The Virtual Memories Show

It's the last episode of 2013! Let's ask two dozen of our pod-guests for the favorite books that they read in the last year! (Here's the cheat-sheet, if you don't wanna write them all down...)

Charles Blackstone
Tampa - Alissa Nutting

Lisa Borders
All This Talk of Love: A Novel - Christopher Castellani

Scott Edelman
The Man from Mars: Ray Palmer's Amazing Pulp Journey - Fred Nadis

Drew Friedman
Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster--the Creators of Superman - Brad Ricca

Kipp Friedman
Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West - Cormac McCarthy

Craig Gidney
A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar

Ed Hermance
Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations - Mary Beard

Nancy Hightower
The Waking Engine - David Edison
Sea Change - S.M. Wheeler

Jonathan Hyman
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York - Robert Caro

Maxim Jakubowski
The Art of Disappearing - Ivy Pochoda

Ian Kelley
Skagboys - Irvine Welsh

Roger Langridge
Double Barrel - Zander Cannon, Kevin Cannon and Tim Sievert

Phillip Lopate
My Face for the World to See - Alfred Hayes
Contempt - Alberto Moravia

Hooman Majd
After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story - Michael Hainey

Zach Martin
Anna Karenina - Tolstoy

Ron Rosenbaum
The Erotic Poems - Ovid (tr. Green)

David Rothenberg
The Woman Who Lost Her Soul - Bob Shacochis

Willard Spiegelman
All That Is - James Salter
Necessary Errors - Caleb Crain

Peter Trachtenberg
The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother's Milk - Edward St. Aubyn
At Last - Edward St. Aubyn

Wallis Wilde-Menozzi
God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine - Victoria Sweet

Matt Wuerker
River of Smoke - Amitav Ghosh
Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power - Robert Kaplan

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_32_-_The_Guest_List.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:38pm EDT

"With my brothers, it was like ‘Resistance is futile! You will enjoy horror movies! You will go to comic book conventions! You will learn to love B-movies and worship Tor Johnson and Plan 9 from Outer Space! Shemp Howard must be worshipped!"

Kipp Friedman is the latest member of a comedic dynasty (as per the subtitle of his new memoir, Barracuda in the Attic). The son of novelist, journalist, playwright and screenwriter Bruce Jay Friedman and brother of cartoonist Drew Friedman and writer/musician Josh Alan Friedman, Kipp has tossed his hat into the ring with a book filled with tales of New York City in the 1960’s and ‘70s, of pop culture education, of living with his divorced dad during his days writing "The Lonely Guy" columns, and more!

"My father was so prolific for so many years as a writer, people would wonder why he never seemed to be working. And yet his stuff kept on being published. I think making it seem effortless rubbed off on his kids. We agonize over everything."

While in NYC for a series of book readings, Kipp sat down to talk with me about Barracuda in the Attic, the joys of “growing up Friedman,” hunting for comics and Mad magazines with his brothers, what he misses about New York, what he’ll never forgive the Knicks for, how he ended up with a "real job," and what it felt like to add a volume to the bookshelf of works by his family. It’s a wonderful perspective on the most creative family any of us will likely ever see!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_31_-_The_Whimsical_Barracuda.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:17pm EDT

What does the search for a lost cat have to tell us about the nature of love and marriage? Peter Trachtenberg joins The Virtual Memories Show to try to answer that question and to talk about his work, including The Book of Calamities: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning and Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons! We discuss the tension between non-fiction and fiction, how to search for a lost cat, where the line is between the private and the public, how he stumbled into the lyric essay form, how the process of getting clean and sober influenced his writing, how marriages fall apart and how they (maybe) come back together, and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_30_-_On_Cats_and_Calamities.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:12pm EDT

Zach Martin recently retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after 16 years in the service. But 25 years ago, he and your host were hyperliterate misfit high-school pals, trading Thomas Pynchon, Thomas Disch and Robert Anton Wilson novels. So how did he end up commanding Marine Recon forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as Maj. Zachary D. Martin? Let's find out on The Virtual Memories Show!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_29_-_War_is_a_Self-Licking_Ice_Cream_Cone.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:55pm EDT

Lisa Borders joins the show to talk about her new novel, The Fifty-First State! It's a fine book about mismatched half-siblings brought together by calamity, set in an area of New Jersey overlooked by most everyone but its residents. Lisa and I have a fun conversation about her work and influences, how her science background informs her writing process (she's a part-time cytotechnologist), why form has to rise from story, how to teach novel-writing, why she stands by Jonathan Franzen’s novels, how a Michael Cunningham short story changed her life, and whether southern NJ should secede and become America's fifty-first state.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_28_-_You_Cant_Get_There_From_Here.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:52am EDT

Editor, writer, publisher and translator Maxim Jakubowski talks about his lifetime & career in erotica, how he feels about being The King of the Erotic Thriller, his strategies for maneuvering through Book Expo America, the silliness of genre labels, the perils of having a bad book habit (that’s "bad book-habit", not "bad-book habit"), how e-books have amplified Sturgeon's Law, how he managed to make a killing off the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon under a BDSM pseudonym, and MUCH more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_27_-_Sex_Crime_and_Other_Arbitrary_Genre_Labels.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:41pm EDT

Virginia Postrel joins us to talk about her new book, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion. We talk about the uses and abuses of glamour, the nerd fixation on space travel, the first known symbol of glamour, how Barack Obama's first election campaign was heaven-sent for Ms. Postrel's book, and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_26_-_Glamour_Profession.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:18pm EDT

Hooman Majd joins us to talk about his new book, The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran, documenting his family's year-long stay in Teheran in 2011. We also cover Iran's conflict of nationalism and religion, its nuclear issue, the possibility of becoming a modern state without liberal democracy, why Israel and Iran should be BFFs, whether there's a word in Farsi for 'sprezzatura', and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_25_-_The_Land_of_the_Big_Sulk.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:07pm EDT

Cartoonist Roger Langridge joins us to talk about his work on The Muppets, Doctor Who, and Popeye, finding his niche in all-ages comics, his upbringing in New Zealand, learning to write his own stories, why he won't work with Marvel or DC anymore, and the one character from one of those companies that he'd have loved to work on. It's a delightful conversation with one of the nicest guys in comics!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_24_-_The_Show_Must_Go_On.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:47am EDT

Author Charles Blackstone drops in to talk about his new novel Vintage Attraction! Along the way, we talk about his managing editor role at Bookslut, what it's like to be married to a Master Sommelier, how deconstruction resembles molecular gastronomy, and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_23_-_Wine_Women_and_Novel-Writing.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:50pm EDT

Peter Bagge, the comics legend behind Hate!, Neat Stuff, Apocalypse Nerd and Everybody is Stupid Except for Me, joins us to talk about his new book, Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story. We have a great conversation about why he chose to write about the founder of Planned Parenthood, how he made the shift from fiction to nonfiction comics, who his favorite "pre-feminist feminists" are, why he decided to stick with comic books over paperback books (and why he came around on the latter), what the strangest sketchbook request he ever received is, and how he feels about being a comics convention prostitute.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_22_-_The_Least_Insane_of_Cartoonists.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:23pm EDT

Drew Friedman, the Vermeer of the Borscht Belt, joins us at the 2nd Ave. Deli in NYC to talk about painting Old Jewish Comedians, being Howard Stern's favorite artist, spending his childhood watching TV and reading comic books, why he left New York, and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_21_-_The_Guy_Who_Drew_the_Liver_Spots.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:34pm EDT

Phillip Lopate joins us to talk about his career as America's pre-eminent personal essayist, his literary influences, his teaching methods, his two new collections, his favorite NY Met, and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_20_-_Slipping_the_Noose_of_the_Topical.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:56am EDT

“It’s not natural to forgive without some sense of evening the score. It’s intolerable to know that someone gets away with something, and there’s no sense of avenging the act.”

Thane Rosenbaum talks revenge in the second episode of our two-part 9/11 special! An author and law professor, Thane recently published Payback: The Case for Revenge (University of Chicago Press), an exploration of how the American judicial system has excluded vengeance from justice, to the detriment of the polity and the moral universe.

“I’m not advocating that people go seek revenge as self-help; I am advocating that the legal system has to do a better job to do it on our behalf.”

We discuss why the American legal system has a problem with emotion, how victims have been trivialized, what to do about suicide bombers, how western man split justice and revenge (and why it was a huge mistake), how Aeschylus’ Oresteia creates a perfect model for the justice system, how to make better lawyers (and better people), and how The Godfather demonstrates the rule of proportionality.

“Let’s stop pretending that we don’t believe in vengeance. Because if you believe in justice, you believe in vengeance. It’s a false distinction between them.”

Bonus: You get to hear about the time I had to decide whether to have someone killed!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_19_-_Great_Vengeance_and_Furious_Anger.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:38pm EDT

Jonathan Hyman is the first guest of our two-part 9/11 special! Jonathan began photographing 9/11 murals, tattoos and other memorials immediately after the attacks and continued the project for 10 years, amassing a collection of 20,000 photos, as well as field notes and interviews. (We first met when a mutual pal told him about my 9/11 tattoo.)

University of Texas Press recently published a collection of critical essays about Jonathan's work, The Landscapes of 9/11: A Photographer's Journey, and it includes some of his amazing photos (like the one above, as well as this guy), as well as some great commentary about memorial artwork in other cultures.

We had a fantastic conversation about his decade-long project, the notion of these mementos mori as American folk art, his own 9/11 experience, how he became a photographer, and his struggle to keep this work from defining him as a person.

Photo by Jonathan Hyman.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_18_-_American_Graffiti.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:54pm EDT

I take something that seems obscure, and it leads you to somewhere that is not where you expect.

--David Rothenberg

First, philosopher, musicologist, clarinetist and author David Rothenberg joins us to talk about his new book, Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise, and its accompanying CD. It's a fun conversation about rhythms and meta-rhythms, 17-year cicadas, David's lifetime of music, the joy of bringing different people's worlds together,  how aesthetic preference sorta trumps survival of the fittest. the development of bugstep, and the secret to finding a rewarding job teaching the humanities. (And, really, you should listen just to find out that secret.)

These points in your life, you often wonder what would have happened if you'd taken the other course. I could've gone into theology or some bloody thing. Instead I wound up in science and I'm atheist now.

--Clive Bennett

Then (around the 43:00 mark), we have a conversation with Clive Bennett, the CEO of Halo Pharma, a pharmaceutical contract manufacturing organization. I met Clive through my day job, and found him so delightfully literate, discursive and thoughtful that I asked him to record a segment on the podcast. Once I had him cornered, I asked him why he'd gone into the sciences, given his artistic, historical, musical and literary interests. (Really, I think it was just a condemnation of myself for not doing more with my time.) He decided to bring his Kindle along to break out what he's reading and why. It's two men talking about the choices we make and those that are made for us.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_17_-_Arts_and_Sciences_and_Bugs.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:46pm EDT

In Part 2 of our Readercon 2013 special, we talk with authors Theodora Goss, Valya Lupescu and Nancy Hightower about their new books, their writing careers, their literary influences, what Readercon means to them, and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_16_-_Readercon_-_Monsters_Memories_and_Mythmaking.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

It's time for a 2-part podcast! I went up to Readercon 24 in Burlington, MA in July and came back with a passel of conversations!

First, John Crowley, author of Little, Big, Aegypt, Engine Summer and other great novels and short stories, joined us talk about his work, his influences, the shifting nature of the literary marketplace, the allure of imaginary books, and more!

Then, fiction-writer, editor, wrestling biographer (?) and ukelele enthusiast Scott Edelman joins us to talk about zombies, literary genre ghettoes, his history at conventions, his time working at Marvel Comics in the '70s, and the virtues of workshopping fiction!

Next episode: Readercon conversations with Theodora Goss, Valya Dudycz Lupescu and Nancy Hightower!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_15_-_Readercon_-_Fairies_and_Zombies.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:36pm EDT

David Gates, author of JerniganPreston Falls, and The Wonders of the Invisible World, talks about his writing career, owning his niche (once accurately described as “smart but self-destructive white American middle-class men in crisis”), teaching fiction, leaving the east coast for Montana, building a country/rock band of writers and critics, how he feels about the end of Newsweek, and the anxiety that drove him into writing his first novel. It’s a fun, rambling conversation with one of my favorite living writers. Then, repeat guest Ann Rivera joins us to talk about her recent reads and how she escaped the postmodern condition!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_14_-_The_Wonders_of_the_Audible_World.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:58pm EDT

Season 3, Episode 13 - Mike and Ivan's Cartoon Cabaret

This time around on the Virtual Memories Show, we talk to a couple of great cartoonists! First up, Michael Kupperman, the cartoonist behind Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Snake & Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret, and Mark Twain's Autobiography: 1910-2010, talks about absurdism, cartooning as stress relief, how the UCB taught him to stop worrying and start performing his comics on stage, how he got the idea to mash up Quincy and Inception, and where the whole Mark Twain thing comes from. Conan O'Brien says he has "one of the best comedy brains on the planet."

"A lot of artists dismiss what they're working on because it's not what they want to be working on, or because it could be better. Whatever you've been doing, THAT'S your work. It's not the stuff you've been thinking about doing, or wanting to do, it's what you actually produced." -- Ivan Brunetti

Then Ivan Brunetti joins us to talk about his new book, Aesthetics: A Memoir, as well as how he began teaching cartooning, what he learned from trying to win the art job on Nancy, how he wound up becoming a cover artist for the New Yorker, and how he managed to drag himself out of the self-loathing misanthropy captured in his early Schizo comics!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_13_-_Mike_and_Ivans_Comics_Cabaret.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:59pm EDT

Eva Brann of St. John's College tells us about how the school and its Great Books program has (and hasn't) changed over the FIFTY-SEVEN YEARS she's been a tutor there. Then alum Ian Kelley talks about his experiences in the program and how they informed his decision to join the U.S. Navy.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_12_-_Highest_Learning.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:36pm EDT

Lori Carson joins us to talk about her debut novel, The Original 1982 (published by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins), as well as her time with the Golden Palominos and her solo singer-songwriter career.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_11_-_Little_Suicides_Little_Fish.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:54pm EDT

Poet, novelist, memoirist and all-around wonderful writer Wallis Wilde-Menozzi joins us on this episode of The Virtual Memories Show to talk about her two new books, The Other Side of the Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italy and Toscanelli's Ray: A Novel. It's a great conversation about the American experience in Italy over 40 years. Ms. Wilde-Menozzi possesses both a poet's sensibility for beautiful, lyrical language and a keen eye that carefully observes the character of Italy, its populace, and its art. I highly recommend The Other Side of the Tiber; it's a gorgeous, haunting book (I haven't read Toscanelli yet, so I can't vouch for it).

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_10_-_Eternity_is_Music_that_Plays.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:06pm EDT

Lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower joins us to talk about his work at the Oxford English Dictionary, the process of pitching The F-Word, how what we find offensive has changed over time, the ways words get into the language, the OED's transition to digital, the roots of "dropping an F-bomb", the value of kids' texting habits, and the importance of hosting dinner parties and wearing fine suits. Plus, you get to listen to me obsess over word choices and still embarrass myself!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_9_-_Putting_the_Pro_in_Profanity.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Cartoonist and MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Fellowship winner Ben Katchor joins us for the first live episode of The Virtual Memories Show (in conjunction with the New York Comics & Picture-stories Symposium)! Ben & host Gil Roth talk in front of 50 or so people about Ben's new collection, Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories (Pantheon), as well as what he learned from his work in other art forms (like musical theater), the malling of New York, how publishing lost its identity, how he teaches cartooning, the move to drawing by computer tablet, his one critical audience demographic, the joy of imperfections, how to pronounce "Knipl," whether he has an ideal era for New York, what happened to his History of the Dairy Restaurant book, how fear of shame keeps him productive, how Google can help when you need to draw a Russian prostitute, the Yiddish humor strips he read as a child, and the one book the Library of America should withdraw. (And more!)

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_8_-_Visible_Cities.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00pm EDT

Craig Gidney discusses his YA novella, Bereft, and Ed Hermance tells us about the history and significance of Giovanni's Room, the oldest operating queer bookstore in America.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_7_-_The_Importance_of_Being_Out.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:53pm EDT

Season 3, Episode 6 -Cartoon Character

Virtual Memories - season 3 episode 6 - Cartoon Character

"Political cartoonists have it easy: we turn on the TV or computer and Sarah Palin has said some inane thing . . . and the cartoons can write themselves. In the world of cartooning, we're the lazy bastards."

Matt Wuerker, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, joins The Virtual Memories Showto talk about his career (including his fascinating non-comics work and his prescient move to the online world with POLITICO), the experience of winning "the Academy Award for cartoonists", his artistic and political influences, what it takes to get on the NRA's Enemies List, the opportunities for editorial cartoonists in a post-print world, how his parents felt about his decision to become a cartoonist, whether he had it easier during the Bush/Cheney era or the Tea Party era, and why he thinks the golden age of cartooning is still ahead of us!

"One of the great cosmic quandaries for cartoonists is that what's bad for the world is great for cartooning."

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out our archives for more great talks!

Matt Wuerker on The Virtual Memories Show

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About our Guest

Matt Wuerker has been POLITICO's editorial cartoonist and illustrator since its launch in 2007. In 2012, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, POLITICO's first Pulitzer win. In 2009, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in editorial cartooning. Over the past 25 years, his work has appeared in publications ranging from The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times to Smithsonian and the Nation, among many others. Along the way, he's also pursued other artistic tangents that have included claymation, outdoor murals, teaching cartooning in prison (as a visitor, not as an inmate), book illustration and animating music videos. Matt thinks Saul Steinberg is a cartoon god and the Peter Principle explains pretty much everything, and he also thinks the maxim "If you're not confused, you're just not thinking clearly" is one of the wisest things ever said. Matt lives in Washington, D.C., in close proximity to the National Zoo and the Swiss Embassy. Depending how bad things get, he hopes to find asylum in one or the other.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nobody's Home by Ulrich Schnauss. The conversation was recorded at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C., on a pair of AT2020 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the other material on a Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Microphone into Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_6_-_Cartoon_Character.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:44pm EDT

Writer/critic Greg Gerke joins us to talk about his recent interview with William Gass, the literary legend behind Omensetter's Luck, The Tunnel, a wide range of essays, and the new novel Middle C.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_5_-_Sound_Before_Story.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:30pm EDT

Guest Fred Kaplan talks about the history of counterinsurgency and his new book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War, as well as how we managed to get out of Iraq, how Afghanistan's failure may have been preordained, how PowerPoint makes people dumb, and how he made a career out of war writing.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_4_-_Gods_Way_of_Teaching_Americans_Geography.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:03pm EDT

I talked with Miss Scorpio, party planner extraordinaire and mistress of Gemini and Scorpio, about 10 years of throwing fabulous themed costume parties, curating one of New York City's largest underground mailing lists of offbeat cultural events, how to build your own social network, and why you never want to do dinner and a movie for your internet first date.

Check it out at The Virtual Memories Show podcast!

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Direct download: Season_3_Episode_3_-_All_Tomorrows_Parties.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:44pm EDT

Willard Spiegelman talks about his wonderful book, Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness, his addiction to ballroom dancing, how to find joy in the day-to-day world, why he hates book clubs, what Dallas, TX is like for a secular Philadelphia Jew, how he turned me on to one of my favorite novels, who his Desert Island Poets are, how he writes about the visual arts, why the world's great novels are lost on the young, what it was like to attend his 50th high school reunion, and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_2_-_The_Magnificent_Seven.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:54am EDT

We kick off the new year by talking about the end of the world! Guest Ron Rosenbaum discusses his new book on nuclear war, the paradox of deterrence, the evolution of literary journalism, Nixon's final lie, and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_1_-_Disarm.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:46pm EDT