The Virtual Memories Show (general)
"Being an artist and talking about being an artist is a lot about trying to suss out your audience: how much do they know about art, how much do they care, is a casual question, or are they deeply invested in the answer?"

How did Bean Gilsdorf go from studying linguistics to becoming an artist, critic and curator? While in NYC for the opening of her three-person show, Dead Ringer, Bean joined us to talk about making the decision to be an artist, building a career without mass-marketing her art, escaping the tautology of process, the value of getting an MFA, the most asked question at her arts column at the Daily Serving, the difference between the fictional and the imaginary, and more!

“I want to be the kind of artist who amuses myself. . . . I reserve the right to have the last laugh."

We also talk about her current work — including her Borgesian Exhibition That Might Exist (in Portland), and the Bean Gilsdorf Living History Museum (in San Francisco), which has transformed her apartment into the world’s smallest living history museum — as well as her process of understanding her audience(s), her discovery that sometimes the problem is you and not your materials, and how she reconciles all of her past selves and muses over her future ones.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_6_-_The_Realm_of_the_Possible.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT

"Comics is a medium that isn't going to go away. It may just now finally be coming into its own in the 21st century. In this internet era, there's something very special about what comics do, no matter how much they get warped and changed by technology."

Paul Gravett, British comics' The Man at the Crossroads, talks about his new book, Comics Art (Yale University Press), the new exhibition he's curating for the British Library, Comics Unmasked: Art & Anarchy in the UK, the history of comics and his history within it, and the way virtually every lifelong comics reader's home winds up resembling an episode of Hoarders. He's one of comics' finest ambassadors, and it was a pleasure to talk with him during my recent UK trip.

"I'm probably slightly insane for wanting to go on looking and searching and questioning and provoking myself, trying to find stuff that doesn't give me what I know already."
Direct download: Season_4_Episode_5_-_Feeling_Gravetts_Pull.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

Josh Alan Friedman, author of Black Cracker, is the third Friedman brother I've interviewed, as part of my "Capturing the (Other) Friedmans" series of podcasts. (I really gotta rename that.) Josh is an accomplished author and guitarist, and has plenty of stories of New York at its most sordid. We met up at a cafe in Times Square to talk about his old days writing for Al Goldstein's Screw magazine, why it took him more than 30 years to write Black Cracker, his "Lewis & Martin" theory about his estrangement from his brother Drew, his parents' successful divorce, and more!

Along the way, we also develop an idea for a high-concept movie, talk lewdly in front of some tourists, and figure out that therapy just gets in the way of making good art. If you've got a problem with any of that (especially the coarse language) then you should skip this episode.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_4_-_Crackers_and_Bagels.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:29pm EDT

Rachel Hadas, poet, essayist, translator and professor, discusses her recent memoir, Strange Relation, about losing her husband to early-onset dementia. She also talks about lessons learned from more than 30 years as a professor, how one should try to take up reading poetry later in life, and why the Furies may have looked the other way when Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_3_-_The_Consolation_of_Poetry.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:36pm EDT

Emily Raboteau, author of Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora (Atlantic Monthly Press), joins the Virtual Memories Show to show to talk about the many notions of “home" for black people. Along the way, we talk about the many notions of what constitutes a black person. As Ms. Raboteau discovered in the travels chronicled in her book — encompassing Israel, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Ghana and America’s deep south — there are a lot of ideas about who’s black and what blackness means.

"We reach for stories to be able to take risks."

We also talk about churchgoing in New York City, what it’s like to travel to Antarctica, why the story of Exodus is so pivotal in the black American experience, why Jewish book reviewers thought she was pulling a bait-and-switch, why she chose to explore her black roots instead of her white ones for this book, what motherhood means, and what it was like to give a talk about faith on behalf of Bobby McFerrin. Go listen!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_2_-_A_Place_To_Rest.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:20pm EDT

We kick off 2014 with a conversation with Brett Martin, author of Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad (The Penguin Press). We talk about TV's third golden age and the outsized personalities that helped drive it, the utter uncanniness of Tony Soprano (and James Gandolfini), how the TV showrunner became the auteur of our age, how Breaking Bad may have ended the notion of "Trojan horse" shows, why Battlestar Galactica didn't make the cut in his book, why it's so tough to end a novelistic TV show, and more!

"I seem to spend a lot of time being hectored by big ego'd men in my career. I anticipate a lot more of that."

It's an engaging conversation about the dominant narrative form of this century (at least in terms of ambition and scope), an exploration of the intersection of art and commerce, and a little bit of an inquiry into our age's rush to consensus and its attendant need to declare something The Best Ever. Brett's a terrific writer and has clearly thought long and hard about these topics.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_1_-_Changing_Channels.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:22pm EDT

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

Charles Blackstone
Tampa - Alissa Nutting

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

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

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

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

Craig Gidney
A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar

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

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

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

Maxim Jakubowski
The Art of Disappearing - Ivy Pochoda

Ian Kelley
Skagboys - Irvine Welsh

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

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

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

Zach Martin
Anna Karenina - Tolstoy

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

David Rothenberg
The Woman Who Lost Her Soul - Bob Shacochis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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