Cleanup Forthcoming

We’ll be putting up full capsules for the last seven shows very soon, as well as a future podcast collecting Our Young, Roving Correspondent’s crazed coverage of the National Book Awards. (The total backlog of podcasts now stands at eleven. So bear with us.) In the meantime, four new podcasts are now ready for your enjoyment — no small feat, seeing as how we were barely able to wrangle Mr. Segundo from his stupor. Bear with us while we work out the kinks in the next few days.

Categories: Uncategorized

Roy Kesey & Dan Wickett (BSS #157)

Roy Kesey is most recently the author of All Over and Nothing in the World.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Wondering if Roy Kesey is a “real” Roy.

Author: Roy Kesey and Dan Wickett

Subjects Discussed: Writing stories in Beijing, exotic stories, conversational vs. descriptive stories, Carlo Ginzburg, working from pre-existing conversations, text that kick-starts a character’s voice, personal experience and intuitive narrative choices, the relationship between art forms and words, Jack Kerouac’s scroll, the worst case scenario of the artist’s lifestyle, baroque vs. conversational stories, finding the heart vs. putting together the puzzle pieces, imbuing a baroque character with a human sense, the advantages and disadvantages in “working on only one element at a time,” the difficulties of cooking a seven-course meal, the relationship between problem-solving and being a narrative ventriloquist, limits to the level of invention, Elmore Leonard, Donald Barthelme, cathartic responses to unpleasant airport experiences, dashes in dialogue, on being seduced by Dan Wickett, and starting up a new publishing company.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Kesey: I like playing with diction levels. I like the way that people talk. I like the way they hide things from themselves sometimes when they talk. And all of my stories start with voice. I get a piece of voicing and I try to figure out who it is who would talk like that, and then get them in trouble and try to get them out. And so it all starts with talking. And that doesn’t mean that they’re all going to end up as conversation. But the “Cheese” story was from — the book that the epigraph comes from, a book called The Cheese and the Worms by Carlo Ginzburg, which is a fantastic history book about a 16th century miller in the Fruili, in Italy, who had some pretty strange beliefs and who was pretty outspoken about them and got in some trouble and ended up being burned at the stake. And Ginzburg went into the — he was maybe the first person to go into the archives of the Vatican and get into the history of the Roman inquisition, but looking specifically for places where the inquisitors and the the people that they’re asking questions of are kind of talking past each other. Because these are people — he’s kind of the father of microhistory — and he’s interested in these people that only exist in terms of history now, because they had some kind of problem with an authority figure. Otherwise, they would have totally disappeared from history.

Categories: Fiction

Andrea Barrett (BSS #156)

Andrea Barret is most recently the author of The Air We Breathe.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Praising the smell of authors.

Author: Andrea Barrett

Subjects Discussed: The similarities between pre-World War I and contemporary environments, stumbling upon 1916, sanatoriums, The Magic Mountain, ethnic backgrounds, dwelling upon immigrants and working class backgrounds, blowhard intellectuals, cure cottages, the American Protective League, writing in first person plural, working from two green volumes of chemistry, amateurs in science, X-rays and radiation, the dark underbelly of science, research and ensuring verisimilitude, period clothing, symbols of an ethereal environment, unintentional imagery, stylizing a love quartet, characters who maintain a love of science, character names, Eudora Welty, on being a chaotic writer, the 1916 silent film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, on being labeled a “historical fiction” writer, writing in the past vs. writing in the present, inventing details vs. being inspired by real-life details, the importance of architecture, entertainment vs. atmospheric narrative emphasis, movie rights and film adaptation, how Barrett’s names turn into characters, and the access to inner lives within novels.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Barrett: That time — just the time of the First World War, before the war — was really the last time as a culture when we could imagine science as wholly benign, as something that was only going to help people, as something that was only full of intellectual excitement. It is the First World War, really, that gives us the dark underbelly of science. It’s when X-rays are discovered and then they’re found to be damaging. It’s when the chemical and dye industry is bringing all these wonderful things to light and at the same time they’re making poison gas. It’s when cars are invented and then they turn into tanks. It’s when airplanes are invented and they drop bombs. Everything gets turned so quickly in the First World War into darkness.

Categories: Fiction

Tom McCarthy, Part Two (BSS #155)

Tom McCarthy is most recently the author of Remainder.

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(This is the second part of a two-part interview with Tom McCarthy. To listen to Part One, go here.)

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Baffled by French artistic references.

Author: Tom McCarthy

Subjects Discussed: Guns and weapons, the smell of cordite, authenticity, Remainder‘s protagonist as revolutionary, the ethical imperative of bearing witness, Antonioni’s films, Andy Warhol, Lockean nouns, the central axis of art, philosophy, and literature, Stanley Milgram’s experiments, Jeremy Deller’s reenactment, The Cramps, prisoner reenactments of the “Thriller” video, the common motif of the Michelin Man within Remainder and William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, Tristram Shandy, the bid to be authentic, author intuition and ambiguity, reenacting a bank heist, Bob le Flambeur, Pierre Huyghe’s The Third Memory, Dog Day Afternoon, bubbles, wine and dinner, the Blueprint Cafe, visualizing a carrot, Samuel Beckett, Giambattista Vico’s idea of history running in loops and its influence upon Finnegans Wake, the lineage of repetition, Shakespeare and plagiarism, mainstream publishing remaining in denial about modernism, hooking up with Clementine Deliss and Thomas Boutoux, Olympia Press, Deliss’s distinction between art and mainstream publishing, middlebrow novels, and inventing meaning from simple form.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

McCarthy: I mean, lots of critics have seen Remainder as a sort of postmodern parable. Or a parable of the postmodern. That history’s ended and we’re just a chain of repetitions. And it’s all to do with digital culture. And so on. And so on. But if you look in literary history, you get exactly the same logic played out in Don Quixote, for example, where Don Quixote reenacts — literally reenacts! — stylized moments from penny novels that he’s read in a bid to be more authentic. In Tristram Shandy by Lawrence Sterne, Uncle Toby has lost one of his testicles in the Battle of Namur. And so he spends his whole retirement gardening. And he lays out the flowers in his garden in the exact position of the soldiers of the battles — so the red flowers are like the British and the blue flowers are the French, or whatever it was. You know, even Hamlet sits around doing nothing for half the play and then hires these actors to literally — to reenact his father’s death scene in front of the whole court. There’s this kind of awkward moment. So I think you find these patterns played out, right back to the beginnings of literature almost. I mean, I suppose the most contemporary or modern version of it, and one that was very much on my mind when I wrote the book, was Ballard’s Crash, which is a fantastic book, and its hero again reenacts car crashes, reenacts stylized violent moments, in a bid to be authentic. Ballard makes it very, very clear. He says the only real thing in this world is the car crash. And therefore we must reenact it and create the perfect one.

Categories: Fiction

Tom McCarthy, Part One (BSS #154)

Tom McCarthy is most recently the author of Remainder.

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(This is the first of a two-part interview with Tom McCarthy. To listen to Part Two, go here.)

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Pondering whether he may be a reenactment.

Author: Tom McCarthy

Subjects Discussed: Really good rhubarb tarts, cappuccinos and loyalty cards, the relationship between caffeine and psychosis, repetitive patterns, writing a book with the maximum number of ambiguities possible, cracks in the wall, unintentional allegory, writing Remainder in three drafts, J.G. Ballard and the “Eureka!” moment, the illusion of a brisk read, weird guys at bars, modulating dialogue, the clues within Remainder that it’s set in the late ’90′s to 2000, accidental interpretations of post-9/11 commentary, Time Control UK and concierge companies, speculation, the protagonist looking up at the heavens, the morphine hit of authenticity, empathy, the invented moment with the homeless character, post-traumatic stress disorder and shell shock, responding to trauma, ethics, examining the character of Naz and examining the World War II references, the fascism of reenactments, loyalty, Melville’s racism, the aesthetics and the rebellious temperament of the pianist, the sophistication of Tintin, “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” colons and Graham Greene, the $8.5 million sum and eight symbols throughout Remainder, the councilor and his failure to use second-person in conversation with the protagonist, the proprietary nature of pronouns, Kafka’s “The Burrow,” David Lynch and “looking at yourself from the outside,” the royal we, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, James Ellroy, McCarthy’s love for the blue, the Blueprint Cafe, idealist philosophy vs. the materialist tradition, Naz’s tendency to look up words on his phone, setting rules on perspective, the protagonist’s obsession with time and space, tingling and electricity, the Freudian connection with trauma, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, and the relationship between neurosis and neoliberalism.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

McCarthy: These concierge companies were just emerging in the UK who would more or less do anything for you. They sort of lived your life vicariously, or they stretched your life for you. Which I just find kind of fascinating. I mean, it’s quite kind of metaphysical, really. It’s like you outsource your godliness. You outsource your autonomy. Even though you’re paying them. And the stock market was — I just found it really fascinating. This bubble and these companies that were just making paper millionaires out of people that had virtually no premise. Like eSolutions. I mean, what on earth is that? (laughs) I read this article about the South Sea bubble of the 17th century — or was it the 18th century? When stocks were going so high that people would throw money at anything and there was a company called A Very Good Idea Yet No One to Know What It Is. And its shares sold out in a day. And of course it went bankrupt six months later. But I guess in this book, the movements of capital are very much tied into the movement of everything else. So there’s this very idea of speculation, which has an astronomical meaning as well. Constellation of the heavens. And my hero spends a lot of time just looking at dust. Constellations of dust suspended in a stairwell. And they’re either going up or down. And the shares are doing the same thing. I mean, their speculation is about projecting futures, keeping shares buoyant, and at the end, both the dust crashes and the shareholders crash and everything crashes.

Categories: Fiction

Ursula Hegi (BSS #153)

Ursula Hegi is most recently the author of The Worst Thing I’ve Done.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contemplating the worst thing he’s ever done.

Author: Ursula Hegi

Subjects Discussed: Collage artist protagonists and collage-inspired novels, stream of consciousness and italics, using specific fonts, Mason’s voice as a pulse, how Hegi communicated with typographers, the problems with emailing manuscripts, characters representing a contentious unified whole, subverting the nuclear family structure, the layers that come from writing 50+ drafts, gestures involving shoulder blades, why there are so many water environments in Hegi’s work, kayaks, William Faulkner’s building, on whether or not a novel is “absolutely right,” the origins of the name Mason, working on an intuitive level, planning through revision, ellipses and pauses, the introduction of a protester into the narrative, the Tribe of the Barefoot Women, nasty fortune cookies, the peace symbol and Mercedes-Benz, confusion in semiotics, Bush and Hitler comparisons, the curtailing of rights in contemporary America, how Hegi varies her stylistic vernaculars, being driven by writing, and being a “method writer.”

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Hegi: For example, to write from Annie’s point of view, I need to become Annie. To write from Opal’s point of view, I need to be nine years old. To write from Trudi Montag’s point of view in Stones from the River, I am her height. I feel her rage. I feel her bliss. I cannot write about feelings unless I go there with the characters. So sometimes I sit at my desk blushing, smiling, close to tears. But I do have to become each character. It’s like method acting.

Correspondent: Yeah. Interesting. Did you have any theatrical background?

Hegi: No. But I read about method acting when I was in my thirties. And I thought, “But that’s what I’ve been doing in my writing!”

Categories: Fiction