William Gibson (BSS #133)

William Gibson is most recently the author of Spook Country.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Puzzled by cyberspace.

Author: William Gibson

Subjects Discussed: Coats, blankets, and carapaces in Gibson’s fiction, textures, characters with shaved heads, on not having technological issues, the Apple Store, cell phones and the natural street state, obsolete technology and thrift shops, ZX81s, VR, sitting atop the technological anthill, the internal combustion engine, how to escape being handcuffed with a piece of a ball point pen, the origin of Blue Ant, color taxonomies, Belgians, locative art, rock ‘n roll novels from the 1960s, the downsides of sitting in a SFWA suite, Bobby Chombo, cigarettes, Cory Doctorow, GPS plausibilities, celebrity deaths, Philip K. Dick, Milgram and Dr. Stanley Milgrim, Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium, ghostly connections between Pattern Recognition and Spook Country, tripartite plot structures, writing while not knowing what was in the suitcase, extra-terrestrial artifacts in Baghdad, how to confuse John Clute, the historical record being determined by Wikipedia and Google results, Google Maps and street view, lonelygirl15, YouTube, Japanese behavioral protocols, responding to Ed Park’s theory about the old man and Win being the same character, unreliable narrators, and Iain Sinclair.


Correspondent: We were talking about the nature of blankets and coats that are in your work, that often protect the characters’ bodies.

Gibson: Warmy blankies in the work of William Gibson! Well, did you notice that a lot? Is it just that book? Is there something I’ve been…?

Correspondent: It’s also in Pattern Recognition, with Cayce and her — the blanket that she actually shifts with as well.

Gibson: Well…

Correspondent: That industrial. And then she eventually goes back to natural blankets near the end.

Gibson: Could this be — could this be the 21st century equivalent of rain-soaked neon?

Correspondent: It could be.

Gibson: The warmy blanky? Maybe so. Maybe so.

Correspondent: Well, maybe it goes back to Neuromancer. Cyberspace back then was very much a matter of being plugged directly in the Internet, before it was known as the Internet.

Gibson: Yeah, but it was never envisioned as a warmy blanky! (laughs)

Correspondent: No, but we’re talking very much about sort of this whole idea of the body protected against things. I mean, you also have a lot of side characters in your books that often have shaved heads. And there’s actually the moment in this where Milgrim actually gets a haircut as well.

Gibson: That’s right.

Correspondent: I’m wondering how these textural elements relate to some of these, I guess, more corporeal ones.

Gibson: Well, not consciously. I mean, not that consciously. I think you’ve moved into the area of unconscious expression on the artist’s part. I mean, maybe, for twenty-five years, I’ve been working up my nerve to shave my head.

Correspondent: (laughs)

Gibson: Not yet, but soon. But I don’t know. Those are truly, you know — usually when people say they have questions I haven’t been asked before, it’s not true. You’ve actually managed to do it.

Categories: Fiction

Matthew Sharpe & Megan Sullivan (BSS #132)

Matthew Sharpe is most recently the author of Jamestown.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Denied a toasted bagel with cream cheese.

Guests: Megan Sullivan and Matthew Sharpe.

Subjects Discussed: Post-apocalyptic novels with a sense of humor, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, allegorical representations of Jamestown, John Barth’s The Sot-Weed Factor, Afghanistan, parallels to Iraq and other military blunders, creation and transposition of vernacular, people named John, Buckaroo Banzai, the Bruces Monty Python sketch, reluctant communications officers, Ed Park’s review, the origins of the Internet, communicating into the void, mishearing things, the dangers of writing, New Journalism and the bus ride, As I Lay Dying, Susannah Meadows’s tone-deaf review, on excluding certain reader sensibilities as a writer, and the plausibility factor.


Sharpe: It’s been pointed out to me quite a number of times that mine is one of a spate of post-apocalyptic novel to hit the stands in 2006, 2007. And the only one I have read is The Road and I actually just read it a couple of weeks ago. There is really one very funny bit. There are a couple of funny bits. I actually do think that Cormac McCarthy has a wonderful understated sense of humor. But it’s not a laugh riot. I think — I suppose I have a number of predecessors or influences, when I don’t know if they’re necessarily apocalyptic novelists, but they are certainly war novelists, who I think are very funny. And Vonnegut and Joseph Heller are two obvious ones. Haruki Murakami, I think, has a great sense of humor. Donald Barthelme’s. I don’t even think I would consider them war novelists, but he — I’ve been influenced by the way that he writes about history. Even in short stories like “Cortez and Montezuma.” And then Susie-Lori Parks, I think, also is somebody whose hilariously funny and scathing about history. So I suppose these are my novels more than apocalyptic novels, per se. I guess Philip K. Dick has written a number of futuristic novels — again, not a hilariously funny guy. So I guess I’m not a terribly well-read person in areas of science fiction or even historical fiction. So I guess I’m deeply underqualified to be entering the genre. But I try to make up for it by being somewhat of a clown.

(A co-production of the Litblog Co-Op and The Bat Segundo Show)

Categories: Fiction

Kate Christensen (BSS #131)

Kate Christensen is most recently the author of The Great Man.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contemplating his biographical legacy.

Author: Kate Christensen

Subjects Discussed: First-person vs. third-person narration, Hugo from The Epicure’s Lament vs. Oscar in The Great Man, dead men, dying women, being obsessed with death, the sex lives of older women, the difficulties of writing third-person without planning, stacked sentences, Richard Ford, over-the-top observations, MFK Fisher, what food says about people, kosher diets, whether or not an octogenarian can be spry, emasculated men, painting nudes, on being labeled a feminist writer, antipodean biographers, populating a novel with twins, poetry, the many ways of appreciating art, the difficulties of female writers being taken seriously, writing visceral messes, the origin of the fictitious New York Times articles, how unexpected character qualities are discovered, on making Oscar contemptible, and seducing your best friend’s wife.


Christensen: You can say he has certain things in common with Claudia in In the Drink and Hugo especially in The Epicure’s Lament, in that he can say whatever he wants and he’s sort of a loose cannon in a way. He has a lot of opinions and he’s a man of excess appetites, like all the earlier narrators. And he was successful and therefore not interesting to me as a first-person narrator. My first-person narrators tend to be losers. They’re the kind of people whose heads I like to get in and who I like to have take over my brain. That entertains me deeply.

Categories: Fiction

Katharine Weber and Levi Asher (BSS #130)

Katharine Weber is most recently the author of Triangle.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Fleeing the Bolsheviks.

Guests: Katharine Weber and Levi Asher

Subjects Discussed: Fibonacci spirals and Sierpinski triangles, Fibonacci sidewalks, the unknown etymological origins of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, interview transcripts and excised questions, designing the Esther and Ruth Zion vernaculars, colloquies within the novel, .edu addresses that have been duped by counterfeited transcripts, Ian McEwan, Ruth Zion’s character makeup and academia, MacArthur genius grants, the authentic requirements of contemporary novels, approaching historical events from a contemporary vantage point, James Frye, fact vs. fiction, intrusive footnotes and reader obedience, “based on a true story,” the 2003 Station nightclub fire, comparisons between the Triangle fire and the World Trade Center, children’s books about the Triangle fire, Henry Botkin and Gershwin, Thanksgiving and other American traditions, on seeing too many patterns in life, “crackpot magpie” research, not having a high school diploma, and being an autodidact.


Weber: It’s not just that she’s been speaking English for fifty years, but she’s been speaking the language of the Triangle fire. She’s been telling the story and telling the story. So what interested me wasn’t just developing her use of English, but her developing and mutating over time relationship to the story, and how it stuck to the story, and how she wandered off the story and got details wrong over time. We all get details wrong over time. If you now had to describe to me every moment of a car accident you were in thirty years ago, even if you think that’s what happened, it might not match the police report. And you may have changed it because someone saw something that you didn’t actually experience, but now you’ve incorporated it into your experience. And it becomes part of your telling of the story. I’m interested in how we tell our stories, the agenda we bring to the telling of the stories, but also so much of the novel is about the agenda we bring to the listening of stories. We ask our questions with agendas as much as we tell stories with agendas.

(A co-production of the Litblog Co-Op and The Bat Segundo Show.)

Categories: Fiction

Katie Roiphe (BSS #129)

Katie Roiphe is most recently the author of Uncommon Arrangements.


SPECIAL PROGRAM NOTE: I had arranged an interview with Katie Roiphe because I felt that she might be misunderstood. Ms. Roiphe had laid down some interesting ideas over the years that had pissed more than a few people off, including the notion that women were primarily responsible for date rape in her tract, The Morning After. Extraordinary claims, of course, require extraordinary evidence. And it was because of this that I wanted to determine how much of Ms. Roiphe’s personal ideology influenced her views. Late in the interview, Ms. Roiphe grew contentious when I asked a personally reasonable question and quoted a specific passage in her most recent book, Uncommon Arrangements, in relation to an affair initiated between Harry Andrews and Winifred Holtby, which can be found on pages 282-283 in the hardcover edition:

They slept together, one spring, when she had taken a cottage by the sea. This was entirely her doing: she had decided to abandon pride and convention and push their romantically charged friendship to a crisis.

Ms. Roiphe at first denied that she had written this passage, until I found the page and showed it to her during the course of the interview. She then claimed that the meaning I had averred, that the woman is solely responsible for a sexual liaison, was wrong. Without passing the same judgment on Ms. Roiphe that she appeared to cast upon me, I leave listeners to make up their own minds as to whether the phrase “this was entirely her doing” reflects an instance where Ms. Roiphe’s personal ideology influenced her scholarship, or whether Ms. Roiphe was being needlessly belligerent. But then I’m not the one with the Ph.D.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Abdicating to dubious journalistic principles.

Author: Katie Roiphe

Subjects Discussed: On whether the state of a marriage can be judged exclusively upon letters and notes, inferring from perspective, Phylis Rose’s Parallel Lives, Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, avoiding 21st century relationship terms, “marriage a la mode,” Radclyffe Hall, H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, the relationship between class fixations and subject choice, interconnected aristocracies, the difficulties of obtaining divorce in the United Kingdom and the Marriage Act of 1949, contemporary pressure on women in thirties to get married, the influence of Jane Austen on married life, the theatrical nature of Ottoline Morrell’s philanthropy, the influence on Roiphe’s ideology upon her scholarship, relying upon books vs. relying upon empirical evidence, on being allegedly misquoted, and Roiphe’s unchanging ideology.


Roiphe: Anyway, I’m actually out of time. Um, you can have one more question.

Correspondent: Well, I actually wanted to ask you a question about The Morning After.

Roiphe: Okay.

Correspondent: If we revisit that, do you still feel that the word “survivor” is bandied about too much in relation to date rape or — and if the term “survivor” is still unacceptable to you, how do you expect someone to cope with a legitimate psychological grievance?

Roiphe: I’m actually interested in talking about this book and not my previous work. But, yes, I stand by everything that I said at the time that I wrote that book.

Correspondent: Okay. I mean, you know, don’t you — doesn’t your ideology change in any manner?

Roiphe: As I say, I stand by everything I wrote in this book and I’m right now interested in talking about Uncommon Arrangements.

Categories: Ideas, People

Katherine Taylor & Mindy Schneider (BSS #128)

Katherine Taylor is most recently the author of Rules for Saying Goodbye. Mindy Schneider is most recently the author of Not a Happy Camper.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Smitten with literary Kates.

Authors: Katherine Taylor and Mindy Schneider

Subjects Discussed: The similarities and differences between Taylor the person and Taylor the character, declarative dialogue, MFA programs, the degree of arrogance taught in classrooms, Ben Kunkel, chick lit, the problems with literary influences, conversations in New York, writing out of revenge, writing for money, vignette-based narratives, on being the face of Diet Coke, stalking Denis Johnson, summer camps, taking narrative liberties with memory, camp anecdotes, combining multiple characters within memoirs, creative nonfiction, thirteen-year-old misfits, being a television addict, non-kosher food at Jewish camps, growing up in a spendthrift family, the importance of good shoes, camp songs, psychological evaluations of campers, softball, on being the best and worst athlete, an ice cream delicacy called the Icky Orgy, being bombarded with nostalgia, and South of the Border.


Taylor: A writer, I don’t think, becomes a writer because they get an MFA or don’t. It was helpful to me because I needed to learn some rules. I was so incredibly arrogant that I needed a couple of teachers to sort of reign me in and tell me what I could and couldn’t do. Which was helpful, because now I know what I can and can’t do. And it’s — well, it’s helpful to have those rules, as Peter Carey said, in order to break them. I’m actually a big fan of the MFA. Mostly because I think Americans throughout their educations are taught to be incredibly arrogant. And it’s good to have someone tell you…

Correspondent: Wait. You actually think that?

Taylor: Oh absolutely!

Correspondent: Every form of education? Maybe some schools. But I mean…that assumes…

Taylor: Maybe I just went to the schools where they tell you to be incredibly arrogant.

Correspondent: I never took Hubris 101.

* * *

Schneider: I am fortunate in that I was able to remember a lot of people’s quirks. And then, to try and help safeguard their privacy to some degree, I combined people. So I mean, one year, there was a girl in my bunk who walked and talked and did things in her sleep and another one who read constantly and hated camp. So I compressed them. It seemed to be an interesting mix and those two things were always going on in the bunk. And I found in early drafts — I’m not even sure I did that in my first draft — but early drafts, I found that I had too many people. So it was suggested to me by the teachers at UCLA, “Put them together. You’re allowed to do that.” And it made it much more manageable and easier to keep track of people. And I felt more comfortable because I wasn’t giving away exactly someone’s identity.

Categories: Fiction, People

More Podcasts

Three additional podcasts are now available. Capsules will be up in a day, but if you’re hungry for immediate Segundo, here are temporary links to the shows, three of four subsequent shows in our Kate series: #128 (Katherine Taylor and Mindy Schneider, 50:13), #129 (Katie Roiphe), and #130 (Katharine Weber and Levi Asher).

There are more podcasts coming next week, including an hour-long interview with a very important author. Pardon Our Young, Roving Correspondent’s raspy voice during some of these shows: he was suffering from a month-long bout of laryngitis.

Categories: Uncategorized

Michelle Richmond (BSS #127)

Michelle Richmond is most recently the author of The Year of Fog.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Stumbling upon 21st century technologies.

Author: Michelle Richmond

Subjects Discussed: The relationship of research to plotting, author character qualities and protagonist character qualities, Alabama, San Francisco landmarks, the Richmond District, emasculated men who live in restored Victorians, using simple character names, writing in multiple short chapters, contrapuntal searching, disappearances, beaches and sand dollars, waves and warning signs at Ocean Beach, surfing, photography, on how location influences emotional experience of character, days and calendaring, forensic artists, and the Year of Fog audio book.


Richmond: I’ve written a lot about Alabama. I haven’t lived there in — I don’t know, eighteen years. But I can’t seem to entirely get it out of my system. So this is my first book that was really separate from my upbringing, but yet there’s a tiny bit of that Gulf Coast stuff sprinkled in there. Since that’s where she’s from.

Categories: Fiction

Alternative Press Expo 2007, Part Three (BSS #126)

This is the third of three shows devoted to Alternative Press Expo 2007.


CONDITION OF MR. SEGUNDO: Searching for surgical uses involving his tequila bottle.

INTERVIEW GUESTS: Helen Parson, Ruben Fernandez, Bud Burgy, Mike Hampton, Suzanne Kleid, Shannon O’Leary, Jennifer Joseph, Brian Colma, an unqualified “lowly human,” various representatives of Kaiju Big Battel, John Schuler and William Binderup, Jose Lopez, Liz Baillie, Bob Self, Richard Ruane and Tim Trosky, Mikhaela Reid, Stephanie McMillan, Matt Bors, Masheka Wood, Robert Steven Rhine and Hollie Stevens, Corwin Gibson, Matt Bernier, Mel Smith and Steve Oliff

SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: The nutritional qualities of flavored ghosts, the trouble with comic book names, telemarketing poets, penny aphorisms, a search for a mean-spirited fan who may live in Wisconsin, marital modeling and zombies, a comparative discussion between zombies and corpses, pet noir anthologies, conducting poetry discussion at a comic book convention, how to make cartoons more respectable, using aggression for control of the universe, how to exploit and make money out of kaiju monsters, getting people hooked on poop jokes, conflict that attracts people, character design for Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, working on secret projects for Google, how to riff on the sacrosanct world of Degrassi High, Gris Grimly, a pair of books by a pair of sisters, shy guys, moms and drugs, the distinct lack of attitude within Cartoonists with Attitude, love and anger, on having sharp opinions without being angry, the Reese’s peanut butter cup concoction of girls and corpses, clown porn and Mensa, unexpected enthusiasms for the Orange County Sheriff, Nacho Libre vs. luche libre, Jack Black, trying to eat a hot dog and selling comics at the same time, excluding the important sexual elements of a classic myth, how Bob Burden is giving the Gumby crew ulcers, on Mel Smith being the Henry Kissinger of Gumby, and Paul Reubens and Gumby.


Correspondent: You seem very pleasant for someone who has attitude.

Reid: We all!

Correspondent: And someone else speaks for you here.

Bors: Nah, I’m pleasant in person. I don’t know. Uh I’m just chilling at a convention.

Reid: His strip is called Slut of Guantanamo Bay. He’s not that pleasant!

Correspondent: But he’s very pleasant about it right here.

Categories: People

Alternative Press Expo 2007, Part Two (BSS #125)

This is the second of three shows devoted to Alternative Press Expo 2007.


CONDITION OF MR. SEGUNDO: Longing for phone numbers and fistfights.

INTERVIEW GUESTS: Julia Wertz, Julie Walker, Levni R. Yilmaz, Bill Morse, Neil Fitzpatrick, Brandon Bird, Ming Doyle, John Rivera, Steve Fuson, Zack Corzine, Christopher Perguidi and Keith Knight

SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Comics inspired from Craig’s List Missed Connections, unusual underwear, tactile animation, web comics vs. minicomics, an update on the Neil Jam universe, the practice of appropriating every known cultural construct, mullets, a comic book adaptation of a rock opera, family-friendly gnomes, using all five senses to experience a narrative, cannibal cooks, standing out among zombie comics, meticulously placed exclamation marks within comic book titles, grammar and comics, and how to work on comics in Los Angeles.


Correspondent: So I was passing by a booth and I found some very unusual underwear designed by someone here. Maybe you can identify yourself and explain what the purpose of this underwear is, why it exists, and why it is being offered to the public at large.

Walker: Um, my name is Julie Walker and I really wanted to put weenies onto underwear. Because it seemed like a good idea.

Categories: People