The other Bat man
Bat Segundo has been interviewing authors on his podcast since just about the beginning of podcast time. Segundo is the alter ego of Edward Champion, a litblogger who also writes book reviews, for this paper among others. Sadly, this week he announced that he's having trouble keeping the show going.
Shuttering the show would be a shame. Champion -- who took the character of Bat Segundo from the book "Ghostwritten" by David Mitchell -- gives equal time to highbrow literature and popular culture. The authors above are a representatively diverse sample: (clockwise from left) hostess/actress Amy Sedaris (in sprinkles), seminal DJ Grandmaster Flash, Whiting Award-winning Marianne Wiggins, professor/TV interviewer James Lipton, debut novelist Garth Risk Hallberg and Charles Baxter, a National book Award finalist who's considered a writers' writer. He's also talked to the prolific, intense William T. Vollman, bestselling chick-lit writer Jennifer Weiner and hundreds of other authors -- all archived on his site.
The interviews reveal that Champion is a passionate reader, one with both smarts and strong opinions. Sometimes he challenges writers, usually in good ways; occasionally he's annoyed them, as he reveals in this transcribed exchange with Oliver Sacks. His willingness to press a point -- even when this might alienate his subjects -- sets him apart as a contemporary interviewer. So do his elaborate, Bat Segundo introductions, which are produced with a mind-boggling creativity and variety.
As of this writing, it looks like Champion may have found a way to keep the Bat Segundo franchise going, possibly with a slimmer schedule. That's good news; the literary world would be darker without this caped crusader.
Garth Rish Hallberg photo by Timothy Briner; Charles Baxter photo by Keith E. Johnson