"Smokers," by Tobias Wolff, Homework Special

They were given a homework assignment by Nathaniel Rhein:

Book/Story/Poem/Essay Assigned: Tobias Wolff’s short story “Smokers”
available online at

Homework Assignment: What *really* happens in the story? Is the narrator reliable?
(Context: This is an assignment I was given many years ago in an undergraduate logic/English class. In the ensuing debate, I disagreed with my professor (and his favorite student), and he gave me a poor grade as a result. I want to see if you guys come up with my answer or my professor's answer.)

The guys come up with about 84 different interpretations, but read and let them know what you think! At the end of the episode, they respond to some more listener feedback, also from Nat.

In this episode:

  • They pretend to know what the Purge is.

  • Michael’s drink is wrong.

  • They analyze the professor and assignment before they do the assignment.

  • Ethan doesn’t read books.

  • Ethan talks about dogs, from experience.

  • Michael gives a principle of literary interpretation.

  • Ethan brings up Schroedinger’s Cat.

  • As usual, Ethan isn’t willing to be tied down.

  • Ethan gives us A’s on the homework.

  • Michael quotes Aladdin.

  • #GameofThronesCast

  • Surprise, surprise, Michael & Ethan are basically the same person.

Their next book will be The Plains by Gerald Murnane.  Join the discussion!  Go to the Contact page and put "Scotch Talk" in the Subject line.  We'd love to hear from you!  And submit your homework at the Michael & Ethan in a Room with Scotch page.

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Your Hosts: Michael G. Lilienthal (@mglilienthal) and

Ethan Bartlett (@bjartlett)

"Kessy Swings Endless - (ID 349)" by Lobo Loco.  Used by permission.

Intermission” by Unthunk. Used under an Attribution-NonCommercial License.