Return of the Reluctant, 2003-2007

This morning, I filed for divorce from Return of the Reluctant, citing irreconcilable differences. It was an amicable parting. No children, no property to squabble over. No embarrassing deposition testimony read to the jury. No alimony. Reluctant and I have had ourselves a good time over the years. But I’m a different person now. And I finally confessed to a good friend on the phone that I really had nothing more to say about books or the literary world in the Reluctant format. And I laughed for ten minutes over how absurdly simple the choice was. When something stops being fun, it’s pretty easy to become decisive.

You see, four years ago, this blog was started by a guy who worked a drab day job. But that guy is no more. Six months ago, I quit my drab day job, moved to New York to try and write for a living, and became much happier. Production stepped up on The Bat Segundo Show and the show’s tone changed to something more thoughtful, controversial, and interesting. It was much more to my liking. Yeah, there are a few clunkers in the 160 or so odd shows. But for the most part, I’m proud of the output. There are some incredible conversations in the archive and I really don’t care who hates it or ignores it. The great thing about blogging, podcasting, and the Internet is that there is truly nothing to lose.

Nevertheless, Reluctant was more of a chore. Often a thankless one. A daily grind in which I regularly asked myself why I wasn’t putting this kind of energy into the novel I’ve been working on, which is about halfway done, or the old-time radio project that I can’t stop dreaming about. Or just about any wild or ambitious idea that enters my noggin. There seem to be many of those.

I may be back. Old habits die hard. Maybe there will be something even half as fantastic as Black Garterbelt in Reluctant’s place. I don’t know. But if I do come back through a blog, and, frankly I’m on the fence right now, it will be in a new form.

For now, however, I’m done with blogging. And I’m serious this time. There are pages of crazed dialogue to bang out. Stories and essays to write. Podcasts to unfurl. Actors to recruit. A troubled protagonist to flesh out, who I’ve been learning more about over the past year.

If you’re looking for new content in the meantime, well, you’ll find all that over at Segundo — including, very soon, that Will Self conversation that some of you have been asking about.

But thanks very much for helping to make Reluctant what it’s been over the past four years.

— Edward Champion

[TANGENTIALLY RELATED: Lawrence Tate observes that my Chronicle of Higher Education piece, “The Perils of Literary Biography,” can be found here.]

[UPDATE: I learned this afternoon from Josh Glenn that apparently Keith Gessen and n+1 are responsible for my decision. Actually, Gessen had nothing to do with it. It was Dan Fogelberg’s recent death that caused me to sob for days. I sang “Same Old Lang Syne” to myself several times because I couldn’t steal behind her in the frozen foods section without getting arrested. As regular readers here observed over the past four years, I was never capable of an independent thought. For all decisions, I consult Dan Fogelberg for advice. Had Fogelberg not passed on, I suspect things would have been different.]

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  1. It must have been a hard decision to make, Ed. Best of luck with all your upcoming ventures, I know you will do well with each and every one of them. I have been thoroughly impressed at what you have accomplished during the 20 years I’ve been proud to know you.

  2. The Reluctant was always the first blog I’d hit up after hitting my daily (hourly?) dose of Google Reader… you will be sorely missed.

  3. Your many readers will miss you, but this is the best thing for you. Congratulations on moving on to bigger and better things and thanks for all the memories.

  4. How dare you ruin my morning ritual of reading lit blogs and drinking coffee! I might take up smoking in its stead.

    Seriously, Ed. Best of luck to you, and I look forward to reading your novel. And remember: there are FOUR LIGHTS!

  5. I’ve been a quiet lurker for a while and have never spoken up, but I have really enjoyed your blog. GOod luck with your novel!

  6. Well, I’ll miss the edrants fix. But I guess I can get by with Sarvas and…well, Bookslut I guess. Anyway, bettter you sweat and strain over stuff that pays than that which don’t.

    Speaking of which…thanks to Google’s cache setup I was able to read your entire Chronicle article on literary biography. Good work, but the thing that jumps out at me whenever I think of the genre is somewhat missed – namely, the fact that with the combined factors of Bookscan and book-acquisition decisions being made by people more likely to be familiar with Larry Ellison than either Ralph or Harlan, literary bios are nearly a dead genre in trade publishing and are close to dying in university presses. A couple of months back I felt guilty about not having contributed anything to a noted litmag, the masthead of which lists me (under nom-de-real) as a contrib ed. So I considered writing something about the current state of literary biography. I emailed Carl Rollyson, who reviews practically all the ones that come out for the NY Sun, so can be taken as an expert on the subject.

    Rollyson advised me that any lit-bio that makes it above the 10,000 mark in sales has to be regarded as a phenomenal success, and said that nearly all of ’em do worse, anywhere from a thousand copies or less fo 6000. Indeed. From what I’ve gathered looking at Bookscan or Amazon numbers I suppose Charles Shields’ book about Harper Lee, “Mockingbird,” is the only such book in the last three years that broke the 20,000 mark in sales – I remember seeing an article that said it sold about 35,000. But even so, it’s about a woman who wrote a book that sold what, 15 million copies? Holt did give Shields a contract to write a book about Vonnegut, which is to come out in 2009 or thereabouts. But no other editor seems to have regarded these sales as the greenlight to commission a book about a writer.

    (I should emphasize that I speak about American publishers. In the UK, where every reviewer likes nothing better than to use the publication of a bio as a chance to circulate ancient gossip, editors at trade and university presses still seem interested in getting such books. Hermione Lee’s Wharton book originated in England. So did the Malamud bio OUP just published.)

    Long story short: after I read what Rollyson had to say I scotched the idea of doing the piece. The litmag in question is read by more than a few trade editors. I figured that if I put up Bookscan figures of just how many copies the most recent lit-bios had sold here, then no major trade imprint would ever buy such a title again. Better to give the poor devils trying to sell such books half a chance. A long way from the days, 30 years ago, when major imprints would unhestatingly buy books about Delmore Schwartz (a really forgotten figure at the time) or Louise Bogan or Harry Crosby, and when Warner Books could actually issue a mass-market paperback edition of a book about Josephine Herbst.

    PS I was somewhat tickled to see David Michaelis’ “Schulz And Peanuts” being discussed in an article on literary biography. I’m pretty sure that nobody at Harper, in the process of acquiring the book, saw Schulz as a literary figure – more like some guy from the sticks who somehow put together a billion-dollar brand.

  7. I’ll miss the occasional Doctor Who geek outs from time to time (though me suspects that you may be giving up on the show as long as RTD is allowed to continue producing things like the season 3 finale). Thanks for all the great reads and long live Bat Segundo!

  8. You will be missed, but I always liked Mr. Segundo better anyway (don’t tell him I said that — takes compliments with all the grace of a Baldwin).

  9. Ed, I think this would be a bad decision purely on a marketing standpoint. You’re a freelance writer, and having a regular blog allows you to direct reviews to your articles from here, it brings a lot more eyes to your writing. Also, once you finish your novel and publish it, you’d have a popular blog to help promote it.

    Why don’t you just scale back and post a daily round-up? You’re going to be surfing the internet anyway, might as well post quick links to the stuff you find interesting.

  10. Lawrence Tate: Thanks very much for your thoughtful comment and for alerting me to the Chron piece, which I hadn’t realized was put up.

    Simon Owens: This site will continue. Just not Reluctant. There should be about four or five podcasts coming today or tomorrow at Segundo.

  11. Took me several sentences up top to realize that *blogging* is what Ed’s giving up. I thought at first it was just the dopey name (“Return of the Reluctant”) and we were pleasantly undergoing an exciting new re-branding for a new year.

  12. Well, it’s been fun for us, being on the other side of the screen (so to speak). I’ll definitely miss your postings to this space, but when it’s time to go, you’ve got to go. (And, of course we’ll always have Bat Segundo — at least, I hope so.)

    Anyway, Ed. Best wishes.

  13. Ed, where am I going to get all the publishing related news that’s fit to blog about (before anybody else does, I might add)? And seriously, my obscure pop-culture geek-outs?

    Bah. This ruins my morning.

    oh, errr. Damn. Time to be gracious.. Um. Hey Congrats on stepping up your writing.

    Get cloned real soon, ya hear?


  14. I guess that now I’ve got no choice but to download and listen to every Bat Segundo I haven’t heard. But what then, Ed, where will I go after that?

    Thank you for all the RoR. I’ll miss it dearly.


  15. Ed,

    We will miss you! But I completely understand. As fun as blogging can be, it does require mental energy which takes up brain space that can otherwise be used for other projects. And your blog got you where you want to be — writing and recording pieces on the literary world.

    Somehow I don’t think this is really the end. If it is, good luck. If not, come back after you’ve taken a long rest. It’s OK if you are not as angry as you used to be. We’ll still enjoy your posts.

  16. Ed, my man, along with Maud you (unknowingly) goaded me into entering the Lit Blog Cabal, and you and you alone got the first people headed to the original and generally unloved Rake’s Progress.

    And at the hour of your farewell you managed to get in one last plug for your old pal. You magnificent bastard.

    I said it back then and I sez it again: To Ed: il miglior fabbro.

  17. Well I’m sad to see it go. I mean, who’s going to link to Wet Asphalt now? Really, did you think about me at all when you made this decision?

    But seriously, thanks for all the great blogging! See you around the big city…

  18. It’s been fun, Ed. Best of luck on the novel, Segundo, and other projects…don’t be a stranger.

    [And don’t think you’ll be able to lose the blog-bug that quickly. 🙂 ]

  19. Sorry to see you go dude. I really enjoy your blog and podcast.

    Glad to see that your keeping up Segundo though.

    Good luck and happy holidays

  20. Well, duh. Anybody who had taken the TIME to read Nostradamus’ corpus would have know that this was written.

    Also, did you ever notice that Ed Rants is an anagram for “End Arts”



  21. Au revoir, Ed. Thanks for the handful of shout-outs that I hardly deserved, plus the beer you bought me at House of Shields and the not-so-subtle nudge towards finishing my damned novel already. Don’t be a stranger, you hear?

  22. Best of luck Ed. I do hope the site will alert and link us to whatever you publish. I’m also glad you’ll be doing the podcasts. Now go and write. The world needs more good novels and plays.

  23. Does this mean some other blogger has sold his fresh new soul to the devil in a deal to promote Jonathan Ames?

  24. Oooh, a NOVEL. Get it out, boy, get it out. And many thanks for your kind encouragement of my journalistic efforts. The correspondence was greatly appreciated. Got my eye on you, Edmund.

  25. Real conversations about books and writing, without the schmarm of sell, sell, sell. I’m sorry I’m so far behind that I just discovered this after you decided to quit. Bat Segundo contributes more to the understanding and appreciation of today’s literature than any other site I’ve found. Woe is me.

  26. I’m sure there’s a quotation from Paradise Lost that applies here, but I’m too disappointed to go find it.

    At this announcement, your followers seem to have broken up into frightened groups, each confused in its own way. Some believe you are changing the name of your blog; others will miss Bat Segundo. My own theory is that, following Bat’s example, you are taking holy orders. Everything else will stay the same.

    Good luck, Ed!

  27. I’ll miss you, Ed. Now I’ll have nothing to read but my own Book News. I’m so sick of myself I could just throw up all over everyone else.

  28. Yours was the site I’d always check first…lots of amazing literary coverage, humor, inspiration, and honesty… (And now, apparently, I have to revert to sad speechlessness.)

    But this will be your next step up–more time to devote to the creative and demanding personal work you’ve dreamed of. Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished here and all the best to you in your current (and future) endeavors!

    Ana María

  29. Well, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone give up anything to write a novel, unless he really has to. What’s more, I’ll echo the others above who say yours was one of the very very few I read regularly and find both informative and provocative. I don’t even know what a podcast is, so this is a loss for me.

  30. Congratulations! As Longfellow wrote, ‘All things must change to something new, to something strange.’ May your free time be used wisely. We’ll miss you here, but look for you elsewhere. (Perhaps in Brooklyn this summer…?)

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