Reluctant Habits

BREAKING NEWS: Cloud Atlas Film Adaptation in the Works

Posted by in Literary Adaptations, Mitchell, David

In what may be one of the oddest cinematic adaptations of all time, First Showing’s Alex Billington reports that Run Lola Run/The International director Tom Tykwer is hard at work attempting to adapt David Mitchell’s imposing novel, Cloud Atlas, for the big screen. He has enlisted the Wachowski Brothers for help. While Mr. Billington seems to possess an unfamiliarity with Michell’s great novel, asking Tykwer “which of the six he would be focusing on” (which, uh, sort of defeats the purpose), what’s interesting here is that Tykwer, who has written…read more


WaPo Book World: History Repeats Itself

Posted by in Washington Post

To jump off from the previous post, in 1973, Washington Post cut the standalone Book World section, leaving at the time only The New York Times Book Review and The Los Angeles Times Book Review as the only standalone sections published in this country. Does this sound familiar? The parallels increase once you plunge into Ronald Smothers’s New York Times 1973 article on the initial folding. The article is behind a paywall, but there are some interesting facts: (1) The section was closed because of the high cost of paper…read more


Thomas Gladysz Laid Off from Booksmith

Posted by in Bookstores, San Francisco

I have learned that Thomas Gladysz, the events coordinator for the now less wonderful San Francisco bookstore Booksmith, has been let go by new owners Christin Evans and Praveen Madan. No explanation given, but presumably it’s “the economy.” Thomas had been at the Booksmith for 21 years, and the man had events coordination down to a science. Not only was he one of the vital guys who held the Haight’s literary community together, but he was always very kind and courteous — even to loudmouth regulars like me. One of…read more

Forthcoming Coverage

Posted by in Bat Segundo, New York ComicCon, tools of change

In addition to a rather enormous roundtable discussion that I have in the works here (author and book to be revealed soon), I should note that I’ll also be reporting on New York Comic Con and Tools of Change. There will be a considerable number of podcasts and written reports. Our Correspondent, who does not require alternating current and is somewhat adventurous, will most certainly not be confined to Podcast Alley, expecting people to come to him. Our Correspondent will be considerably more pro-active, walking the floor, and interviewing numerous…read more


This Can’t Possibly Catch On

Posted by in Newspapers


Review: New in Town (2009)

Posted by in Film

I am not necessarily opposed to romantic comedies. In fact, I even confessed to my moviegoing companion on the subway ride back that I enjoyed Notting Hill. I’m pretty certain that, given the choice between rewatching a Lucio Fulci film or Notting Hill, I would opt for the former. But the truth is the truth. Notting Hill more or less works and has some good dialogue, even if Julia Roberts plays Julia Roberts and the narrative is more obvious than the need to apply suntan lotion in 120 degree weather….read more

Does The End of Washington Post Book World Mean the End of Books Coverage?

Posted by in NBCC Campaign, Washington Post

Even though there has yet to be an official announcement, the NBCC is once again unofficially “reporting” “unofficial” and unsourced news that Washington Post Book World will print its last issue on February 15, 2009. Efforts to reach Marcus Brauchli to clarify answers have been unsuccessful (the man does not want to talk, even though it is claimed that he’s the only one who can answer), but perhaps a clue to Washington Post Book World‘s possible demise might be found in this blog entry at Short Stack, whereby specific links…read more


Regretting the Error

Posted by in New York Times, Updike, John

[UPDATE: Apparently, it's amateur hour at the New York Times. After fixing the above headline, Matt Bucher observed that The Broken Estate was not published in 1966. James Wood was then only a year old. (And, no, the above screenshot wasn't faked. I resized it to fit it into the window.)] [UPDATE 2: More errors in the piece. “More important, the move to a small town seemed to stimulate his memories of Shillington and his creation of its fictional counterpart, Ollington.” It’s Olinger. Also, John Updike was interviewed by the…read more

RIP John Updike

Posted by in Updike, John

I have just been informed by several people that John Updike is dead. Words fail me right now. And I have been lurched over for the last few minutes. Updike meant a lot to me. As much as Westlake, McGoohan, and David Foster Wallace. And I hope that I can bring myself to articulate something in the next few hours. In the meantime, I will just say that one of my favorite Segundo interviews was Show #50, in which I had the good fortune to interview the man. I will…read more


Theater Review: Queens Girl

Posted by in Theatre

Queens Girl is a one-woman show written and performed by Lauren LoGuidice. It is playing here in New York at a venue called Stage Left on January 29, 30, and 31st. From there, it moves on to San Francisco. I was contacted out of the blue by a publicist and opted to attend. My +1 had to back out. My alternate +1 likewise found himself busy. I was frankly too lazy to enlist a third +1. So I attended alone. I was one of two press members in the audience….read more


The Bat Segundo Show: David Denby

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Denby, David, Snark, sternbergh-adam

David Denby recently appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #261. David Denby is most recently the author of Snark. Please also see our lengthy essay, in response to Adam Sternbergh’s review. This conversation represents an effort to get Denby to answer questions raised by both pieces. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Ordered against using a snarky tone. Author: David Denby Subjects Discussed: Whether or not Denby feels battered, unsuccessful attempts to pinpoint the definition of snark, the club of the clued-in, newspapers and narratives, Denby’s reservations about the Web and decentralization,…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Azar Nafisi

Posted by in Bat Segundo, nafisi-azar

Azar Nafisi recently appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #260. Azar Nafisi is most recently the author of Things I’ve Been Silent About, as well as Reading Lolita in Tehran. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Reliving transcendent memories. Author: Azar Nafisi Subjects Discussed: Authenticity, W.G. Sebald, photographs and text, Iranian birth certificates, being true to the story when writing a memoir, accuracy and memoirs, the extraordinary nature of the ordinary, “A Memoir in Books,” constructs within constructs, Emily Dickinson, dreams that are tainted by reality, The Great Gatsby, Nafisi’s mother creating…read more

“Look, What Do You Want From Me?”

Posted by in Film


Review: Donkey Punch (2008)

Posted by in blackburn-oliver, ferrara-abel, Film, Horror, roth-eli

In 2006, the critic David Edelstein confirmed his cinematic cowardice by asking this of the infamous nine-minute anal rape scene in Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible, “Noé means to rub your nose in the violence and make you loathe it, but my nose had been pretty well rubbed after the first two minutes. For a while I stared at the EXIT sign, then closed my eyes, plugged my ears, and chanted an old mantra. I didn’t understand why I had to be tortured, too. I didn’t want to identify with the victim…read more

The Mysterious Origins of “Oh Snap!”

Posted by in Language, Slang

Is it possible that the 1910 children’s novel, The Bobbsey Twins at School, was a prescient influence on hip-hop? “Oh, Snap! Snap!” cried Freddie. “Don’t go there!” But Snap kept on, and Freddie, afraid lest his pet dog be bitten, caught up a stone and threw it at the place. Probably not. But “Oh snap!” and “Don’t go there!” were clearly phrases that begged to be loosened into the English language. And they both made their way into the American vernacular through hip-hop. This article concerns “Oh snap!” — that…read more


New Policies

Posted by in Technical

For all future posts, whenever I make a claim, I plan on emboldening my efforts to get related individuals on the record. Likewise, because there has been a slight uptick in comments left by people pretending to be other people, or people who cannot be bothered to leave real names (or, if they choose to remain anonymous, specific blogs, websites, or email addresses where they can be contacted), as of today, I shall enact a new policy. All commenters must now leave a real name or, if they wish to…read more


In Which I Talk with Tanenhaus

Posted by in Tanenhaus, Sam

On Wednesday night, Sam Tanenhaus and I talked. I was in the middle of arguing with my colleague Levi Asher about the future of literary coverage, saying something to him about a priori arguments in relation to rumors about The Washington Post Book World. A soft voice behind us asked, “Book World?” It was Tanenhaus. I must give Tanenhaus credit. It was a particularly freezing evening and Tanenhaus clearly wanted to go home. But he did take the time out to chit-chat. Our discussion was fiery but civil. I had…read more


The “Save Gary Coleman” Petition!

Posted by in Book Reviewing, coleman-gary

Even though I have yet to hear back from Marcus Brauchli concerning the future of the Washington Post‘s book coverage, and not a single journalist or NBCC board member has confirmed a specific decision, I believe that the time has come to blame what nobody really knows on actor Gary Coleman. Coleman, who once ran for California governor and is therefore thoroughly qualified to know about the Washington Post‘s internal decisions, needs to be saved. The information needs to be extracted from Coleman’s seerlike skull. And the action needs to…read more

Episode XLIV: A New Hope

Posted by in Obama

Today is the beginning of a new epoch. The slate is clean, the road ahead is paved with shrapnel, and the body language between the Obamas and the Bushes just before their preinaugural coffee is wonderfully comical. While I retain my hearty skepticism about politics, I can say, without reservation, that I am very proud to be an American right now. The last eight years nearly destroyed my faith in government, transformed me into something of a fiery curmudgeon in matters pertaining to politics, and made me wonder if we…read more

Very, Very Intense

Posted by in Music


I’m Feeling Lucky About My Google Job

Posted by in Google

From a fascinating collection of emails from former Google employees: In one TGIF in Kirkland, an employee informed Eric Schmidt that Microsoft’s benefits package was richer. He announced himself genuinely surprised, which genuinely surprised me. Schmidt, in the presence of witnesses, promised to bring the benefits to a par. He consulted HR, and HR informed him that it’d cost Google 22 million a year to do that. So he abandoned the promise and fell back on his tired, familiar standby (”People don’t work at Google for the money. They work…read more


Hypothetical: If Death Camps and Gas Chambers Were the Only Options to Extract Information, Would You Do It, Mr. Holder?

Posted by in Politics


NBCC Rumormongers About Washington Post

Posted by in Journalism, Washington Post

Late Friday, the National Book Critics Circle demonstrated its commitment to accuracy by reporting a rumor that The Washington Post Book World was closing up shop. Instead of picking up the phone or talking directly with the appropriate people at the Washington Post or committing any elementary act of journalism, Eric Banks saw fit to create a wave of panic through the online world by suggesting that “a reliable source” was reporting that Marcus Brauchli was recommending to the board that Book World be eliminated. The unconfirmed rumor was likewise…read more


RIP Ricardo Montalban

Posted by in Obits, Star Trek


How Jane Smiley Outfoxed Coherence

Posted by in smiley-jane

Back in the late 1990s, I wrote a 1,672-page novel about horse racing. Though I portrayed an array of upper-class characters and still remain more than a bit mystified by the thoughts and sentiments of the working class, it was easy for me — indeed, perhaps easier — to declare to all of my rich friends in Napa that I was a good liberal, and to always point to my work in defense of this claim. My fiction always informed my readers just how much I cared. I adored Latinos…read more


When Is a Bar Not a Bar?

Posted by in Bars, New York

It changes its hours, its temperament, and its reasons for existing faster than the seasons. Faster than some contemporary hostler can rustle up fresh horses or the unseen manager can replace fleeing steeds who take legal tender while tending behind the isthmus separating employee from customer. There are some moments during the year when it serves coffee, and other moments when it dumps these java options in favor of more alcoholic ones. (The latter scenario is the present option. It has resulted in others fleeing to more dependable joints where…read more


RIP Patrick McGoohan

Posted by in mcgoohan-patrick, Obits

Patrick McGoohan changed the way I looked at television. Before McGoohan, I had believed that television was merely a medium devoted to passing entertainments. But when I first caught an episode of The Prisoner playing out its surreal madness through a fuzzy black-and-white Samsung television at a very young and impressionable age, I realized that television could transform into a medium that grabbed you by the throat and had you pondering the mechanics and complexities of the larger world. McGoohan was the guy who proved without question that television was…read more


Review: Blessed is the Match

Posted by in Film, senesh-hannah, World War II

The most truthful moment contained within Roberta Grossman’s documentary, Blessed is the Match, comes from parachutist Reuven Dafni. Dafni reveals, in what Grossman bills as his final interview, that he did not like the widely celebrated Hannah Senesh very much, but that he admired her stubbornness. One is curious to know why. But the question is never asked. It is this journalistic diffidence that prevents Grossman’s documentary from being anything more than a helpful yet tendentious refresher course for those who wish to learn more about the intriguing Senesh. The…read more

Coming in March

Posted by in Roundtable

For those readers who have enjoyed our lengthy roundtable discussions of Richard Powers’s The Echo Maker, Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke, and various other books, let it be known that, during the first week of March, this website will be devoting an entire week to another elaborate roundtable discussion. (There will likely be a quite lengthy podcast interview as a supplement to the discussion.) The novel in question, which we will reveal at some point in February, comes from a writer you may not have heard of. (Indeed, it has been…read more

Conversations In the Book Trade

Posted by in Reviews

Deadlines and line dancing which pertains to deadlines will keep me occupied for the better part of today. So pardon the silence while I clack away on the keyboard. In the meantime, I should observe that Finn Harvor has managed to extract some possibly interesting answers from me on the publishing industry, e-books, the Internet, which mediums work best for fiction, online bookstores, literary agents, and numerous other topics. (Also, as both the Washington Post‘s Bob Thompson and The New York Times‘s Motoko Rich observed this morning, the NEA’s outgoing…read more