The Bat Segundo Show: Brent Spiner

Brent Spiner appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #233. Spiner is most recently a producer and performer on the album, Dreamland.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Ducking his head and dodging paranoid crooners.

Guest: Brent Spiner

Subjects Discussed: Natural reverb, conversational limitations, co-owning a recording studio with Dave Way, being a control freak, the shaky profitability of the music industry, self-distributing a CD through Bellarama, David Byrne’s DIY article, the lack of response from magazines and newspapers vs. the response from blogs and online sites, being restricted by self-production, the distribution for Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back, getting mechanical rights for the songs, merging “I Love You” with “Nice and Easy,” the difficulties of getting Cole Porter’s “Let’s Fall in Love,” DJ Giagni, tap dancing and footfalls, sound effects, maracas that appear on the left speaker, arguments for and against the older man-younger woman musical trope, certain elements that are holding back Dreamland from being transposed to a live performance, the belting quality of Spiner’s voice, wrestling, Spiner’s extraordinary claims as an opera singer, Mark Hamill as a figure to help smooth over the rancor between two popular science fiction franchises, growing up in Houston, the demolition of the Shamrock Hilton in June 1987, Cecil Pickett and the brothers Quaid, Randy Quaid and Actors’ Equity, Spiner’s complex feelings for Rutger Hauer, Hauer and Whoopi Goldberg, taking umbrage with YouTube commenters, working with Maude Maggart, signing on for a six-year contract for a show that rhymes with “car wreck,” committing to a project without knowing when it will end, Threshold, negotiating the limitations of television, the relationship between art vs. commerce, why Spiner moved to Los Angeles, Superhero Movie, living like a college student vs. an adult lifestyle, and the trappings and consistent struggles of being an actor.


Correspondent: I should observe that you grew up in Houston.

Spiner: Yes.

Correspondent: Of course, for a long time, the Shamrock Hilton was there.

Spiner: Right.

Correspondent: And what is rather unusual is that it was demolished in June 1987, which almost exactly coincides with your big break on the show that shall not be named. I was wondering if you ever contemplated this connection, and whether the hotel [in Dreamland] may have jumped out because of this. Why did you choose the hotel? And what of the Shamrock Hilton?

Spiner: You know what, Ed, I’m not sure what the question is really. And I’m not even sure you know what the question is.

Correspondent: No, no, I’m just throwing associations at you.

Spiner: Yeah, you know what?

Correspondent: I figured that you can handle this.

Spiner: Let me say, and I will say the word, I did Star Trek purposefully because of the demise of the Shamrock Hotel.

Correspondent: Yeah. I knew it.

Spiner: There was no other reason that I took that job. When they told me…

Correspondent: …that Houston was dead to you.

Spiner: Yeah, Houston was dead to me once the Shamrock Hilton was gone. But let me just say this. How do you know about the Shamrock Hilton?

Correspondent: I just am curious.

Spiner: Are you from Houston?

Correspondent: No, I’m not. I’ve never actually been in Texas, aside from, I believe, a layover. But I just knew about it. I knew that big people came through there.

Spiner: Yup. Oh! Please.

Correspondent: And so I figured you hung out there.

Spiner: I did.

Correspondent: When these big people made their way through there.

Spiner: I once saw Mel Torme at the Shamrock.

Correspondent: Really?

Spiner: At the Shamrock pool. Walking fast. And even more importantly, I once saw Jock Mahoney doing chin-ups outside by the Shamrock pool.

Correspondent: Did you talk with these folks when you were there?

Spiner: You know, I didn’t. I wish I’d talked to Jock Mahoney, which is another story altogether.

Download BSS #233: Brent Spiner (MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Sarah Manguso

Sarah Manguso appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #232. Manguso is most recently the author of The Two Kinds of Decay.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contemplating fifty-five additional states of decay.

Author: Sarah Manguso

Subjects Discussed: David Markson, sentences that originate in other formats, fan mail, whether a paragraph is truly a paragraph, problems with typesetting nomenclature, remembering personal moments at 1,000 words a day, word arrangement units (”WAUs”), themes vs. timeline, organic vs. inorganic writing, unrecognized planning mechanisms, thinking of the reader, Adam Thirlwell’s The Delighted States, syntactic barriers and foreshadowing meaning, mosaic tiles, the goofy perils of being called a poet, incidental metaphors, the engine of intelligence getting in the way, the uncertainty of employment, the solipsistic degrees of writing, stumbling upon a cohesive idea of what the universe entails, other memoirs of illness, categorization and after-the-fact marketing, reading fiction while writing, John Cheever’s Falconer, surveillance and paranoia, the alphabetical pursuit of hobbies, and the identity of the famous writer baffled by the idea of a hobby other than writing.


Manguso: I thought of the pieces as an arrangement in two phases. The first phase was completely chaotic and the second phase was orderly. And during the chaotic first draft phase, the project that I set myself was really just to try to remember everything I could remember about this nine-year period in my life. Just everything. Every individual memory that I could bring up. And after my latest revision had lasted seven years, after that time, it really did seem that the memories had become particulate. Like there really was just one memory that espoused the insertion of the first central line in my chest. And it really did seem to have hardened in my memory into this item, this thing, this chunk of this chapter. And so while I was first writing the book, I didn’t think about chronology. Mainly because I had no idea how to write a book about one thing. I’d never done it before. And I didn’t know anything about narrative or what should come first. I really just wrote the pages all as individual files. And once I couldn’t remember anything else, I printed them all out and tried to notate based on memory and based on asking people what months and what year each thing had happened. And then I just put them in chronological order.

Correspondent: Well, there’s specific phrasing for some of these “thingies.” Pardon my…

Manguso: Let’s call them chapters now. I think that sounds more professional.

Correspondent: These particular word arrangement units. WAUs. Wows?

Manguso: Wows.

Correspondent: We’ll call them wows. Or waz.

Manguso: I’m going to call them chapters. But I like wow.

Correspondent: You often have text within text. With this italicization. But you have a particular timeline. Because you often use “the day before the decision I wrote” or “I wrote this three months after the diagnosis.” And so it seems that not only arranging these wows into themes, but also into a timeline. I’m wondering how you place prioritization upon a theme over a timeline. Were there certain circumstances? Was this entirely an organic process? Or was there just a lot of tinkering around with order and with rhythm? The way we were talking about this, it almost seems like this quarto of some sort.

Manguso: Well, I wish I knew. I’m not really sure how to differentiate an organic process from an inorganic process.

Correspondent: Okay. Let’s just say blindly intuitive vs. carefully planned and calculated.

Manguso: Well, at the risk of sounding difficult, I’m really trying my best to remember what it was like to write this book. But I made the thing. And the thing is a result of my guiding intelligence engaged with my memory. And I don’t know if I can really distinguish between the decisions that were more intellectual than intuitive. Or more intuitive than intellectual. I wish I knew. It is true that, after the book was done or after the final draft was done, it does seem that there were themes that had been inserted or injected into the book by some planning mechanism that I didn’t really recognize. But I think that’s kind of a familiar recognition to have after you make a thing. It makes sense in ways that you weren’t exactly planning. I’d rather not say that the whole thing is mysterious to me. But I think enough of it is that I’m hesitant to say, “Well, I meant to this, this, and this.” I don’t know what I really meant.

Correspondent: Well, I mean, how much should we be really dwelling upon dichotomies?

Download BSS #232: Sarah Manguso (MP3)

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Responding to Orwell: August 28

George: It pleases me immensely that you were fond of using the shorthand term, “ditto.” The word has intriguing etymology and yet you didn’t sprout (as I did) during the 1970s and 1980s, when “ditto” was more commonly used in reference to a mimeographed paper or a copy that was circulated amongst schoolkids and businessmen (who often behaved like schoolkids). But before good ol’ Xerox, it was used in a more common “see previous” capacity. You knew this of course. But let me confess my youthful ignorance. For years, George, I actually believed that the practice of saying “ditto” in this “see previous” capacity originated from the photocopy! I believed this as late as the early days of Limbaugh, circa 1993, when he referred to his listeners as “dittoheads.” (I am pretty confident, George, you wouldn’t have liked Limbaugh so much. For many years (1990-1993, to be precise), I exerted needless energies expressing my hostilities towards the man who gave us “feminazis” — an affront to the English language you likely would have observed.

And, in fact, while on the subject of Limbaugh and photocopied dittos, I remember one summer job (1993) I had in Sacramento. I was nineteen. I worked in a printing house and collated brochures. There was no air conditioning. It was tedious work, but I didn’t complain. And the owner, who was an unassuming but friendly conservative, played all three hours of Limbaugh every day. This drove me bananas. And I was patient. Up to a point. Until I finally confronted the owner and asked him whether he actually believed Limbaugh, why he listened to him, what he got out of him. Seriously, this guy is spouting a lot of bullshit. And what’s a guy like you, a man running a fairly successful small business, okay no air conditioning but even so, what’s a guy like you doing swallowing this codswallop? He speaks for me, said the owner in a very quiet voice. Limbaugh speaks for him. And I realized there and then that it was largely meek and mild-mannered men who were Limbaugh’s listeners. Not the callers, mind you. The callers were the most vocal of this bunch. And I realized that they were afraid of expressing what was on their mind. And I realized that they would flock to damn near any remotely entertaining demagogue because this was the only way that they could be part of the political process.

The Left here in America has failed to understand this. They are only just starting to get remotely angry, but they remain subdued for the most part, even after two terms of Dubya! Air America doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t represent that vicarious thrill that the print shop owner had. The idea, presumably, is to appear “civilized” in comparison to the “brutishness” of the Right. But nobody other than a pugilist finds use in a punching bag. So the Left is as much to blame as the Right for the past eight years of horrors. At the end of the day, we are all dittoheads. Small wonder then why it remains so hot & overcast. Yesterday, ditto.

Let the Games Begin

If this interview represents how McCain responds to questions — real questions, not the Leno softball variety, not the questions that result in the old coot offering his trademark “I served as a POW” answer without a followup — I simply cannot wait for the presidential debates to begin. Pass the popcorn and pop open the beer. These debates will feature material more hilarious than Bush’s “Internets” gaffe or his entreaties for us to remember Poland. The man will be flayed alive — should be, if Obama truly wants to win — with almost little to no effort.

But with the presidential race now neck-to-neck, and Obama’s people offering an aesthetic disaster in response to the elitist charges, will the American people continue to believe in this man? The cynic inside me says yes. The optimist insides me says no. And the pragmatist remembering that dark November morning four years ago is somewhere on the fence, likely to trot over his legs upon enunciating the trusted mantra, “The Democrats will fuck this up.”

The Blogging Cliche

An eleventh-hour interview, a looming deadline, and a few other things currently occupy just about every minute of my time. (I slept three hours last night.) Because of this, emails are sporadic at best (but I will respond to anyone who tells me that they have terminal cancer or something) and posting has been reduced to one of these typical announcements that you find on a blog, in which the blogger declares how little time he has and proceeds to use a sliver of this temporal paucity to write a post like this. Which makes one wonder whether the lack of time might be a slight understatement — emphasis on slight, mind you — or the blogging itself represents an utterly fey respite from the work. Whatever the case, I’m not good for much here until I whack down these obligations. Bear with me.

William T. Vollmann’s $55 Book

William T. Vollmann’s Imperial, which has been in the works for years, now has a publication date. It’s slated to be released by Viking on April 16, 2009. For those who have scratched their heads in disbelief over Vollmann’s svelte volumes in recent years, don’t worry. The book runs 1,296 pages. And this time, it’s a history of the Imperial County region, chronicling the labor camps, migrant workers, and contemporary day laborers. The book promises to take us into “the dark soul of American imperialism,” with the catalog further informing us:

Known for his penetrating meditations on poverty and violence, Vollmann has spent ten years doggedly investigating every facet of this binational locus, raiding archives, exploring polluted rivers, guarded factories, and Chinese tunnels, talking with everyone from farmers to border patrolmen in his search for the fading American dream and its Mexican equivalent.

Well, this all sounds dutifully proletarian. But the great irony here is that most of the workers who Vollmann talked with are probably not going to be able to afford this book. Imperial, listed in the Winter 2009 Viking catalog, is planning to retail for $55.

This is a surprising price, given that Penguin (under the Penguin Press imprint) also released the hardcover Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day, which ran a hefty 1,085 pages, for $35. (Consider also Roberto Bolano’s upcoming 2666, running close to 1,000 pages in a three-volume set by FSG. It’s available this November for $30.) And while Imperial also contains “28 photos; 20 pieces b&w line art; 5 maps,” I fail to see how any of this supplemental material justifies a dramatic increase in printing costs (in this case, a good $20 per unit).

The book can also be pre-ordered at Amazon at 40% off, with the book selling for $34.65. But I can’t help but wonder how this twenty dollar difference may affect independent bookstores featuring the title on the stacks. Will Vollmann readers abandon their trusted indie bookstores for Amazon because the price point here is too high? Is this a grand ruse designed to get Vollmann signing the least number of books possible at a signing?

Maybe the $55 book is just a simple capitalist experiment. But if it is, it reminds me more of the troubling science perfected by concert promoters in the late ’90’s. I have no idea if Vollmann’s head has grown heavy and his sight has grown dim (let us hope not), but The Eagles, rather famously, were the first band to charge $100 a ticket. And when the Eagles were able to get away with this, other big acts followed suit. So if Vollmann and Viking want to blindside consumers with such an outrageous price, I may be tempted, despite my frequent championing of hardcovers, to jump aboard Levi Asher’s dysfunctional pricing bandwagon.

In the meantime, I intend to perform a few inquiries to find out why Imperial is going for $55. If I learn anything, I will certainly report it here.

Oscar Villalon Out at Chronicle?

This comes from Publishers Weekly‘s Rachel Deahl, whose word must be taken with a grain of salt, but she’s claiming that San Francisco Chronicle books editor Oscar Villalon has taken a buyout and will be leaving the Chron on Friday. This will leave Regan McMahon as the only full-time staffer handling books.

I have emails in to a few Chron people to determine what’s happening here and how this Villalon’s buyout will affect future books coverage at my former hometown newspaper. If I learn anything, I will report it here.

[UPDATE: I have corroborated with two sources at the Chron that Villalon’s last day will indeed be Friday. More info as I learn more.]

Setting the Filthy Record Straight

As Carolyn Kellogg notes, an angry mob has descended upon Susan Carpenter because Carpenter used the term “cunning linguist” in a review. But Carpenter is not the one to blame. For it was I, dear readers, who sullied the Los Angeles Times back in February 2007 by including the term “cunning linguistics” in a review. And this was a review of a YA title, no less. So I am the one here to blame for infecting the Los Angeles Times with such filth. Approach me with your pitchforks, angry mob. I am at the mercy of your perfunctory assaults.

Stanley Fish, Sherry Jones, and the Free Market Apparatchiks

I am certainly not a fan of Salman Rushdie’s limitless capacity for self-promotion, but I am even less enamored of smug academics who wish to split hairs over the term “censorship” to serve their partisan purposes. Rushdie, of course, expressed understandable umbrage over Random House’s decision to withdraw Sherry Jones’s debut novel, The Jewel of Medina from publication. Random House pulled the book because it feared that Jones’s book “could incite racial conflict.” This was, of course, a decision that was every bit as cowardly as those who stood against desegregated schools in the 1960s and 1970s. A bigot during those times might likewise oppose this small step for humankind by claiming that busing kids into other neighborhoods “could incite racial conflict.” It is, in other words, a speculative proposition. A decision based on a peremptory what if. The “all Americans need to watch what they say, watch what they do” form of fearmongering popularized by Ari Fleischer is now just as applicable to spineless corporate goons who fail to consider that controversy has also been known to sell. (Indeed, in Rushdie’s case, The Satanic Verses sold very well indeed.)

But this is not really about Rushdie and it is not really about Random House. It is about Stanley Fish’s refusal to accept the possibility that the American publishing industry does indeed censor. Fish begins his post with free market bluster:

It is also true, however, that Random House is free to publish or decline to publish whatever it likes, and its decision to do either has nothing whatsoever to do with the Western tradition of free speech or any other high-sounding abstraction.

Change “Random House” to “Stalinist Russia” and Fish shifts from a capitalist crusader into a bona-fide apparatchik. But never mind that. In examining the etymology of the word “censor,” one must go back to the Roman era when magistrates were then in the habit of legislating public behavior and morality. To be as literal-minded as Fish (censorship only applies to government entities and not the free market), it seems to me that “censorship” is no longer viable as a noun, given that the Roman Empire is no longer around. Fish’s argument is an example of an equivocation. If I tell you that an bird must fly, and I then tell you that what cannot fly is grounded, and I point out that an ostrich is grounded and therefore cannot be a bird, you wouldn’t accept the terms of my argument. In fact, you would string me up and inform me that I am a moron, which would be a well-deserved assessment. And yet Fish has done the same thing with the term “censorship.”

Of course, Rushdie didn’t just use the word “censorship” in his letter to the Associated Press. As Bill Poser has pointed out, Rushdie used the phrase “censorship by fear,” conveniently elided by Fish to serve the terms of his fallacious argument.

Fish does offer a somewhat more valid thesis by comparing the restriction of Jones’s book to a library refusing to stock a book from the shelves. Unfortunately, he makes a comparison that is patently unmeasurable to what befell Jones. He claims that if you can’t get a book from the library, “[y]ou can still get it from or buy it in Borders.” But Jones’s book is not available anywhere else. It was dropped by Random House — i.e., it won’t be published. And, as the record shows, a Serbian publisher stepped in to print 1,000 copies, but stopped the presses when it received protests from a Belgrade mufti. What Fish doesn’t seem to understand is that you can’t obtain this book anywhere else.

If I wanted to go out and purchase a copy of Jones’s book right now, I simply couldn’t. Random House has thereby operated in a lieu of a government body and prevented this book from being distributed to a mass audience. An act of censorship applies to the writing, not the writer. It doesn’t matter that Jones hasn’t been imprisoned for her words. That Fish cannot understand this suggests that he hasn’t paid attention to the media developments of the past twenty years, in which imprisonment has been replaced by the penalty of being denied the airwaves or, in this case, denied a publisher, with contractual details preventing or delaying alternative means of distribution.

Rushdie is absolutely right to declare this “censorship by fear.” “Censorship by fear” is now the way in which magistrating “indecent” material occurs, whether it be networks terrified of airing Janet Jackson’s nipple and facing stiff FCC penalties, an NPR regular who fears speaking unscripted or like an actual human, or a cowardly publishing conglomerate who adds a morality clause to a YA writer’s contract or stubs out a novel because of Denise Spellberg’s threats of a lawsuit. Make no mistake. This is censorship, 21st century style. And it’s as American as apple pie.

Five Publicists

Here are five publicists I’ve dealt with recently:

Publicist A: Always sends you to the appropriate publicist, even though it’s not in department. Recognizes that all publicity is good publicity. Sometimes asks me what’s out there on the Web, which I’m happy to answer.

Publicist B: Sends not only latest book, but nearly all the backlist titles. Responds to all emails within two hours. Makes interview suggestions months in advance to secure comprehensive interviews with authors.

Publicist C: After brief disagreement, calls me to figure out where I’m coming from. Asks where I’m coming from, and we have a pleasant conversation that clears a lot of air.

Publicist D: Can’t be bothered to return emails. Publicist D’s office claims author is available and then, months later, after not returning calls or emails, changes mind without explanation.

Publicist E: Refuses to book guest based on what I’ve written about the author on the blog (which did not involve the author’s fiction, the subject of the interview), but fails to cite specifics. Strange, because this same publisher booked another guest who was very aware of what I had written about him on this blog. We had a pleasant and quite funny conversation anyway. Insinuates that author will be reduced to a bundle of tears if author appears on program. To date, only one guest has cried and when this guest did, I stopped the interview.

Now if you’re a journalist, which of these publicists would you want to work with? Publicist A’s willingness to track down other publicists has saved me considerable time and helped to secure many interviews on the program. Publicist B’s efforts ensure that my conversation is strongly informed by the text and this improves the interviews. Thus, I’m quite happy to inform Publicist B precisely when the show will go up, however it ends up, so that Publicist B can coordinate his efforts. Publicist C’s willingness to call me, to give me the benefit of the doubt and find out where I’m coming from has resulted in four interviews being booked on the show in the past two months.

And then there’s Publicists D and E. Do I really want to work with Publicist D when the publicist won’t level with me or wishes to string me along, knowing very well how much I prepare for each interview? When Publicists A, B, and C, by contrast, remain transparent, get me the book in a timely manner, and exceed my very minimal requirements (enough time to read the book)? In her defense, Publicist E did clarify the author’s temperament to me and offered what I thought was a reasonable explanation. Nevertheless, if I approach Publicist E for future interviews, will I get the same response that Lee Siegel’s publicist once offered Portfolio‘s Jeff Bercovici? Meanwhile, Publicists A, B, and C impose no such conditions.

I could mention Publicist F, who can’t even be bothered to respond to numerous emails and phone calls or even send a copy of the book to get the word out. After all, if the book’s good, it may be written about. But I won’t. We’re dealing with gradients here. And most publicists are damn good at what they do. Again, I have very few complaints and don’t take any of this for granted.

Now let’s say you’re an author. Perhaps there’s some questions you may want to think about. Is your publicist denying you interviews to specific outlets or stringing a journalist along? Is the publicist doing this with your consent? Has your publicist had a history of doing this? Are you aware that journalists often swap names of publicists with each other?

But, most importantly, are you aware that a good publicist knows how to get repeat interviews? And is your publicist one of the good ones?

LBJ 4: Live Free or Spin Hard

Hillel Italie tracks down Robert Caro and gets some interesting info on the fourth volume of his ongoing Johnson biography. Caro hopes to tackle both LBJ’s vice presidency and presidency in this next volume. And given that it takes Caro almost a decade to write a book, I certainly hope that Caro lives long enough to complete this very important project. Then again, Will and Ariel Durant managed to make it into their nineties, the two dying within weeks of each other, defying expectations that they wouldn’t complete their populist history, The Story of Civilization. So I have faith that Caro can do it. (via Sarah)


  • In the past few weeks (and, particularly, the last seven days), I have read many thousands of pages. This is probably more work than one should do for a piece of this type, but I am one of those guys who likes to perform due diligence. It’s too important not to. And really, I’m very honored to have this gig. So there you go. I’m getting close to the finish line. So if things aren’t entirely up to speed here during the next few days, bear with me.
  • Bob Thompson, like any good reactionary who loves to keep a warm gun under his pillow, is confused by any book that doesn’t just feature turgid text. And Scott McCloud is right. Guys like Thompson will die. And the sad thing is that Thompson, a man who is no less prejudicial than a Jim Crow type who hopes that the dark-skinned people will be kept separately from the light-skinned people, will never know the joy of a story told in words and pictures. Of course, when the last old fogey kicks the bucket, there will no longer be a need for these bloated articles written by narrow-minded bigots.
  • Speaking of the comics industry, there is a longass interview with Paul Levitz over at ICV2. (via ComicMix)
  • Eric Rosenfield thinks Nick Harkaway’s The Gone Away World is “representative of a new kind of fiction gradually emerging, a fiction which knows no boundaries.”
  • Joanne McNeil on women’s fashion.
  • The new Metallica single confirms that this band remains corporate, dated, emotionless, ridiculously safe, and unlistenable. This track, which features arpeggios that sound like rejects from the “Nothing Else Matters” sessions and a guitar solo phoned in by Dave Mustaine, is about as far removed from the heights of Master of Puppets and And Justice for All as you can get. The key tipoff that things are askew is James Hetfield’s failure to growl or offer his trademark “yeuhah” at any point during this track. Yeah, I know the guy’s 45 and all. But if Trent Reznor can still channel his angst at 43 (and even reframe it in middle age), there’s simply no excuse for such a lazy performance here. Oh well. Let’s hope that AC/DC’s forthcoming album, Black Ice, offers more. Failing Angus Young and company, there’s always a few contemporary glam metal offerings.
  • Can you guess where I’m from? I was tired, but I scored quite well, even on the city level. I blame this on my troubling tendency to practice dialects and accents in the bedroom. Listen for the pitch and phonemes! (via Maud)
  • I neglected to report on Twatgate, but if you hadn’t heard the news, Random House, based solely on the complaint of three parents, decided that the word “twat” was just going too far in a YA book. The book in question was not authored by some casual pornographer, but Jacqueline Wilson. Part of me believes this to be a brilliant marketing effort to get Wilson’s novel in the headlines and thereby sell more novels. After all, what ten-year-old hasn’t heard the word “twat” by now? Nevertheless, between this and Random House’s previous contractual clause, which attempts to dictate the way that authors must behave, I’m wondering why the publishing conglomerate has so many bugs up its ass with its YA titles. If they keep up this level of needless kowtowing and autocracy, then surely YA authors will began their exodus to other publishers who aren’t exactly this anal retentive.
  • Paul Auster is interviewed by the Sunday Times. Rather amazingly (and egregiously), the New York Times has yet to review the book or profile the man. (But to give the NYTBR some credit, I was shocked to see a serious consideration of a B.S. Johnson novel this Sunday.) The Los Angeles Times has reviewed Auster’s new book, but alas it’s been assigned to Jane Smiley, who once again fails to understand the book she’s reviewing. Smiley doesn’t comprehend that Man in the Dark isn’t so much about the big climactic secret (she seems to have confused Auster’s book with some Grisham-like potboiler or perhaps a pat M. Night Shyamalan film), as it is about the way that narratives often occlude the truth before us. Smiley is too obtuse a reader to spot the connections between Brill and Brick — the shared high-school sweetheart, the concern for magic, both of which came up in my recent conversation with Auster. Of course, Brill’s confession to Katya is going to “have the flavor of a synopsis.” The man’s a book critic for crying out loud! How could Smiley miss this? To add insult to injury, Smiley also fails to cite a single passage from the text to support any of her observations. This is lazy book reviewing, Pulitzer Prize or no. Smiley really should stick to writing dull essays about horses. Between this review and her Jennifer Weiner hit piece, it has become quite evident that Jane Smiley is incapable of appreciating any book that isn’t some take-no-chances, realist offering that offends and challenges nobody. And her review really bogs down what is otherwise a pretty good books section. Fortunately, Smiley’s terrible essay is compensated by Tod Goldberg’s amusing feature on tie-ins.

Podcasting to Outperform Radio?

Some new figures released by the Radio Advertising Bureau suggest that radio is now facing problems. At both the local and national levels, radio revenue has dropped over the past year. Off-air revenue growth, meaning advertising that comes with podcasts and digital downloads, has surpassed the RAB’s expectations. It is expected to reach $2 billion by the end of 2008, almost a full year ahead of the RAB’s projected timeline.

I don’t know if these trends will result in radio people calling podcasters maggots or claiming them to be trapped within a basement in Terre Haute. But the upshot is that podcasting isn’t going away anytime soon.


Joe Biden is Obama’s VP. From a graphic design standpoint, it will be much easier to get the words “Obama-Biden” on a bumper sticker than “Gore-Lieberman.” Obama wisely decided on a VP candidate with two syllables. And I suspect that the natural third B (“Oh-ba-ma-bi”) that comes with that phrase was also a marketing consideration. Of course, should Biden decide to plagiarize again, at least he’d be copying from Obama’s team.

The Story That Has No Name

[EDITOR’S NOTE: While traveling on a bus, several passengers endured the drunken and boisterous clamor from several obnoxious frat boys in the back. They could not be quelled or cajoled to quiet down. In an effort to deal with these circumstances without going insane, my girlfriend and I started writing the following story on a laptop, switching off every 300 words or so until the battery died. The warped results can be read below. Aside from the brain monster and other supernatural elements, this isn’t that far removed from what actually happened.]

Their drunken bellows roared from the back of the bus, veering as aimlessly as a driver without a map, demanding all destinations.

There were twelve of them. And they sat in the back. They sang off-key. They shouted horrible jokes. They laughed at their limp bons mot. But there was no sign from the passengers in the front. No actions. Nothing so much as a “please be quiet” or a “hey I’ve got a headache here, would you mind keeping it down?”

They were the center of their own universe. Their universe belonged to them. And that universe involved the bus. Even if that meant lighting up a bit of skank weed or spilling the bottle of Jack onto the fraying gray carpet. Even if that meant seizing the seat of the eighty-two-year-old lady, telling the elderly cunt to sit the fuck in the front before I munch on your muff.

Fury floated across the faces of those who sat in front of them. One man who worked as a bounce tried to get this fakers dozen to stop. But they wouldn’t. The bouncer figured he could break six of their necks easy. But the bus was moving. It was already late. And he, like everybody else, just wanted to get the hell home.

Bellows, cackles, and frat house cries were the order of the evening. And headaches burgeoned and tempers flared until there was a sudden screech of the brakes.

“What the fuck was that?”

The fakers dozen waited.

“Yo, why we stop?”

But there was no movement from the driver. No stirring of life from the passengers.

Their faces looked out the window, but there wasn’t the single sound of cars passing, nor even the trusty wisp of the wind.

“What the fuck’s going on?” said Enrique, who was high as a kite on Don Julio.

“Well, fuck that shit,” said Harold. “We can have ourselves a good time whether the bus is moving or not, eh?”

They shouted at the top of their lungs again, expecting a reaction from all the chumps who had bought tickets for this ride from hell. But there wasn’t a sound. Not a peep. Not even the muted sigh from an exasperate.

Dawn, just one of two girls of the fakers’ dozen, nudged Harold in the shoulder. “This is really weird, why isn’t anyone else saying something?”

“Fuck if I know,” said Harold, “and why should you care?”

“Because it’s creeping me out! You should see what’s going on.” Dawn poked Harold in the small of his back. He yelped and Gregg, sitting the furthest away from him, bellowed, “She’s got you by the balls again, H!”

Harold’s face blushed. Struggling with the sense of shame that accompanied it, he denied Gregg’s claim with equal volume, then turned back to Dawn. She had that needy look again, like her world couldn’t work without him turning the lever all the way to the end, and once more he wondered why he was banging her, even if only on Sunday afternoons. She wasn’t that hot. And now she wanted him to stop the party in the backseat and check on – it flew out of his head.

Dawn stared at him, not wanting to understand Harold’s total enslavement to attention deficit but knowing she had to. Of course it sucked. Nothing got through to him, not even basic human decency. She tried to remember why they fucked every Sunday, why she was sitting with his sorry-ass friends, why she was smoking their low-grade weed. And why they were the only ones making noise.

“Fine,” she said. “I’ll go and check.” She shoved Harold harder in the small of his back and took secret pleasure when he cried out. The rest of the twelve voiced their displeasure, too. “You always have to spoil everything,” said Enrique’s fuck buddy Miranda, a joint dangling from her mouth. Dawn hated her the most, but fighting Miranda was like trying to engage with a brick wall.

She stared ahead, focusing intently on the front of the bus. It was strange to think of silence as being louder than noise, but that’s what Dawn thought as she made her way to the driver’s seat. When she did, all thoughts of silence versus sound escaped her mind.

Because the driver was gone.

“Hey, what the fuck?”

“Silly bitch at it again,” said Harold. “Always looking for someone new to blow!”

“I’m serious, Harold. There ain’t no driver here. Just a buncha….”

That’s when the first of the fakers dozen went down. Harold was keeping track.

“Dawn?” called Harold.

“Stupid bitch. I’ll suck your cock better,” said Miranda. The weed was hitting her head almost as hard as Enrique’s tequila.

Enrique laughed. Everything was funny with Don Julio, almost as funny as it was with jello shots. Not that he went in for that pussy drinking shit. Even the sight of Dawn falling down, as if sucked through a hole at the bottom of the bus like some human-sized chunk of strawberry shake slurped through a giant straw.

But where the fuck was Dawn? And why the fuck weren’t the passengers ahead saying a goddam thing?

“Hey, assholes,” shouted Harold to the front. “You paying attention?”

There wasn’t a peep from the passengers.

“Ain’t it a bit fucking funny that nobody’s saying a FUCKING thing?”

Harold tapped the shoulder of the woman in the seat in front of him.

“You paying attention, you cunt? Dawn’s gone, you fucking….”

But her shoulder dissipated into a shower of ashes. Harold looked at the other passengers. They were all grey husks. Even the colors of their clothes had faded to gray.

And still there wasn’t a sound outside.

Harold looked at Enrique, who was still laughing at nothing. This was the guy who was supposed to be his best buddy? When the girl he was fucking would happily ask anyone, especially Harold, if she could suck him off? When he wasted himself day and night on that Don Julio shit when everyone knew it just made Enrique look and act like a bigger chump? And now that Dawn was fucking GONE, all Enrique could do was sit around and laugh?

Harold could hardly process what was happening, but he knew this: everything was a big fucking lie and he had to do something. So he lunged at Enrique, hands going for his best buddy’s throat.

“What the FUCK are you doing, you mongrel waste of a piece of shit? Dawn – did you even SEE what happened?”

“Harold, calm the fuck down,” Miranda slurred, “You don’t have to get so violent. What’d Enrique ever do to you?”

“He never did anything! He never did anything for any reason!” Harold pointed to the vanished woman in front of him. “And now she’s disappeared, too. The whole bus has disappeared and everything’s grey and he does fuck-all!” Harold tightened his grip on Enrique’s throat. The laughs turned into slight choking sounds that made Enrique sound even more pathetic. “You really pick ’em, Miranda. You foolish little slut.”

“Hey, don’t call me a -” But Miranda didn’t have a chance to finish her sentence. The left side of her head began to melt, starting with the blond hair framing her face, to her cheekbones, down to her neck and collarbone. Then the right side melted away. A husk of grey nothing remained, and even Harold, who only cracked open his introduction to neuroscience book once every few weeks, recognized the color as being the same as the mush making up most of a person’s brain.

Miranda’s brain. Right. In front of him.

He dropped his hands from Enrique’s throat and screamed. Then screamed even louder when he heard Enrique’s stupid, pathetic little laugh start up again.

“What the fuck? The two hos of the fakers dozen are gone?” shouted Harold. “What? The? Fuck?”

Enrique was laughing his ass off. Shit, this was better than that viral video he had watched of the guy shoving the peanut jar up his ass and bleeding all over the fucking place.

“Enrique, are you paying attention?” Harold screamed.

Miranda’s gray ash had splattered all over him. He had become a human-sized Miranda ashtray, so to speak, in less than a second. And this was fucking funny. But then Enrique realized that he couldn’t move. The ash had seeped into his skin, casting a gooey mold and pinning him to his seat.

Enrique stopped laughing.

“Guys, what the hell’s going on?”

Two small globular claws punched their way out of Miranda’s brain. The claws begin to snap at Enrique, clacking in a staccato pattern that Enrique recognized from some mariachi techno shit he’d heard that day on some MySpace page. Some band called The Frat Boys Heading to Manhattan. Shitty name, shitty concept, but good music. And now the good music was biting right back.

The brain leaped forward and the claws tore at Enrique’s throat. Great geysers of red exploded from his torn neck. Enrique couldn’t laugh. And he certainly couldn’t scream. The Miranda brain monster had clawed out his larynx and was snapping further. There was only the sound of hollow gargling. A broken pipe experiencing an unexpected brush with the air.

As Miranda’s brain supped on Enrique’s blood, it seemed to obtain more energy. And the claws began moving faster. Snapping quicker. Suddenly, two eyes burst out of the brain. Harold knew those eyes well. They were Dawn’s.

Harold’s brain split across his corpus callosum. The left part coolly told him to get the fuck off the bus, because everyone who stayed on it either turned into gray brain ash or got killed by it. The right part got more to the point: RUN!

He listened to the right part of his brain and sprinted down the center. The Miranda-Dawn monster was gaining on him, flinging blood towards Harold that he had to duck to avoid. He reached the front, keeping his eyes well away from what remained of the other humans and looked for the door.

And then he could not move. Almost against his will, he turned away from the door and faced the Miranda-Dawn monster. When it spoke, the voice was terrible and emitted a smell not unlike human decomposition. It filled Harold’s nostrils and the gag reflex was overwhelming.

But he found a way to swagger because because hey, he was Harold Motherfucking Chase and no one, not even a monster, was going to mess with him. “You might think you’re a badass monster but you’re really nothing but a double-ho-bag of pussy stench,” he gritted out, each word more difficult to speak than the last one.

The monster laughed and the resulting sound was like feedback from a microphone, the whiny pitch growing louder and more intense until Harold thought his eardrums would burst.

He wanted to turn, reach the door, but his feet would not obey. Then his legs. Then his torso. He looked down and it wasn’t that they couldn’t move. They had transformed. He was becoming grey ash from the tips of his toes until his midsection, his chest, up and up. He had a dim memory of a strange-voiced man singing about being eaten by a boa constrictor until ‘oh heck, it’s up to my neck. Oh dread, it’s up to my head.’

The monster laughed again, and Harold’s eardrums succumbed. As they shattered, he let loose a matching sound of agony and torture that he could not hear. Neither could anyone else. Except the monster.

And when it did, and Harold was nothing more than a puff of grey matter, it grinned.

Responding to Orwell: August 22

George: Crazy day, quite sunny, with no showers. So much on the plate that a synapse malfunctioned. Was forced to grovel on the phone to a sadistic friend. Mood starting to ripen. No slugs to speak of here, but plenty of rats. Saw one, measuring about 6″ long, scurrying in the East Village without any remarks from those it passed. Boarded ancient warship the other day and was amazed by four-deck structure, cargo organization belowdecks, and pulley and hatches system used to hold and distribute rations. Would not have wanted to be a sailor for the hardtack alone, which I was informed was often consumed with maggots embedded into the flavorless matzo-like affair. Suspect the maggots were less interesting (and less tasty) than your stag-beetles. Have never personally supped upon insects, but have you, George?

Come On, It’s Friday

In the past twenty-four hours:

  • I learned that someone I knew had committed suicide.
  • A toilet exploded in my face.
  • I spent fifteen minutes, desperate for caffeine, behind a man who unloaded Canadian change at a cafe and had to be informed that he was actually in the United States. He responded by spending another seven minutes going through his American change, trying to figure out the difference between a nickel and a dime. This was just after I received the phone call that someone I knew had committed suicide.
  • I sat on a three-hour bus ride with a bunch of obnoxious frat boys. It took a deranged 2,000 word story written on a laptop, involving brain creatures, dismemberment, ash entities, and other horror elements, to stay sane throughout this regrettable trip.
  • I witnessed a blind woman hold a crowded bus hostage by misquoting the American with Disabilities Act and demanding that the bus depart dramaticaly from its route. She was so terrible that even her friend was apologizing for her. The driver of this bus, however, was utterly professional. One of the best I’ve seen. But this kind of thing wouldn’t be tolerated in New York.
  • I had a Strawberry Julius. This wasn’t so much traumatic, as it was strange.

I should point out that the past 24 hours were not all bad. But because of these strange circumstances, and the fact that I’m conducting an interview tomorrow morning, I hope you’ll allow me a fourteen hour reprieve or so before I post new material. Much of the above is funny in hindsight, and I will probably laugh myself to sleep. But I’m knackered from all of these ontological developments. Which is not to suggest that I’m a noble man. I do have a considerable amount of stamina, but sometimes too many odd things happen at once. Some gentleness is in order, but I’ll be back sometime soon.

Ohmigod! City Lights!

Like Mr. Orthofer, I’m both delighted and appalled to see City Lights get the profile treatment. There isn’t time right now to investigate whether Times contributor Megan Walsh has a troublesome history of inserting these corny, oh-so-obvious “comic” observations in her work. But I can assure her that City Lights, while jutting in a diagonal manner along the edge of Columbus, is far from “a cake slice of a bookshop.” This concern for the store’s physical appearance overshadows its more important attribute. City Lights maintains a great poetry selection and also keeps such authors as Eric Kraft, Kathy Acker, Gilbert Sorrentino, and Stanley Elkin circulating in the stacks. And aside from the fact that Mr. Ferlinghetti himself is not what one might call an etiolated individual, countercultures, last I heard, have not faded away. They’re still around if you look a little. Unless, of course, your tastes and perceptive faculties are safer than a reverend who is overly concerned about his stature in a small town.

Quick Thoughts on Baltimore

I’m only flitting through, but there are at least four things I have observed about Baltimore: (a) microsized crosswalk signals, no bigger than two cubic feet, suggesting where all pedestrians stand in the transportation food chain, (b) a considerable offering of peanut shops, roughly one every two blocks, which makes me desire to venture further south, (c) a town understandably in debt to George Washington, with monuments in nearly every part of the city ignored by the locals, and (d) a town in which everything closes up at around 6:00 PM.

I’m sorry that I’m not going to have the time to see what now stands in place of the imposing edifice that once housed the Federalist newspaper, or whether there is indeed any monument specifying that this July 27, 1812 riot, which has long fascinated me, was one of the first major post-Revolutionary War acts of violence against the First Amendment.

I’m hoping to come back here again and observe more. One simply cannot take on any metropolitan area within 24 hours, although this hasn’t stopped people who are smarter than me from unfurling impetuous generalizations about this city, home to John Waters and where John Barth once taught. I could dwell upon the many Johns of Baltimore, but I’ll save such a pleasure for another febrile curio (or a valentine?). This city’s variegated makeup reminds me to some degree of San Francisco, in that you can walk three blocks and be in a completely different neighborhood. But the meshing here is more anarchic, making me wonder how effective Baltimore’s zoning forces are. Most residents, from my initial observations, stick to their own territories. Even Berlin is better at cross-cultural fusion.

Within an hour of setting down here, I ventured northward into one downtown area. A gentleman, suspicious of my skin color, insisted that I was “walking the wrong way.” Presumably, he was annoyed by the influx of Caucasians jutting their way to Camden Yards for the Orioles-Red Sox game. It has not occurred to me to apologize on their behalf, although I certainly tried to effect some brotherly amends. I am sorry to say that I did not make this man smile. But I disregarded his warning and ended up chatting with less prejudicial souls in front of a Payless ShoeSource.

Baltimore resists gentrification in certain areas, while embracing it without apology along the divide of Charles Street. Well-heeled dog walkers jut forth their chins with a cartoonish indicator that they are affluent, or certainly desire to be. But sad people sit alone in expensive restaurants. The phrase “Has everything been served to your liking?” replaces “Everything okay?” in restaurants both highbrow and lowbrow. Even those who approach you for change or a cigarette are kinder and more reasonable in their requests, clarifying that they are not, in fact, bums, or do not wish to be. (This was what one gaunt and tired man in his mid-forties told me at an early morning hour.) But despite these peculiar phrasings, people who work in hotels and restaurants offer helpful answers without bullshit, particularly when one treats them with courtesy.

Nevertheless, I was forced to confront one unthinking asshat who tried to back his car over my girlfriend’s toes. He very swiftly backed down and was terrified of my intense gaze. This was not so much an exercise in intimidation on my part (although I was certainly sticking up for my girlfriend, as I am wont to do), as it was a thought experiment on Baltimore masculinity. Masculinity is here in spurts, but has a delayed impulse. Men are happy to expand their chests like peacocks, but they do so when the other man cannot see them. This was evident during another incident I observed in which an unthinking scooter rider nearly toppled over a pedestrian in his mad rush to skedaddle down the sidewalk. The aggrieved party spent a good ten minutes staring at the scooter man. Never mind that the scooter man had no idea what he had done, could not see the other man’s intense stare, and, for all any of us knew, had nearly clipped the toes off another pedestrian in his zeal to race as swiftly as possible.

Perhaps I draw an unfair generalization about Baltimore masculinity here because these two incidents, both involving men, the clipping of toes, and a masculine response, both occurred within an hour. A reverse law of averages, as it were.

Nevertheless, I do like what I have seen of Baltimore. It is certainly a town good enough to produce H.L. Mencken. Perhaps greater sages are gestating in the many brick houses as I write these words.

The Bat Segundo Show: Paul Auster

Paul Auster appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #231. Auster is most recently the author of Man in the Dark.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Opening himself up to explanation.

Author: Paul Auster

Subjects Discussed: Starting a novel from a title, the advance titles contained within The Book of Illusions, the working title of The Music of Chance, Mr. Blank, the relationship between Travels in the Scriptorium and Man in the Dark, shorter baroque novels vs. longer naturalistic novels, the use and non-use of quotation marks within speech, the writing history of The Brooklyn Follies, the political nature of ending novels, the 2000 presidential election, parallel worlds, the death of Uri Grossman, didactic novels, the comfort of books, the Auster eye-popping moment, the party scene in The Book of Illusions, violence, reminding the reader that he is in a novel, emotional states revealed through imaginary material, Vermont’s frequent appearance in Auster’s novel, Virginia Blaine as the shared element between Brill and Brick in Man in the Dark, magic, The Invention of Solitude, memorializing memory, Rose Hawthorne, website archives, Auster’s relationship with the Internet, having an email surrogate, Auster’s concern for specific dollar amounts in Man in the Dark and Oracle Night, Hand to Mouth, Auster’s reading habits, the 8-10 contemporary novelists Auster follows closely, being distracted, the intrusive nature of the telephone, diner moments in Auster’s most recent novels, perception and stock situations, summaries of books and films within Auster’s books, and intimate moments in great movies.


Correspondent: I wanted to ask you about something that I’ve long been interested in your books, and that is your concern for specific dollar amounts. Again, it plays up here in the Pulaski Diner, where everything is five dollars. And I also think about the scenario with M.R. Chang in Oracle Night, in which there’s the whole situation between the ten dollar notebook and the ten thousand dollar notebook.

Auster: Right.

Correspondent: And again it becomes completely, ridiculously violent. But there is something about the propinquity of the dollar amount that you keep coming back to in your work. What is it about money? And what is it about a specific figure like this?

Auster: It’s funny. I never, never thought about that. Wow. Well, listen, money’s important. Everyone cares about money. And when you don’t have money, money becomes the overriding obsession of your life. I wrote a whole book about that.

Correspondent: Yeah.

Auster: Hand to Mouth. And the only good thing about making money is that you don’t have to think about money. It’s the only value. Because if you don’t have it, you’re crushed. And for a long period in my life, I was crushed. And so maybe this is a reflection of those tough years. I don’t know. I don’t know.

Correspondent: Or maybe there is something absurd about a specific dollar amount or something. I mean, certainly, when I go to a store and I see that something is set at a particular dollar amount or it fluctuates, it becomes a rather ridiculous scenario. Because all you want to do is get that particular object.

Auster: Yes, yes, yes. But often in my books, people don’t have a lot of money in their pockets. So they have to budget themselves carefully.

Correspondent: Well, not always. You tend to have characters like, for example in The Brooklyn Follies, people who have a good windfall to fall back on and who also offer frequently to help pay for things, and their efforts are often rejected out of pride by your supporting characters. And so again, money is this interesting concern. But I’m wondering why you’ve held on to this notion. It’s now thirty years since the events depicted in Hand to Mouth. I mean, is this something you just haven’t forgotten about?

Auster: I guess I haven’t forgotten about it. (laughs)

Correspondent: Do you still pinch pennies to this day?

Auster: No, no, no. Not at all. No, I’m not a tightwad at all.

Correspondent: (laughs)

Auster: I’m generous. I give good tips. It’s just — the way I live my life, ironically enough, is: I don’t want anything. I’m not a consumer. I don’t crave objects. I don’t have a car. We don’t have a country house. We don’t have a boat. We don’t have anything that lots of people have. And I’m not interested. I barely can go shopping for clothes. I find it difficult to walk into stores. The whole thing bores me so much. I guess the only thing that I spend money on is cigars and food and alcohol. Those are the main expenses.

Correspondent: Not books?

Auster: No. Because our library in the house is so bursting, we have no more room. We have things on the floor. And books come into the house at the rate of — you see, three came today for example. I’m pointing to them on the table. So we’re just inundated with books.

Download BSS #231: Paul Auster (MP3)

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Roundup, Sleep When?

  • Since the sleeping schedule has gone all to hell, it seems as good a time as any to point to numerous things. (I forgot what happens when my mind remains active without a break for seventeen hours. Must remember to do stupid things so that I can sleep in the future.)
  • The Los Angeles Times checks in with Howard Junker and Zyzzyva, as Junker has just retired. There doesn’t appear to be a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon in Mr. Junker’s hand, but perhaps some unknown moment of spare time involving Photoshop and, well, let’s face it, PBR might remedy this. [UPDATE: To be clear on this, Junker is retiring at the end of next year.]
  • Dan Green offers many thoughts on Steven Millhauser.
  • And speaking of Millhauser, I’m wondering if there’s a specific name for that optical illusion in which two lower-case ells appear to converge into one when you’re looking at them in a small font. I’m convinced this is why I can never trust myself when I type “Philip Roth.” I always think there might be another ell, when there isn’t. Because if you stare long enough at two ells, they merge into one!
  • If Obama wishes to preach hope, I certainly hope he has a solution for this retail bloodletting. Chelsea Green has managed to anger Barnes & Noble and independent booksellers because it intends to distribute Robert Kuttner’s Obama’s Challenge at the Democratic National Convention. There’s just one problem. With the book comes coupons that can be redeemed at Amazon’s BookSurge, which is their POD offering. Independent booksellers revolted and canceled orders, feeling that Chelsea Green’s move was a slap in the face. Chelsea Green president Margo Baldwin responded, blaming this favoritism on the importance of the election season. (Gee, I wonder if I can tell my landlord that I can’t pay the rent next month because I believe that this year’s Mets season is particularly important. Think he’d be sympathetic?) Anyway, instead of offering an alternative that might assist these indie bookstores, Baldwin writes that Chelsea Green “could not have survived and thrived without the innovations that Amazon brought to the book marketplace.” Amazon may be important for a small press to survive, but the people who run indie bookstores are often passionate readers. It’s the people behind the counter who have some say in where your book is positioned. There’s little doubt in my mind that POD will become a retail reality at some point. But with so many POD options out there and the atmosphere uncertain, it seems to me extremely foolish to alienate the support you have operating in the present like this.
  • Am I the only person who really doesn’t give two shits about Michael Phelps? You know, world events, economy in the shitter, U.S. presidential election, Georgia, rising gas and food prices, et al.
  • Leave it to the EFF to nail down some of the Kindle’s problems. (via Booksquare)
  • Newspaper online traffic is jumping. It’s going online. Get on the wagon while you can.
  • Is Tom Shales out of line? You make the call.
  • Esquire fiction editor L. Rust Hills has died. Daniel Murphy is believed to be in some way responsible.
  • The reading tastes of the homeless.
  • George Orwell considers cement.
  • Wired interviews Neal Stephenson.