Reluctant Habits

“The Worst Book I Have Read in the Past Three Years”

Posted by in Reviews

In today’s edition of the Chicago Sun-Times, you will find my review of Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones. Let it be known that I did not arrive at my assessment lightly. I am an ardent lover of ambitious literature, and I realize when taking on any review assignment that an author has probably sweated for years on a project. As such, I do everything in my power to attempt to understand a book on its own terms. But this novel was so atrocious that I was forced to record a…read more

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The Bat Segundo Show: Heather Armstrong

Posted by in Bat Segundo

Heather Armstrong appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #276. Heather Armstrong is most recently the author of It Sucked and Then I Cried. [This is the first show in which a guest's Twitter feed emerges during the course of the conversation! This historical moment can be found at the 13:05 mark.] Condition of Mr. Segundo: Pondering his deficient parental duties. Author: Heather Armstrong Subjects Discussed: Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake, checking with other people on stories and blog posts, the fairness of sharing, the private medium of the letter being publicly aired,…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Tatia Rosenthal

Posted by in Animation, Bat Segundo, New Directors/New Films

Tatia Rosenthal appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #275. Tatia Rosenthal is is most recently the director of $9.99. The film is presently playing at the New Directors/New Films series, which is running between March 25 and April 5 at MOMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It is also scheduled for limited release on June 17, 2009. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Ushering in an economic revolution. Guest: Tatia Rosenthal Subjects Discussed: Unintentionally defying the “good things come in threes” maxim, animating at two frames per movement, Bill Plympton,…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Adam Del Deo

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Broadway, Film, New Directors/New Films

Adam Del Deo appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #274. Adam Del Deo is most recently the co-director of Every Little Step. The film is presently playing at the New Directors/New Films series, which is running between March 25 and April 5 at MOMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It is also scheduled for limited release on April 17, 2009. You can also read our related review. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Walking a thin line between the need to perform and employment. Guest: Adam Del Deo Subjects Discussed:…read more

New Directors/New Films: Parque Vía (2008)

Posted by in Film, New Directors/New Films

[This is the fourth in a series of dispatches relating to the New Directors/New Films series, running between March 25 and April 5 at MOMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.] The first image of Enrique Rivero’s striking feature debut sees a spider crushed by a boot. The boot belongs to a man with a wan and wrinkled face named Beto. Beto is a housekeeper living in a desolate and unoccupied manse in Mexico City that can’t be sold. He wears the same white shirt every day and scrubs…read more

New Directors/New Films: Every Little Step (2008)

Posted by in Broadway, Film, New Directors/New Films, Theatre

[This is the third in a series of dispatches relating to the New Directors/New Films series, running between March 25 and April 5 at MOMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.] An actor friend and I recently entered into a heated but civil disagreement about his career. My friend insisted that it was now the time to self-promote and self-aggrandize like there was no tomorrow. I pointed out to my pal that he had talents that simply hadn’t yet been recognized by the right people, and that getting noticed…read more

New Review

Posted by in Reviews

The book appears to have been completely ignored by American newspapers. There’s this snobbish Bookforum review which observes “lowbrow thrills” and appears written by a humorless gentleman who wouldn’t know fun even if he were offered the role of his choice in a custard pie fight. (This regrettable quality is quite typical of the people who Albert Mobilio hires these days. It has been suggested to me that Mobilio does not laugh at all or that he titters infrequently at best. To expect humor, much less fun, in Bookforum‘s dilletantish…read more

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The Onion Narrative

Posted by in Philosophy

On the morning of Saturday, March 21, 2009, I left the house to purchase an onion. This action, in and of itself, might be considered meaningless. Most would consider this a perfunctory deed or an insignificant errand. There isn’t a foolproof way to capture all comparable actions occurring at the same moment (9:30 AM EDT), but why should any of us ignore the potential pleasures contained within such a routine act? Are we taking this modern convenience for granted? Is a trip to the store to be sneered at? If…read more

New Directors/New Films: Unmade Beds (2009)

Posted by in Film, New Directors/New Films

[This is the second in a series of dispatches relating to the New Directors/New Films series, running between March 25 and April 5 at MOMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.] The title of Alexis Dos Santos’s second feature film suggests either a Chekhovian spright or a close kinship with Francois Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses, perhaps one of the most definitive portraits of young people ever burned to celluloid. Certainly there are many allusions to French cinema throughout: a Jules and Jim-like menage-a-trois and a belabored homage to the bear…read more

New Directors/New Films: Barking Water (2009)

Posted by in Film, New Directors/New Films

[This is the first in a series of dispatches relating to the New Directors/New Films series, running between March 25 and April 5 at MOMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.] Oklahoma, a state unfairly associated with Rodgers and Hammerstein, is a vast prairie with a pan-shaped territory suggesting a definitive cooking surface for the great American melting pot. It has been dismissed by East Coast elitists as a hotbed of virulent Christianity and backwater intellect. But as Will Rogers famously quipped to the state’s detractors, “When the Oakies…read more

The Covenant

Posted by in Blogging, Journalism, Newspapers

Some years ago, not long after Herb Caen’s death, I decided to make a series of pilgrimages to the San Francisco Public Library to dust my hands and wrangle microfilm. I had known Caen’s three dot columns for some time. Or, at least, I thought I had known. When Caen passed away, as others dwelt on his coinage of “beatnik” and “Baghdad by the bay,” I felt that it was my civic duty as a San Franciscan to begin at the beginning, which very few at the time had thought…read more

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The Bat Segundo Show: T.C. Boyle III

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Boyle, T.C.

T.C. Boyle appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #273. T.C. Boyle is most recently the author of The Women. To listen to our previous interviews with Mr. Boyle, check out The Bat Segundo Show #70 and The Bat Segundo Show #10. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Pondering new author taxonomies. Author: T.C. Boyle Subjects Discussed: How to conquer jet lag, Ellen Key’s The Woman Movement, the individual vs. the spirit of the time, feminism and Frank Lloyd Wright, notions of education, Miriam’s presence and hypercaffeinated prose, balancing the women in The…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Andrea Peyser

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Celebrities, Film

Andrea Peyser appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #272. Andrea Peyser is most recently the author of Celebutards. [PROGRAM NOTE: At the 22 minute mark, while the conversation concerned itself with the dangers of generalization, a woman, who was sitting at a table located a good seventy-five feet away from them, gave Ms. Peyser and Our Young, Roving Correspondent a note. The note read: CAN YOU PLEASE TALK QUIETER? Now it should be observed that, while the conversation was animated, the two talkers did keep their volume level to a…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Tony Stone

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Film, Vikings

Tony Stone appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #271. Tony Stone is the director, writer, producer, editor, and actor of Severed Ways, a film about Vikings that opens in limited release on March 13, 2009. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Unsure of whether he wants to be a Viking or not. Guest: Tony Stone Subjects Discussed: The many crew positions that Tony Stone worked, music clearance people who keep weapons under their beds, making a film with seven chapters, how a two week shoot went on for three years, not getting…read more

Miss March (2009)

Posted by in Film

Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore are part of a comedy group called The Whitest Kids U’ Know [sic], a television show presently airing on the IFC Channel. One of their more popular sketches, the unimaginatively named “Slow Jerk,” can be viewed on YouTube. 4.8 million people have watched this tired retread of the Austin Powers phallic silhouette/camera placement gags, with many apparently finding it funny. But the difference between “Slow Jerk” and Austin Powers sketches is that the latter found creative methods of playing with perception. What the camera or…read more

Recession Recipes: Veggie Corn Chowder

Posted by in Cooking, Food, recipes

In an effort to encourage folks to whip up some decent eats during this economic downturn, here’s an improvised recipe for vegetable corn chowder. It will probably set you back about eight bucks or so at the market (assuming you already have flour, butter, and olive oil in the kitchen, like most folks). But this will feed about four people. It goes down well with corn bread and Heineken. And the wonderful thing about this chowder is that it’s quite filling. Deceptively so. First off, you’ll need to make yourself…read more

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A Call For Plenitude

Posted by in Philosophy

It is a happy necessity which obliges wisdom to do good, whereas indifference with regard to good and evil would indicate a lack of goodness or of wisdom. And besides, the indifference which would keep the will in a perfect equipoise would itself be a chimera, as has been already shown: it would offend against the great principle of the determinant reason. — Leibniz, Theodicy In recent weeks, I have observed undeserved burdens heaped on too many good souls. The Duane Reade clerk (one of two jobs she holds) too…read more

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The Bat Segundo Show: Eric Kraft, Part Three

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Kraft, Eric

Eric Kraft appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #270. Eric Kraft is most recently the author of Flying. This is the third of a three part conversation with Kraft about all of his Peter Leroy books, an epic of more than a million words which Our Young Roving Correspondent was insane enough to read. These podcasts tie in with a roundtable discussion of Flying involving numerous people. (To listen to Part One of this conversation, go here. To listen to Part Two of this conversation, go here.) Condition of Mr….read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Eric Kraft, Part Two

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Kraft, Eric

Eric Kraft appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #269. Eric Kraft is most recently the author of Flying. This is the second of a three part conversation with Kraft about all of his Peter Leroy books, an epic of more than a million words which Our Young Roving Correspondent was insane enough to read. These podcasts tie in with a roundtable discussion of Flying involving numerous people. (To listen to Part One of this conversation, go here. To listen to Part Three of this conversation, go here.) Condition of Mr….read more

Should Maureen Cover Up?

Posted by in dowd-maureen

Bloggers are never supposed to start a piece with a scene on the subway because it reveals either the frugal reality about the way they live or a tendency to pad out an essay with needless name-dropping. Nonetheless, I’m going to. Because I’m really concerned about Maureen Dowd’s tits. And you should be too. Because understanding Dowd’s tits — wantonly focusing upon these two sagging points of no return — is the key to understanding the world we live in. For Maureen Dowd’s tits, as woefully deficient as they are,…read more

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New Review

Posted by in Reviews

My review of G. Xavier Robillard’s Captain Freedom appears in today’s edition of the Chicago Sun-Times, along with many other interesting pieces, including Mark Athitakis’s profile of Jesse Ball.

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Goodbye Stacey’s

Posted by in Bookstores, San Francisco

To read my tribute back in January, go here. And here’s a report of the final reading at the Chronicle. (via Frances)

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Flying Roundtable: Stage Five

Posted by in Flying, Kraft, Eric, Roundtable

(This is the fifth of a five-part roundtable discussion of Eric Kraft’s Flying. Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four can also be read. Many thanks to Eric Kraft and all the participants for their time and careful attentions.) Eric Kraft writes: Thank you, Ed, for organizing this roundtable and assembling such a diverse and interesting group. I hope that they will find at least some of what follows as interesting as I found their remarks. Peter as Dreamer (for Sarah Weinman) At one point in “Do Clams…read more

Flying Roundtable: Stage Four

Posted by in Flying, Kraft, Eric, Roundtable

(This is the fourth of a five-part roundtable discussion of Eric Kraft’s Flying. Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Five can be read here.) Edward Champion writes: “There was beauty below them, inarguable and unique — many fine things built for the contentment of hardy men — and there was decadence — more ships in bottle than on the water.– but why grieve over this?  Looking back at the village we might put ourselves into the shoes of a native son (with a wife and family in Cleveland)…read more

Flying Roundtable: Stage Three

Posted by in Flying, Kraft, Eric, Roundtable

(This is the third of a five-part roundtable discussion of Eric Kraft’s Flying. Part One, Part Two, Part Four, and Part Five can also be read.) Kathleen Maher writes: Regarding the comparison of Flying to Proust (whose “Swann’s Way,” I almost struggled through); Nabokov (whom I admit enjoying); and Pynchon (never got past 100 pages) — these are blurb-writers’ selling points. The blurbs also compare Kraft’s writing to Fred Astaire’s dancing. You may be disinterested in Astaire’s Hollywood dance routines, but accusing him of “lead” feet? Not right. Suggesting Astaire…read more

Fans: A Reconsideration

Posted by in Fandom

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The Bat Segundo Show: Eric Kraft, Part One

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Kraft, Eric

Eric Kraft appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #268. Eric Kraft is most recently the author of Flying. This is the first of a three part conversation with Kraft about all of his Peter Leroy books, an epic of more than a million words which Our Young Roving Correspondent was insane enough to read. These podcasts tie in with a roundtable discussion of Flying involving numerous people. (To listen to Part Two of this conversation, go here. To listen to Part Three of this conversation, go here.) Condition of Mr….read more

New Review

Posted by in Reviews

I’ve had a quiet obsession with the Panama Canal for a while. Now another book has come along — Julie Greene’s The Canal Builders — hoping to provide an alternative history. Does Greene’s book live up to the task? You can find out in today’s edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Flying Roundtable: Stage Two

Posted by in Flying, Kraft, Eric, Roundtable

(This is the second of a five-part roundtable discussion of Eric Kraft’s Flying. Part One, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five can also be read.) Matt Cheney writes: I’m going to throw another topic out there for discussion, because I’m only one third of the way through Flying and I’m struggling. Here’s my question: What do you make of the narrative voice?  Or voices, if you identify them differently? I ask because I’ve been reading the book off and on for a month now, but have only just begun…read more

Flying Roundtable: Stage One

Posted by in Flying, Kraft, Eric, Roundtable

(This is the first of a five-part roundtable discussion of Eric Kraft’s Flying. Here’s Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five.) Introduction This week marks the release of Eric Kraft‘s Flying, a collection of three novels that include Taking Off, On the Wing, and the previously unreleased Flying Home. This trilogy forms the latest set of volumes in Kraft’s ongoing series of books set in the Peter Leroy universe, which Kraft has devoted more than a million words to. Peter Leroy is a dreamer who has been writing…read more