This Week’s Edition of Throwing Money at the Problem Isn’t Necessarily the Answer

Alex Beam opines that the $225 million Joan Kroc gift has done little for NPR: “Here is the problem. What was once an insurgent radio movement now sounds like Chet Huntley reading the evening news. Call it NPR Classic. But NPR management won’t put the old warhorses like Cokie and Linda out to pasture for fear of alienating the loyal listeners who answer the bell during pledge drives.”


  • LBC members Dan Green and Scott Esposito* on “style vs. substance.”
  • There’s hope yet for writers over forty. John Freeman (NOT an LBC member) believes the 40 year old Mark Z. Danielewski to be a “nice young man.”
  • Greil Marcus on Twin Peaks (via the Rake, who, as it so happens, is an LBC member)
  • LBC member Jessica Stockton has, perhaps, committed a solecism by publishing “Confessions of a Former Genre Slob.” This author is not, repeat NOT, an LBC member. And we will be having all sorts of serious discussions inside the LBC to decide the appropriate method to slap Ms. Stockton on the wrist.
  • Jeff VanderMeer (NOT an LBC member! Shock! Horror! A kitten has died!) is editing a pirate anthology.
  • Mark Thwaite is not an LBC member either, but he’s had the temerity to interview Hilary Spurling. Who does he think he is? A professional?
  • And speaking of diabolical amateurism, Phil Campbell has talked with Lorin Stein. Neither of these two men are LBC members. And it has caused me considerable pain and grief to link to that post. If I were President of the LBC, I am certain that the members would be coming at me with pitchforks. I’m sorry. I’m seeing my therapist on Sunday.
  • There was a time when Bud Parr was an LBC member. But he is no longer with the LBC. So it’s a bit dodgy for me to link to his post on amateur book reviewing.
  • I just got a call from LBC founding member Mark Sarvas. He’s telling me never to link to anyone or anything outside of the LBC again. He insists that we need to be as incestuous as the Hapsburgs and that I may “face severe consequences.” But how can I blog, Mark, when there are so many interesting viewpoints that are both inside and outside the LBC? Oh well. I’m sure things we’ll sort themselves out.

* — If John Freeman intends to promote the NBCC on the Critical Mass blog, then I suppose it’s only fair that I, likewise, promote the LBC.

Not What Ben Hecht Had in Mind

Media Dates: “You’ve stumbled across the right place if you want to meet someone special. Someone sparky and interesting, with shared interests and an insatiable craving for industry gossip; with an intimate understanding of impossible deadlines and a more than occasional need to work unsocial hours. In short, a Media Mate! So, don’t waste time: the sooner you create your personal profile, the sooner you’ll meet interesting new people – it’s absolutely free to register and browse.”

Hi, I’m Maureen! I’m 54, have red hair, and I don’t believe men are necessary these days. However, I’m willing to give them a second chance!

Likes: Shopping with Michi & Alessandra!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (They’re single and looking TOO!!!!) Michi: BEST FRIEND FOREVER!

Pet peeves: George Bush, nuanced political arguments, Judy Miller, and those pesky copy editors who want to change my brilliant words. How dare they!

Seeking like-minded columnist for long walks on the beach, bitter polemics, and new nicknames for White House figures. Your pic gets mine!

(via Books Inq.)

Sources Needed for White Paper

In an effort to bridge the gap between print and online media, I’ve decided to put together a lengthy white paper. I’ll be presenting this at a forthcoming journalism conference that shall, for the moment, remain unnamed. I’ve assembled the following preliminary sources for my work. If anyone has any additional sources that might prove useful, I would greatly appreciate it!

Aikman, Troy. Once a Cowboy, Always a Cowboy. New York: Viking, 2005.

Bitchslapping Society of America. Current U.S. Bitchslapping Trends: 1990-2000. Peoria, IL: BSA Press, 2001.

—. A Guide to Bitchslapping: Being Humiliated While Keeping Your Dignity. Peoria, IL: BSA Press, 1994.

Brooks, David. Something Liberal to Bitch About: The Complete New York Times Columns Volume 1. New York: Random House, 2006.

Champion, Edward. “The Columnist Who Loathed Me.” Harper’s, November 2006, p. 32.

Freeman, John. “I’ve Had Enough of These Damn Bloggers,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, October 4, 2006, B2.

Miller, Laura. Not Just a Salon Book Reviewer. Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press, 2006.

Terrier, Jack. Pardon Me, Would You Happen to Have a Grey Soupcon? Communicating with the Opposition. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2003.

Wigglebottom, Patricia, Room for More Cream, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1994.

Stephen Elliott’s Mexed Missages

Stephen Elliott: “This is an erotica reading, in a sex shop. You can buy books and lubes and things you may or may not want to admit to using. Everybody is planning on reading something very graphic. This may or may not be your cup of tea. I hope that doesn’t scare you off. It’s going to be fun. In addition to erotic stories there’ll be beer and cookies.”

So let me get this straight. One should be tantalized by attending an erotica reading and buying lubes, only to be intimidated by people “reading something very graphic” (in my experience, and I’ve attended a lot of shows and a lot of readings, 95% of all shock art usually amounts to loutish and soulless performance art). One should be thrown off guard, but not scared off. Oh, and there’s beer and cookies for potential converts.

This sounds like an event organized by a man incapable of making up his mind. Either an event along these lines is intended to be brash and/or unapologetically sex-positive or it’s toned down a bit to invite a curious mainstream crowd.

[NOTE: Since there has apparently been some misunderstanding, the post title is a deliberate misspelling, a reference to a grammatical flub uttered by Bush in the first Bush-Kerry 2004 presidential debate.]


Like my colleague Jessa Crispin, I must confess that I too receive more packages than I can possibly manage. Yesterday, I received 312 packages alone. It was the fall publishing season. One third of these had been sent by a man named Lenny with a return address that matched Random House’s. I have never known a man named Lenny. I have no idea who he might be, but it is of great comfort to know that some random guy named Lenny thinks highly enough of me to send packages.

On Tuesday, the UPS man came by every three minutes with another package of books. I slipped him a $50 bill to see if he could deliver all of the packages at the same time. He came back three minutes later and acted as if nothing happened. I suppose it can’t be easy being a UPS man. I don’t blame him for taking my money.

I was convinced that it was too late for the UPS to deliver any further shipments, and I begin arranging the books in three piles. And then I arranged them in four. I thought to myself, Why stop there?, and soon there were five piles of books. I can’t remember the original taxonomy, but I know it had something to do with the covers. Before I knew it, there were eventually twenty-six piles of books: one for each letter of the alphabet.

poodle.jpgYou’d be surprised by the number of books published which begin with the letter Z. I became very interested in one book called Zany Ways to Spice Up Your Poodle’s Sex Life. It had stunning prose. I had no idea such an audience demographic existed, but after staring at several of the expensive colorful inserts, I contemplated rescuing two poodles from the animal shelter, employing some of the author’s helpful suggestions, and seeing if I could get a cheap thrill watching two poodles copulating. The book would help me stay amused. This is what books often do. But I was too lazy to go down to the animal shelter and I remembered a childhood incident in which a poodle had barked at me during an emotionally vulnerable moment. So I called my girlfriend and asked if she felt like barking and doing other things that the book had suggested. She declined and decided to break up with me.

I didn’t like being sad. So I called up John Freeman and asked him if he was interested in “having a good time.” Freeman told me that he “didn’t have good times with bloggers” and informed me that he wouldn’t discuss anything with me until I was “a professional.” I was unsure about what he meant. I had only hoped for fun and a little companionship.

Suddenly, one of the vertiginous book piles collapsed. And my left leg would not move. The books had paralyzed me and they would not budge, despite my repeated flails. I was forced to set fire to this pile. I suffered third-degree burns, but at least I could move my leg.

Unfortunately, the fire spread throughout my apartment. The books served as kindling. And pretty soon, I was pretty certain that I was breathing in some form of asbestos.

The next day, more books arrived. And I used these to fill in various holes in the wall. And I thanked the publishers for sending me a rather creative form of drywall. Then again, I wondered if it was the publishers had caused all the problems in the first place.

But I’m thankful to the publishers for making my life a little more interesting.

Would I take cash to review one of these books favorably? Oh no! I may be a pervert, but I’m not a whore.

RIP Sven Nykvist

Sven Nykvist has died. I’m more stunned about this than I thought I’d be. Nykvist was one of my favorite cinematographers of all time, up there with John Alton and Gregg Toland and Stanley Cortez, producing gorgeous shadows and lush browns and…

nykvist.jpgMan, I’m really going to have to think about this when I have my head on straight.

I’ll see if I can turn up a tribute to the man later. But for the moment, do yourself a favor and check out Persona or Cries and Whispers or Crimes and Misdemeanors or The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The man was good. And it will be years before we see anyone along the likes of Nykvist again.


Chris Columbus and the Temple of Dreck

I think nearly all cultural connoisseurs can agree that Chris (Nine Months, Young Sherlock Holmes) Columbus is a terrible screenwriter. But, amazingly, Columbus was enlisted to write Indiana Jones IV and thankfully never got beyond the first draft stage. Bad enough that the title is called Indiana Jones and the Monkey King, a title decidedly without the menace (Raiders of the Lost Ark) or mystery (Last Crusade) of the other three films. But Columbus is such an incompetent and tone-deaf writer that he introduces Indiana Jones not hanging off a rock face, not running away from bandits in the jungle, and certainly not in the middle of any kind of action. What does Columbus have Indy doing?


Yeah, real action potential there.

(via MeFi)

SF Sightings: Kelly Link


On Wednesday night, an appreciative crowd of thirty gathered to hear Kelly Link read at the Booksmith. Harcourt has recently issued Magic for Beginners in a paperback edition and have sent Link on a ten-city tour to promote the book. Link, clad in a no-nonsense beige Eveready T-shirt, threw the crowd a monkey wrench by reading “The Wrong Grave,” a story uncontained within Magic and set to appear in a forthcoming Candlewick anthology edited by Deborah Noyes. This YA story, as fluid in its twists and turns as nearly all of Link’s fiction, managed to combine poetry, grave robbing, mistaken identity, and a curious fixation on beef jerky. Link was initially a bit nervous, but found a firm confidence as the crowd responded. The tale was to form the centerpiece for the Q&A that followed.

A young man asked a preliminary question concerning Link’s natural intuition as a storyteller, wondering how she had managed to evade the stigma of cleverness. Link noted that she found stories scarier when they involved things like Cherry Chapstick. She noted that the story she read had been troubled by an intrusive omniscient narrator, but she had felt as comfortable reading this particular tale as she had writing it.

The tale had been inspired by the title, “The Wrong Grave.” It sounded like something culled from Edward Gorey: something a bit macabre and a bit stupid. Link was considerably self-effacing, pointing out that she was “still working through her obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and that this story served as a way to contend with this. The story centered around a young poet named Miles. Link had pursued the story after becoming interested in the idea of a person who was single-minded in their pursuit of art.

Link’s Nebula-winning story, “The Faery Handbag,” had recently been optioned for a film. And Link confessed that she hadn’t expected the words, “My story has been optioned for a film,” to escape her lips. She indicated that she would have no problem if the film production company screwed this up, that she would enjoy any resultant bad movie that came from this, but that she hopes to enjoy the process.

When another questioner brought up the subject of YA, Link noted a recent conference in which a person had suggested that a YA author could do anything but be boring or present beastiality. When this had been said, already the YA writers’ eyes were rolling over how they could circumvent these restrictions. The apparent impression in today’s YA climate is that you can, in fact, do anything. Which is good for a writer like Link.

The intrusive narrator in “The Wrong Grave” had been inspired by the previous Link story, “The Great Divorce.” It was something that Link had hoped to expand upon, only to determine while writing the story that this was a bad idea.

A main character, Link contended, should do stupid things. A character who didn’t do this would end up being another unfortunate case of “moral fiction.”

Asked about Small Beer and the zine Lady Churchill’s, Link indicated that the long-term goal of the former was not to go too much into debt and the goal of the latter was to break even. She noted that there was something “deeply relaxing” about a low-production zine and indicated that Lady Churchill’s had a two-year backlog that motivated Link and co-editor Gavin Grant to keep working on it.

For those who desire more, I’m happy to report that a future Bat Segundo podcast will feature an interview with Kelly Link.

BSS #64: Victor Navasky


Author: Victor Navasky

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Mystified by literary columnists.

Subjects Discussed: The economics of opinion journal publishing, on running The Nation as an opinion journal that loses money, dividends vs. tax losses, the challenges of a burgeoning subscription base, Calvin Trillin, “no diddling,” responding to Matthew Rothschild’s review, Valerie Plame, The Nation as a cause vs. advertising, the problems with second-class mail, Freda Kirchwey, the break with Christopher Hitchens, Monica Lewinsky, the McCarthy period, print journalism vs. online journalism, Rathergate, thoughts on the blogosphere, and the culture class and animosity between print and new media.

Early Morning Roundup At the End of the Day

  • Three hours (I think) of sleep, lots on the plate, but I can tell you this much: Bill, the producer I hired six months ago to help me with The Bat Segundo Show, recruited the Three Cheap Tenors for a return appearance. Bill tells me that the tenors sang about the fruit basket sent to Lev Grossman. But I suppose you’ll know for sure once the show goes up in the next day or two.
  • Big Bad Blog comes out in favor of the passive voice. Because passive voice is often used to great effect by writers. I couldn’t imagine sentences more stunningly utilized by people. People regularly stun us when they save their verbs for the end. These sentences, which are often exciting (instead of being mere “exciting sentences”), are fantastic for essays being padded out, often written by desperate undergraduates. So thank you, Big Bad Blog, for bringing this point, which is quite salient, home. The cocktails are being prepared and imbibed. The pinatas are being smashed by children. There is a sense of excitement, which is currently being experienced, as I write these words. The revolution has, and shall be, long lived.
  • Still don’t believe passive voice is the bomb, baby? Well, you haven’t experienced Bob Hoover’s scintillating prose.
  • 3-D TV? In the works. And you won’t need glasses. The more important question: will the inevitable development of 3-D porn, perhaps watched by octogenarians while testing Viagra, cause a rash of cardiac arrests?
  • Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too? Maybe. After you pass the sodium chloride. (via Sarah)
  • John Freeman asks, “How can the print and online worlds work together to broaden the scope of titles talked about in the media, and what’s worth reading today?” (Emphasis added.) You can talk the talk, Mr. Freeman, but can you walk the walk?
  • Perhaps one might find answers to Freeman’s Theorem (likely lesser than Fermat’s) at the Housing Works on September 27 at 7:00 PM. Maud Newton, Lizzie Skurnick, Newsday‘s Laurie Muchnick and the Philly Inquirer‘s Frank Wilson will be on tap to answer the questions that Freeman prefers to run away from.
  • It’s been linked a number of places, but it’s still an astonishing statistic: 98-99% of books are out-of-print. But on the bright side, if we apply Sturgeon’s Law, only about 10% of books are worth reading.
  • TimesSelect: nearly 200,000 schmucks subscribers.
  • I had no idea Best of the Fest was still around.
  • Max fleshes out this year’s MacArthurs. No word yet on whether any of them are good in bed.
  • Carolyn Kellog has eighteen months less to live. The story’s attracted so much interest that Lifetime Television has commissioned a TV movie starring Lori Petty as a friendly, crimson-haired Angeleno who moves to Pittsburgh, only to discover that a man named Bob Hoover (played by Don Rickles) is stealing her life away, a few days at a time. The film will feature tearjerking speeches, a beautiful score by John Tesh, and Susannah York in a supporting role as the neighbor who urges Carolyn to fight back.
  • Jason Boog has the scoop on a $100,000 cash exchange hooking up old media with new media.
  • I’ve long harbored a strange faith in the U.S. Postal Service, even when they screw up my mail or scowl at me when I retrieve my packages. But Tayari has the smoking gun for why you should believe.
  • The history of the yellow legal pad. Unfortunately, this story hasn’t been optioned by Lifetime Television.
  • Lee Goldberg writes fan fiction!
  • Jerome Weeks’ farewell column: “And, of course, there’s the pleasure of irking some people, notably bloggers. Mustn’t forget that.” What was that line about “working together,” Mr. Freeman? I didn’t get that.
  • And, finally, Megan Lindholm on how she became a famous writer. Yes, it can be done without sleeping your way to the top. (via Miss Snark)

Credibility Gap

New York Times: “The panel dismissed the idea, notably advanced last year by Lawrence H. Summers, then the president of Harvard, that the relative dearth of women in the upper ranks of science might be the result of ‘innate’ intellectual deficiencies, particularly in mathematics. If there are cognitive differences, the report says, they are small and irrelevant. In any event, the much-studied gender gap in math performance has all but disappeared as more girls enroll in demanding classes. Even among very high achievers, the gap is narrowing, the panelists said.”

Against the Stereotype

Now here’s a preacher to get behind (if you know what I mean): “Why can women be multiorgasmic and men not? Well, I’ve decided God just likes you better!”

Southern preacher Joe Beam is conservative, but he’s pro-sex, insisting that sex is good and that it makes people happy and stabilizes relationships. He’s for masturbation, phone sex, sex toys, any position in the Kama Sutra, birth control, anal sex — you name it, he’s for it.

Grossman Accepts Fruit Basket

I’ve been informed that Lev Grossman has refused the fruit basket I tried to send him this morning. The receptionist at Time also refuses to accept it because it means “having to go downstairs,” an ordeal apparently as arduous as climbing Everest.

I don’t understand this, because I’m sure Lev would have shared some of the tasty fruit with the receptionist and they might have bonded. I’m positive that the basket would have been shared around the Time office, providing sustenance for many overworked arts journalists.

But no. It was not to be! Lev has refused! The fruit basket remains undelivered, alone, merely wanting Lev’s momentary companionship.

Thanks a lot, Lev!

[UPDATE: It appears that the company was wrong about Lev’s refusal. Lev has, in fact, received the fruit basket.]

Temples of the Ideal

John Updike on the new MOMA: “It used to be said that airports were our new cathedrals, the spires replaced by ascending and descending planes. But they have become workaday and shabby, cluttered with the machinery of heightened security and menaced by airline bankruptcy—bus terminals on the brink, more like refuse-littered marketplaces than like places of worship. The art museums, once haunted by a few experts, students, and idlers, have become the temples of the Ideal, of the Other, of the something else that, if only for a peaceful moment, redeems our daily getting and spending. Here resides something beyond our frantic animal existence.”


Thomas Harris: The Laziest Titler in the Publishing Industry

Today’s big news: Thomas Harris has turned out another Hannibal book, just in time for the holidays. I’ll keep my thoughts on Mr. Harris’s books to myself. There is something more troubling at work here.

The new book is called Hannibal Rising — this after the imaginatively titled Hannibal.

Was ever there an author more lazier with his titles? Where other authors might give you titles like Special Topics in Calamity Physics or I Feel Bad About My Neck, words that make us curious about the inner contents, Mr. Harris has decided upon Hannibal and Hannibal Rising.

Well, I don’t believe it’s too late. And, as a public service to Delacorte Press, I offer the following titular alternatives:

  • Bride of Hannibal
  • Revenge of Hannibal
  • Hannibal Strikes Again
  • Son of Hannibal
  • It Came From Hannibal
  • The Amazing Adventures of Hannibal & Hannibal
  • Hannibal X
  • Just When You Thought It Was Safe: Hannibal
  • The Hannibal That Wouldn’t Die
  • Hannibal: Season of the Witch
  • Fishing with Hannibal
  • The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Hannibal
  • Hannibal, Hannibal
  • The Night of the Living Hannibal
  • Putting the Nib in Hannibal
  • Hannibal: Dream Warriors
  • Hannibal II: Electric Boogaloo
  • I Ate Out With Hannibal and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt
  • Hannibal, How About You?
  • My Dinner With Hannibal
  • Hannibal’s Marauders
  • Hannibal Disco Derby
  • Hannibal Will Be 25 in the Year 2000
  • Hannibal: Not the Cannibal You Were Expecting
  • Hannibal, American Style
  • The Good, The Bad & The Hannibal
  • I Once Knew a Cannibal Called Hannibal
  • Once, Twice, Three Times a Hannibal
  • Hannibal Cordon Bleu
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Hannibal
  • Hannibal, Too
  • I Have No Hannibal and I Must Eat
  • Hannibal: The Early Years
  • Hannibal on Handball
  • Hannibal If You Love Jesus
  • Hannibal Takes Manhattan

Slate Audio Book Club Returns in October for More Base Generalizations

Big news from those cute and cuddly sophists over at Slate! After “a late-summer hiatus” trying to figure out if black writers should be talked about or ignored, the garrulous gang has nailed down the decidedly Caucasian Michael Pollan as their author of the month. Will Katie Roiphe try tapping some hazy memory of a Pollan book she may have read in college under the pressure of politically correct profs? Will Stephen Metcalf hijack the conversation with a turgid aside about how Pollan has earned too many accolades? Find out “in mid-October,” when the audio segment is ready. Let us hope that some brave soul will be able to make it past the thirteen minute mark.

Bush Prepares U-Turn

President Bush, having decided that a left turn is out of the question and that a right turn would only make his poll numbers worse, has done the unthinkable: he’s settled on a U-turn. Politicians rarely do this. It’s often a highly dangerous thing to do while driving. But then politicians of Mr. Bush’s ilk are exceedingly rare and they are known to play by different rules.

It is unknown whether Mr. Bush intends to use his blinkers or check his blind spots. Political pundits are still trying to figure out if this will be a three-point turn or quite possibly one of those daring 180s you see large sports utility vehicles perform in four-stop intersections, nearly taking out the innocuous sedans politely waiting their turn to cross. Nobody knows the make of the vehicle that Mr. Bush will use, or whether this vehicle is a hybrid or equipped with GPS, or whether this vehicle’s special features have any bearing on Mr. Bush’s decision to make a U-turn.

What we do know is that he has at least “prepared” a U-turn. The U-turn might be next week or next month. It could be tomorrow. But it will almost certainly be reconsidered after November, depending upon how things turn out.