Ngugi wa Thiong’o & Carrie A.A. Frye (BSS #97)

Ngugi wa Thiong’o is most recently the author of Wizard of the Crow.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Avoiding impostor kings.

Guests: Carrie A.A. Frye and Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Subjects Discussed: Satirical plausibility, Wordsworth’s willing suspension of disbelief, narrative explanation and interconnectedness, queuing, The Wizard of the Crow as a history of Africa and a global epic, poverty, truth vs. fiction, metamorphosis in nature, comic literary references, Jonathan Swift, how dialogue carries the narrative, theatrical metaphors, Tajirika as charming villain, writing in Kikuyu and translating in English, Kenyan cultural politics in the 1960s, and being imprisoned for writing in an African language.

(A co-production of the LBC, Pinky’s Paperhaus and The Bat Segundo Show)


Thiong’o: Getting a character mentioning, or the narrator mentioning, something in passing, which may look very almost — if a reader is not careful, he may actually miss it. But then as you go on, the small thing mentioned at the beginning becomes larger and larger, and more and more significant. For instance, the issue of queuing. The way it begins is almost offhand and then, as it goes on, it increasingly becomes more and more important, more and more central, connecting the various events.

Categories: Fiction

Neal Pollack (BSS #96)

Neal Pollack is most recently the author of Alternadad.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contemplating the litigious aspects of fatherhood.

Author: Neal Pollack

Subjects Discussed: The stigma against father memoirs, the Neal Pollack persona vs. the real Neal Pollack, neighborhood activism, politics, writing a book to “feed my family,” balancing art and commerce, the Chicago theatre scene, on being “family stunty,” responding to Marritt Ingman’s criticisms about failing to acknowledge previous subcultural parenting books, the desuetude of Mr. Mom, the conformist aspects of being an “alternadad,” the mommy wars, how Alternadad “rocks the boat,” the hostile reactions to the Elijah biting essay, the “Shut Up” essay, harsh reactions to Pollack in general, provoking readers, Never Mind the Pollacks, family films, pot vaporizing, the bad breakup with Dave Eggers, on pissing people off, involvement with Cracked, Regina as “straight man,” and sticking with dad writing.


Correspondent: A lot of people have been sort of criticizing this book. I don’t necessarily agree with them, but I think that people are saying…

Pollack: Some people. There’s been positive and negative criticism. You know, this has definitely been the best reviewed book I’ve written. So I mean…so what were you going to posit?

Correspondent: The question is: the nature of commentary. Even in a crude form, does it have any kind of value? It seems to me that the “Shut Up” essay was more of a visceral reaction, but at the same time…

Pollack: Yeah.

Correspondent: …a lot of people really were upset by it.

Pollack: Yeah, and a lot of people also really liked it. That’s the thing. I’ve always had this uncanny ability. I’ve always had this sort of “love me or hate me” kind of thing going on. Especially with my writing. And again, people were upset by it. But I also had a lot of people telling me they appreciated it. And that’s the same thing with this book. For some reason, even though it’s a pretty simple book about a pretty basic subject, it’s been getting harsh reaction and then a lot of praise too. So again it’s just a sign that I’m doing something right.

Categories: Ideas, People

Heidi Julavits (BSS #95)

Heidi Julavits is most recently the author of The Uses of Enchantment.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Enchanted with sobriquets.

Author: Heidi Julavits

Subjects Discussed: Heidi’s middle name, the psychotherapeutic muse, Michelle Stacey’s The Fasting Girl, Mollie Fancher, science vs. faith, Freud’s Dora study, responding to Marisa Meltzer’s claims of conservatism, the pros and cons of unreliable narrative, “What Might Have Happened,” setting a novel in indoor environments, dialogue vs. description, Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods, narrative resolution and ambiguity, perfect endings, Before Sunset, cultural metaphors vs. gesture, Viewmasters, repartee vs. gushing in a therapeutic environment, pushovers, grief tea, the inspirations for Hyper Radiance, clarifying the antisnark manifesto, Nick Hornby, The Believer‘s role in review coverage, Dale Peck, and constructive criticism.


Correspondent: For example, Nick Hornby’s column. I mean, there’s a risk that he can be almost a more highbrow form of Harriet Klausner in the fact that he writes nothing but positivism.

Julavits: Yeah.

Correspondent: I mean, isn’t there something about laying one’s cards down on the table and offering not necessarily — okay, to bring up the Dale Peck review.

Julavits: Yeah.

Correspondent: I object more about the literalism behind the amazing sentence “Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation.” That’s an extraordinary thing to say.

Julavits: Also unprovable though. I guess I feel like the reason that I feel like there are writers who are extremely critical, and I mentioned them in my essay. But Daniel Mendelsohn — I mean, that guy pulls no punches. But he only says things that are actually provable, thereby showing that he is a serious intellect. You know, he’s not out there just to throw slanders around and call attention to himself, which is what Dale Peck — I didn’t want to read past that first sentence. Because this is not going to be an intellectually serious takedown of Rick Moody. This is just going to be someone throwing their fists around.

Categories: Uncategorized

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Categories: Uncategorized

Stephen Graham Jones & Scott McKenzie (BSS #94)

Stephen Graham Jones is most recently the author of Demon Theory.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Not sacrificing time for horror.

Guests: Scott McKenzie and Stephen Graham Jones

Subjects Discussed: Approachable authors in the frozen food section, the implementation of pre-2000 references into narrative, the lineage of horror films, screenplay terminology, the relationship between Demon Theory‘s top text story and the footnotes, movie references, protagonists vs. ensemble casts, horror novels, drafting vs. editing, the influence of real-life horror, girls in bras, Jones’ unintentional academic life, trepidations towards New York, refraction and contemporary “science” novels, Against the Day, small town writing communities, Jones’ influences, how the trilogy structure changed the footnotes, the difficulties of writing screenplays, drive-by urinals, and the major stylistic difference between the Demon Theory hardcover and paperback.

(A co-production of the LBC, Pinky’s Paperhaus and The Bat Segundo Show)


Jones: I just discovered that footnote function in my Microsoft Word, I guess. And I was writing Demon Theory and having a ball with the screenplay terminology and all that. But then maybe, I guess fifteen pages into it, if that, I started dropping footnotes. They were meant to be deleted later. I was dropping them. Like I was calling myself names. Like “You obviously stole this from Halloween.” “You stole this from here.” You know. But then they just kept snowballing and snowballing until everything was stolen from something. And that kind of just became one of Demon Theory‘s conceits, I guess.

Categories: Fiction

Nick Mamatas (BSS #93)

Nick Mamatas is most recently the author of Under My Roof.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Introspective about his long lost lawn gnome.

Author: Nick Mamatas

Subjects Discussed: The X+Y book formula, H.P. Lovecraft, Jack Kerouac, Aristophanes’ The Acharnians, telepathy, garden gnomes, radioactive fallout, conspiracies, Elián González , Littleton, Under My Roof as allegory, the influence of current events upon narrative, Cthulhu as muse, Lovecraftian poetry, crazy tenants, writing short novels in a “big book”-friendly environment, working with Night Shade and Soft Skull, Skybars, the downside of product placement in the future, pursuing an MFA, health insurance, narrative ideology, character testimonials, the influence of Animal House, micronation novels, George Saunders’ The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, Duck Soup, and life-changing YA novel experiences.


Mamatas: Well, at first it was going to be a lawn jockey.

Correspondent: Really?

Mamatas: Yes. In an early draft, I had it as a lawn jockey. But I figured that was too unctuously petty bourgeois. I thought a garden gnome was more down market. And also, they’re bigger. So you can put more nuclear stuff inside a garden gnome.

Correspondent: But at the same time, there’s also a certain kind of suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. Because if you actually go ahead and try to produce a nuclear device in a garden gnome, there’s going to be some radioactive fallout. The FBI guys kind of show up and like — I’m thinking the FBI would immediately sort of seize this family. And yet they don’t. I was wondering if this kind of realism isn’t of concern for you, or is it meant to be more of a meditative kind of…

Mamatas: Well, partially it’s meditative. Partially, people get away with things, you know. 9/11 — people got away with it, even though there were many people watching these terrorists and keeping their eye on them. But they all managed to get through and carry out this attack. There’s almost a nationalist type of myth that the FBI and the CIA are super-competent and that we always know what’s going on. That’s part of why we have the 9/11 denial movement, or conspiracy movement.

Categories: Fiction