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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!

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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Location:

United States

Description:

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!

Language:

English


Episodes

Ep 298: Breakup Stories

10/14/2019
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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...

Duration:00:52:14

Ep 297: Magical Realist Stories

10/7/2019
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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...

Duration:01:02:55

Ep 296: Second Person Stories

9/30/2019
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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...

Duration:01:05:20

Ep 295: Unreliable Narrators

9/23/2019
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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...

Duration:01:10:19

Ep 294: Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

9/16/2019
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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...

Duration:01:02:56

Ep 293: Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

9/9/2019
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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...

Duration:00:53:47

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

9/2/2019
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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...

Duration:00:55:16

Ep 291: Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse

8/26/2019
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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...

Duration:01:02:52

Ep 290: Jenny Boully, The Body

8/19/2019
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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...

Duration:00:59:23

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

8/12/2019
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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...

Duration:01:01:19

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

8/5/2019
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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...

Duration:00:57:48

Ep 287: Sally Rooney, Conversations With Friends

7/29/2019
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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...

Duration:01:00:29

Ep 286: Annie Dillard, "Total Eclipse"

7/22/2019
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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...

Duration:00:50:54

Ep 285: Carson McCullers, Ballad of the Sad Cafe

7/15/2019
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We're continuing our Summer School season of the podcast, in which we're reading things we feel like we should have gotten to by now. This week is Mike's pick, a novella set in a gossipy small town and ending with a knock-down, drag-out fist fight between a woman and her ex-husband. We talk about McCullers' writing and her life, including her apparent inability to successfully bed a woman, despite many attempts. Also this week: Is the word hunchback offensive? Why is so much academic...

Duration:00:53:46

Ep 284: James Baldwin, "Notes of a Native Son"

7/8/2019
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We're continuing our Summer School season of the podcast, in which we're reading things we feel like we should have gotten to by now. This week is a Tom pick, a particularly famous essay by James Baldwin about the death of his father, bitterness, and race in America. Tom had read other Baldwin works before, but never this piece. We talk about the ways this essay still feels relevant to American life, and the strength of Baldwin's prose and his intellect. We also check out some middling...

Duration:00:52:41

Ep 283: John D'Agata, "Round Trip"

7/1/2019
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This week we're kicking off a new season of Book Fight: Summer School! The idea is that we'll dive into books, stories, and essays that we feel like we should have read by now. That could mean classics, but it could also mean contemporary work that's been sitting on our to-read pile for a long time, or that we've been avoiding for one reason or another. For the first Summer School episode we've got a Mike pick: an essay from John D'Agata's book Halls of Fame. Mike's been meaning to get to...

Duration:00:55:37

Book Fight After Dark: Snooki, A Shore Thing

6/24/2019
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We're taking a quick break between seasons of the show, getting our ducks in a row for Summer School--in which we'll be reading books, stories, and essays that we feel like we should definitely have read by now, but have skipped for one reason or another. In the meantime, here's a bonus episode that was originally available only to our Patreon subscribers. Back in the fall, we read the debut novel by Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, star of the MTV reality show Jersey Shore. A Shore Thing follows a...

Duration:00:54:11

Ep 282: Climate Fiction

6/17/2019
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This week, we wrap up our Spring Forward season by diving into a new (to us) genre called climate fiction, or cli-fi. Matter published a collection of cli fi pieces in response to a Margaret Atwood essay wondering if fiction centered on climate change could change people's thinking or even spur action. Which seems like a noble pursuit, though these stories were kind of a mixed bag. We talk about the pitfalls of fiction that leads with its agenda, as well as stories that get mired in...

Duration:00:55:10

Ep 281: J.G. Ballard, High Rise

6/10/2019
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This week we're continuing our Spring Forward season by reading J.G. Ballard's 1973 novel High Rise, considered by many critics to be an under-appreciated gem. The book follows several characters as they deal with the breakdown of social order in a residential high-rise tower. The residents of the complex form clans, pitting the upper floors against the middle and lower floors, and what started as petty squabbling soon turns violent and deadly. We talk about whether the book's premise feels...

Duration:00:51:45

Ep 280: Mark O'Connell, To Be a Machine

6/3/2019
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This week we're continuing our Spring Forward season by diving into Mark O'Connell's book To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death. O'Connell, an Irish journalist and writer, throws himself into the world of transhumanism, spending time with a number of people who are trying, in various ways, to "solve the problem of death." That includes a company that will cryogenically freeze your head, scientists working to dramatically...

Duration:00:59:59