch? Also: questions about character development and how to explain your writing to a date.

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Ep 18-Theodore Weesner, The True Detective

2012-10-08
Length: 1s

We're joined by novelist Stewart O'Nan (The Odds, Last Night at the Lobster, many many more) to discuss a book he calls "a great American novel no one has read." In the second half of the show, we hit him up for advice on writing, publishing, not getting obsessed about your sales figures. Talking points include: emotional complexity, detective stories, O.J.'s fictional confession, and tossing novels onto Michiko Kakutani's lawn. Get more at bookfightpod.com.

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Writers Ask: Suicide, Don't Do It

2012-10-01
Length: 39s

Which lit mags should you subscribe to? Should you publish with a small press or hold out for one of the big boys? Should you end your story with a character offing himself? Also: the etiquette of question-asking, diamond floors, and ruby teeth.

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Ep 17-Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline

2012-09-24
Length: 1s

This one was a Mike pick, a book he first read as a teenager living in Charleston, South Carolina, only a few miles from The Citadel, which may or may not bear some resemblance to The Institute, the military school at the center of this novel. Join us for a discussion of hazing, the Southern aristocracy, superfluous romantic entaglements, the whitest basketball game ever played, and lots and lots of adjectives.

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Writers Ask: NaNoWriMoNoNo

2012-09-17
Length: 30s

This week Tom tells you why National Novel Writing Month is terrible for humanity. Plus: what books are best for killing bugs, and how much money can a novelist expect to make? Also, the latest missive in our ongoing feud with the literary journal Hobart.

Got a question for us? Email us at bookfightpod@gmail.com, or hit us up on Twitter, @Book_Fight.

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Ep 16-Tom Grimes, Mentor

2012-09-10
Length: 58s

Mike and Tom reminisce (and gossip) about their time at the Iowa Writers Workshop and their memories of Frank Conroy, the larger-than-life writer and teacher at the center of Tom Grimes' memoir.

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Writers Ask: No Lifeguard on Duty

2012-09-03
Length: 32s

Terrible cover letters, faint praise, and what it's like to get beaten by a sack full of doorknobs. It's our third installment of Writers Ask, where we solve all your problems, writing and otherwise. Get into it! If you want to ask a question, hit us up on Twitter @Book_Fight.

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Ep 15-Sheila Heti, How Should a Person Be?

2012-08-27
Length: 59s

We welcome back our first repeat guest, fan favorite Katherine Hill, to discuss this "novel from life." Opinions are strong on this one. Talking points include: source material for novels, the need for writers to have non-writer friends, and Tom's weird love for the TV show Frasier. Plus the debut of our new and improved intro music!

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Writers Ask: Cousin Joey

2012-08-20
Length: 26s

In the second installment of Writers Ask, Tom and Mike tell you how to recommend books to your non-literary friends, and how to deal with relatives who think they know what you should write about. Special bonus: Lightning round!

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Ep 14-Percival Everett, Erasure

2012-08-13
Length: 55s

Sometimes the angriest books are also the funniest. Join us for a discussion of race and comedy, tokenism, Bill Cosby, and Donovan McNabb. Also: Tom is forced to revise his previous all-out ban on puns.

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Writers Ask Ep 1

2012-08-06
Length: 29s

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Ep 13-John Barth, On With the Story

2012-07-30
Length: 56s

Tom hates metafiction. Mike tries to get him to love it, or at least appreciate it, using John Barth's 1996 collection On With the Story, linked stories that play a number of narrative games and call attention to how stories work, and how we expect them to work. We also talk about about the false dichotomy of sad stories vs happy stories, and why Tom's students want him to cheer the hell up.

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Ep 12-Stephen Graham Jones, Growing Up Dead in Texas

2012-07-13
Length: 1s

SGJ blurs the lines between novel and memoir in his ninth book, an investigation of a mysterious cotton fire in his hometown of Greenwood, Texas, which left several lives permanently damaged in its wake. Topics discussed include: fact vs. fiction, tornado preparedness, the bleak landscape of West Texas, and Superhero Dave Eggers' ability to take flight fueled only by the power of whimsy.

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Ep 11-Laura van den Berg and Dave Housley

2012-07-05
Length: 1s

Road trip! We head to State College to talk with writer and editor Dave Housley about a book he recommended to us: Laura van den Berg's debut story collection, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (Dzanc Books 2009). Topics include: book blurbs, dialogue, "lit fiction" as genre, George Saunders, monsters, Dockers vs dockers, Kristen Schaal, Heidi Montag, and ear fetishes. For more, visit our website at bookfightpod.com, or follow us on Twitter @Book_Fight.

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Ep 10-Tommy Zurhellen, Nazareth North Dakota

2012-06-21
Length: 55s

Join your Book Fight hosts as they seek out a possible Messiah in the badlands of North Dakota. Will they choose to follow him into the wilderness? Will they rebuke him? Only one way to find out...

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Ep 9-Stephen King, The Dark Tower Book One

2012-06-15
Length: 1s

Stephen King's 4000-page Dark Tower series begins with a sentence that came to him as a 19-year-old: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." We're reading (rereading, in Mike's case) the first book in the series, The Gungslinger. Revised significantly by King two decades after its publication, hailed by his fans as the opening salvo of a magnum opus, the book has been as widely read as any King ever wrote. But will it weather the harsh desert-sun glare of the Book Fighters' critical eyes? Or will it wither under the strains of this terrible, terrible metaphor? For more info: bookfightpod.com. Do it!

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Ep 8-Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding

2012-06-07
Length: 1s

We welcome another guest into the Book Fight Basement, our friend and fellow Temple faculty member Brad Windhauser, to talk about The Art of Fielding, a book which has garnered a ton of praise but which we're not sure is worthy of such critical handjobbery.

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Ep 7-Hemmingway, A Farewell to Arms

2012-05-30
Length: 1s

We welcome our second guest into the Book Fight basement: Jason Lewis, who last year published his first novel, The Fourteenth Colony. More importantly for our purposes, Jason has now read A Farewell to Arms six times. He's got some thoughts about it! Plenty of which Tom and Mike take issue with, especially when it comes to the book's female lead. You can check out Jason's writing--and his music--at www.sadironpress.com.

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Ep 6-Lauren Groff, Delicate Edible Birds

2012-05-14
Length: 1s

Tom and Mike dig into their first story collection of the podcast, Lauren Groff's 2009 book Delicate Edible Birds. Topics include: the potential anxiety of reading work by your contemporaries, and why story collections are such a tough sell on the reading public.

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Ep 5-Mat Johnson, Pym

2012-05-09
Length: 1s

Tom and Mike dig into a book the New York Times named as one of the top five novels of 2011, in which an academic with his career on the rocks travels to Antarctica to (among other things) unlock the mysteries behind Edgar Allen Poe's sole novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Discussing the book leads to a larger conversation about why we read, and what we want from fiction.

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Ep 4-Judy Blume, Forever

2012-04-23
Length: 59s

Tom and Mike welcome their first guest to the Book Fight basement to help them revisit Judy Blume's YA novel Forever. Topics include: sex ed, awkward teenage romance, and the relative merits of naming one's genitalia.

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Ep 3-Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays

2012-04-15
Length: 1s

Mike and Tom try to figure out what separates this novel from the thousands of others that traffic in bleak, amoral human landscapes. Tom shares a story about his 14-year-old self he’s never told anyone, including his wife. Mike admits that, as a young person, he romanticized a certain dark worldview that seems kind of silly, even embarrassing, to his 35-year-old self. And they both agree that this novel is a pretty good argument in favor of continuing to fund Planned Parenthood.

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Ep 2-Michael Ondaatje, Coming Through Slaughter

2012-04-08
Length: 1s

Buddy Bolden was a jazz pioneer in turn-of-the-century New Orleans who at the age of 30 suffered a mental breakdown and was institutionalized. Topics include: the line between fact and fiction, the romanticism of mental illness, how hard it is to write well about music, and why teenagers continue to think Jim Morrison was a hero, rather than a giant asshole.

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Ep 1-Sam Lipsyte, The Ask

2012-04-01
Length: 58s

For the first episode of Book Fight, Tom and Mike gathered in the Book Fight Basement to talk about Sam Lispyte's 2010 novel The Ask. Topics include: the limitations of ironic detachment, whether Holden Caulfield would be a tender lover, and why Tom can't be happy even at The Happiest Place on Earth.

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