P Segal, neé Roberta Pizzimenti, started reading mystery novels when she was 7, and has never stopped. Her obsession with the genre flagged only during grad school, and during the years of absorption with Proust. P Segal has led a fantastically varied life, but one thing has never changed: her fascination with the darkest sides of human motivation, and the cleverness of those who can unravel their secrets. Perhaps that’s why she became a therapist.
She got a degree in screen writing from UCLA, and after a brief tour of the Hollywood job market, she started freelancing as a journalist instead. She has done every sort of work that involves the written word, other than advertising, and entertains herself with the writing of novels. She is currently finishing a murder mystery set in San Francisco, where she was born and raised, and currently resides.
In the late 1980s, Segal fell in with The San Francisco Cacophony Society, a loose band of “free spirits dedicated to experiences beyond the pale.” Cacophonists came up with an extraordinary variety of things to do for fun. One Cacophony lark, called Zone Trip #4, was the first year of Burning Man at the Nevada Desert. The first three years of this annual adventure were organized in the mahogany back parlor of Segal’s crumbling Edwardian flat. Segal worked on the Burning Man project for ten years, and opened the Central Camp Café.
P Segal’s own Cacophony event was The Marcel Proust Support Group, which brought together discouraged readers to plow through Proust together, at the rate of ten pages a day for eleven months. Upon completion of the magnum opus, Segal was inspired to create the magazine Proust Said That, which became the first journal of the World Wide Web. For five years, it was the only thing about Proust online. The magazine addressed topics that Proust wrote about, and so it was a general interest publication; every article referenced Proust’s commentary on the subject, as well as her own, and the zany exploits of The Marcel Proust Support Group, like the annual Proust Wake. Utne Reader called it Segal’s “nascent autobiography.”
After years of supporting her varied entertaining obsessions as a caterer, Segal opened her first restaurant, Caffe Proust, specializing in Italian fare, with culinary nods to the Italophile Parisian namesake, such as steak frites and the obligatory madeleines. The restaurant interior was designed and executed by artists, including decoupage tables inlaid with quotes from Proust; it also had a menu magazine insert, literary events, live music ranging from jazz to string quartets, and after-hours activities like the Proust Wake. Although the restaurant was written about lovingly and internationally, it could not survive the economic devastation of 9/11. P Segal went back to reading mysteries, and eventually got a Master’s in psychology. Some day she may open another restaurant.
P Segal’s other occupations, sandwiched in among the reading time, included owning an art gallery, private investigation, fund raising, research, and editing graduate theses and dissertations. This site, a new labor of love, offers a running commentary on the mysteries recently read and loved, with the desire to pass along her pleasure to other fans of the genre.