The Virtual Memories Show

A beautiful and subtle meditation on memory and his parents' marriage and divorce, Frank Santoro's 200-page graphic novel, Pittsburgh (New York Review Comics), is one of my favorite books of 2019. Frank & I get into about Pittsburgh's unique visual style, in which he eschews black lines and works directly with color markers, how he solved the problem of word-balloons intruding on a comic page's color harmony, and how the book's design and style mirror the reconstruction of memory. We talk about how the book originated with his dad totally opening up to one of Frank's friends about a story he never told Frank, how interviewing family members for the book brought him closer to them and to understanding them as people, and why I developed the belief that men are far less likely to know how their parents met than women are. We also discuss how his art-training influences his comics compositions, how working for painter Dorothea Rockburne taught him to see the page as music, why he prefers standalone projects to serial publishing, and plenty more. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_345_-_Frank_Santoro.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:22pm EDT

Transgression vs. transcendence: Elizabeth Hand's brand-new novel, Curious Toys (Mulholland Books), explores artistic and cultural taboos through the lens of a serial killer mystery set in the amusement parks of Progressive Era Chicago. We talk about her inspiration for making outsider artist/writer Henry Darger one of the lead characters of Curious Toys, how she first heard about Darger and the Vivian Girls mythology he created in his paintings and 15,000-page (!) novel, the striking similarities between Darger and Tolkien, the tragedy of outsider/visionary artists, and the challenge of casting a nonbinary character a century in the past (the novel's other lead, not Darger). We also get into why writers have no control over the success of their books, the differences between writing on spec vs. on contract, some hints about her next Cass Neary novel, the time she outdrew Deepak Chopra at a bookstore signing, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_344_-_Liz_Hand.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:35pm EDT

With her new book, Vivisectionary (Fantagraphics), artist Kate Lacour has created a work of repulsive beauty (or beautiful revulsion). We get into the theme of transformation in her work, her untraditional notion of comics, whether Vivisectionary should be considered "body horror", the concentric narratives that comprise the book, and how nothing can prepare you for the insect life in New Orleans. Along the way, we talk about treating God like an art director, the twin joys of generation and decay, the symbology of her art, the wonders of going to the Art Students League in NYC for life drawing classes, her followup questions to the Gil Roth AMA episode, the intensely mixed attraction/repulsion reaction people have to her work, what made her most uncomfortable about doing a five-day journal comic, why she's adapting the Song of Solomon for her next work, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_343_-_Kate_Lacour.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:06pm EDT

The great architecture writer Witold Rybczynski rejoins the show to talk about his wonderful new book, Charleston Fancy (Yale University Press). We get into how he discovered the stories and characters behind the Byzantine homes of a block of Charleston, the city's unique history and its role as a pioneer in historical zoning, the catastrophe that launched the book, and the value of local architects. We also talk about how computers have changed architecture and building, how an architecture student can graduate nowadays without actually making a set of architectural drawings, the loss of tradition and continuity in architecture, how moving into Philadelphia proper has changed his perspective on the city, why he disagrees with the modern notion that every age has to have its own architecture and what he'd like to see from the rebuilding of Notre-Dame, what he culled from his library before moving house, and what single building he'd like to not see anymore. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_342_-_Witold_Rybczynski.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:05am EDT

With the publication of part 1 of Rusty Brown (Pantheon), Chris Ware joins the show to talk about how he and his art changed over the 18 (on-and-off) years since he began the project. We talk about the nature of memory, the experience of time, and the purpose of empathy (or empathy as the purpose of human life). We get into art and its role in organizing consciousness, the give-and-take of self-doubt, his impact on comics and other cartoonists, the effect of parenthood on his work and life, his midwestern roots & the allure of The New Yorker, and books that changed his life (whether he read them or not). We also discuss that synthetic, sorta artificial style he's known for and what it permits him to do in his comics, the comic strip diary he keeps and why it can't be published, how cartooning compares to the origins of American architecture, the alchemical relationship between drawings and type size in his comics, why art schools should get back to teaching figure drawing, and plenty more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_341_-_Chris_Ware.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:41pm EDT

With Creation (Drawn & Quarterly), Sylvia Nickerson explores the decay and renewal of the Rust Belt city of Hamilton, Ontario, wonderfully tying the personal and political together in an extraordinarily graceful debut graphic novel. We get into her entré to comics, her dissatisfaction with traditional art education, the interplay of her academic and artistic careers, and the encounter that pulled her out of an artistic morass. We also talk about her experience with Hamilton, how becoming a mother changed her understanding of the city and its citizens, the differences between gentrification and development, how both she and Hamilton have changed in the decade-plus that she's lived there, the comics her dad drew for her mom when they were courting, and plenty more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_340_-_Sylvia_Nickerson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:33pm EDT

In his amazing new book, Tragedy, The Greeks, and Us (Pantheon), Simon Critchley explores how Ancient Greek tragedy captures the eternal crises and tensions of human life, and how philosophy went wrong in trying to tame it. We dive into how Critchley learned to appreciate the drama of the tragedies, how it led to his critique of Plato and Aristotle and much of what comes after them, and how we continue to wrestle with the central question of the tragedies: "What shall I do?" Along the way, we talk about the perils of moral monotheism, Wallace Stevens' philosophy-as-poetry, what it means to treat Plato's dialogues as drama, the role of women in Greek tragedy, the allure of the antiquity's lacunae, the difference between reading plays and being at the theater, why he thinks philosophy begins in disappointment, not wonder, and how he's dealing with recently losing his heavily marked-up copy of The Peregrine. We also explore his various obsessions, including medieval cathedrals, the possibility of change, 19th century America, soccer, and most importantly, David Bowie! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_339_-_Simon_Critchley.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:44am EDT

Author, fashionista, creative ambassador, and recovering window-dresser Simon Doonan takes us on a guided tour of gender non-conformity with his latest book, Drag: The Complete Story (Laurence King)! Simon & I talked through his personal history with drag, how drag has evolved over the millennia, how the current moment is pushing drag in new directions, and why male British comics were so comfortable performing in it (a long-standing question of mine). We also get into his love of craft and how dressing windows at Barneys was the perfect venue for him, the value of having a day job and not making art the center of one's life, how a kid who failed his 11+ wound up writing a shelfload of books, the joy of his crafting reality show, Making It, why he didn't get through the auditions for Queer Eye, the TV skill he had to learn, his love of history and his abhorrence at the idea of being anyone's role model, what sort of drag I'd be able to pull off, and plenty more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_338_-_Simon_Doonan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:09pm EDT

After a 20-year sojourn in the investment world, Amor Towles returned to his first love by writing the bestselling novels Rules of Civility and A Gentleman In Moscow. We get into how he managed that jump, the lessons he learned from his first failed novel, and the advantages of making a later start in publishing (and whether he could've written either of his books when he was young). We talk about his intense outlining and planning process for novels and how it allows for more creativity within the writing itself, his relief at showing his writing teacher (Peter Matthiessen) his books before it was too late, the symphonic model he applies to novels, his best practices for book tours (writing short stories and getting out and seeing the cities he was visiting), the perpetual nostalgia that is New York, his use of recurring characters in his fiction and whether it means he's creating a Towlesiverse, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_337_-_Amor_Towles.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:01pm EDT

Baby incubators and boardwalk sideshows: not exactly a natural fit nowadays, but once upon a time, the best way to save premature babies in America was to bring them to Dr. Couney's "INCUBATOR BABIES" attractions in Coney Island, Atlantic City and other midways. Dawn Raffel untangled his story and tells the stories of the children he saved in her wonderful book, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies (Blue Rider Press, out now in paperback). We get into the mysteries of Dr. Couney's past, Dawn's fascinations with Coney Island and with interwar America, the flaws in social care in the first half of 20th century America, the offline research that fueled the book, her relationship with some Couney's surviving babies (now in their 80s and 90s), the obstetrics field's resistance to Couney's work, the missing ledger that would have disclosed the fates of many of the babies Dr. Couney treated, and whether she would've brought a premature baby to Dr. Couney. We also get into Dawn's writing life, the outsized influence of her 13-year-old discovery of War & Peace, her predilection for short chapters, how Topsy the Elephant really died, and plenty more! (BONUS: I prattle on for a few minutes about my first half-marathon) • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_336_-_Dawn_Raffel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:14pm EDT

He's just here so he won't get fined: David Shields joined the show earlier this year to talk about his book-length essay, The Trouble With Men. Now he's back to talk about his new documentary, Marshawn Lynch: A History (on Amazon, iTunes and Vimeo). This time around, we get into the Awfulness of Greatness, whether human beings are capable of change, and the Deion Sanders interview with Marshawn that melted David's brain and started him on this documentary project. We talk about the racial aspects of black athletes dealing with a white-dominated media, how Lynch made noise by keeping silent in press conferences, the one section of the documentary that led a Seattle audience to boo him, the challenges in structuring the documentary chronologically and thematically, what Pete Carroll was thinking on That Play, the split between "my truth" and "the truth", the moment he got to meet Lynch after a screening of the movie in Oakland, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_335_-_David_Shields.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:42pm EDT

Occupy, telepathy, the surveillance state, and poetic treatment of reversion in 16th/17th century English poetry: Caleb Crain’s brand-new novel, Overthrow (Viking) has it all! Caleb & I talk about the image that evoked his new book, why this one is his “dark novel”, and how its writing was filled with a sense of inevitability (and maybe a little bit of prophecy). We get into the notion of self-surveillance and why he carries a dumb-phone (even though it almost led to his failure to show up for our podcast session), the way gay people have a theory of mind for straight people but not necessarily vice versa, the optimism of Occupy and the dreadful fate of Aaron Swartz, the difference between fiction and nonfiction editing, the importance of unscheduled nap-time, and the challenge of writing a novel about the weaponization of our relationships. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_334_-_Caleb_Crain.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:48pm EDT

Because of a last-minute guest cancellation, I had no show lined up for this week! Rather than take a second week off this summer, I decided it was time for another Gil Roth AMA episode, since the last one was almost 5 years ago. Thirty-two past and upcoming guests and Patreon supporters came through with questions for me, including (in the order I answered them): Ken Krimstein, Hugh Ryan, Barry Corbett, Joe Ciardiello, Glynnis Fawkes, Kyle Cassidy, Ian Kelley, Kate Lacour, Dean Haspiel, Eddy Portnoy, Kate Maruyama, Tom Spurgeon, Jonathan Hyman, David Leopold, Paine Proffitt, David Townsend, Boaz Roth, Chris Reynolds, Liniers, Caleb Crain, Bob Eckstein, Ersi Sotiropoulos, Andrea Tsurumi, Henry Wessells, Vanessa Sinclair, Jim Ottaviani, Maria Alexander, Mary Fleener, Stephen Nadler, Charles Blackstone, Lauren Weinstein, and David Shields. We cover everything from creative lessons learned to "why so many cartoonists?", from what books I re-read and why to who is on my Mount Rushmore list of dream guests, from the comics and GNs that have affected me most to what I think about the Peak TV era, from how running has affected my podcast-practices to who my most obstreperous guest has been, and plenty more! And it was all done in a single two-hour take, so give it a listen! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_333_-_Gil_Roth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:53am EDT

He wowed us last year with Tropic of Kansas, and now Christopher Brown is back to talk about his brand-new dystopian legal thriller, Rule of Capture (both from Harper Voyager)! We get into his grand jury stint a few years ago and how it brought home to him the inequality of the law and led to this new novel, why there are so few lawyers in science fiction (but so many in comic books), and the challenge of writing a novel about the law as opposed the facts of a legal case. Along the way, we get into his search for utopia and why he's eschewing dystopia with this next novel, the phenomenon of Texan billboard-lawyers (like his novel's protagonist, Donny Kimoe), his love of Njals saga, the Icelandic poem about a lawyer who's ridiculed by other vikings because he can't grow a beard, the little capitulations we make that lead to the domestication of evil, his unsung legal heroes, and what one should or shouldn't do if one finds oneself on a down escalator behind a certain Supreme Court Justice. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_332_-_Christopher_Brown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:49pm EDT

In a rollicking conversation at the Society of Illustrators 128 Bar & Bistro, Argentine comics star Liniers talks about making the jump from Buenos Aires to Vermont to teach at the Center for Cartoon Studies, the amazing US syndication launch of his comic strip Macanudo last year (and the origin of that strip in Argentina), the difference between drawing well and drawing funny, the mix of comic and comedic influences that melted his brain as a kid, the time he almost met Bill Watterson, and what it means to be a Latin American cartoonist. We also get into how he learned English from Mad Magazine, when he caught the live performance bug, why he eschews a regular set of characters in favor of a schizophrenic style of humor in Macanudo, how he felt the first time he saw a tattoo his work on a fan, why seeing his work pirated helped balance out his karma from downloading all those mp3s, and how his kids books help him press Pause on perfect moments from his children's lives. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_331_-_Liniers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:22pm EDT

He turned 90 a few weeks ago, but design legend Milton Glaser isn't slowing down. We got together to talk about moving to a new studio after nearly 55 years and what he plans on doing with the 250,000 posters in the cellar. We get into art vs. design, why he painted "Art Is Work" on the transom of his building, how he's working more actively and faster than he ever has, the first time he saw his work in public, how drawing makes us conscious of reality, the influence of Giorgio Morandi on his life, the joy of ~60 years of teaching, the decay of design into commodity and corporate metrics, and the overlooked role of Push Pin Studios in design history. Along the way, we also get into the worldwide phenomenon of his "I ♥ NY" design, what it's like to live in an age of collage, where we find things instead of making things, how the computer can compel users into doing what it's good at instead of what they're good at, his marriage advice after 60+ years with Shirley Glaser, and his story about designing Trump Vodka. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_330_-_Milton_Glaser.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:42pm EDT

Writer, teacher, and activist Kate Maruyama joins the show from Readercon 2019! We talk about her first novel, Harrowgate (47North), which managed to make new motherhood and domesticity even creepier than the ghost story that overlays it. We get into how her husband and kids reacted to that book (it's about a woman who dies in childbirth), and when she got around to reading the work of her late mother, Kit Reed. We also talk about how she spent 20 years in Los Angeles before stumbling across its literary scene, and how she's making up for lost time by promoting that diverse writing community. Along the way, we discuss the differences between screenwriting vs prose writing, how she teaches students to avoid using archetypes that demean an entire population (and why Baby Driver turns out to be a woke crime movie), the authors her parents hosted at Wesleyan University during her childhood and the embarrassing question she asked Ralph Ellison, the social justice mission of Antioch College, how she taught creative writing in South Central LA and what her students taught her, and why the fast-fail model of screenplay sales has a lot to recommend it. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_329_-_Kate_Maruyama.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:10pm EDT

Look! Up in the sky! Is it really more like a novel? Is it more like a 10-hour movie? No, it's TV! In her first book, I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution (Penguin Random House), critic Emily Nussbaum celebrates TV as TV, exploring the unique aspects of the form and helping TV viewers get over status anxiety. We talk about the satisfying/horrifying experience of culling her past reviews and profiles for the book, the audience-oriented nature of TV storytelling, whether it's important for a well-loved show to nail the finale, and the dual influences of The Sopranos and Buffy the Vampire Slayer on her work as a critic. We also get into her Peak TV moment, how technology has changed TV over the decades, the only time she predicted the upcoming season's TV hits (Lost and Desperate Housewives), her theory that most workplace shows are actually about TV writing rooms, the difference between weekly and binge-released shows, the perils of writing profiles of the people she's reviewed, and the challenge of being a funny writer who wants to make serious points. We also get into the question of how (whether?) to separate the artist from the art in the #metoo era, and how she deals with the fact that much of her sense of humor came from watching and reading Woody Allen throughout her youth. On the lighter side, she tells us her favorite songs from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and I reveal the '90s show that I binged on 200+ episodes of last year! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_328_-_Emily_Nussbaum.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:55pm EDT

It may be a fine line between comics and art, but Karl Stevens' fine line crosses effortlessly between them. Karl & I talk about how his realistic drawing style and watercolors treat comics as fine art, and how that visual style complements his naturalist stories, especially in his recent collection, The Winner (Retrofit Comics). We get into his gateway from superheroes to art-comics, his recent commission to make comics that accompanied a Botticcelli exhibition at the Gardener Museum in Boston, his work as a guard in that same museum, the challenge of drawing his wife, the challenge of getting paid as a freelancer, and whether he regrets his his teenaged decision to devote his life to comics. We also talk about his upcoming book of cat comics, drawing gags for the New Yorker, visiting the Words & Pictures Museum in '90s Northampton (a.k.a. Comics-Mecca), his road not taken with Dave Sim, how short strips and gag panels have made it tougher for him to write longer stories, and plenty more! BONUS: You get the origin story of my friendship with Tom Spurgeon AND my recent crisis of faith! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_327_-_Karl_Stevens.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:27pm EDT

With a career in illustration and art stretching back to 1960, Barbara Nessim has been a trailblazer in multiple ways (albeit unintentionally). We talk about the 2013 retrospective of her work at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the process of seeing her oeuvre distilled by a curator, as well as her own 7-year project of archiving her work, and the role and rules of her decades-long sketchbook practice. We get into her pioneering work in computer art and her involvement in SIGGRAPH, her career drive and her "1 for them, 6 for myself" philosophy, her decision to take up pottery at 80, her Random Access Memories exhibition and its one-of-a-kind art-generator, what it was like working with Harvey Kurtzman for Esquire and on fumetto, her 65-year love affair with salsa and how she taught a bunch of illustration and design legends to dance, and how she may be the most well-adjusted, thankful and gracious artist I've ever met. Bonus: you get my oddball story of meeting Gary Panter in the '90s. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_326_-_Barbara_Nessim.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:10pm EDT

With his new memoir, Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (a Memoir with Recipes), author Boris Fishman explores his family's Soviet Jewish legacy, his arc as a writer, and the glorious and varied meals that kept his family together from Minsk to Brighton Beach. We get into why creative nonfiction is his first passion (after publishing two novels), how he guaranteed his family's disapproval by writing about them throughout his career, how he couldn't leave Sovietness behind until he moved out of his parents' home at 24 (despite emigrating from the USSR at 9), what he'd do if he quit the writing game, and why the recipes were the toughest part of Savage Feast. We also talk smack about certain books and authors, compare Malamud to Roth and Bellow, discuss the first (very not Jewish/not Russian) writer Boris became friends with, and explore the use of fiction to imagine alternate lives for oneself. Along the way, we make a life-changing pact, decide whether an MFA is worth pursuing, share book tour best practices, and conclude that Soviet Jewish guilt is exponentially more severe than Jewish guilt. It's a whole lot of talk about books, food, and deracinated Jews! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_325_-_Boris_Fishman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:27pm EDT

Who can top the memoir of his mother's infidelity with the biography of a sideshow pinhead? Legendary cartoonist Bill Griffith, that's who! Bill rejoins the show to talk about his new graphic biography, Nobody's Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead (Abrams ComicArts), the empty nest syndrome that led him to dive into it right after finishing his first longform book, the challenges of separating fact from fiction in Schlitzie's life, and how a 1963 viewing of Tod Browning's movie Freaks changed Bill's life forever and led him to create Zippy The Pinhead. We also get into Bill avoidance of cheap sentiment in the process of humanizing Schlitzie, the familial support network of sideshow folk, the decision by circus-owners to present to Schlitzie on stage as female, and how to answer the crucial question of whether sideshow work was exploitative. Along the way, we also get into Bill's comics-making lessons, why Zippy is more about word-play (or word-jazz) than absurdity and non sequiturs, how that strip's long stories fed into Bill's book-length work, the biography of Nancy cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller he's working on next (and why he'd like to do fiction for his 4th book), the riddle of his middle-of-the-night Post-Its, his dad's very odd idea about keeping his son off skid row, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_324_-_Bill_Griffith.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:01pm EDT

Let's celebrate Pride Month with a conversation with Hugh Ryan, author of When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History! We talk about Brooklyn's untold queer history and how it reflects the story of Brooklyn itself, the challenge of relating 19th century views of sexuality's spectrum to a modern audience, and why his history began with Walt Whitman and ended a few years before Stonewall. We also get into the toughest part of his research, the best story that didn't make it into the book, the commercial challenge of pitching a popular queer history, the accidental scoops he made by being the first person to explore this history, and how he wrote such long hours he broke his wrist. Oh, yeah, and he cringes over Naomi Wolf's demolition and we share a laugh over his great story of the Coney Island impresario who threw a male beauty pageant in 1929 but had no idea what was in store. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_323_-_Hugh_Ryan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:32pm EDT

On the eve of its New York City debut, illustrator/designer/author Steven Guarnaccia joins the show to talk about his Fatherland exhibition! We get into how he made the leap from 2D to 3D, the moment he realized he was an illustrator and not an Artist, what it was like to come up in a golden age of magazine illustration, the balancing act of professional and personal projects, the strong influence of the Pop Art on his work, the anxiety of the first time he got a color illustration assignment (he's been around a long time), getting his first NYT assignment from Steven Heller, and why Seymour Chwast & Milton Glaser may be the Lennon & McCartney of their field. We also get into his love of letterforms, his ingenious idea for my next podcast/documentary series, the process of learning illustration on the job, how he taps his unconscious drawing to break out of creative ruts, the benefits of a two-artist household (he's married to Nora Krug), his lament for the American culture of specialization, becoming the accidental archivist for Rooster Ties, and our ongoing competition for best-dressed guy at Society of Illustrators events. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_322_-_Steven_Guarnaccia.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:30pm EDT

Back from her Fool's Journey in France, Nina Bunjevac returns to the show to celebrate her new book, Bezimena (Fantagraphics)! We talk about the graphic novel's unique and weird structure, Nina's abrupt decision to leave France and come back to Toronto after a year-long study of France's BD publishing industry, and her upcoming tarot project and her explorations into the history of occult mysticism and esoteric philosophy. Along the way, we also get into fixing the financial model for comics-makers, the value of big publishers, her growth as a writer, how Bezimena helped her address past episodes of sexual assault, her joy that Canada legalized weed while she was away, the story of her collaboration with Antonio Moresco, how to make an Alchemical Kitchen, and plenty more! BONUS: I explain how to tip the housekeeping staff at hotels! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_321_-_Nina_Bunjevac.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:54am EDT

After more than 20 years, Seth has completed Clyde Fans, his grand meditation on family, business, and art (Drawn & Quarterly), so let's celebrate with a double-episode! First, Seth & I talk at a live event hosted by the Strand Bookstore, where we get into how his approach to art and storytelling evolved over that 20-year span, the one element he hated keeping consistent throughout the process, why serializing most of the work helped with revision, and how comics have become a subset of his studio process. Then we follow up with a one-on-one conversation during Toronto Comic Arts Festival, discussing his next project, whether he likes organic projects like his Nothing Lasts memoir or more fully formed stories, whether he owns a pair of sweatpants, the realization that he wasn't writing about his father but about himself, the artist's responsibility at the signing table, his decision never to research the real Clyde Fans business, the maddening acceleration of contemporary culture, the one character of his he feels affection for, his dream of writing a play, and plenty more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_320_-_Seth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:39pm EDT

Her first crush was Nosferatu, she started reading Burroughs at 12, she's fused Roma and Santeria, and now Katelan Foisy joins the show to talk about making art, magic, and a personal mythology. We get into the course of her artistic career, the perils of a public persona, the experience of making art for Smashing Pumpkins and William Patrick Corgan (& the genesis of their friendship), understanding the tarot as storyboards, learning to paint mosaics to make the Sibyls Oraculum, the allure of old hotels, the duality of Al Capone, and why she traded the East River for Lake Michigan. Plus, the great advice she got from Molly Crabapple, forming a Third Mind with Vanessa Sinclair, her adherence to William Burroughs' twin beliefs that you can write your way out of any problem and that photographs can change the future, and how her art tries to capture the Romany notion of the Stopping Place. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_319_-_Katelan_Foisy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:38pm EDT

How does an artist make The Leap into greatness? In Ersi Sotiropoulos' wondrous new novel, What's Left of the Night (New Vessel Press, tr. Karen Emmerich), we explore three days in the mid-life of the poet CP Cavafy and how they may have helped him become the most distinguished Greek poet of the 20th century. Ersi & I talk about how an off-the-cuff discovery of Cavafy's 1897 trip to Paris led her to this novel over three decades, how she almost drowned in research before a poet browbeat her into writing the proemium of her novel, and how the book rebelled against itself until she had a dream of Cavafy that quelled the unrest. We also get into the universality of desire, her non-challenge of writing from the perspective of a gay man, the process of translation and Ersi's tendency to over-edit translators when it's a language she knows. Plus, she tells us why she considers me a pantophile (one who likes everything), and why she prefers hotels over being home in Greece, the Iliad over the Odyssey, and the daemon over the muses when it comes to the font of creativity. BONUS: You get to hear about the novel I never got around to writing, featuring Henry Miller and George Orwell! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_318_-_Ersi_Sotiropoulos.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:11pm EDT

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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