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Buzzed Books #38 by John King

Book Fight!

Let us begin with the indisputable observation that The Drunken Odyssey is the greatest writing podcast in the world.

Yet TDO is clearly not the only writing podcast out there. What’s more, it’s not the only good writing podcast out there.

book fight

Book Fight is among my favorites. This show’s hosts, Tom McCallister and Mike Ingram, are both graduates of Iowa’s MFA program. They also teach at Temple University in Philadelphia, and happen to be editors at Barrelhouse, so their expertise and immersion in the writing world is both erudite and a bit punchy. It’s like punk rock, but in high fidelity.

The show alternates between episodes featuring book-review/craft discussions of books and episodes featuring the same of shorter work, the latter usually following either a theme or with bonus segments based on a theme. For example, their Winter of Wayback series features a short vintage work for which the two of them do some research, much of it being frankly bizarre, about the year they have chosen to discuss. On the other hand, their Summer of Shorts featured short stories plus discussions of different kinds of shorts, as in varieties of summer clothing for your lower torso. While the premise stopped being funny early on, one had to admire their commitment to the theme. They did seem happy to move on to another theme the next season, though. I mean, they aren’t insane.

The books Ingram and McCallister discuss are intriguing, and so Book Fight offers a way to expand the literature that finds itself on your radar, and their interests are both wide and serious.

And yet one of the pleasures of the show is the imminent possibility of things getting explosively silly. For example, in honor of the city where they teach, and where Tom McCallister has grown up, the hosts discussed Sylvester Stallone’s firsthand novelization of Rocky II from a craft standpoint.

Rocky II

During NANORIMO, they have also been known to go to the discussion forums of amateur writers who ask questions that sometimes stagger the imagination. For a fund-drive, their listeners could select a book for them to discuss, so they deliberately picked Tom McCallister’s most hated novel. Mean-spirited? Perhaps, but these two are funny, and in general they do want to enhance the literary community, even while providing some tough love for literature.



John King (Episode, well, all of them) is a podcaster, writer, and ferret wrangler.