The Virtual Memories Show

Cartoonist James Sturm checks in from Hartland, VT. We talk about how COVID-19 has affected learning at the Center for Cartoon Studies (he's the founder and director of that institution), his weekly digital Sabbath, recording video-dispatches with cartoonists about this experience, missing Tom Spurgeon and how he would have helped us cope with this, and more. • Follow James Instagram and follow CCS on Twitter and Instagram • Listen to our full-length podcast from 2019 • More info at our site • Find all our COVID Check-In episodes • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: COVID_Check-In_with_James_Sturm.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:43am EDT

Urban fantasy horror writer Richard Kadrey checks in from San Francisco. We talk about how self-isolation impacts his writing, the history of urban plagues, his stab at passing the time by learning to use Windows, Clive Barker as "comfort food" reading, why he doesn't binge on TV series, risking his life for his favorite bourbon, the difference between folk horror and rural horror, and more. • Follow Richard on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram • Listen to our most recent full-length podcast • More info at our site • Find all our COVID Check-In episodes • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: COVID_Check-In_with_Richard_Kadrey.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:31am EDT

Artist & writer Dmitry Samarov checks in from Chicago to talk about self-isolating in a packed-up apartment (he's supposed to move in a month). We talk about his paintings, the lack of social distancing in some neighborhoods he's seen, his current reading (Tropic of Cancer and Ben Katchor's The Dairy Restaurant), and more. • Follow Dmitry through his weekly e-mail • Listen to our most recent full-length podcast • More info at our site • Find all our COVID Check-In episodes • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: COVID_Check-In_with_Dmitry_Samarov.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:35am EDT

From St. Louis, my brother Boaz Roth checks in to talk about how his role as a teacher has changed in the COVID-19 era. We get into how this whole experience measures up with the time his house burned down and his family had to live in a rental for 9 months while they rebuilt, the books he's reading, and the optimal size for an online seminar. • Listen to our full-length podcast • More info at our site • Find all our COVID Check-In episodes • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Covid_Check-In_with_Boaz_Roth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:44am EDT

From Arlington, MA, essayist and AGNI co-editor Sven Birkerts checks in to let us know what books and poems provide him some degree of solace during the pandemic. We talk about what normal might look like in future and the way the recent past seems unreal, his daily challenge of taking an interesting photo for Instagram, the theme of ongoingness in literature, caring for his 92-year-old mom, and more. Follow Sven on Instagram and Twitter • Listen to our full-length podcast from 2017 • More info at our site • Find all our COVID Check-In episodes • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: COVID_Check-In_with_Sven_Birkerts.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:08am EDT

It's legendary science fiction author Samuel R. Delany's birthday! Chip checks in from Philadelphia, where he's found himself working on a new piece of fiction. We talk about comparisons with his AIDS-era experiences, his partner Dennis's willingness to share him with Rachel Maddow, his recent binge of Tiger King on Netflix and his disappointment in Da Vinci's Demons, his new website, samueldelany.com, the advantages of turning into his grandmother, his virtual birthday plans, and more. • Follow Chip on Facebook and on his new site • More info at our site • Listen to our full-length podcast from 2017 • Find all our COVID Check-In episodes • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: COVID_Check-In_with_Samuel_R._Delany.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:17pm EDT

Horror fiction editor Ellen Datlow checks in from the West Village of NYC. She talks about the low-grade anxiety of day-to-day life, getting by when USPS services drops to 1-2x/week, turning down an assignment to recommend pandemic-novels for quarantined readers, how her Fantastic Fiction reading series is going virtual, and more. • Follow Ellen on Twitter and sign up for the livestream of her next Fantastic Fiction session • Listen to our full-length podcast from • More info at our site • Find all our COVID Check-In episodes • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: COVID_Check-In_with_Ellen_Datlow.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:12am EDT

On March 30, Eva Hagberg got the news that she tested positive for COVID-19. We talked that evening about her condition, her previous life-threatening health issues (chronicled in her memoir How To Be Loved) and how they shape her response to this, the impact of self-isolation on sobriety (she's doing fine with that, but worries about others), and more. • Follow Eva on Twitter and Instagram • Listen to our full-length podcast from 2019 • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: COVID_Check-In_with_Eva_Hagberg.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:09am EDT

On Sunday, March 29, cartoonist Tom Tomorrow (a.k.a. Dan Perkins) checked in to let us know how he's getting by in New York City during the pandemic. We talk about schlocky movies, the current challenge of being political satirist but the benefit of being a science fiction fan, the further collapse of alt-weeklies (and the need to support This Modern World via subscription!), and the last thing he left his apartment for. • More info at our site • Follow Tom Tomorrow on Twitter and Instagram • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: COVID_Check-In_with_Tom_Tomorrow.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:58pm EDT

A few days ago, cartoonist Peter Kuper returned from Oaxaca, Mexico to the Upper West Side of New York City. He joins the show to talk about why he & his wife made the decision to come back at a time that New York's COVID-19 cases are blowing through the roof. We talk about the communal nature of life in Mexico, whether the situation here matches up with his decades of dystopian visions in World War III Illustrated, the good omen of raising monarch butterflies in his Oaxaca garden, the bad omen of giant scorpions in said garden, his unfortunate choice of reading material just before the pandemic started to spread, and more. (Our most recent podcast was at the end of 2019) • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: COVID_Check-In_with_Peter_Kuper.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:38pm EDT

Jim Ottaviani, award-winning & best-selling author of graphic novels about scientists (think Hawking, Feynman, Fossey, Turing), checks in from Ann Arbor, MI. We talk about how he's balancing his day job and comics writing with the compulsion to read the news and graph out infection rates. We also get into whether his science background has helped his perspective on the pandemic, how the university model might change when we're past this, and what new books he has coming (fingers crossed). You also get a story from me about the limits of risk mitigation plans. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: COVID_Check-In_with_Jim_Ottaviani.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:02pm EDT

In our first Covid-Check-In podcast, artist Kate Lacour (Vivisectionary, Fantagraphics) calls in from New Orleans while her kids are asleep. We talk about how she's coping — taking care of her kids & her garden, reading Cixin Liu, making diary comics, helping neighbors — and how she's planning to celebrate her birthday tonight. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: COVID_Check-In_with_Kate_Lacour.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:37pm EDT

It's the end of the world as we know it, and we feel fine! A few weeks before the COVID-19 lockdowns began, pop culture writer and REM maniac Whitney Matheson joined the show to talk about how she managed to blaze her own journalistic trail by writing about the music, movies, TV and books that she loved. We get into how pop culture writing and blogging have changed since she launched Pop Candy at USA Today in 1999, why she left NYC and why she had to come back, the importance of having great content on her Patreon, what it's like being defined by work in her early 20s, how a post about a KFC sandwich remains her most-read piece, and how she has to do triage to figure out what to keep up with. We also get into her upcoming kid's book about the Loch Ness monster, her most recent celebrity freakout, how she taught interviewing skills to students who are unused to talking on the phone, the importance of having a career plan (and trying to stick to it), and how parenthood introduced her to a different world of pop. Oh, and because she's all about lists, we find out her top three American rock bands (including REM, of course). • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_367_-_Whitney_Matheson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:25pm EDT

The phenomenal new book, Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian (SUP/Redwood Press), traces the history of an Armenian family from the mountainous woods of Anatolia to suburban NJ. Author Sato Moughalian joins the show to talk about her inspiration to write the life of her grandfather, ceramic tile artist David Ohannessian, the chronicle her family's exodus through the Armenian Genocide, and how she had to prepare herself to visit Turkey as part of her research. We get into the multi-generational process of coping with trauma, the horrors of the Armenian Genocide and its ongoing denial, how her grandfather wound up helping retile the Dome of the Rock (while bringing Ottoman tile art to Jerusalem), and the way oral storytelling can capture styles that differ from family to family. We also talk through he music background (Sato's an accomplished flutist), the creative community of NYC, her seven-year period of introspection and grief-work, and whether she's considering another book, now that she's got her first volume under her belt. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_366_-_Sato_Moughalian.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:34pm EDT

Your host Gil Roth talks about how COVID-19 is impacting his work, his life, and this podcast, in a special bonus episode of The Virtual Memories Show.

Direct download: Covid-19_Bonus_Mini-Episode.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:35pm EDT

The great cartoonist Ben Katchor rejoins the show to talk about his brand-new book, The Dairy Restaurant (Schocken), a 500-page illustrated history of, um, dairy restaurants! We get into what drew him to the milekhdike personality, the remnants of Eastern European Jewish culture that call to him, why this book had to be prose-with-pictures rather than comics, the decades of research and interviews he conducted, and why these restaurants came to represent the history of how Jews moved away from their parents' professions. We also discuss just what went wrong with the world, why his favorite books are old Chicago Yellow Pages directories, why just studying Jewish history can constitute a sort of Judaism, his fascination with interwar Warsaw, his plea for a controlled economy, and why The Dairy Restaurant had to begin in the Garden of Eden. • More info at our site (And check out our past conversations from 2013 and 2016!) • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_365_-_Ben_Katchor.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:11pm EDT

Writer, actress and adult performer & producer Stoya joins the show to talk about her upcoming NYC theater appearance in Dean Haspiel's new play, The War of Woo. We get into how she's grown as an actress, why porn is like sketch comedy, her joy in the surprises of live theater, publishing her first book, and the mental benefit of moving the decimal. We discuss her vision for her online erotic magazine, ZeroSpaces, the history of labor exploitation in adult entertainment, running a monthly Sex Lit book club, what she's learned as the sex & relationship advice columnist at Slate, her interest in higher education and the next stage of her career, the learning curve of identifying and interacting with different segments of her audience, the unexpected obstacles to intimacy with people outside the adult industry, and why reading a novel is her favorite escape. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_364_-_Stoya.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:11pm EDT

In a murder hotel in Jersey City, author Cassandra Khaw joins the show to talk about her bad luck with AirBNBs, the root of her fixation on body horror, and how she settled on a cannibal chef for one of her main characters so she could (imaginatively) explore the concept of turning 180 or so pounds of human being into a fine meal. We get into her Food of the Gods series and her other supernatural horror books, her fascination with the aftereffects of violence, the influence of Lovecraft on her work, and the time she embarrassed herself in front of Frances Hardinge. We also talk about her work in the video-game industry and how she entered it by following the convention circuit, what writing games has taught her about storytelling, diversity in the gaming community, and the unique way that games can bring people into other lives and other modes of seeing. Oh, and we get into how she settled on her mythological name! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_363_-_Cassandra_Khaw.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:51am EDT

With his new novel, The Grand Dark (Harper Voyager), Richard Kadrey takes an artistic leap from his renowned Sandman Slim supernatural noir books. We sit down in a murder hotel to talk about mixing robots and genetic engineering with Weimar Germany, getting inspired by Mel Gordon’s Voluptuous Panic, David Bowie’s Low, and the Brothers Quay’s Street of Crocodiles, the impact of the 2016 election on his writing, and how he's getting ready to end the Sandman Slim series. We also get into the gentrification of the east Village and the Bowery, the thin line between preservation and nostalgia, the moment his brain got warped by Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, our shared love of What We Do In The Shadows, the time he attended a screening of Cronenberg’s Crash with Kathy Acker, his LitReactor course on writing dark urban fantasy, the wonder of being edited by Ellen Datlow, the accretionary model of novel-writing, and why it's okay to build your fantastic world by just looking out the window. (Check out our 2018 conversation!) • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_362_-_Richard_Kadrey.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:39pm EDT

With his new memoir, Soviet Stamps, artist & writer Dmitry Samarov explores his experience of emigrating from the USSR as a child, finding his way through late-'70s and '80s America, and becoming an artist. We talk about the book's winding path to self-publication, how his story does and doesn't fit in to the history of Soviet Jewry, how he overcame the embarrassment of including his adolescent art in the book, his 4th grade autobiography and how it managed to predict much of his career, and the possible Dmitry-lives that could have resulted from decisions that were out of his hands. We also get into his notion that art requires disengagement, his gauge for the life and death of artworks, the value of the apprentice system over art school, why he's writing fiction for his next book, and which self-promotional event he hates more: the book reading or the gallery opening. (Oh, and check out our previous conversations: 2014, 2015, and 2018) • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_361_-_Dmitry_Samarov.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:18am EDT

The great publisher, editor, anthologizer, retailer and collector of crime fiction, Otto Penzler, joins the show to talk about his wonderful new book, Mysterious Obsession: Memoirs of a Compulsive Collector (Mysterious Bookshop), and his decision to auction off the world's greatest collection of crime fiction (think ~60,000 first editions). We get into his instant regret about that decision, how it inspired this memoir, and how he's getting by without all those books (especially because he designed his house to accommodate an even larger collection). We discuss the changes in his Mysterious Bookshop and his other Mysterious pursuits as the internet has warped book and retail culture, the camaraderie and friendships that he built over a lifetime of collecting, the mania that can strike during auctions, and the difference between collecting and reading. And we talk about how he learned to edit major writers for his anthologies (including a near-disaster with Joyce Carol Oates), the farthest he’s traveled to acquire a single book, the moment he realized he had a writing style and how that unlocked him as a writer, how he had to choose between Sherlock Holmes and the rest of crime fiction, the vagaries of fame and literary reputation as reflected in book collecting, and why he characterizes himself as a parasite in the mystery world (having done everything but writing a mystery novel of his own). • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_360_-_Otto_Penzler.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:05pm EDT

In a time where immigration is under attack, Joan Marans Dim and Antonio Masi demonstrate the history and importance of immigration in America with Lady Liberty: An Illustrated of America's Most Storied Woman (Fordham University Press). We get into what drew the writer and watercolor painter to the Statue of Liberty, how they came to their previous collaboration on the bridges of New York City, the need to put landmarks into their social, political and economic context, how Emma Lazarus’ New Colossus poem invested the statue with purpose, and how the meaning of liberty has changed in America over the centuries. We also talk about the engineering marvel of the Statue of Liberty, how it was transported from France and assembled in America, the secrets of the hard-hat tour of Ellis Island, and the ways the meaning of liberty has changed in America. But there's also room to talk about Joan and Antonio's differences of approach to a topic, how differently writers and painters approach a topic, how the large scale of Masi’s watercolors helps him engage with the work, the E.L. Doctorow piece that Joan turns to before starting any writing project, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_359_-_Joan_Marans_Dim__Antonio_Masi.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:15pm EDT

His wondrous new collection, Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones (NYRB), brings a dizzying array of Daniel Mendelsohn's critical-essayistic-memoir pieces together. We sat down to talk about the work of the critic and the drama that makes for a great critical piece, as well as the temptation to make a name by going after easy targets, his need to criscross genres and categories with personal writing and criticism, and why his negative review of Mad Men got him more pushback than anything else he's written. We get into his amazing 2017 memoir, An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic, its gorgeous structure and its insight into Homer and our present day, while we try to suss out why the great Greek translators have either produced a great Iliad or a great Odyssey, but not both (he's working on a new translation of The Odyssey). We also discuss the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the nature of contemporary mythmaking, my pet theory about the tragedy of Achilles in the Iliad, Emily Wilson's question about Odysseus' true homophrosyne, the role of erudition in criticism, how institutions like The New Yorker, New York Review of Books, Paris Review etc. handle succession, our love of the finale of The Americans, his one conversation with Philip Roth, and SO much more. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_358_-_Daniel_Mendelsohn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:51pm EDT

Legendary designer Walter Bernard joins the show to talk about Mag Men: Fifty Years of Making Magazines (Columbia University Press), the new book he co-authored with Milton Glaser. We get into the art and necessity of collaboration, the relationship he and Milton developed over half a century of work, the pros and cons of doing redesigns for globally established institutions, and the decline of print in the digital age. We get into his stellar run of redesigns for Time, Fortune, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, the one magazine Walter would have loved to redesign, his design pet peeves, how he learned to learn the culture of newsrooms, how he came into his own and could feel like a true partner to Milton, and plenty more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_357_-_Walter_Bernard.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:27pm EDT

With her new book That Was Awkward (Viking), cartoonist and humorist Emily Flake explores the world of awkward hugs. We get into how that book landed in her lap, why she hates drawing other people's jokes, and how she learned (and pushes the boundaries of) the New Yorker cartoonist's voice. We talk about the massive influence of Shary Flenniken’s Trots & Bonnie comics on her work, the question of “age-appropriate” reading and her 7-year-old kid, performing stand-up cartooning and hosting the Nightmares and Shitshow series (and getting Robyn Hitchcock to guest on that evening’s Nightmares!), how making 4-beat comic strips taught her to write humor, the guilt she felt the first time she saw someone with a tattoo of one of her gags, building up immunity to editorial rejection, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_356_-_Emily_Flake.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:49pm EDT

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