Reluctant Habits

The Bat Segundo Show: Robin Black

Posted by in Bat Segundo, black-robin, interview

53 minute radio interview with the author of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This.

The Dead Writer’s Almanac (April 29, 2010)

Posted by in Dead Writer's Almanac

It’s the last week of April, and we are still hunting around for writers who have died, particularly those who have died in an unusual manner. But we are finding ourselves unenthused by the offerings. We could tell you about John Cleveland, who died 352 years ago today, but this noted poet and satirist merely died of a fever. Had Mr. Cleveland lived 270 years longer, he might have been able to try out a nifty little thing called penicillin. Alas, the human life span, even in the 21st century,…read more


The Dead Writer’s Almanac: Iceberg Slim

Posted by in Dead Writer's Almanac, Iceberg Slim

It’s the death day of Iceberg Slim, who passed away eighteen years ago on April 27, 1992. Iceberg Slim is not to be confused with iceberg lettuce (alive, but only for short periods and not exactly the best lettuce) or Vanilla Ice (alive, but often dead on stage). But it is safe to say, that Iceberg Slim was not born with this name. Few parents indeed would name their new children “Iceberg.” He was born in Chicago under the name “Robert Lee Maupin.” But please don’t confuse him with Armistead…read more

Doing Something “Right”

Posted by in martel-yann

George Jonas’s piece, which apparently wasn’t examined by a single copy editor, can be read here. (Thanks to Joe Clark for the heads up.)

The Dead Writer’s Almanac (April 27, 2010)

Posted by in crane-hart, Dead Writer's Almanac, Poetry

It’s the death day of Hart Crane, who passed away seventy-eight years ago on April 27, 1932. Hart Crane committed suicide. But it was a cheery suicide, as suicides go. Even if the consequences leading up to the suicide were bizarre and far from happy. You have to credit Crane for his courtesy in shouting “Goodbye, everybody!” to a crowd before throwing himself off a steamship into the Gulf of Mexico. I mean, how many of the hundreds of people who have thrown themselves off the Golden Gate Bridge have…read more

The Dead Writer’s Almanac (April 26, 2010)

Posted by in Dead Writer's Almanac, selby-hubert

It’s the death day of Hubert Selby, Jr., who passed away six years ago on April 26, 2004. Selby died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which was the sixth leading cause of death in 1990 and is well on its way to earning a solid position as the fourth leading cause of death in 2030. (Go lung disease! And don’t forget, fellow writers. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!) Selby’s wife, Suzanne, claimed that Hubert screamed and broke things when he wasn’t writing. This may explain, in part, the enhanced…read more

The Dead Writer’s Almanac (April 25, 2010)

Posted by in Dead Writer's Almanac, morris-wright

It’s the death day of Wright Morris, who passed away twelve years ago on April 25, 1998. Back in 1910, this famed Nebraskan writer (the second dead Nebraskan writer we’ve celebrated in two days!) had not yet uttered his first word. He then experienced the first death of a loved one. This created a moment for the young Morris to gnaw upon repeatedly in later years. Morris’s mother had died just six days (not even a week!) after young Wright popped out of her womb. In his autobiography, Writing My…read more

Did Lane Bryant Rip Me Off?

Posted by in Commercials

My short film “The Most Important Absence” (January 2010), made to address exploitation: A recent Lane Bryant commercial banned by ABC (April 2010), made to sell lingerie:


The Dead Writer’s Almanac (April 24, 2010)

Posted by in cather-willa, Dead Writer's Almanac

It’s the death day of Willa Cather, who passed away sixty-three years ago on April 24, 1947. The word “dead” can be found seven times in Cather’s O Pioneers!, which was written when Cather resided in Cherry Valley, New York. According to the 2000 Census, Cherry Valley has a population of 1,266 — a number that might be considered “dead” by self-important urbanites, but that is perfectly respectable in this writer’s humble opinion. Cather also wrote a novel called Death Comes for the Archbishop (more “deads” here than O Pioneers!),…read more

“Building a Writer’s Life” Panel

Posted by in Appearances

If you plan on attending the 6th Annual Round Table Writer’s Conference, please be advised that I will be part of the “Building a Writer’s Life” panel. I’ll be appearing with Diana Spchler and Joseph Mackin. The panel is set to go down on May 1, 2010, at 4:00 PM. I’ll be offering a few unusual angles on what it takes to maintain a writing life and an independent voice in a digital age. There may be jokes. There may be fireworks. There may be an impromptu Plates session, should…read more


The Bat Segundo Show: Adam Thirlwell

Posted by in Bat Segundo, interview, thirlwell-adam

53 minute radio interview with the author of The Escape.

The Life of Pie Throwing

Posted by in martel-yann

Yesterday, Mark Medley, an amicable gentleman from the National Post, contacted me by telephone to talk about Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil and my review, in which I had called Mr. Martel’s novel “the worst book of the decade.” I thought he was merely getting some minor quote from me. But it appears that he’s devoted the opening paragraphs to my piece. You can read Mr. Medley’s article here.


When Publisher’s Notes Were More Honest

Posted by in stein-gertrude

Bennett Cerf’s At Random conveys an amusing anecdote concerning Gertrude Stein. Stein told Cerf that she loved seeing her writing in print and asked Cerf how he felt about it. Cerf replied that if there was anything that Stein wanted to see in print, Random House would do it. So when Stein published The Geographical History of America or the Relation of Human Nature to the Human Mind, he was exceptionally bewildered. This bafflement was also conveyed when Cerf wrote the jacket copy: PUBLISHER’S NOTE This space is usually reserved…read more


RIP George Scithers (With 2006 Interview)

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Obits

Locus Magazine reports the sad news that George Scithers, who was a founding editor of Asimov’s, an editor of Amazing Stories, and who revived Weird Tales in 1987, serving as its editor through 2007, passed away on April 19, 2010 of a heart attack. I ran into George at BEA in 2006, and conducted an impromptu interview for The Bat Segundo Show. Our conversation is transcribed below. This was still in the “wet behind the ears” stage of the program. In the transcript, I have spared people the dreaded you…read more

In Response to Sven Birkerts

Posted by in Birkerts, Sven

Well, Good Ol’ Sven is at it again, dissing the digital age as an abject obverse to the novel. Some questions: 1. If Sven’s students are “not reading newspapers or print magazines,” but are reading the same articles through “online news sources,” then is this really a binary opposition? Sven proudly announces that he “was watching the opening scenes of Wim Wenders’s 1987 film Wings of Desire,” but if one is to adopt his catholic approach, I would contend that, by seeing Wenders’s film on television (as opposed to projected…read more


Hobo with a Shotgun

Posted by in Film


Should Hannah Tinti Fly First Class? Find Out for Only $500!

Posted by in Scams

HTML Giant has published an email that is now making the rounds, whereby One Story is attempting to fleece students for a one-week workshop (priced at $1,100) over the pressing question of whether or not they should pursue an MFA. The ethics, as many have argued in the thread, are dubious. On the other hand, one has to admire the effrontery. But if One Story is going to ask for a ridiculous sum of money, then I think the time has come for others to ask for equally staggering fees…read more

Abandoned Books and Marginalia

Posted by in Marginalia

On the evening of April 18, 2010, my girlfriend and I were alarmed to discover perfectly good books — which included four volumes of Saul Bellow and a near mint edition of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange — that had been tossed with some ferocity into numerous plastic bags and thrown into the street. We plundered through these books, selecting those classics or pivotal tomes that we might pass on to friends, acquaintances, or those who may not be able to afford books. But when we sifted through the books,…read more

This is Also Good Advice for Authors

Posted by in Author Publicity

Always be nice to everybody you meet. As soon as you leave town, word will begin spreading on the lecture circuit as to how difficult or cooperative you were. There’s no better gossip than “What an asshole!” a certain celebrity was and word will catch up with you fast. I always ask in each city, “Who was the worst celebrity you ever booked?” and the stories are told with obvious relish. Always do talk shows. They treat you nicely (limo, nice hotel) and, in certain sections of the country, virtually…read more


Ms. William T. Vollmann

Posted by in Vollmann, William

And there’s more here. (via Paul Constant)

The Bat Segundo Show: Juan José Campanella & Allison Amend II

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Film, interview

Juan José Campanella and Allison Amend both appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #331. Mr. Campanella is most recently the co-writer and director of The Secret in Their Eyes, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and opens in theaters on April 16, 2010. Ms. Amend is most recently the author of Stations West and previously appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #256. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Searching for Old West secrets in various eyes. Guests: Juan José Campanella and Allison Amend Subjects Discussed: Devising a stadium shot…read more

Anna di Timpani Verde

Posted by in Anne of Green Gables


The Evils of HTML Giant

Posted by in Blogging

Ladies and gentlemen, I have written a 10,000 word essay outlining, in intricate and long-winded form, every single evil that the blog HTML Giant has committed. The proprietors have molested several of my closest friends and have had sexual relationships with Lego dinosaurs. They have burned several editions of Joshua Cohen’s Witz and have had the hypocritical temerity to praise him as a genius. They have illegally downloaded Hollywood blockbusters from the Internet and have ripped off mattress tags. They have mugged Gordon Lish on three separate occasions. They have…read more


Captain Pronin

Posted by in Animation

“This is your money. Give me a smoking.”


Why Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil is the Worst Book of the Decade

Posted by in martel-yann

There comes a rare time — perhaps once every ten or fifteen years — when you read a book with such dreadful syntax, without even a fiber of merit, so libertine in the manner it insults the audience, and so producing the literary equivalent to being completely submerged into a vat of shit, that the reader, having embarked on the fetid journey, begins to pine for a brutal throng of vigilantes to chop off the author’s hands and prevent the hopeless hack from ever holding a pen or setting foot…read more

So Much for Shriver

Posted by in Reviews, shriver-lionel

My review of Lionel Shriver’s novel, So Much for That, runs in today’s Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s the first paragraph: In We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver axed at the angst of self-absorbed parenting while spinning the unspoken psychological grindstone that sharpens school violence. In her severely underrated novel The Post-Birthday World, Shriver expertly established two parallel universes that exposed the delicate fissures buried within a seemingly grounded relationship. One would logically assume Shriver to be the ideal social novelist to fire up the Flammenwerfer for a blistering assault…read more


The Bat Segundo Show: Julie Klausner

Posted by in Bat Segundo, interview, klausner-julie

Julie Klausner most recently appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #330. Ms. Klausner is most recently the author of I Don’t Care About Your Band Condition of Mr. Segundo: Dodging dubious-minded vegans. Author: Julie Klausner Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming] EXCERPT FROM SHOW: Correspondent: I actually wanted to ask you of your keen interest in the Muppets. Klausner: Yes. Correspondent: You know, I was very interested in this. You have a great affinity for Miss Piggy. Klausner: Yes. Correspondent: But you have a problem with the Miss Piggy-Kermit wedding — particularly…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Nell Irvin Painter

Posted by in Bat Segundo, History, Racism

Nell Irvin Painter appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #329. Painter is most recently the author of The History of White People. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Drowning in David Coverdale’s noxious imperialism. Author: Nell Irvin Painter Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming] Correspondent: You are careful to write, “Harvard’s importance in eugenics does not imply some nefarious scheme or even a mean-spirited ambiance. Rather, Harvard’s import in this story attests to the scholarly respectability of eugenic ideas at the time.” Painter: And that could be said about Princeton or Yale or any…read more

An Important Essay

Posted by in Kazoos

I. I am thinking about thinking, and I wonder if I am truly thinking. If my brain is attaching itself around a concept and that concept is little more than the exploration of a concept, then the brain has failed. The will is vitiated. The body is more expired than a Kleenex used to wipe off precious fluids expunged after stroking the salami. This essay is about masturbation. This essay is not about masturbation. I cannot make up my mind. It is very possible that I am thinking, and yet…read more

Donald E. Westlake’s Lost Novel

Posted by in Reviews, Westlake, Donald

In today’s Philly Inquirer, you’ll find my review of Donald E. Westlake’s Memory, published by Hard Case Crime. Here’s the first few paragraphs: The celebrated literary critic Edmund Wilson famously derided the detective story as a form that existed only “to see the problem worked out.” The French critic Roland Barthes was slightly less derisive, seeing a mystery as a facile narrative paradox with “a truth to be deciphered.” These reductionist takes presumptuously assumed that mysteries served only as plot-oriented puzzles, and that thematic truths and behavioral insight were taking…read more