Reluctant Habits

New Podcasts

Posted by in Uncategorized

Apologies for the slack content here. It’s been busy. But things should be more or less back to regular prolificity tomorrow. Four more podcasts have been released at The Bat Segundo Show, including a return appearance by LBC-nominated author Jeffrey Ford that pertains to his latest book, The Shadow Year. Three more podcasts are forthcoming in a few days, all of them return appearances — including two authors who were nominated by the LBC. As time permits, I’m hoping to check in with many of the authors who the LBC…read more

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Meta Meta Meta

Posted by in Uncategorized

Darby Dixon points to a troubling new trend among today’s cultural tastemakers. Today, a professional writer can now be employed to write about reading about writing or reading about writing about reading, with several nots thrown in at random intervals, if we assume the writers to be keeping track. I must confess that all this gives me a headache. The silence is not pillowy exactly. But it is certainly quite silly and possibly Freudian. I feel that I have contributed to this atmosphere with lengthy blog posts responding to reviews…read more

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The Early Films of Jim Henson

Posted by in Film, henson-jim, Media, Television

Before the days of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, Jim Henson was an independent filmmaker in New York, making experimental films between commercial gigs. It was the mid-sixties. According to John Bell’s Strings, Hands, Shadows: A Modern Puppet History, Henson was sharing a workshop space for a few months in the basement of a New York City library with a German sculptor and choreographer named Peter Schumann. Schumann specialized in avant-garde performances, entertaining crowds with masks, puppets, and postmodern dance, often employing these for political demonstrations. In watching 1965′s…read more

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David Kamp, Blog Snob

Posted by in Book Reviewing, Music, New York Times, Tanenhaus, Sam

Ten years from now, we’ll all be inured to David Kamp. A whole generation will have grown up as his book, The United States of Arugula, has been long forgotten — the remaining copies pulped or perhaps used as oversized skeet shooting pellets, because they couldn’t even sell as remainders. For what imagination can one expect from a hack writer whose grand contributions to letters include The Food Snob’s Dictionary, The Film Snob’s Dictionary, The Rock Snob’s Dictionary, and The Wine Snob’s Dictionary? (One senses a trend. A writer so…read more

NYPL: Nicholson Baker & Simon Winchester

Posted by in Baker, Nicholson, Human Smoke, winchester-simon

On Thursday night, a crowd congregated into a subterranean hall of the New York Public Library to listen to Simon Winchester interview Nicholson Baker. Mr. Baker wore a green vest and a low-key suit. Mr. Winchester was dressed in a gaudy blue pinstriped suit and a yellow shirt, with a dark red handkerchief drifting out of his outer pocket like a haphazard eleventh-hour accessory. Baker was soft-spoken, effusive with his hands, and sometimes quietly gushed, particularly when talking about the “lush, colorful” nature of the New York World, one of…read more

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Growing Pains for the Litblog

Posted by in Litblogs

As observed yesterday by Dan Green, the Litblog Co-Op is shutting down. This is a pity, because the LBC was a remarkable conduit for many overlooked authors to receive dutiful attention often denied them by more traditional outlets. (To get a sense of perspective on what this means, as observed last week by The Book Publicity Blog, collectively, all of the national NPR programs interview a mere 600 authors a year. Thus, there can never be enough conduits for long-form discussions and interviews with authors. The world needs more litblogs,…read more

RIP Arthur C. Clarke

Posted by in Uncategorized

Nobody will replace Arthur C. Clarke. Not by a long shot. The inner cylindrical mysteries of Rama. The monolith concocted in collaboration with Stanley Kubrick. The sad calculated way in which aliens conquered the human race in the unforgettable Childhood’s End. He was one of the last of the Golden Age giants. Born close to the end of one world war and becoming a man in the middle of another war, where he served with the Royal Air Force, Clarke looked to the stars and to his imagination, creating a…read more

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Obligatory Rickroll

Posted by in Uncategorized

Deadlines and other obligations are keeping me busy. Therefore, I hereby acknowledge the effective protests by Anonymous with a homegrown rickroll.

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How Drugged is That Doggie in the Window?

Posted by in Book Review, Dogs, Drugs, Ellen Palestrant, Eric Rosenfield, Pets, Prozac

Pretzel on Prozac By Ellen Palestrant, Elusive Press, 124pp., $12.95 It’s become pretty hip these days to put the hate on Prozac. The drug has been accused of causing suicides, bringing about violence, of being ineffective and, most damningly, of making hipsters unable to love. Yet, even as Prozac-hating becomes a cause célèbre, it and and other antidepressants in the SSRI class are being prescribed in record numbers — and not just to humans, but to their pets. And what could be a surer sign of a decadent, wasteful and…read more

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Human Smoke — Part Five

Posted by in Baker, Nicholson, Human Smoke, Roundtable

(This concludes our roundtable discussion of Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke. For previous installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four. (Many thanks to Julia Prosser at Simon & Schuster, who was kind enough to go along with this crazy idea; Nicholson Baker, for taking the time out of his busy schedule to reply to these many thoughts; and, of course, to all the participants who offered provocative and interesting insights into the book. If you’d like to discuss the book further, feel free to hash it out in…read more

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Human Smoke — Part Four

Posted by in Baker, Nicholson, Human Smoke, Roundtable

(This is the fourth of a five-part roundtable discussion of Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke. For additional installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Five.) Jackson West writes: I dithered on whether to bring the book with me on my trip, and decided to leave it at home, so I don’t have the dog-eared page references handy. First with the quick thoughts, then with the rant: – I hadn’t read anything by Baker before, at least knowingly (I’m sure I’ve read his bylined work in the New Yorker without noting…read more

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Human Smoke — Part Three

Posted by in Baker, Nicholson, Human Smoke, Roundtable

(This is the third of a five-part roundtable discussion on Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke. For additional installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Four, Part Five.) Colleen Mondor writes: Levi – all of your points are fascinating and quite thought provoking. I didn’t mention this before but Hitler was very much a product of WWI as well – there is some thought that he wanted a heroic moment he did not have; perhaps that partly led to his desire for power. In regards to Perry and Japan – yes, I agree…read more

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Human Smoke — Part Two

Posted by in Baker, Nicholson, Human Smoke, Roundtable

(This is the second of a five-part roundtable discussion of Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke. For additional installments: Part One, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five.) Colleen Mondor writes: Hi all – I’ve read the first round of responses from Sarah, Levi and Brian and I’m not sure that I can completely speak to each of the points that everyone has brought up (we are already going off in many directions!) but I do have some thoughts on the book that connect to some of what others have written. First, I…read more

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Human Smoke — Part One

Posted by in Baker, Nicholson, Human Smoke, Roundtable

(This is the first of a five-part roundtable discussion of Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke. For additional installments: Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five.) Nicholson Baker’s latest book, Human Smoke, hits bookstores on Tuesday. And we will be devoting the entire week here to discussing the book. But I’d like to start by dedicating this roundtable discussion to Arthur Saltzman, the late author of Understanding Nicholson Baker. I had approached Saltzman to participate in this discussion, but I learned from his partner, Joy Dworkin, that he passed away…read more

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Cinematic Authenticity

Posted by in Authenticity, Edward Champion, Film, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, The Bank Job

Two movies opening today have me concerned about the way that contemporary cinema is avoiding authenticity in an age of wartime. If we accept the idea that a movie is, in some sense, an entertainment, then should not the entertainment at least be authentic in some sense? I think of films like My Man Godfrey, The Lady Eve, and It Happened One Night, all outstanding examples of the screwball comedy. I don’t think it’s an accident that the screwball comedy emerged from the residue of the Great Depression and continued…read more

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Momentary Hiatus

Posted by in Uncategorized

Due to other deadlines, I’m taking a few days off. Four new podcasts are up at the Bat Segundo Show. More soon!

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Interview with Bill Plympton

Posted by in Animation, Bat Segundo, Bill Plympton, Edward Champion, Film

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a number of new podcasts, which I anticipate releasing today. But in the meantime, here’s an excerpt from my forthcoming interview with animator Bill Plympton. If you don’t know who Bill Plympton is, you’re missing out on one of the most unique independent animators now working in America. Plympton emerged into national consciousness when many of his shorts begin appearing on MTV’s Liquid TV during the late 1980s and early 1990s. This came concomitantly with success on the film festival circuit — in…read more

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