Robert Birnbaum (BSS #60)

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Author: Robert Birnbaum

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Detached but amused by the pair-up.

Subjects Discussed: The value of conducting interviews at a cemetery, Ed Champion’s arrest, the current state of the literary world, literary feuds, Richard Ford and Colson Whitehead, Stanley Crouch, Nicholson Baker, Leon Wieseltier, Anthony Burgess, US vs. UK journalism, Cynthia Ozick, the literary blogosphere, Birnbaum’s participation at the Oscar blog, West Coast vs. East Coast weather, reading and page limits, the “importance” of the New York Times Book Review, Gilbert Sorrentino, Sam Tanenhaus, Thomas McGuane‘s Nothing But Blue Skies book tour cancellation, Laura Miller, an attempt to stop the interview by a Mt. Auburn employee, examining a Mt. Auburn Cemetery leaflet of rules, John Updike, Joan Didion, comparisons with the publishing and the music industry, the NYTBR contemporary fiction coverage, list-making, classic vs. contemporary literature, Paul Collins, small presses vs. large presses, the onslaught of galleys, BEA, Birnbaum as editor, party pictures, celebrity culture, visionary magazines, Henry Luce, artistry vs. Photoshop, California fruit labels, the advertising world, who Birnbaum will talk with, Nicole Richie, authors having emotional breakdowns, the current state of literary journalism, and staying humble.

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Categories: Fiction

Jeff VanderMeer (BSS #59)

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Author: Jeff VanderMeer

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Coming to terms with troubling generalizations.

Subjects Discussed: Mushrooms as inspiration, writing “Dradin in Love” while suffering from mono, Steve Erickson, the writer as sadistic god, on being perceived as “difficult,” genre as revitilization device, the New Weird, China Miéville, the value of taxonomies, the use of parentheses for voice, reinventing the Ambergris mythology, scholarly discourse in fiction, underground scholars, Gormenghast, Nabokov, cities, Beirut, Albumeth Boulevard’s inspirations, ephemera, balancing experimentalism and absurdism, objections to playful prose, the Dan Green dust-up, Shriek: the movie, The Church, the Shriek parties, balancing the day job and the writing life, and the importance of physical exercise for writers.

[INTERVIEW NOTES: The interview was conducted by telephone.]

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Categories: Fiction

A.M. Homes (BSS #58)

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Author: A.M. Homes

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Trying to remember last night’s conquest, relying upon Jorge’s import/export skills.

Subjects Discussed: Taking on the “male menopause novel,” idioms appropriated by corporations, Kurt Vonnegut, vernacular, throwing the reader off guard, the dropping of letters, character names, donuts vs. bagels, burgers, on being provocative, novelists as ethicists, maintaining an “apocalyptic yet uplifting” tone, Katrina, Michiko Kakutani’s review, Stephen King’s plaudits and the mixed reviews, writing vulnerable male heroes, sensationalistic material, muted realism and decorum, research in Los Angeles, the ass as the great gender equalizer, charlatans and quacks, explaining life within novels, cliches, interconnectedness, Crash, Nathaniel West’s The Day of the Locust, money, and the relative nature of class within fiction.

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Categories: Fiction

Jonathan Safran Foer (BSS #57)

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Author: Jonathan Safran Foer

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Dismissive of Michael Martone.

Subjects Discussed: San Francisco vs. New York, time-shifting as style, invention as experimentalism, the importance of critics (James Wood, B.R. Myers, Sven Birkets), responding to John Updike’s review, visual elements, designing Extremely Loud in Word, the use of conceptual red ink, the post-9/11 novel, United 93, making the 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers, public perception, Foer’s side of the Deborah Solomon article, interviews, the real-life inspiration for Mr. Black, Burgess’s Earthly Powers, Bertolucci’s 1900, the influence of photographs upon the text, Joseph Cornell, numbers, -ologists, “…until that day…,” Stephen Hawking, Billy Joel, laughing in the face of tragedy, the “purity” of children, and creative acts.

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Categories: Fiction

Daniel Green and Michael Martone (BSS #56)

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Guests: Daniel Green and Michael Martone (LBC finalist, Summer 2006)

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Avoiding his own Contributor’s Note.

Subjects Discussed: The entertaining components of experimental fiction, the genesis of contributor’s notes, Edith Hamilton, mythology, the “Michael Martones of the universe,” cultural influence, Hugh Kenner’s The Counterfeiters, how the origin of the word “fact” influences contemporary fiction, Dan Quayle, Donald Barthelmie, collage, John Barth’s Letters, the limits of invention, cultural anxiety and art, how universities affect writer-professors, hypoxic training, and the virtues of bad writing.

[INTERVIEW NOTES: The interviews were all conducted by telephone.]

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Categories: Fiction

David Mitchell II, Part Two (BSS #55)

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[NOTE: This is part two of a two-part podcast.]

Author: David Mitchell

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Miffed by a grand literary theft.

Subjects Discussed: The Simpsons, the ambiguity of Norman Bates, transcontinental reception, the unexpected reception of Black Swan Green, the Stranger review, Haruki Murakami, finding auctorial voice, the “fourth book” breakthrough, avoiding the pitfalls of commercial writing, laziness, stylistic restraints and imagination, politicians, flexible opinions, compartmentalizing narrative components, conclusions of novels, the perfect songs, the Beatles, information on the fifth novel and the kind of book Mitchell is shooting for.

[LISTENER'S NOTE: There is a NASA beep that somehow made its way into this podcast. Don't be alarmed. I will remove it later.]

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Categories: Fiction

David Mitchell II, Part One (BSS #54)

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[NOTE: This is part one of a two-part podcast.]

Author: David Mitchell

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Responding to the crazed accusations of a major film director.

Subjects Discussed: The similarities between Jason Taylor and David Mitchell, idiosynchratic vernacular, first-person vs. third-person voice, index cards, how Granta unexpectedly kicked off Black Swan Green, the correct pronounciation of Nabokov, the difference between sandwiches in the US and the UK, the use of 1980s technology in writing, the Falkland Islands, on selecting cultural references from 1982, Friendster, the regulation of UK schools over the past thirty years, the use of visual elements in BSG, authenticity, money and Thatcher’s England, MacGuffins in novels and life, being nice to horrid people, the Julia principle, the politics of language, hip-hop culture, the threat of conformity vs. Jason Taylor’s resilience, shaking off the Murakami yoke, the Ed Park review, on using characters from other books, and naming the headmaster Nixon, and character names that “stick on the eyeball.”

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Categories: Fiction

Michael Orthofer and Betsy Wing (BSS #53)

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Guests: Michael Orthofer and Betsy Wing (translator, LBC nominee, Summer 2006)

Condition of Mr. Segundo: In absentia, fleeing the silly hipsters.

Subjects Discussed: How to raise awareness of translated fiction, an idea involving Chad Post, on being a designated translator, language adopted by literary critics, a very friendly dog in the Wing household, breaking down a novel, dictionaries, on hooking up with Paule Constant, working class vernacular, dialects, maintaining the tone between funny and heartwrenchingly sad, working against first impressions in translation, the myth of auctorial spontaneity, a forgotten movement in the late 1970s and the early 1980s to bring attention to translators, the advantages of freelance translating, and putting the translator’s name on the book spine.

[INTERVIEW NOTES: The interviews were all conducted by telephone.]

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Categories: Fiction

Dan Wickett & Kellie Wells (BSS #52)

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Guests: Dan Wickett and Kellie Wells (LBC Nominee, Summer 2006)

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Absent, avoiding his family lineage.

Subjects Discussed: Interdependent stories, the perception of a “novel in stories,” “Compression Scars” as the launching pad for the novel, building community consciousness within fiction, setting down distinct vernacular, preserving Midwestern cultural details, Sherwood Anderson, the publishing industry’s prejudice against the Midwest, cap guns, finding the right brand name referential balance, Spirographs, novelists as chroniclers, the adaptive nature of human behavior as expressed through fiction, The Pickwick Papers, writing about abuse, the origins of What Cheer, punk culture in Kansas, and the propinquity of magical realism to personal experience.

[INTERVIEW NOTES: The interviews were all conducted by telephone.]

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Categories: Fiction