Reluctant Habits

Fred Phelps, Hateful Homophobic Monster, Dead at 84

Posted by in Obits, phelps-fred, Westboro Baptist Church

Fred Phelps, one of the most hateful men in America, is dead at 84. And while there’s undeniable relish in his passing, his death leaves me considering some of the more unexpected takeaways from his legacy.

RIP Harold Ramis

Posted by in Obits, ramis-harold

Harold Ramis, the director of GROUNDHOG DAY and the co-writer of GHOSTBUSTERS, has passed away. His crisp and subtle comedy deserves respect and remembrance.

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman

Posted by in hoffman-philip-seymour, Obits

An obituary for Philip Seymour Hoffman, perhaps America’s greatest living character actor, who died on Sunday morning.

Richard Matheson: The Man and His Fiction

Posted by in matheson-richard, Obits

The great Richard Matheson has passed away. Here is an essay devoted to his fiction.

The Culture Novels of Iain M. Banks

Posted by in Banks, Iain, Obits

In remembrance of Iain Banks, I’m republishing an essay I wrote about Banks’s Culture novels.

Remembering Lucille Bliss (1916-2012)

Posted by in bliss-lucille, Obits

The great Lucille Bliss has passed away. Here’s a story about how Smurfette helped me find my groove.

David Rakoff (1964-2012)

Posted by in Obits, rakoff-david

My remembrance of the witty essayist David Rakoff.

RIP Ray Bradbury

Posted by in Bradbury, Ray, Obits

Ray Bradbury gave us the okay to believe in stories and the hunger to find more of them. Here are some reasons why.

Vital Facts About Richard Dawson

Posted by in dawson-richard, Obits, Television

In an effort to come to terms with the late Richard Dawson’s legacy, we have assembled 14 vital facts (all sourced) about the game show host.

Remembering Wayne Shannon (1948-2012)

Posted by in Obits, shannon-wayne, Television

My memories of the needlessly neglected newscaster, and a story of how innocuous online preservation can bring a family together.

Andrew Breitbart, Pillar of Hate and Distortion, Dead at 43

Posted by in breitbart-andrew, Obits, Politics

Our obituary of one of the most hateful men in contemporary American politics — the “malicious pontificator who liked to run websites featuring the word ‘big’”

Harvey Pekar (1939-2010)

Posted by in Comics, Obits, pekar-harvey

Harvey Pekar, the comic book writer best known for the long-running American Splendor, died this morning in his Cleveland home. He was 70 years old. Pekar was devoted, more than many of today’s lifeless literary practitioners, to depicting the truth behind everyday moments. And it is especially painful to know that Pekar’s passing comes a little more than a month after David Markson’s. Like Markson, Pekar knew that life didn’t offer any tidy resolutions and that art, even at its best, served as an intermediary. “Ordinary life is pretty complex…read more

RIP Jose Saramago

Posted by in Obits

Nobel Lecture: “The voice that read these pages wished to be the echo of the conjoined voices of my characters. I don’t have, as it were, more voice than the voices they had. Forgive me if what has seemed little to you, to me is all.” Book Magazine, 2002: “You may disagree with such a pessimistic vision. But if there is a way for the world to be transformed for the better, it can only be done by pessimism; optimists will never change the world for the better.” Julian Evans,…read more

RIP David Markson

Posted by in Markson, David, Obits

David Markson, who was one of my favorite living writers, has passed away. He was 82. It’s difficult to convey just how much of a loss this is for American letters, but I’ll do my best as I now fight back tears. Along with John Barth, William Gaddis, and Gilbert Sorrentino, Markson was one of the few writers who proved that experimental writing need not be prescriptive. For Markson, chronicling the consciousness was often tremendous fun: both for him and the reader. And if you were fortuitous enough, it could…read more

RIP Lynn Redgrave

Posted by in Obits

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

RIP Mark Linkous

Posted by in Music, Obits

Rolling Stone: “Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mark Linkous has committed suicide…Linkous’ dramatic, lush music often came from a place of pain. In 1996, Linkous actually died for two minutes after ingesting a dangerous mix of Valium and antidepressants while on tour in the U.K. behind Sparklehorse’s 1995 debut Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot. He recovered, but the incident left him crippled — he laid unconscious for 14 hours, cutting off circulation to his legs. He suffered a heart attack when medics attempted to straighten his legs, and underwent seven surgeries to save his damaged…read more


RIP Barry Hannah

Posted by in Obits

A major loss to the literary world: the Associated Press has reported that Barry Hannah has passed away.


JD Salinger Dead

Posted by in Obits

The Associated Press is reporting that JD Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye, has died of natural causes at his home in New Hampshire. He was 91. In honor of J.D. Salinger, I have recorded a dramatic reading of his famous short story, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” which can be listened to below. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” as read by Edward Champion (Download MP3) This text will be replaced UPDATE: The Barnes & Noble Review has enlisted some folks for a Salinger tribute. My remarks can be…read more


RIP Howard Zinn

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The Death of Ken Ober

Posted by in Obits, Television

Ken Ober is dead at 52. For all I know, Ken Ober was a nice guy. I truthfully hadn’t even thought about him for more than a decade until people fired the news my way. But since he is dead, his legacy — limited as it was to a somewhat forgotten and not terribly revered television show (well, that, and apparently writing and producing installments of Mind of Mencia) — will be framed around the talent he brought to said program. Like many who grew up during a particular era,…read more


RIP Patrick Swayze

Posted by in Film, Obits

If you don’t enjoy Roadhouse, I’m convinced that you don’t have a soul. The fact remains that this cheesy movie wouldn’t be so magical had not Swayze understood the material so well. Watch how he sells the above scene. It’s all in the delivery and that modest Swayze head jerk. I liked Patrick Swayze. Who didn’t? He could take syrupy screenplays and give them backbone. Not unlike David Carradine, come to think of it.


RIP Ted Kennedy

Posted by in Obits, Politics


RIP John Hughes

Posted by in Film, Obits

John Hughes was associated with launching the careers of Brat Packers Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall and for lacing his entertainments with candid teenage dialogue of rare understanding. But it was John Candy who made Hughes a true comedic filmmaker and who gave Hughes the heart that his films needed to extend beyond populist entertainments. Hughes’s “adult” period, initiated by his masterpiece Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, produced a series of unusually accessible takes into middle-class culture. And it’s a pity that Hughes didn’t trust himself to push his perceptive…read more


RIP Merce Cunningham

Posted by in Obits

New York Times: “He went on doing so almost to the last. Until 1989, when he reached the age of 70, he appeared in every single performance given by his company, Merce Cunningham Dance Company; in 1999, at 80, though frail and holding onto a barre, he danced a duet with Mikhail Baryshnikov at the New York State Theater. And in 2009, even after observing his 90th birthday with the world premiere of the 90-minute ‘Nearly Ninety,’ at the Brooklyn Academy of Music he went on choreographing for his dancers,…read more


RIP Walter Cronkite

Posted by in Journalism, Obits

Walter Cronkite died on Friday. He was great and irreplaceable. The last living newsman that America could trust, save perhaps Jimmy Breslin. One views the above clip in our present age of “journalists” relying on unconfirmed Twitter feeds and green-tinted avatars, and TMZ staffers shredding every form of privacy and decency to take cred for some haphazard scrap of dirty underwear, and it is almost inconceivable for any network television anchor to now state, as Cronkite once did, “This is a rumor. This we do not know for a fact.”…read more


Michael Jackson Dead

Posted by in jackson-michael, Obits

While TMZ and Gawker are reporting that Michael Jackson is dead, I wish to point out that there has been no official confirmation of his death. I spoke with Craig Harvey of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office and he informed me that there was no official confirmation of his death as of 3:00 PM Pacific Time. The person who is legally obligated to confirm the death is Jackson’s physician. And as of yet, there has been no official announcement. UPDATE: As of 3:15 PM Pacific Time, the Los Angeles…read more


RIP Farrah Fawcett

Posted by in Obits

The above clip, from The Partridge Family, set a celebratory impulse into motion. Farrah Fawcett was 23. And even within the seemingly vanilla universe of the Partridges, she still wore a dress that revealed her tawny anatomy, which was always offset by her bubbly voice. Fawcett, of course, would become best-known for Charlie’s Angels for these qualities. And as I was to understand from friends who had surfed along the raging tide of puberty ten to fifteen years before me, Fawcett was the picture you had on the inside of…read more


RIP David Carradine

Posted by in Obits

David Carradine was one of the last grungy B-movie kings. The fight scene above from Kung Fu: The Movie, featuring Carradine fighting against Brandon Lee, is preposterous by just about every measure. But it captures our interest because Carradine truly wanted to sell the scene in his strange and distinctive manner. Carradine was the master of the silly gesture and the rip-your-guts-out expression, a combination rarely seen in contemporary cinema and, for that matter, rarely seen in the 1970s and the 1980s. But Carradine had the boldness to make it…read more


RIP J.G. Ballard

Posted by in Obits

Jeff VanderMeer is reporting that J.G. Ballard is dead. If that last sentence doesn’t cause your heart to sink to your feet, then get thee to a bookstore or a library and check the man’s work out immediately. Ballard was one of the greats: an imaginative giant, a profoundly erudite iconoclast, one of those rare talents who came up with a warped concept that needed to be wild while providing the speculative heft needed to keep a thought experiment going. And I hope to have more to say about the…read more