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A Conversation about books and basketball
Category: Literature
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by Jesse Paddock
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April 14, 2017 02:05 PM PDT

The playoffs are finally here! And we figured there was no better book to help us understand the psychological tedium of the NBA season than the first volume of My Struggle, Karl Ove Knausgaard's epic of Scandinavian brooding. We discuss the structural use of deep boredom on the reader, whether the book is artful or artless, and ponder why it became such a hit worldwide. At the ~40 min mark, we switch over to preview the various matchups in the first round of the playoffs, which are mostly dismal. But hey, it's the playoffs! Join us in two weeks to discuss Rachel Cusk's Transit and look ahead to the second round of the playoffs.

March 31, 2017 09:00 PM PDT

It's a young man's pod today, as we delve into the often unpleasant psyche of Nathaniel P, the protagonist of Adelle Waldman's debut novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. We perform a full asshole autopsy on Nate to see if he's got any redeemable qualities. On the basketball side, we wax effusive on the surprisingly high level of basketball in this year's NCAA tournament and look ahead to the Final Four matchups. Join us in two weeks to talk about Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle in conjunction with the start of the NBA Playoffs.

March 24, 2017 09:24 AM PDT

After weeks of judicious editing, we've finally managed to get our epically long and rambling gabfest with our good friend and former UNC Tarheel Basketball player Lynwood Robinson down to a publishable length. We had to leave lots of great stuff on the cutting room floor this time around, but Lynwood has generously agreed to return at a later date to pick up right where we left off. Until then, enjoy this free-flowing conversation about basketball's alien test, what it was like playing with Michael Jordan on the 1982 title-winning team, and why Chapel Hill needs a better class of seafood restaurant.

March 02, 2017 01:26 PM PST

We recorded this episode on Edward St. Aubyn's cycle of Patrick Melrose novels before the news broke this week that Benedict Cumberbatch will be playing him in an upcoming Showtime series. (Spoilers aplenty herein.) We ostensibly focused on Never Mind, the first of these novellas, but found it hard not to refer to the full scope of the series in our discussion of St. Aubyn and his fictional alter ego. On the basketball side, we break down the blockbuster trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to join Anthony Davis in New Orleans and express our frustration at Boston's refusal to make any moves to strengthen their squad at the deadline. Please note: we are still editing our lengthy basketball chat with our friend Lynwood Robinson, but look for that to come out soon, and our next book will be Adelle Waldman's The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

January 17, 2017 04:38 PM PST

Today we go all the way upriver into the depths of madness/basketball greatness with a look into Joseph Conrad's 1899 novella about depravity moral decay in turn-of-the-century Congo. Our discussion touches on what Conrad really means by the phrase 'heart of darkness' (and why he seems afraid to say so), whether Apocalypse Now has sapped the book's power in our culture, and if it's possible to square its anti-colonialist streak with its reprehensible depictions of Africans. Then we pivot to the NBA, where we continue to be amazed night-in and night-out by the individual performances of Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, and others. Who among them deserves to be MVP, if the season ended today? Or should it go to LeBron or Giannis or Chris Paul? The list goes on and on.

January 07, 2017 01:34 PM PST

No basketball talk today, as we devote the full hour to one of the big books of 2016, Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad. We are joined by our friend Ben Felton to unpack the ways in which Whitehead re-imagines America during the time of slavery, and what this book has to say about the America we're still living in. For our next pod, we'll be returning to our normal format, with a discussion of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, as well as a look at the state of the MVP race in the NBA as we near the midpoint of the season.

December 04, 2016 10:29 AM PST

There's a lot to like in this installment of the pod, as we celebrate the exciting start of the NBA season and gush over our favorite stories in Tobias Wolff's collection Our Story Begins. We recommend you read some of Wolff's stories before listening--at least do yourself a favor and track down Bullet In The Brain--since we go into the plot details of a few as we try to figure out where he fits in the firmament of short story writers. On the NBA side, we make a list of some of the players who've been really fun to watch so far this season and marvel at how great the NBA's "product" is overall at the moment. NB: we decided to postpone our discussion of The Underground Railroad, but we'll be tackling it in our next installment, along with a look at what to expect from the college basketball season as it moves into conference play.

November 20, 2016 04:49 PM PST

We recorded this "emergency" pod a few weeks ago, back when the word "emergency" had a quaint, ironic connotation in American culture. It's about America's relationship with the sometimes icky, sometimes wildly entertaining sport of football. We're thankful to our friend, the writer Chris Drangle, for joining us for the discussion. A programming note: our next book will be Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, winner of the 2016 National Book Award. Look for it in the next couple weeks.

October 13, 2016 07:03 AM PDT

To close out our offseason cities series, we're focusing on George V. Higgins' slim 1970 book The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which Elmore Leonard called the greatest crime novel ever written. Ostensibly set in Boston but with a reach that expands out to all points in Massachusetts, not to mention New Hampshire and Rhode Island, this books packs a ton into 183 pages of mostly dialogue. Don't miss Jesse's live reading of the final two pages in two baroque Boston accents! On the basketball side, we discuss the Celtics' free agency grab of Al Horford and what they still need in order to get past the Cleveland Cavaliers.
(NB: Basketball talk begins around the 32 minute mark.)

September 25, 2016 07:01 AM PDT

It's a disappointment pod this week, as Jesse, a Saul Bellow fan, admits to being underwhelmed by Seize The Day, Bellow's short 1956 novella, and calls on Adam to make a case for its durability. On the basketball side, they discuss the bizarre offseason for the Chicago Bulls, and whether their Frankenstein roster has any chance of succeeding.
(NB: the book discussion runs for the first 41 minutes. Next up is the last of our summer series linking books to NBA cities, and we'll be looking at the Boston Celtics and George V. Higgins' wonderful little crime novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle--grab a copy and join us next week!)

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