Reluctant Habits

The Bat Segundo Show: Patricia Cornwell

Posted by in Bat Segundo

Patricia Cornwell appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #257. Patricia Cornwell is most recently the author of Scarpetta. This interview serves as a companion piece to Sarah Weinman’s Los Angeles Times profile. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Checked in for narcissistic personality disorder. Author: Patricia Cornwell Subjects Discussed: The genesis of Kay Scarpetta after three unpublished novels, Sara Ann Freed’s input into Cornwell’s early career, on being rejected by the Mysterious Press, Susanne Kirk, the unexpected success of Postmortem, how Charles Champlin’s Los Angeles Times review changed the publisher’s perception, writing…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Allison Amend

Posted by in Bat Segundo

Allison Amend most recently appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #256. Allison Amend is the author of Things That Pass for Love. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Pondering the troubling things that pass for love. Author: Allison Amend Subjects Discussed: Dealings with the Atlantic Monthly, what constitutes a proper golf story, miniature golf, how Jewishness and faith relates to sustaining a narrative, speaking multiple languages, Pig Latin, the connotations of “molested,” small animals in short stories, whether an author should be concerned about manipulating the reader, grabbing the interviewer by the…read more


Posted by in Personal

This is probably my last post for 2008. While I cannot personally identify the last 365 days as a triumph or a disappointment, I can say this: It was the year of promise; it was the year of squandered possibilities. It was the age when we finally realized that Bush would finally be gone; it was the age when we hoped that Obama would work his magic. It was the epoch of bailouts; it was the epoch of Madoff’s avarice. It was the season of sixty degree December days in…read more


2008 — The Year in Books

Posted by in Best Books

I certainly didn’t plan it this way, but it appears that I’m now on record at five separate places (with many individuals who are smarter than I am) to discuss the best books of 2008. In the past few days, Ready Steady Book has issued its annual symposium and the Chicago Sun-Times has posted its favorites for 2008. You can also find my top ten books of 2008 on this site, as well as my Barnes & Noble Review contribution and my take on this year’s essays at The Millions’s…read more


Howard the Duck on Hulu

Posted by in Film

Ladies and gentlemen, by some miracle, Howard the Duck has made it onto Hulu. The film has never been released on DVD, although I understand it is being released on March 10, 2009. Nevertheless, having been withheld from the public eye for so long, I do not know how long the film’s availability on Hulu will last. If you have not seen this cinematic monstrosity, which is possibly much worse than The Spirit or Battlefield Earth, see it now before George Lucas’s ego pulls it down. One does not come…read more


Keep Your Head Above Water

Posted by in browne-sylvia, PHonies, Television

Here are a few interesting side notes. The above video clip wasn’t the only embarrassing flub that Sylvia Browne made on The Montel Williams Show. She managed to get ITV2 in trouble when Browne informed two parents that their missing son, Shawn Hornbeck, was dead. He turned up alive later. A court found that The Montel Williams Show had violated Rule 2.1 of the Broadcasting Code, which pertains to protecting UK viewers from “offensive material.” The show was temporarily pulled from ITV2. In addition, the Guardian‘s Jon Ronson has a…read more


Syllables, Names, and Theory

Posted by in France, Theory

There are some strange souls who loosen “France” from their lips, suspecting that there may be more to this country’s name than a word uttered in less than a second (presuming that you are not a soul who drawls out this word languorously, like the pleasant smoke emitted from a cheroot). Just as there remain a few vitiated greenhorns who cling stubbornly to the concept of freedom fries, some folks inherently distrust this name, perhaps because they are distressed by the country’s geographical proximity. Surely, a country separated by England…read more


Jose Saramago: Death Takes a Breather

Posted by in saramago-jose

Goodloe Byron, who is not to be confused with the late Congressman, is a kind and excitable gentleman who permitted me to use a corner of his table to hawk Bat Segundo CDs at last year’s Independent and Small Press Book Fair. He is the author of The Abstract, a self-published book that he has released without a dollar value into the world. (He informs me that he is sitting on numerous copies of his book in his barn.) But he is also a big fan of Knut Hamsun and,…read more

Time to Reboot My Privilege

Posted by in friedman-thomas, New York Times

I had a bad day last Friday, a day considerably worse than Thomas L. Friedman’s, but it was an all-too-typical day for America. Because, as we all know, my own comforts and needs naturally reflect everything we need to know about America. Mr. Friedman has a ratty moustache. But I have a beard. Which means there are more follical receptors on my face for America to kowtow to my seer-like economic prophecies. My day actually started well, where I was taking the collective virginity of three underage girls in Bathsheba,…read more

RIP Eartha Kitt

Posted by in Obits

(via Tayari)


RIP Harold Pinter

Posted by in Obits, pinter-harold

A: Is Harold Pinter dead? B: He is dead. A: Are you sure? B: Yes, I’m sure. (pause) A: Well, who will fill his shoes? B: I will fill his shoes. A: You will fill his shoes. Are you a playwright? B: No. A: No? B: No. Nobody can fill his shoes. I could fill his shoes if I were a playwright. But I’m not. A: You know, the thing I suspect you’re getting at here is that Harold Pinter was unlike anybody else. But on a more literal level,…read more

Review: The Spirit

Posted by in Comics, eisner-will, Film, miller-frank

The critics were not happy during the screening. The critic to my left fell asleep in his chair for an hour. The critic to my right — a jovial man who really wanted to like it — gradually realized that this was a film impossible to come to terms with. Gone were Eisner’s primary colors, replaced by muddy and amateurish black-and-white visuals with digitally added snow that never seemed to stick. The Spirit was so bad that it made Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy look like a masterpiece. Everyone was excited…read more

Review: Revolutionary Road

Posted by in Film, Yates, Richard

In Blake Bailey’s A Tragic Honesty, an excellent Richard Yates biography, Bailey depicts Yates’s efforts to adapt William Styron’s Lie Down in Darkness for director John Frankenheimer. The film, as we all know, was never made. And although Yates took this lucrative gig to whirl away with the money, this didn’t stop the troubled and cash-strapped literary master from writing to the requirements of the cinematic medium. Yates included careful music cues (“light, tinny, inexpert” xylophone music to be played during a moment of rage), specific camera angles, and even…read more

New Guardian Post

Posted by in Holidays

I’ve remained relatively silent about the holiday season, but the good folks at the Guardian, intuitively detecting my unspoken position, asked me to write a blog post summing up my feelings for the record. Reading can indeed be a palliative to some of the kitschy nonsense, and if you have any additional books to recommend, feel free to weigh in. I’ll be here munching on reindeer jerky.


On the Unpredictability of Balding

Posted by in Baldness

Since moving to New York, I have developed the habit of growing a beard and shaving it off (along with the hair on my head), only to continue the cycle anew. I am not sure how or why this grooming practice began. But I will try to explain my motives. Years ago, I proudly accepted the fact that I was losing my hair, figuring that I would eventually develop the dependable crescent pattern that comes at the end of male pattern baldness. I’d eventually have a hairline that was as…read more


New Review

Posted by in Poetry, Reviews, spicer-jack

Pardon the sparse updates. It’s been busy on this front, but more long-form content is coming. There will also be some more podcasts. In the meantime, my review of Jack Spicer’s My Vocabulary Did This to Me can be found in today’s Los Angeles Times.


Temporarily Out of Service

Posted by in Technical

Over the next day, I will be shifting this website over to a new hosting provider. If this site is down, well, you now know why. But I assure you that it will go back up again. If you need to get in touch with me by email, try the Yahoo address or DM me through Twitter. More geeky details TK. [UPDATE: Okay, so it looks like we’re switched over. Not 100%, because the DNS records still need to kick in. I am gradually tweaking things. If you observe any…read more


Review: Nothing But the Truth

Posted by in dillon-matt, Film, lurie-rod

Before Jonathan Demme became a world-renowned filmmaker, he was a film critic working for a small newspaper. The glorious schlock producer Roger Corman was shrewd enough to give the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, the late and profoundly misunderstood Paul Bartel, Martin Scorsese, the woefully underrated Joe Dante, James Cameron, and John Sayles their early starts. And Corman saw something in Demme while Demme was working for him as a unit publicist. Demme got his first directing assignment from Corman in 1974: a not-bad women-in-prison flick called Caged Heat that…read more

What Everybody Can Learn from Anita Bruzzese

Posted by in Journalism

As a guy who writes unapologetically for both print and online outlets, I have a lot of fun reading smug and woefully out-of-touch posts from alleged “journalists” dictating precisely how to go about conducting this business. Thankfully, much of Anita Burzzese’s work is online, offering invaluable lessons for writers of all stripes on what not to do. 1. Don’t treat the reader like an idiot. In Ms. Bruzzese’s December 14th column, spends five needless paragraphs providing dumb buildup about why Kathy Caprino thought that losing her job was the best…read more


Statement of Current Intentions

Posted by in Writing

You may have observed a slight downturn in new content in the last week. In an effort to organize and clear away needless detritus, I’ll be stepping back a bit from these pages during the next month or two. There will still be fresh content and new podcasts over the next several weeks. (The subject of dogs keeps coming into these podcasts, and I’m not sure why.) But my attentions are currently required elsewhere. There are several reasons for this. Beyond my freelancing responsibilities, I’m trying to take advantage of…read more


New Richard Powers Novel Has Title and Release Date

Posted by in Powers, Richard

FSG has recently announced a spate of titles for fall 2009. Among the bunch is Richard Power’s new novel, Generosity: An Enhancement, which is set for release in October. As soon as I determine any additional information, I will certainly report it here. And if you somehow missed out on the comprehensive roundtable discussion of Powers’s last novel, The Echo Maker (which included a contribution from Powers himself), you can revisit the conversation here. [12/17 UPDATE: I’ve been informed by several sources that the new novel is about the discovery…read more


Macmillan Lays Off 64, FSG in Severe Trouble

Posted by in fsg, macmillan, Publishing Industry

Shortly after last week’s wage freeze, Publishers Weekly‘s Jim Milliot is reporting that Macmillan Publishing has eliminated 64 positions. This is 4% of Macmillan’s U.S. workforce. The Observer‘s Leon Neyfakh has more. There are currently unconfirmed rumors that as many as 15 people could be let go before the end of today. Among the FSG casualties: head of production Tom Consiglio and editor Denise Oswald. The Faber & Faber imprint appears to be getting absorbed or is possibly toast. A report from the New York Times‘s Motoko Rich reveals that…read more


A Decent Issue of the NYTBR for Once?

Posted by in Tanenhaus, Sam

I am especially surprised to see that this week’s edition of the New York Times Book Review has a lot of good material. I don’t know if some crafty editor over there who still cares about books had the bright idea of tying up Sam Tanenhaus and throwing him into a closet for a week in review. I cannot possibly envision Tanenhaus coming up with the brilliant idea of having Tom McCarthy review Jean-Philippe Toussaint (a literary translation, Orthofer, can you believe it?), getting Douglas Wolk weigh in on Spiegelman,…read more


The Bat Segundo Show: Paul Schrader

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Film, schrader-paul

Paul Schrader recently appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #255. Paul Schrader is a filmmaker who is most recently the director of Adam Resurrected. The film opens in limited release on December 12. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Waiting for Deborah Harry to call him. Guest: Paul Schrader Subjects Discussed: Being asked to direct vs. originating a film project, Jeff Goldblum working against his natural tics, Goldblum’s considerable preparation for the role, balancing the element of play with too much preparation, making a film from Yoram Kaniuk’s untranslatable novel, initial efforts…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Nacho Vigalondo

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Film

Nacho Vigalondo appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #254. Vigalondo is a filmmaker who is most recently the writer and director of Timecrimes, a film that opens in New York and Los Angeles on December 12. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Searching for future Bats. Guest: Nacho Vigalondo Subjects Discussed: What to expect when attending one’s first press day in New York, being isolated from the Hollywood scene by making films in Spain, unexpected attention, Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, the current speed in adapting comic books, Mark Millar, the Timecrimes remake,…read more

How to Resolve the Current Financial Crisis

Posted by in Hockey, Violence


Cry of the Hornet

Posted by in Uncategorized

The loud flashes pierced into his eyes as they ushered him before the cameras. The shrapnel of sharp questions sliced into inextricable loss that the men behind the massacre could never tally up or scratch away, and for which they still hadn’t apologized. He still flinched from the stench left in the wake of the carcass that had once been his home, the hillock of his humble life, the now obliterated pile for which he had moved hard mountains. He had wanted to die with them, but he was halfway…read more


Revised Thoughts on Twitter

Posted by in Twitter

Twitter has changed everything for me. I say this after last year’s unsuccessful initial plunge. Back then, I did not understand Twitter and dismissed it, as Tito Perez suggested in the comments, with the reactionary zeal of an old fogey waving a scolding finger at blogging. Perhaps part of the problem was that Twitter hadn’t quite found its sea legs. Much like the early days of blogging, Twitter was then an unruly expanse of stray text messages. It was a bit like attempting to sail in a murky lake littered…read more



Posted by in Roundup

Bookbrunch is reporting that, contrary to Robert McCrum’s insistence that the literary lunch is dead, recently sacked Telegraph literary editor Sam Leith was indeed taken out to lunch by Bloomsbury and commissioned to write a comic novel called The Coincidence Engine. By the way, if anybody wants to take me out to lunch and talk to me about my novel-in-progress, let me know. It seems that on Facebook, happiness isn’t really a warm gun, but it can be found through a friend you add. My own tendency is to pretty…read more


Alternate Final Paragraphs for the John Sargent Memo

Posted by in Publishing Industry

Gawker recently republished a memo distributed to Macmillan employees that announced a pay freeze for anyone making over $50,000. The memo contained one of the most heartless final paragraphs contained in a publishing circular this year. By a strange coincidence, Reluctant Habits has obtained a list of three alternate paragraphs that Mr. Sargent briefly considered: 1. I know that this news feels as if we’re ass-raping you and your family. And quite frankly, we are. But I trust that you and yours will have a happy and healthy holiday season…read more