Bat-ten down the hatches, Mr. Segundo!

The latest two installments of The Bat Segundo Show, a literary podcast featuring interviews with today's contemporary writers, are now up. Our Young, Roving Correspondent was honored to talk with two fantastic writers: Francine Prose about the art of writing and Whitbread and (the first!) LBC winner Kate Atkinson about many things.

Mr. Segundo seems to be taking the holidays quite hard. There remains some dim hope that he will be invited to a ham dinner with his ex-wife, but he knows that he will be able to count upon some tequila and, if his throw of the I Ching works out, the kindness of strangers.

The main Segundo site can be found here:

Here are the details for the next two shows.

SHOW #84
Author: Francine Prose

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Introspective about Xmas realities.

Subjects Discussed: Reading like a writer vs. reading as an escapist, Car Talk, reading People as preparation for reading Chekhov, The Illustrated Elements of Style, diagramming sentences, making grammar fun, academia and the poststructuralist vogue, how theory influences writing, concise writing vs. prodigious writing, Infinite Jest, one-line paragraphs and David Markson, Raymond Carver, Ben Marcus and “experimental” writing, Only Revolutions, literary absolutes, Jackson Pollock, the “show don’t tell” rule, Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe, the Nabokov estate, working on a book too long, the “death” of book culture, puzzle novels, Pynchon, the 2006 National Book Award nominees, not finishing books, William Gaddis, James M. Cain’s Past All Dishonor, James Wood, naturalist dialogue reflecting a historical time, transcribing speech, chapters and blocks of text, pointless detail, and Nicholson Baker.


Prose: People keep telling me that all those vogues for structuralism and poststructuralism and deconstructionism are passing, which couldn’t make me happier. And you know I think that those things have had a very bad effect not only on reading, but on writing. I mean, that is because they encourage people to use jargon. They encourage students to use jargon. I mean, when I teach, one of the assignments that I give is to ask my students to find a passage of jargon — academic jargon, literary jargon, art history jargon — and then translate it back into English, and bring both passages into class. And often the jargon they come up with is theory jargon. Literary theory jargon. So nothing can make me happer than to hear that that’s on its way out.

SHOW #85
Author: Kate Atkinson

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Investigating turns of an altogether different sort.

Subjects Discussed: Narrative flow, the difficulty of writing the first 100 pages, perspective, good sentences, discovering the internal monologue, writing about inept men, narrative sadism, similarities between T.C. Boyle and Kate Atkinson, technological references in One Good Turn, “guys” to call on for research, Google vs. libraries, dialogue, the influence of reading while working on a novel, “romps,” British prejudices against genre, the word “jolly,” Case Histories vs. One Good Turn, empathy through the omniscient voice, being pigeonholed because of the Jackson Brodie books, Kate Atkinson’s other voices, the exuberant voice, maintaining a sense of fun, a sense of order, theme vs. plot, morality within One Good Turn, and the Honda Man.


Atkinson: You’re working all day on words. Do you really want to then do words the rest of the time? What I would like to do when I’m not, when I’m really engaged with a book, is to just look at a tree really. But it tends to take the form of looking at television. I just want to look at something that’s not words. Because that’s what you’re doing all day. I mean, I’m really glad I read most of world literature before the age of twenty-one. I would never have time for it now or have the inclination for it, I think. I did my reading when I had the space. And now I don’t have that kind of space.

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Thanks again for listening,

The Bat Segundo Crew


Anonymous said...

Bat Segundo is a very good thing, but Francine Prose? Her reputation mystifies me. Her prose is her problem: cliche'd, tedious, and self-regarding. Much like her non-fiction and opinionising. All she seems to do is namedrop really talented people like James Wood, Nicholson Baker, et al., and pander to prejudices about theory and grammatical correctness. (Yes, much theory is rubbish, especially that produced by young people in college, learning their trade. Most MFA classwork is dreadful, too.) And don't get me started on The Blue Angel. I know I'm being snarky, but the thing is, she's really judgemental and prescriptive and should be called on it - a writer who tells people how to write and read, and who, should really be able to produce exciting work herself. If her admonishments work, they should work for her, right?

Marti said...

"structuralism and poststructuralism and deconstructionism "

*snicker snark"

Anonymous said...

Okay, I may be in the minority, but I'm not a big fan of reading about the thought processes that go into an author's writing. The work speaks for itself. We're all just building something by playing chess against ourselves with the prettiest and cleanest words we can think of. The only time I really want to hear from an author is when we need a clarification as to his intent, and even then it's usually due to poor writing.

Am I being stupid? If someone has an opposing opinion, I'd like to hear it.

Our Young, Roving Correspondent said...

Actually, in all defense to Prose, I should point out that it was YOURS TRULY who brought up many of these names -- in part, because I had hoped to see how Prose's mind ticked.