The Virtual Memories Show

With My Young Life (Simon & Schuster), Frederic Tuten had to get over his notion that memoir is a cheap shot in order to look back at the beginning of a career in writing, teaching, and art criticism in the New York of the 1940s, '50s, and '60s. We get into what started him on this book, how he's haunted by his childhood in the Bronx, his emphasis on quality over quantity in literary output (while coping with the cautionary example of his writing teacher, Leonard Ehrlich, who only published a single, well-acclaimed novel), his mentorship by artist and convicted murderer John Resko, the joys of cafe culture (and his favorite haunt, Cafe Mogador), and how he got two-timed by "the Elizabeth Taylor of the Bronx" with Jerome Charyn. We also lament today's celebration of the mundane, celebrate his friendships with Herge, Lichtenstein, Resnais and Queneau, and talk about the books he wants loaded in his casket when he dies, the great allure of Juan Rulfo's sole book, Pedro Paramo, why future pod-guest Iris Smyles' first novel is better than F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, how fact-checker Anne Stringfield corrected some virtual memories in My Young Life, how poverty shaped his later life, what he learned from sobriety, Gaugin and The Magic Mountain, and plenty more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_317_-_Frederic_Tuten.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:15am EDT

The Village People tell us that Key West is the key to happiness, but is it also the key to a literary legacy? Michael Carroll joins the show to talk about his new collection, Stella Maris: And Other Key West Stories (Turtle Point Press), and the role Key West has played in his life. We get into the pros and cons of being married to a literary titan (Edmund White, in this case) and how they're portrayed in each other's work, the value of short stories in the short attention span era (and his lament that young gay men don't read), growing up Southern Baptist and gay, whether his upbringing in Jacksonville means he is Florida Man (and whether Florida is The South or South-Ish), why he avoids hookup apps, the influence of Joy Williams on his writing and the sustenance he gets from Lana Del Rey, and how writing about gay sex helps him vent his political rage. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_316_-_Michael_Carroll.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:06pm EDT

With his new book, The Trouble With Men (Mad Creek Books), essayist David Shields applies the literary microscope to his own marriage and explores -- through a collage of perspectives -- the subtle psychological game of S/M it's grown into over the decades. David & I get into the challenge of writing about his marriage without destroying it, whether he finds it funny to be blurbed as "the most honest writer alive", his 'nothing but epiphanies' approach to the personal essay, the obsessive personae he adopts for his books and the influence of (two-time pod-guest) Phillip Lopate on his work. We also talk about the difference between vulnerability and weakness, the taboo about male submission, the limits of disclosure, the lessons of parenting, our mutual sports-fixation and our love for Ichiro, and plenty more! BONUS: My all-important advice about what not to do in your hotel room. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_315_-_David_Shields.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:02pm EDT

 

To celebrate the new 40th anniversary edition of MacDoodle St. (New York Review Comics), Mark Alan Stamaty joins the show for a conversation about that comic strip/graphic novel and what it meant for him and his career. We get into how it felt to draw a coda for this collection and how looking back at this work affects the two graphic novels he's working on. We also talk about the joy of drifting, what it means to be a New York flaneur after 50+ years in the big city, his lifelong lament over the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn, the Tom Robbins book that warped his brain and set him on the path to MacDoodle St., the meditative quality of Chinese scholar rocks, and the work he wished he did in his younger days, as well as what he would have pursued if he'd been more financially secure. Oh, yeah, and he also tells us about getting possessed by Elvis' spirit, his coping mechanisms for having a pair of gag cartoonists for parents, and the importance of composition for conveying energy to his readers. BONUS but not really: The intro is 15 minutes long, because I get into some weird epiphany-stuff; just skip to 15:00 for the start of the conversation. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_314_-_Mark_Alan_Stamaty.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:46pm EDT

On the eve of his fifth book, the wonderful Kaddish.com: A Novel (Knopf), Nathan Englander looks back on 20 years of publishing. We get into how he wrote this novel at a breakneck pace compared to his previous work, the great advice he got from Philip Roth (I'm not jealous), the chemistry of creativity, the importance of process, his need to push borders and examine boundaries, and making his bones on the sacred and the profane. Nathan also talks about the therapeutic aspects of teaching writing, being more appreciative of his yeshiva upbringing, treating books like religion, and getting into thrillers while working on his political novel Dinner at the Center of the Earth. We also discuss his foray into playwriting, how he knows when a story or book is done, and the challenges of being friends with other writers, among plenty of other topics. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_313_-_Nathan_Englander.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:20am EDT

What sort of person breaks into Auschwitz? An author -- and semi-reformed punk rocker, recovering academic and occasional criminal lawyer -- in search of answers. Bram Presser joins the show to talk about his award-winning debut novel The Book of Dirt, a memoir-fiction hybrid about his family's experience in the Shoah. We get into the myths of how his grandfather survived the concentration camps and what they meant for his family and his book, the years of detective work (and the lucky breaks) researching his grandparents' stories and records and the limits of knowing anyone else's life, the exceptionalist vibe of Czech Jews, the stories he was afraid to learn and the heroism that redeemed his great-grandmother and her family, and how Bram avoided Holocaust cliches while giving agency, dignity and social dynamics to the prisoners in the camps. We also get into Bram's anxiety about feedback from his mentor Dasa Drndic, the value of documentary fiction, the aspects of his other careers that supported his ability to write The Book of Dirt, that Auschwitz break-in, and why Talmudkommando would have been a better name for his Jewish punk band than Yidcore. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_312_-_Bram_Presser.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:13pm EDT

What if we treated our finite lives as a feature instead of a bug? How would we revalue our time and how could that shape our society? In his new book, This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom (Pantheon Books), Professor Martin Hagglund explores how life becomes enriched when we discard the eternal in favor of seeing the lives we live together as the highest good. We talk about how the notion of an afterlife devalues the life we live, the ways our implicit experiences are rendered explicit by philosophy and literature, and how a rethinking of the value of our time can lead to a revaluing of labor and a critique of capital (no, really!). We get into my favorite topic -- anxiety! -- as well as the inextricability of existential and economic questions, the invisible labor that makes our lives possible/comfortable, the conceptions of time and memory captured by Proust and Knausgaard, the all-important difference between valuing socially necessary labor time and socially available free time, and how the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. embodies a lot of Martin's arguments about finitude and a better world. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_311_-_Martin_Hagglund.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:55pm EDT

Cartoonist and educator James Sturm joins the show to talk about his new graphic novel, Off Season (Drawn & Quarterly), the story of a disintegrating marriage set against the backdrop of the 2016 election. We get into his artistic choices for this amazing book: using anthropomorphics, designing it in a 2-panel-per-page layout, and writing a story so convincing that friends thought his own marriage was falling apart (it wasn't). We also talk about James' experience of starting the Center for Cartoon Studies up in Vermont and what it taught him about cartooning, finding joy in the studio, exploring visions of America in his comics (or not; it's up for debate), treating the long VT winters as "cartooning season", his mega-sized graphic novel that will never see the light of day and the liberation of throwing a big project overboard, the comic shops we both frequented in our youth, the revelatory experience of reading Mark Alan Stamaty's comics, the Indian ledger books that comprise the first American graphic novels, and a lot more (including a Brink's heist). • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_310_-_James_Sturm.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:18pm EDT

Illustrator/artist Joe Ciardiello returns to the show to talk about his brand-new book, A Fistful of Drawings (Fantagraphics Underground). We go into the project's history, Joe's exploration of the Italian-American experience, and how it's reflected in Spaghetti Western cinema of Sergio Leone & his peers. We also talk about how Joe overcame his anxiety about writing to bring the book's narrative together, how Buffalo Bill and Old West culture infected Italy, his visit to the street set of The Godfather as a kid in Staten Island, the book of his musician drawings he hopes to make, keeping up with new westerns, the actors and figures he didn't have room for in A Fistful of Drawings (but maybe we'll see in For A Few Drawings More!), a survey of his drawing heroes and more recent inspirations, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_309_-_Joe_Ciardiello.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:16pm EDT

Before Saveur, before Top Chef Masters, before all the National Magazine and James Beard awards, James Oseland was a punk-rock kid called Jimmy Neurosis. James and I talk about his brand-new book, Jimmy Neurosis: A Memoir (Ecco Press), about his life as a gay teen in the late '70s. We get into how none of his previous artistic and literary pursuits prepared him for writing this book, the challenges of remove 50-something James' perspective from the teen narration, the difficult relationship with his mother at the core of the book (which begins with his dad bailing on them), and what it was like to find comfort in the burgeoning punk-music scene of San Francisco. We get into the toughest parts of the book to write about (we both get choked up at different points of that), his growing concern as a teen that (superabundant) sex wasn't the be-all and end-all, the diversity of the early punk scene and how it got overwhelmed by violent white guys, why he used ads and TV taglines as chapter titles for the book, the fate of his punk record collection, and the wonderful (but admittedly problematic) experience of living with a much older gay lover in NYC when he was 15/16. And I promise, we also talk about food writing and the new World Food book series he's working on! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_308_-_James_Oseland.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:54pm EDT

On the eve of his exhibition at the New-York Historical Society (Feb. 15 to May 5, 2019), legendary cartoonist Mort Gerberg reflects on more than five decades of cartooning and art. We talk about his new collection, Mort Gerberg On the Scene: A 50-Year Cartoon Chronicle (Fantagraphics Underground), and what he learned in the process of culling the selection of his work for the show. We get into the roots of his groundbreaking civil rights cartoons (and how he got away with making weed jokes in the Saturday Evening Post in 1965), his pioneering comics reportage, how his spontaneity and energy secretly come from laziness, the challenge of drawing people on NYC subways, his intense focus on the business side of cartooning (and how it might be tied into his late start as a cartoonist), how he tied vacations and even his honeymoon into work assignments, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_307_-_Mort_Gerberg.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:12am EDT

She got through brain surgery, heart surgery, and House-level chronic illness (oh, yeah, and addiction) and came out the other side with a brand-new memoir, but could Eva Hagberg Fisher make it through a podcast-session without catching a cold from her host? We tempt fate with a long conversation about How To Be Loved: A Memoir of Lifesaving Friendship (HMH), the unlikely friendship that saw her through this, the self-jinx of writing about her health, the perverse urge to see her tumor marker tests get worse because at least it would end the uncertainty of her diagnosis, and how pain taught her to balance sobriety with moralizing and martyrdom. We also get into the performative aspect of social media, her ongoing impulse to deception and secrecy and the act of performing vulnerability, the right and wrong way to process one's emotions, her anxiety in the wake of her recent essay on being in debt, her problems with The Artist's Way, her immense thanks that her editor cut 95 pages of relationship drama down to two paragraphs, and the stuff you really want to hear us talk about: her dissertation on the professionalization of architectural publicity via the letters of Eero Saarinen and Aline Bernstein Louchheim! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_306_-_Eva_Hagberg_Fisher.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:31pm EDT

Legendary photographer Deborah Feingold joins the show to talk about the inspiration for her new personal project: photographing illustrators (which is how we fell into each other's orbit)! We get into her approach to teaching 'Portraiture and the Art of Imitation' at ICP, the process of learning through imitation and absorbing influence, how she moved from 'professional girlfriend' to 'professional photographer' in the '70s while shooting pictures of jazz musicians. We also talk about how she made the transition to digital photography while hewing to her film-shooting techniques, how she boldly directs her subjects despite being an incredibly shy person, the unspoken pressure to ape Annie Leibowitz' style when she shot for Rolling Stone, her stories of shooting early Madonna and pre-presidency Obama, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_305_-_Deborah_Feingold.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:48pm EDT

Novelist, memoirist, essayist and queer literary icon Edmund White joins the show to talk about his new memoir, The Unpunished Vice (Bloomsbury USA)! We get into how his implied reader has changed identities over the years, the differences between writing memoir, autofiction and imaginative fiction, the boom and bust of the "gay fiction" bookstore category, the challenges of his massive biography of Genet and how he navigated about French attitudes toward gossip, and having the gay version of a shotgun wedding. We also get into his HIV diagnosis in 1985, outliving what he thought was a two-year death sentence, and being crazy enough to take on a long-term writing project in the midst of it. In between, we get to his status as a blurb-slut, what it's like for him to write on a computer for the first time, the pressure to write for a gay audience and how The Flaneur opened him up to a very different reader, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_304_-_Edmund_White.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:01pm EDT

Political artist/illustrator Peter Kuper rejoins the show to talk about these Kafkaesque times and his new graphic novel, Kafkaesque: 14 Stories (Norton)! We get into his decades-long interest in Kafka, the art of literary adaptation, why the constraints of working with an existing story can be liberating, how to talk about controversial artists in the present moment, the various translations of K he read before commissioning his own, and challenges of his adaptation-in-progress: Heart of Darkness. We also get into his post-2016-election mindset, the discovery of his New Yorker cartoonist line, his laborious process of breaking down a comic, what his dream adaptation project is, the time he got stranded in a village in Africa by an evil guide, and much more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_303_-_Peter_Kuper.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:34pm EDT

On the latest stop on his blog tour, author Jerome Charyn joins the show to talk about his new novel, The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King: A Novel of Teddy Roosevelt and His Times (Liveright Publishing). We get into the image that inspired the book, the challenges & rewards of historical fiction, and the quest to separate Teddy Roosevelt's myth from his story. Along the way, we get into ping pong, whether LeBron James should have gone somewhere besides LA, the magic of Allegra Kent & Balanchine, the loneliness of Van Gogh's garret, the joy of collaborating on graphic novels, and the miracle of Jerome becoming a writer. • More info at our site, where you can enter to win a free copy of Jerome's new book! • Check out the rest of the blog tour in support of The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King! • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_302_-_Jerome_Charyn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:49pm EDT

Recorded live at Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) in 2018, Kriota Willberg returns to the podcast to talk about the origins of her new book, Draw Stronger: Self-Care For Cartoonists & Visual Artists (Uncivilized Books). We get into her work in the Graphic Medicine field, learning to see beneath the skin, the graphic novel she's working on about Galen and the process of stitching people up, her best practices for festivals and conventions, the myth of the wandering uterus, and why cartoonists need to think (and train) like athletes! Plus: My New Year's Resolutions! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_301_-_Kriota_Willberg.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:39am EDT

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