But It Took Him Considerably More Than 14 Minutes to Move On

Chronicle of Higher Education: “Fourteen minutes. That’s how long it took Prestigious University Press to reject my proposal to edit a book of new essays on an early-modern philosopher. Apparently that’s the time it took the acquisitions editor to receive my e-mail message, open the 10-page attachment, make a professional judgment, and then write back with a curt one-sentence rejection stating that my proposal was ‘too specialized’ for the press’s successful series of handbooks on individual thinkers. That’s also how long it took me to go into the kitchen, eat a sandwich, and return to my computer to find his reply.”

You know, most of the time, a writer doesn’t get any kind of reply at all.

(via John Fox)

A Grand Radio Project

A few perspicacious readers have correctly divined from my post last week that I am indeed interested in doing something on the radio drama front in relation to the short story and that my feverish intake of all things old-time radio has spawned something of a side project. Let me just say that emails have been sent, authors have been contacted, and that scripts are being written.

Rather than keep the details mum, I’d like to invite any interested parties to contact me on this. If you are a voiceover talent, a musician, an author who would like to see her work adapted into a thirty-minute production (at the moment, the project is being helmed by volunteers, which means nobody’s making money at this), a radio writer willing to deal with a hard but encouraging story editor, an audio geek, a sound effects guru, or you’d like to jump on board with this in some other capacity, drop me a line and I’ll see if we can get you on board.

The current and wildly ambitious plan is this: I’d like to do an initial set of ten thirty-minute radio dramas — a tough and socially conscious (but not didactic) contemporary anthology series in the vein of Quiet, Please and Dimension X. Why ten? Well, the idea here is to conduct a mass casting call of talent, find out where their particular character strengths lie, and then cast them accordingly to the roles in the ten scripts we have at our disposal. Each drama would be meticulously rehearsed and then recorded over the course of one day. Trust me on this. You will be challenged, but this will be fun.

I’m shooting to get the initial slate of ten up over the course of ten weeks sometime in early 2008.

Ideally, these dramas will be based on previous material, although I have about twenty or so original story ideas in outline form. I’m now writing one script, a satirical story about disaster and religion, which I’m now about halfway into. At the moment, I’m serving as story editor and director. And I’m hoping to give other writing talents an opportunity to not only see their short stories presented in compelling dramatic form, but also, if they are interested, to either adapt their stories or possibly create new ones.

If any of this interests you, you can email me at ed@edrants.com. Please include samples and a brief history of what you’ve done. If you have a pitch for a story you’d like to write that would be acceptable for a thirty-minute production, email me and we’ll volley. I’ll try to get back to everyone within a week or so.

Penguin Audio Afraid to Embrace the Present

The New York Times‘s Andrew Adam Newman reveals jittery spirits at Penguin Audio. Set to offer audio books through eMusic (disclosure: I have freelanced for them), Penguin Audio bailed out at the last minute, fearful of pirates taking the non-DRM MP3s and disseminating them across the Internet. But Random House Audio publisher Madeline McIntosh begs to differ, pointing out that there have been no pirated versions of eMusic-distributed audio books found on pirate sites (at least, not yet).

I’m wondering if Penguin Audio’s “piracy” claim has less to do with uncollected revenue and more to do with enforcing unduly crazy control mechanisms. Penguin Audio may be foolishly trying to enforce autocratic market options on a free market. After all, offer the files only as a DRM option and you control the precise circumstances in which a listener can enjoy an audio book. But the listener will desire to enjoy the audio book on the computer, the iPod, the home stereo, and nearly any appliance that she sees fit to listen. Restricting how a listener decides to enjoy an audio book runs contrary to the “customer is always right” basic business principle.

If this is indeed Penguin’s stance, this would also run counter with the portable nature of regular books, which can be borrowed, swapped, sold at the Strand, or enjoyed in multiple atmospheres. Penguin is also missing out on a few unanticipated promotional options. Even if a small portion of audio books are pirated, there’s also the possibility that a listener might want to buy the book she’s listening to. Indeed, if the audio books become omnipresent, this may translate into a small customer base wanting to purchase the book.

So while Random House Audio struts its stuff on the parquet, Penguin Audio appears content to be the diffident boy at the junior high school prom afraid to ask the girl to dance. Which is a great shame, as there are a lot of interesting titles in the backlist.

Deborah Solomon, Racist

That inarticulate imbecile is at it again. Deborah Solomon apparently didn’t get the news that graphic novels have been around for some time — possibly, since the 1920s — and is racist enough to assume that Marjane Satrapi, by way of having brown skin and writing about fundamentalism, must be a Muslim. I guess all that supposed research that Solomon puts into these “questions” doesn’t involve basic fact checking.

An Orphan Review: Mary Otis’s “Yes, Yes, Cherries”

[NOTE: Earlier this year, I was commissioned to write a review of Mary Otis’s Yes, Yes, Cherries. Regrettably, the piece had to be killed, due to lack of space. Since enough time has passed for its legitimate reproduction and it’s too late to find a home for this piece, I feature it here on these pages.]

Yes, Yes, Cherries
(Tin House Books, 210 pp., $12.95)

“Society often forgives the criminal; it never forgives the dreamer.” — Oscar Wilde, “The Critic as Artist”

The ten tales told in Yes, Yes, Cherries, Mary Otis’s debut short story collection, chart the existential snags and crags familiar to all dreamers. Otis plots an unforgiving but readily identifiable topography. Libraries are sanctuaries, but sometimes snares. Doctors offer prescriptions, but only after they’ve pumped clients for details about their sex lives. DDSes may be “gentle dental folk,” but the uprooted wisdom teeth leave crestfallen cavities.

cherries.jpgOtis’s work resides somewhere between Aimee Bender’s behavioral examination and Lorrie Moore’s mordant worldview. She has a great talent for pinpointing external perception’s slings and arrows on the insular fantasist. In “Five-Minute Hearts,” a bookstore clerk named Brenda attends a party with her new boyfriend. The car breaks down on the way and, when a trucker pulls over to assist, Brenda reimagines this long-haired do-gooder and her boyfriend’s daughter as a family portrait for “the Lexus-load of businessmen passing at this instant.” All this occurs shortly after Brenda’s boyfriend insists that she’s not his wife. It’s a troubling disparity also surveyed in “The Next Door Girl,” in which a Bakersfield émigré remarks that “exuberance had not been a thing to aspire to” in her hometown. In “Stones,” a woman recalls “an instance when Phil ridiculed her for not knowing that pesto sauce should never be heated.” Even one’s beverage decisions can’t escape harsh pronouncements. In “Triage,” a mother tells her daughter, “Tea is a nervous person’s drink.”

Otis’s adult characters often find escape from such assaults by dwelling upon childhood. When Allison’s husband asks her about her layoff, “the Tilt-a-Whirl of her heart slows and lowers, slows and lowers, thwacking to a stop.” A flight attendant in “Triage” is named Lonnie Childs. Childhood, however, is hardly an escape route. Her children shriek for candy at inopportune moments or, as in “The Straight and Narrow,” canvass mothers to start a “Standard American Diet.”

One of Otis’s misfits, Allison, appears in four stories and truly puts the Mitty into mitigating. The first half of this quirky quartet, “Pilgrim Girl” and “Welcome to Yosemite,” are pitch-perfect, depicting Allison’s adolescent seduction by an insurance man and, years later, her life as an elementary school teacher. These two tales crackle because Otis understands the rocky relationship between conformity and personal imagination. The young Allison is first observed impersonating a saleswoman, forced by her mother to “get out of herself.” Later, we learn that Allison does not wear underwear to class, but that her audacious sartorial choice is not the reason she loses her job. She’s canned because a trusted teaching assistant has offered a sworn statement reading, “Allison seems greatly distracted, in general.”

Unfortunately, in the next two stories, Otis abandons this balance for a more pedestrian nervous breakdown. In “Stones,” Allison is asked by a therapist to “visualize herself on an ice floe in the middle of the ocean.” While this is an interesting observation on how institutional thinking encroaches upon personal identity, it leaves little room for Allison’s imagination to assert itself.

But Otis’s delightful comparisons atone for these lapses in character development. A disloyal husband “travels through life like a midsize rental car.” An actress’s ample décolletage is like a “soft velvety crack in [a] sofa.” Otis is also preoccupied with machines as a remedy for societal ills, such as the “contraption,” an exercise unit in “Welcome to Yosemite” designed to strengthen hearts.

One must also applaud a writer whose filigree is fingers and chicken. Fingers are frequently described, their sizes and motions intruding upon Otis’s narratives like invasive tendrils. Indeed, in “Stones,” Allison consults “a guide that shows how to become more confident through the repeated practice of certain hand gestures.” The smell of chicken is a troubling presence in two tales, and in “The Next Door Girl,” Tender Chickens crops up as “an extraweird sex magazine.” Otis’s prose isn’t particularly concerned with pronouns. She’s more content to drive declarative sentences through first names, eschewing “he” and “she” (and particularly “they”) whenever possible, perhaps because dreaming is contingent on personal identity.

Otis is also taken with cockeyed quips (“Honey, where’s the rake?” reads one double entendre), but she sometimes relies on rudimentary declarations that lack the fizzle of her dialectic between society and imagination. “The air at Nordstrom’s has a fine ingredient,” says a father in “Picture Head,” who constantly compares his surroundings to his early life working on a tanker. In the title story, a digression on a Revolutionary War quiz featured on a menu hinders a promising narrative initiated by borderline nymphomania. That’s too bad. Otis’s voice is too interesting to dwell upon commonplace consumerism.

But these are pedantic quibbles for a promising writer who successfully convinces that the dreamers are as worthy of pardon as the criminals.

[UPDATE: Rodney Welch was likewise inspired to post his killed review of T.R. Pearson’s Glad News of the Natural World. Hopefully, this new practice will set a trend of killed reviews being reposted in their entirety online. (Which makes me wonder just how many reviews have been killed over the past year.) Dan Green has additional thoughts on the subject.]

I’m Surprised She Wasn’t Building a Ship in a Bottle As Well

Walter Kirn has an essay on multitasking in this month’s Atlantic. But perhaps the essay’s most startling revelation is that Jennifer Connelly likes to read a book and talk on the phone while having sex. Whether this is hyperbole or partially truthful is difficult to say. But if continuous partial attention is Ms. Connelly’s m.o., I certainly wouldn’t want to be her lover. No matter how stunningly beautiful she is.

Are You Sitting Down? More Importantly, Are You Prepared to Yawn?

If you are an author hoping to inject a forced significance into the characters within your oeuvre, then J.K. Rowling is your role model. There is no doubt in my mind that this was designed not so much as a gambit for the fan fiction enthusiasts, but as a sexual orientation to launch a thousand grad student essays. Now that we know that Dumbledore is gay — and we must assume this to be true because the author says so! — one wonders why insinuations weren’t there in the text all along. After all, if Rowling “always saw Dumbledore as gay,” would this not have provided an extra subtext to the Harry Potter universe for Rowling to play around with? Or is this merely a retroactive attempt to move a few more units?

I’m wondering if other YA authors will follow in Rowling’s footsteps. Will Daniel Handler declare Klaus Baudelaire a BDSM enthusiast? The time has come for more startling announcements. Because as jaw-dropping bombs released to the public go, Dumbledore’s secret life is terribly anticlimactic.

Strange Weekend

So far, this weekend has involved a Friday night meeting with an 81-year-old television personality in his Upper East Side townhouse, a college kid calling me “Dad” (the first I’ve heard the term), frightening an eager photographer (honestly, this was unintentional; I was trying to be nice!), making a 911 call after seeing an extremely large and possibly dead man lying on a sidewalk near Columbus Circle (85% of the people passed him by; thankfully, he turned out to be alive), the giddy and retributive removal of a stranger’s baseball cap, and several other incidents too strange to report in full here. A future post fleshing out some of this nuttiness will follow soon. Let me just say that I’m really not trying to seek out strangeness. But it does have a tendency to seek me.

Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Tom Perrotta’s The Abstinence Teacher is duly reviewed this Sunday by Carolyn Kellogg on the Left Coast and Liesl Schillniger on the other coast. For the latter review, Tanenhaus has warned readers of “frank sexual language” that comes from Perrotta reading an excerpt by telephone. Alas, the promised 1-900 banter isn’t nearly as salty as the admonishment, unless you’re one of those people who blushes whenever someone says “gonorrhea,” “pubic hair” or “peeing on a stick.” In which case, why listen in the first place?

Cultural Amnesia

Grabbing a cup of joe this morning at my local coffeehouse. Walking out the door.

“Hey, Ed!”

I race back in. She works at the cafe and she’s only a few years younger than me. But we have our share of conversations, in part because she seems to dig my T-shirts, and I always ask her how she’s doing and what she’s up to.

“You know that show, Ripley’s Believe It or Not? It’s this amazing new show where they have this crazy guy with long fingernails. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

I’m a bit baffled. Because I know that Ripley’s Believe It or Not? is not new. Also, the coffee hasn’t kicked in.

“You mean the show with Jack Palance?”

“Jack Palance?”

“Oh,” the coffee hitting my bloodstream, “this is a new show?”

I then describe to her the ABC television show that appeared on Sunday nights at 7:00 PM and tell her that Palance creeped me out when I was a kid. I then offer my best Palance impression. “Believe it or noooooooooooooooooooooot!”

“There was a show before this?”

I apologize to her for not knowing of this new show. I tell her that I don’t have a television anymore. It’s not that I’m against television. I do try and keep current with Heroes, The Office and Battlestar Galactica. But there’s only so much time. I ask her if she knows who Robert Ripley is. She doesn’t know. I point out that he was a high school dropout who started the whole Believe It or Not? business in cartoon form in the early 20th century. She seems stunned that there was a Believe It or Not? that came before. She tells me she’s going to go to the Atlantic City museum to check it out and thought I might dig it, given my T-shirts. And she’s right. And I thank her and tell her that I’ll try to check it out.

As I said, she’s only a few years younger than me. And I’m wondering who has the real cultural amnesia here. Am I the amnesiac because I’m not familiar with all of the latest television developments? Or is she the amnesiac because she isn’t familiar with the incarnations of Believe It or Not? that came before? Perhaps we are both amnesiacs and this simple exchange — one of many I tend to have in the morning — is a way for both of us to bridge the gap.

How Sasha Frere-Jones Lost His Mojo

If I had more time, I’d respond with a lengthy and airtight argument. Alas, the deadlines beckon. So, for the moment, let me just say that Sasha Frere-Jones is full of shit, that indie rock hasn’t entirely lost its soul, and that Carl Wilson offers a pretty good response echoing many of the problems that I had with Frere-Jones’s tone-deaf attempt at being contrarian. (Latter link discovered via Richard)

American Health Care: Grin and Bear It

Freelancers do indeed need health care. Shame on the spineless Democratic presidential candidates for failing to bring this up or call for universal health care, proper. I admit that I say this out of self-interest. Because I am now a freelancer. And I do not have health care. And I play Russian roulette every day hoping that I will not get sick or viciously maimed or otherwise be the target of expensive hospital bills.

“Well, you chose this life,” you might say. “You knew you had it coming.”

Maybe so. And I’m pretty damn committed to it too. That’s what passion will do for you. Because I am, in part, a crazy bastard. But does this mean that I, and other freelancers who are in the same boat, should be denied free or low-cost health care? Is it selfish for freelancers to expect health care as a basic right? Or do we just grin and bear it?

Shortly after moving to Brooklyn, I contracted one of the worst bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis that I have ever experienced in my life. There was no money to see a doctor and, being on deadline all the time and not having nearly the kind of high octane energy that I usually have when I am the pinnacle of health, I foolishly didn’t go to a free clinic. Because I didn’t have the time. I ended up losing my voice for almost a month — and yet I still continued to conduct interviews.

I coughed so hard that I actually threw out my back, and spent two days in more pain than I cared to divulge to my girlfriend, who was absolutely kind to me throughout — just one of the many reasons why I’m exceedingly lucky. But there came a time when I woke up at 3 AM in which the pain was so severe that I hollered at the top of my lungs and tears streamed down my face. If I moved an inch, my entire back would feel as if it had been stabbed repeatedly. I pretended that all was well, and I learned to live with the pain until it went away. And it was all because I was terrified of paying hundreds of dollars just to get some goddam antibiotics that would fix the problem. The pain was an assault to my very being, yet I was determined to carry on, as vigorously as possible, not being a corporate whore.

But I was a whore of an altogether different sort. A whore to patriotism and a severely flawed health care system in which the sick, the ill, and the wounded are expected to carry on with their business as if all is well. Because this is America, an ostensible nation of progress and democracy. And we really should shut up and tough it out. This is the American way.

If I was sick, then I damn well better get well. I damn well better have the constitution to pretend that all is fine when it isn’t. That this bronchitis or pneumonia was just a protracted cold. And how different is that really from the cavalier manner in which we look the other way and accept other problems that we believe will get resolved of their own accord?

My intention in 2008 was to vote for a Democrat. But if the Democrat that becomes a presidential candidate cannot get behind universal health care, s/he won’t have my vote. I’m voting for a candidate who has the conviction to guarantee health care for everyone. It may very well be a wasted vote (or maybe not in this blue state), but if I have to grin and bear it when I get sick, I sure as hell have no intention of grinning and bearing it when it comes to this much larger question. In a just universe, this would be one of the major issues of the 2008 election. But this is a nation that would rather pretend things aren’t as bad as they are.

I could vote for Hillary Clinton, who gives you the illusion of choice, or Barack Obama, who promises that no American will be turned away. (Well, you may not be turned away. But you’ll still foot the bill.) Clinton and Obama are big on “lowering costs,” but they haven’t bothered to toss out any concrete figures. (The only thing we get from Obama is that “the typical consumer would save $2,500 a year.” But that’s more like promising voters that they will continue to carry on the long American tradition of collecting coupons from the Sunday newspaper. Big whoop. I’ll pay $5,000 for open heart surgery instead of $7,500. Thank you for shopping at Target Greatland. (The Edwards plan is more interesting, in that it boldly pits a public health care industry against a private one. But it is likewise reticent about costs.)

But here’s what I want to know. What’s the bottom line? How much will each of these health plans cost me if I want to sign up? And can these plans seriously curtail the crazy costs that come from even an ambulance ride? These are the questions that every uninsured American is asking. These are the questions that keeps someone uninsured. The three major Democratic candidates simply will not, or maybe just cannot, recognize the worries and concerns of working-class America.

So, in the meantime, grin and bear it, America. You may not have health care anytime soon, but this is the greatest country on earth.

Drive-By Roundup

We’ve Made the Goal!

Well, folks, it appears that we’ve managed to raise $800 in a little less than two days. What started off as an experimental lark has turned into an unexpected success! Thanks to everybody who was kind enough to donate. Your support will ensure that several interviews will occur over the next few weeks. And, more importantly, the annoying pie graphs and ancillary propaganda will now stop.

If you’re still interested in throwing in a few bucks, you can feel free to hit the Donate button below. The chapbook offer that comes with a donation of $10 or more will stand open until the end of the month.

Thanks again, folks. We did it!

Coming Soon to The Bat Segundo Show

Correspondent: You’ve alluded now many times to the passage at the end of that chapter, which I would describe as the American Pastoral moment. I’m very curious as to how that came to be, the particular doors, through the wrong end of the telescope…

Russo: I’m sorry. Which?

russo.jpgCorrespondent: The three paragraphs where you have him describing all the doors that are open at youth and then not open.

Russo: Oh right.

Correspondent: Yeah, we’re talking through the wrong end of the telescope. And so on.

Russo: Yeah.

Correspondent: So I’m curious as to where that moment, which seems to me the more American Pastoral moment, came from exactly. How that came to be laid down.

Russo: You know, it’s funny. That particular metaphor of doors, of walking through doors closed behind you, and then having fewer doors to walk through and choose between, was the metaphor that I used to use when I was teaching to describe how plot worked.

Correspondent: Interesting.

Russo: When I was teaching my undergraduate and especially my graduate students. Plot is a very difficult — they say, how do you come up with a story? How do you know what happens first? What happens next? All of that. And I was trying to explain to them that the best stories, the best plots, are the ones that end up kind of paradoxically, you want to be surprised. But after the surprise, you want a sense of inevitability. Like that’s the only place the story could have gone. Those two things, that’s why a lot of books are disappointing. Because that’s a very hard effect to achieve. How can you surprise somebody even as, after they register the surprise, they say, “Oh, of course. This is the only way it can go. This is the only way it could have gone.” Those two things are antithetical. And yet the best books always have that. That coming together. So I was always looking for a metaphor to explain that to people. To my students. And I’d say, all right. Think of it this way. You’ve got a thousand doors. You choose one. You walk through it. Now you’ve got five hundred doors. You walk through that. You’ve got two hundred and fifty doors. Every time I started explaining that to students, that there were fewer and fewer doors, that was going to provide the inevitability. But there was still the surprise. You didn’t know. Every time a character makes a decision, it seems that there are so many other possibilities. So it’s a series of surprises that ends up with a sense of inevitability. But as I explained that to my students, and as I was writing this book, it occurred to me that’s also a description of life and destiny.

Correspondent: Yeah.

Russo: (laughs) So I had lectured my students and then that lecture had provided a metaphor for this — the most complex of my novels.

Correspondent: Wow. So I guess the more representative a book is of life, the more that you can grapple onto teaching metaphors. (laughs)

Russo: (laughs)

[Richard Russo has also offered an essay at Powell’s, in which he describes his own “lazy” writing impulse.]

Cronenberg, Carpenter & Landis — 1982

David Cronenberg: “If you want to take that as an absolutely blanket question, no, I don’t think there’s anything that should not be shown in films.” Also, rather presciently, Cronenberg predicts the PG-13 rating and points out the advantages of the American film ratings system over the Canadian one, where the filmmaker will go to jail if she projects the offending film clips.

The three directors are coming off, respectively, from Scanners, The Thing and An American Werewolf in London.

What’s also interesting here is that this roundtable discussion is hosted by Mick Garris, who would become a filmmaker only a few years later. Part 2 and Part 3 are here.

And for my money, the most brutal Carpenter moment is this scene from Assault on Precinct 13.

A Question of Ethics

I want to clarify something about the pledge drive, because I feel that it’s important. It hasn’t come up yet, but, if you are an author or a publisher who wishes to submit to the fund, please know that if I decide to interview you or review your book, I will pay you back your money if we end up setting up an interview. I’m doing this so that I can maintain the same journalistic integrity that I do for all of the interviews, and I do not wish for there to be a conflict of interest, or the perception of such.

Pledge Drive Update — October 17, 2007


Wow, folks, I’m truly stunned. Thanks very much to all the donors whose donations came overnight. It looks like I’ll be sending out quite a number of chapbooks next month.

We are now about 70% of the way there towards making the $800 pledge sum happen. And I’m convinced, based on this remarkable turnaround in within less than twenty-four hours, that we can meet this $800 goal. (And once we do, I assure you that the PBS-style braying will cease.)

As I stated previously, the plan was to keep going with this if we had reached $600 by the end of this week. Well, it looks quite probable that we’ll get here before the end of today. But we’re not out of the woods just yet.

Again, if you’ve enjoyed the podcasts and want to see them continue quite prolifically throughout the end of the year, please feel free to donate. Those who donate $10 or more will receive a chapbook containing a Bat Segundo history, an excerpt from the play Wrestling an Alligator, and an excerpt from the novel-in-progress Humanity Unlimited. And remember, a donation is the only way to learn about Mr. Segundo’s mysterious history, which has only been alluded over the course of these podcasts.

Thanks again to everyone.


  • USA Today‘s Mike Snider has it wrong. Conan the Barbarian was not “brought to life more than 25 years ago” by Arnold Schwarzenegger. You see, there was this guy named Robert E. Howard who wrote stories for Weird Tales. Back in 1932, he created a character called Conan the Cimmerian and brought him to life through words. Howard, of course, is mentioned in the piece. But I wonder: Does USA Today really believe that Conan was dead before Arnold and John Milius got their hands on it? Or are they somehow conflating Howard’s suicide with the presumed lifelessness of pulp fiction?
  • Over at Litkicks, Marydell has been offering some fascinating figures and revelations about the publishing industry. There are even some spreadsheets outlining the basic financial elements. Do check it out if you’re interested in the financial niceties of publishing.
  • Poor Richard Johnson! After the New York Post blowhard realized yet again how small his cock was, he proceeded to show his true misogynistic colors by suggesting: “The male half might take her someplace private and disprove her theory, but we don’t like a woman with a mustache.” Maybe he just can’t handle the truth.
  • Apparently, Howard Davies used the Booker platform to attack book reviewers for failing to use more “critical skepticism…together with greater readiness to notice new names.” Hmmm, maybe this is what litblogs are for. (via Orthofer, who has more links on the subject)
  • In defense of Los Angeles. (via This Recording, a multifarious blog recently discovered, which was added to Bloglines upon discovery of the sentence, “It’s a sad thing when you lose all respect for someone who used to be a genius.”)
  • A crime drama with zombies carrying on a post-coital discussion? Good lord, why didn’t CBS sign on for such inventive madness immediately? This is exactly the kind of craziness that television needs! (via Inter Alia Ed)
  • There are more cartoonists getting published in Parade, but does this fit into the fucktard consensus?
  • Jeff VanderMeer has some thoughts on a writer friend giving up. No, you should not give up at all. No matter how hard it gets. No matter how many setbacks there are.
  • And I’ll have an update on the pledge drive right around the point we hit the 24 hour mark. Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far.

Anne Enright Takes Booker

In a surprise win, Anne Enright has nabbed this year’s Booker Prize for The Gathering. Like 2005 Booker Prize winner John Banville, Ms. Enright is Irish. Which I suppose means that if you want to win the Booker, you should probably write an uncompromising novel about dysfunctional people and claim that you’re Irish. Then when you win the Booker, you can laugh in the timbre of a supervillain on the verge of taking over the world and respond in a non-Irish dialect, “I had you fooled! Suckers!” But I understand that Enright is genuinely Irish, as is Banville. And I suppose that the Booker people are very careful about ferreting out impostors. I understand that Kiran Desai is not Irish, although I have a feeling that she’d like to be.

In any event, the upshot is that, if you want to win the Booker, it’s good to be Irish. At least every other year. Look out for an Irish winner in 2009!

Pledge Drive Update


Here’s where we’re at. $243 has been raised so far — a little more than 30% of the goal.

Many thanks to everyone who was kind enough to contribute today. I will keep the donors’ names anonymous out of respect for their privacy. But for everyone who has donated $10 or more, they will receive a copy of the special Segundo Chapbook sometime in late November. Again, all we’re shooting for here is $800. So if you’ve appreciated The Bat Segundo Show and want to see it flourish through the remainder of the year, please take some time to contribute.

The deal is this: if we can generate $600 before the end of this week, I’ll keep the pledge drive going through next week until we hit past $800. If we can make this happen, this should permit me to carry forth with the interviews. (And for those who have emailed your concerns about what I will do in lieu of this cash, don’t worry. I have several backup plans now in the works.)

Thanks again.

The Bat Segundo Pledge Drive


In almost four years of running Reluctant and two years of running The Bat Segundo Show, I have never openly asked for money on this website. Sure, there’s been a donation bar on the side, and some of you have graciously pitched in. I thank those of you who have. There’s also been some advertising, which has likewise helped. But this website has largely been run on my own dime. I’ve done my best to stimulate conversation and to make this a place for the literary community to connect.

So it pains me to make the following announcement. I’ve always tried to be self-sufficient here, ensuring that I can provide you, the readers and the listeners, with free content about the literary news and developments of our time.

But here’s the cold hard truth: Due to an unforeseen development on the advertising front, I’m out $800 this month. I’ve made some calls and spoken to a few people, and it appears that this is $800 I may not see for a while. The specific individuals responsible for collecting these monies have as much interest in performing their duties or informing me of their progress as the CIA. While I’ll be all right next month for income that has nothing to do with advertising, in the meantime, I’m now facing a shortfall that I’ll have to make up in the forthcoming weeks.

Understand that I don’t believe that the world owes me a living. But what this means is that, if I do not find a way to make up this shortfall this week, about seven Segundo interviews with some of today’s leading contemporary authors I had set up for the next three weeks will have to be canceled while I find immediate work elsewhere. (There are two interviews scheduled for this week and I plan to go ahead with these. And there are also some exciting interviews in the can that I hope to release once this financial setback has been resolved, including a provocative conversation with Steven Pinker and a two-part interview with Tom McCarthy.)

Now I don’t want to have to cancel these interviews. Trust me on this: these are all extremely interesting people. But if I cannot get $800 by the end of this week, I’m going to have to.

Here’s where you come in. As an experiment, I’m seeing if you — the readers and listeners who have been coming here — can help make up this $800 shortfall through donations. I’m not asking for a yearly salary like Jason Kottke once did and I certainly don’t want to make a regular habit of asking readers for donations. Nevertheless, in the grand scheme of things, collectively speaking, this is not a lot of dough.

I’ve produced 145 of these podcasts so far and made them available over the past two years for free. And I would like to continue devoting my time and energies doing this. As we all know, the number of outlets for in-depth literary interviews is shrinking. And I’ve been doing my best to fill in the gap with questions not usually asked of authors, careful reading of the books, and vigorous research.

If at some point, you’ve enjoyed any of the podcasts or any of the content here, please take some time to click on the Donation button below. If even sixteen of you contribute $50, then we’re back in business. Even if you can contribute $10, $5, beer money, it all helps. Let’s see if we can’t conquer this shortfall together. When I’ve raised around $800, I’ll remove this post and continue with business as usual.

And, as an added incentive, for those who contribute $10 or more, I’ll throw in a homemade chapbook containing an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Humanity Unlimited, an excerpt from my play, Wrestling an Alligator, a brief history of Bat Segundo’s sordid past, along with a few other items. The chapbook is only available through a donation.

Thanks very much for your time.