The Virtual Memories Show

Third time’s the charm! Cartoonist Pete Bagge returns to talk about his new comic biography of Rose Wilder Lane, Credo (Drawn & Quarterly), and we get into the thematic ties of his three biographies — Lane, Margaret Sanger, and Zora Neale Hurston — and how he learned the biographer's art over the course of those works. We talk about how he discovered Rose Wilder Lane's walk-the-walk libertarianism, her transition in and out of socialism, the likelihood that she co-wrote her mother’s Little House series of books, Pete’s own history with libertarianism and the uncomfortable questions he’d ask his parents, and why his own biography would be a lot less interesting than those of his subjects. We also discuss his writing and drawing process and how he structured these books, why he’d prefer to produce comics in installments and how economics mitigate against that model, how trying to write for TV made his comics writing more concise, and why he’s likely sticking to shorter biography comics for a while. Oh, and we talk about his ’80s/’90s editorship of the anthology Weirdo, how he followed R. Crumb, and the artists he pissed off as well as the ones to whom he gave their first shot, and the memoir he’s written but has yet to draw. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_349_-_Peter_Bagge.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:14pm EST

The Nazi swastika is a symbol of evil, but what about the pre-Nazi version of that symbol? With the publication of The Swastika and Symbols of Hate: Extremist Iconography Today (Allworth Press), Steven Heller returns to a topic he's spent decades on: the power of graphic design and its abuses by Nazis and other totalitarian movements. He rejoins the show to talk about whether the swastika is redeemable to its original purpose as a Sanskrit Buddhist symbol, why it's uniquely toxic in comparison to other national and religious symbols like the USSR's hammer & sickle, and Steven's biggest surprise when he began researching the swastika's history. We get into how he teaches students about the ramifications of swastika-derived designs, how most Nazi, nationalist and white supremacist groups are variants of the Cross, his sadness about having to revise and reissue this book for our current era (but happiness about giving it a tighter, more effective layout), the ramifications of free speech vs. hate speech, and whether it's okay to punch out a Nazi. We also tackle my experiences visiting Germany, the coding of modern-day white supremacists, the impact of graphic design and illustration on Resistance, Antifa's unfortunate similarities to the SDS, and the question of whether he's obsessed with hate imagery. (We also get into non-swastika stuff, like how he's staying occupied while his Daily Heller blog is on hiatus, the role he played in giving a number of illustrators and cartoonists their first gigs, the memoir he's working on, and why he's not looking to be the subject of a documentary.) • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_348_-_Steven_Heller.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:01pm EST

Cartoonist Kevin Huizenga joins the show to talk about his new graphic novel, Glenn Ganges in The River At Night (Drawn & Quarterly)! We get into late-night reveries and using a character's sleepless night as a base camp for a 200-page book, the ways repetition leads to time travel, making an artistic breakthrough partway through his new work, his modular approach to storytelling and how it jibes with his midwestern comics style, and the risk of identifying too much with his stand-in, Glenn Ganges. We also talk about video-game sobriety, whether his favorite creators are spending too much time on Twitter, learning about indy comics before the internet, and our shared cyberpunk upbringing. And we do the math on how many books in our libraries we'll actually get around to reading! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_347_-_Kevin_Huizenga.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Live from CXC - Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, it's my Spotlight Session with Ho Che Anderson, cartoonist behind KING, Godhead (Fantagraphics) and plenty more! We get into the ups and downs of Ho's career, his transition from "frustrated cartoonist" to "somewhat dissatisfied cartoonist", his twin inspirations of Mister X and Black Kiss, and all the comic, writing and movie influences that went into his science fiction epic Godhead! We also talk about his being labeled an "openly black" cartoonist, how being Canadian gave him a different perspective on Martin Luther King when it came to tackling MLK's biography, why he prefers writing a story to drawing it, the importance of world building in both his fiction and non-fiction work, and why you should never meet your heroes (unless your hero is Howard Chaykin)! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_346_-_Ho_Che_Anderson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:35pm EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

 

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

Singer-songwriter-producer Gary Clark is my super-special guest for episode #300! We talk about his career, from his '80s band Danny Wilson (and their all-time great single Mary's Prayer) to his songwriting for the wonderful movie Sing Street (and the great single Drive It Like You Stole It). We get into the twists-and-turns of his life in music, his transition from performer to producer, how he learned to write in another singer's voice, the furious social media messages from strangers about the fact that he doesn't sing anymore, the coincidence & blessing of getting tapped by John Carney to write music for Sing Street, how writing for musicals differs from pop songs, the ways the Infinite Jukebox changes how (young) people discover music and how he stays current, the time he avoided meeting one of his musical heroes, how a Danny Wilson reunion got derailed by Nanny McPhee, and much more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_300_-_Gary_Clark.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:25pm EST

Comics scholar Bill Kartalopoulos joins the show to talk about editing the annual Best American Comics series. But first, nearly three dozen of the year's Virtual Memories Show guests tell us about the favorite books they read in 2018 and the books they hope to get to in 2019! Guests include Jerry Beck, Christopher Brown, Dave Calver, Roz Chast, Mark Dery, Michael Gerber, Cathy B Graham, Dean Haspiel, Steven Heller, Richard Kadrey, Paul Karasik, Ken Krimstein, Nora Krug, John Leland, Alberto Manguel, Hal Mayforth, Dave McKean, Mark Newgarden, Audrey Niffenegger, Jim Ottaviani, Robert Andrew Parker, Shachar Pinsker, Nathaniel Popkin, Chris Reynolds, Lance Richardson, JJ Sedelmaier, David Small, Willard Spiegelman, Levi Stahl, Lavie Tidhar, Mark Ulriksen, Irvin Ungar, and Henry Wessells! Check out their selections at our site! Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_299_-_The_Guest_List__Bill_Kartalopoulos.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:46am EST

In her new graphic memoir, All The Sad Songs (Retrofit Comics), Summer Pierre uses the mix-tapes of her 20s and 30s to tell us the story of her life, one wrong boyfriend, one cross-country drive, one Boston folk stage set at a time. We talk about the soundtracks to our lives, the memoir & comics influences that gave her permission to tackle her PTSD issues on the page, the discovery that she was making a 104-page comic instead of the 25-page one she set out to draw (or "getting used by the muse"), and how surprised she was that college students know what a mix-tape is. We also get into her artistic maturation out of the kamikaze-style of making comics, the Boston folk music scene she was in/around in her 20s, the somatic therapy that helped her deal with PTSD, the notion that mixes are self-portraits, and wanting to be her mother's biographer, but realizing she knew almost nothing about her mom's insane life. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_298_-_Summer_Pierre.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:37pm EST

 

Jews have a long tradition with coffee (I can attest!). In A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture (NYU Press), Professor Shachar Pinsker explores the intersection of modernistic Hebrew literature and coffee. We get into the story of Jewish migration through Europe and into America and Israel, why coffeehouses were the silk road of secular Jewish creativity, the golden age of feuilletons, the semitic roots of coffee culture, the way A Rich Brew is about big cities as much as it is about coffeehouses, the importance of thirdspace to bridge the social and the private, and how Shachar narrowed the book down to 6 representative cities. We also get into how his Yeshiva education helped his secular literary studies, his night-and-day visits to Warsaw, and just how we define "modern Jewish culture"! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_297_-_Shachar_Pinsker.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:04pm EST

Who starts a career at an age when most people are looking at retirement? Coming off a divorce and a three-decade hiatus from professional life, award-winning illustrator Cathy B. Graham is having a second bloom. We sat down to talk about painting, fashion illustration, and floral design, as captured in Second Bloom: Cathy Graham's Art of the Table (Vendome Press). We get into her artistic upbringing, her RISD education alongside Roz Chast & Dave Calver, the art of entertaining, her love of the Thorne Miniature Rooms and their influence on her life, her trepidation about returning to oil painting, the joy of Instagram, her New York and how she shifted from SoHo artist to Upper East Side culture maven. Most importantly, we talk about the regeneration and finding your new life. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_296_-_Cathy_B_Graham.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:38pm EST

How did Angela Himsel make the transformation from rural Indiana and apocalyptic, fundamentalist Christianity to the Upper West Side of Manhattan and observant Judaism? Her new memoir, A River Could Be A Tree (Fig Tree Books) chronicles that process, bringing to life a story of family and discovery. I talk with the award-winning columnist about how she came to Judaism from the Worldwide Church of God, when she met Jews for the first time, what Israel means to her, and what she considers the weirdest aspect of Judaism. We get into the difference between seeing the world as the emanation of God and seeing it as the Devil's playground, her conversion to Philip Roth-ism, the beautiful family secret she uncovered in the process of writing her book, the decision to include her terrible teenage poetry in the memoir, why God may need therapy, and the Rapture-based prank she and her siblings still pull on each other. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_295_-_Angela_Himsel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:05pm EST

For his first biography, Mark Dery picked a doozy of a subject: the great, creepy, droll, mysterious artist and writer Edward Gorey. We talk about Mark's brand-new book, Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey (Little, Brown), his one in-person encounter with Gorey, how Gorey's sexuality did and didn't inform his work, and the challenge of writing the biography of an artist whose work always invited the reader to fill in the gaps. We get into how Gotham Book Mart made a cottage industry out of Gorey, the long-range impact of Gorey on America's pop culture, the queerness of children's literature beginning in the '50s, the influence of Asian art and philosophy on Gorey's work, his devotion to ballet and Balanchine, why the epic catalog makes for a great biographical tool, and a lot more, like Mark's lifelong one-sided relationship with Patti Smith! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_294_-_Mark_Dery.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:41pm EST

 

The American Bystander magazine is a print-only humor magazine, and while that may seem like an anachronism in the internet era, editor Michael Gerber joins the show to talk about why it's the perfect vehicle for humor. I've been a fan of the Bystander since its (re-)inception in 2016, and it was a delight to talk with Michael about the magazine's history, his background as "the world's only expert on print humor magazines", the decision to crowdfund the magazine and how it beats the days when "paper bag money" was necessary to get a magazine on the newsstand. We get into how he keeps the rhythm of the magazine flowing between prose pieces, gag panels, strips and other pieces, as well as the contributors who passed away before he could get them into The American Bystander, the ones he's vowed to get, and the challenges of getting diverse voices in the magazine. We also discuss his vision for America, the politicization of history, the experience of reading National Lampoon when he was 4 years old, and finding his life's purpose in trying to start a cult. (Oh, and SUBSCRIBE TO THE BYSTANDER!) • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_293_-_Michael_Gerber.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:42pm EST

Legendary cartoonist Eddie Campbell joins the show to talk about his first (sorta) prose book, The Goat Getters: Jack Johnson, the Fight of the Century, and How a Bunch of Raucous Cartoonists Reinvented Comics! We get into this forgotten piece of comics history, the challenge of offensive ethnic stereotypes in old cartoons, cartoonists' blind spot toward sports, the other pieces of cartooning history he wants to chronicle, and the amazing, unsung career of Kate Carew. We also talk about the bookshelf of Eddie's comics work, what took him away from autobiography, the challenge of coloring From Hell (and succumbing to the temptation to redraw some of it), his new collaboration with his wife, Audrey Niffenegger, the lessons of age, the joy of telling shaggy-dog stories, and what it's like to be known as "Hayley Campbell's dad". • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_292_-_Eddie_Campbell.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:24am EST

With a Caldecott Award-winning career in writing and illustrating kids books already under his belt, David Small made a huge splash in the comics field with his 2009 memoir Stitches. Now he's back with the graphic novel Home After Dark (Liveright) and we got together at SPX to talk about how those careers mesh, how he got his start in illustration, how he approached his new book as fiction, and more. We get into his artistic, literary and cinematic influences, the struggles of studying representational art in the '60s and '70s, and the incredibly wrong geographic decision about a teaching gig that led him to the love of his life. We also discuss the elements of a good kids book and why so much of today's market turns him off, the moment in Paris when he got over his fear of making comics, the memory palace he reverse-engineered to start his memoir, and the evolution Home After Dark took over 12 drafts (!) to tell the story David knew he had to tell. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_291_-_David_Small.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:51pm EST

For the third installment in our ad hoc Germany/fascism triptych, Jason Lutes joins the show to talk about completing his 22-year opus, the 550-page graphic novel Berlin (Drawn & Quarterly)! We talk about the changes in his life, his art, and comics publishing over that course of this project, the ways Berlin evolved and changed over the years, Jason's struggle not to re-draw panels or pages or full issues for the collected edition, what he learned about human nature and fascism in the course of making Berlin, and the imaginative benefit of not having Google Image search when he started doing research for it. We also get into his storytelling and cinematic influences, the balance of formalism with fluid storytelling, what he's learned from teaching at the Center for Cartoon Studies, his epiphany at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum during CXC 2018, my inadvertent comparison of him to Britney Spears, and plenty more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_290_-_Jason_Lutes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:18pm EST

With the brand-new visual memoir Belonging (Scribner), writer/illustrator Nora Krug explores her family's history in World War II and her own struggles with her identity as a German expat in America. We get into the meaning of Heimat and why her questions arose when she was living outside of Germany, the challenges of telling the story without devaluing the Holocaust itself (thanks, Jewish beta-readers, incl. Nora's husband!), the pendulum swing of collective guilt, the failings of German's education system to address the war, and whether certain books should be banned (and what happened the time she tried reading Mein Kampf on the subway). We also get into the process of editing her life and her discoveries into a narrative without eliding the truth, how Belonging/Heimat has been received in Germany, writing it in English, and the detective work that went into making the book. Plus, we talk about her visual storytelling style, teaching art at Parsons, why she doesn't keep a sketchbook (but doesn't tell her students that), and the German stereotypes she does and doesn't live up to (she's getting better at small talk!). • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_289_-_Nora_Krug.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:30pm EST

With his new graphic biography The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth (Bloomsbury), Ken Krimstein combines his interests in comics, history and philosophy into a dream project. We talk about how he made the shift from "average NPR listener" to deep scholar of Hannah Arendt, teaching himself phenomenology in mid-life to balance story with philosophy, trying to understand the relationship between Arendt and Heidegger (and trying to understand Heidegger's philosophy and whether it fed into his Nazism), seeing through Arendt's eyes and taking solace from her philosophy, and how he got laughed at by other cartoonists when he told them he thought he could draw this 200+-page book in 6-8 weeks. We also get into Ken's history in comics and advertising, the alchemy of the New Yorker cartoon, how he learned about culture via Mad Magazine, his failed attempt to be Saul Bellow, the lesson that problem-finding is more important than problem-solving, the Chicago comics scene and the Evanston arts-mafia, what he misses about New York, and Saul Steinberg's central role in art and comics for the 20th century and beyond. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_288_-_Ken_Krimstein.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:29pm EST

In NYC for the Brooklyn Book Festival, author/artist Audrey Niffenegger joins the show to talk about her work and life. We get into her new collaboration, Bizarre Romance (Abrams), being Parent Trapped (maybe) by Hayley Campbell, her interest in taxidermy and what it does and doesn't signify, how she shifts from prose to comics and vice versa, the allure of Chicago, getting consent to convert people into characters, writing the sequel to her best-known work, The Time Traveler's Wife, how that book's success changed her approach to art, getting turned on to print-making as a teen by a book on Aubrey Beardsley, the books she's still hoping to get around to reading, how art school taught her to see, and plenty more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_287_-_Audrey_Niffenegger.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:14am EST

Electronic dance musician Moby joins the show to talk about what he learned from writing his memoirs and what he learned from reading bad ones. We get into the toughest/most embarrassing story he had to tell, the banality of turning 50, the benefits of public failure, the pros and cons of the infinite jukebox, his take on contemporary pop music, his decision to sell off most of his recording equipment and his records, the two things he would save if he had a house fire, his favorite Star Trek captain, and a lot more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_286_-_Moby.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:06pm EST

How did Glen David Gold get over his Stalinist attitude against memoir to write his amazing new book, I Will Be Complete (Knopf)? Listen in as we talk about his transformation from novelist (Carter Beats the Devil and Sunnyside) to the narrator of his own life! We get into his realization that not only was his upbringing not normal, it needed to be revised and refined into a story (in which his dad comes off as a benign putz, which is fine compared to his mom . . .). We also talk about how Vivian Gornick's The Story & The Situation fixed him up, coming to understand the narrator's voice by performing parts of the book at open-mic nights, his introduction to Marvel comics & the magic of Jack Kirby, how the UC Irvine fiction-writing program saved his career, his brilliant idea for a podcast (which I'm tempted to steal), his teenaged nerd-out moment with John Irving, the pros & cons of collaborating on comics and screenwriting vs. the solo work of novel-writing, the cultural history of LA, his 3-week work ethic, why he pushes Bourjaily's Now Playing At Canterbury on anyone who'll listen, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_285_-_Glen_David_Gold.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:49pm EST

On the eve of the publication of his 10th (!) Sandman Slim novel, Hollywood Dead, Richard Kadrey joins the show to talk about discovering himself as a series writer, converting the raw material of his religious upbringing into urban horror and fantasy, and his drive to understand the character of Lucifer and how evil has been portrayed in the western world. We also get into LA's transparent power-dynamics, the moment when he started receiving fan art and fanfic of his work, his recognition that he's a hard worker but a terrible employee, the ways his journalism training benefited his fiction writing, why the second Sandman Slim book was the hardest thing he ever wrote, his best practices for book tours, writing on drugs, keeping it together when he met JG Ballard, the importance of being unqualified for anything, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_284_-_Richard_Kadrey.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:12pm EST

At 91 years old, Robert Andrew Parker can't stop making art. We sat down in his studio to talk about his 7-decade career in painting, illustration and printmaking. We talk about how a childhood bout of TB led to his becoming an artist, how he studied under German refugees at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, the challenges of keeping his fine art career running parallel with his commercial illustration career all these decades, how he got hired as Kirk Douglas' hands in the Vincent Van Gogh biopic Lust for Life, his fascination with Kafka and the Metamorphosis, how he got started playing drums and how he felt about 4 of his 5 sons growing up to be drummers. We also talk about the worst part of his macular degeneration (hint: it involves books), why he prefers watercolors to oils, his favorite places when he traveled the world on magazine assignments, his profane correspondence with Thomas Berger (and a funny exchange with Nabokov), his astonishing "German Humor" series and why it had to be etched and not painted, how he nearly burned down a barn with nitric acid while prepping plates, why art agents and dealers need to be realists (but have a sense of humor), touring the Dardanelles with Edward Herrmann, and much more. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_283_-_Robert_Andrew_Parker.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:38pm EST

House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Row tells the story of two brothers who grew up above a trucker cafe in Wales and managed to achieve glamorous heights in London and New York. Author Lance Richardson joins the show to talk about telling a queer history in Nutters' clothing, the realization that he'd struck gold with Tommy and David Nutter's stories, his education in tailoring, Savile Row culture and the transformation on London in the '60s, the impact of AIDS and survivor's guilt, the professionalization of celebrity, and the joy of getting a bespoke jacket from Tommy's cutter. We also talk about Lance's upbringing in rural Australia, his culture shock about America's bureaucracy and healthcare system, the blessing and curse of being a generalist of a writer, scaling up his reporting skills for full-length non-fiction writing, his next project (a big bio of Peter Matthiessen), the time he accidentally stalked Julianne Moore, the question of whether The Paris Review was a crutch for George Plimpton, the reading list he had to build for himself as a youth, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_282_-_Lance_Richardson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:11pm EST

Indie animation legend Bill Plympton joins the show to talk about his first short (the Oscar-nominated Your Face), his latest feature (Revengeance), and everything in between! We talk about his indie ethos, the economics of animation and the benefits of Kickstarter, collaborating for the first time, launching the Trump Bites series of animated shorts and how they dovetail with his early career as a political cartoonist, his dream project (it involves Beatles music), his influence on generations of animators and artists, and how he discovered his hatching-sketchy style. Bill also gets into sticking with pencil and paper, falling in love with NYC 50 years ago and taking inspiration from it ever since, starting a family a little late and changing the work-life balance, giving career advice to young animators, and ripping off his idols. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_281_-_Bill_Plympton.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:09pm EST

UK comics legend David Lloyd joins the show to talk about his storied career, and how he made the shift from artist to publisher with the online comics anthology magazine Aces Weekly! We get into his roots as a cartoonist and noir storyteller, the co-creation of V for Vendetta with Alan Moore and what he thinks of the Guy Fawkes mask he designed for V being used by Occupy and Anonymous (and Trivia Revolution bar posters), his stint in advertising and what it taught him about storytelling, the youthful experience of having his mind melted by Ron Embleton's Wrath of the Gods comic, the processes he invented to draw his own graphic novel, Kickback, how he's kept an ideas notebook most of his life and finds gold in decades-old entries, dealing with Moore's tendency to overwrite and enforcing the boundaries between artist and writer, and what he's learned about marketing in the internet era with Aces Weekly. It's a career-spanning conversation, so give it a listen! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_280_-_David_Lloyd.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:44am EST

Illustrator-painter-cartoonist-musician Hal Mayforth joins the show to talk about making art out of the everyday. We get into his daily sketchbook practice (along with transcendental meditation), the shelf-life of illustrators' styles, the music he makes out of found vocals, and how he balances personal art alongside his professional work. We also talk about his explorations into AbEx and how he made the shift from illustration to fine art, how he built his portfolio by doctoring alt-weekly articles with his own illustrations, why playing in a band offsets the solitary aspects of making art, his Screaming Yellow Zonkers animation that never aired, whether living in New England (Burlington, VT especially) helped or hurt his illustration career, the inspiration of EO Wilson on his Biophilia paintings, teaching himself portraiture by working his way through an old World Book encyclopedia, his campaign to get May 4th declared a national holiday and why he feels upstaged by Star Wars fans, and why he chooses soul over technical perfection (and Lightnin' Hopkins over Steve Vai). • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_279_-_Hal_Mayforth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:03pm EST

After our pre-opening tour of the Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation museum, artist Dmitry Samarov and I repaired to a cafe where we recorded a noisy conversation while Dmitry sketched me. This ridiculously casual episode gets into artists and suicide, the process and revelations of assembling 20 years' worth of work for a mid-career retrospective (as well as his new exhibition of his CTA illustrations), the losing proposition of chasing stats, the launch of his own semisorta podcast, the fanciest dumb-phone around, becoming a journalist/reviewer, and how you gotta find the right tool for the job/art. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_278_-_Dmitry_Samarov.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:33pm EST

For a guy who calls himself a master of nothing, Nathaniel Popkin does an awfully good job for himself as a novelist, literary editor, critic, journalist, and urban historian. Nathaniel joins the show to talk about his new novel, Everything Is Borrowed (New Door Books), as well as the new literary anthology he co-edited, Who Will Speak for America? (Temple University Press). We get into the fertile subject and setting of Philadelphia, the goal of building a literary hub for his adopted city, the process of writing a novel about anarchists and architects (which I sorta characterize as the anti-Fountainhead), the necessity of self-delusion for artists, his background in urban planning and how it informs his writing, the challenges and rewards of seeking diversity in art, the importance of the Writers Resist movement, how becoming a writer was his way of being Jewish in the world, and why he eschewed MFA vs NYC in favor of PHL! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_277_-_Nathaniel_Popkin.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:44pm EST

His art has graced the cover of The New Yorker 60 times (!), and now award-winning artist/illustrator Mark Ulriksen joins The Virtual Memories Show! We talk about how he got his start in illustration at 37 (and compare mid-life crises) and how his previous career as an art director affected him, get intowhy he likes painting dogs more than people, and issue our judgement on Barry Bonds' MLB Hall of Fame chances. We also get into the ice-cream machine that changed his life, the good aspects of being typecast, the pros and cons of not going to art school, how he developed his "gracefully awkward" style, his love of sports (and the new gallery show of his sports-related work!), his artistic epiphany inspired by The Third Man (our mutual just-about-favorite movie), the graphic memoir he wants to make, why he loves drawing on an iPad, and how he's managed to work around his idiopathic obliterative perifoveal retinal vasculopathy (it's a bad eye disease). • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_276_-_Mark_Ulriksen.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:41pm EST

Artist & illustrator Dave Calver joins the show to talk about Limbo Lounge, his first graphic novel! We discuss the ups and downs of his 40+-year career in illustration, his gorgeously pop-surrealism-lowbrow vibe, life in a vintage trailer park, and how he manages to draw macabre without being gross. We also get into his '70s/'80s NYC experience (including witnessing collateral damage at a women's wrestling match at Club 57), his time at RISD with Roz Chast and her club-days at Danceteria (!), the movie he's writing and its Munchkinland-Goth scenery, the loss of era-specific styles, perfecting "nicotine-stained jewel tones" for Limbo Lounge, and how the book started with the image of flowers behaving badly! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_275_-_Dave_Calver.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:47pm EST

The New World: Comics from Mauretania collects what artist Chris Reynolds describes as "Strange Adventure Stories About Dreams". We get into Chris' amazing body of comics work, the roles of intuition and reason in his storytelling, his panic when another artist (Seth) identified themes and threads throughout his work, and his sense of letting go of his stories now that they've been collected by New York Review Comics. We also talk about nostalgia for a time before he was born, the notion of writing after the big event instead of the event itself, the allure of Cordwainer Smith's stories, and the phenomenon of having a distinctly cult following for his work. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_274_-_Chris_Reynolds.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:08pm EST

Author, editor, translator, and (most crucially) reader Alberto Manguel joins the show to talk about his new book, Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions (Yale University Press). We discuss the lifelong act of building a library and how he deals with having no access to it, now that he's had to pack up ~35,000 books (but he also tells us about the 3 books he took with him on his travels). We get into his new gig as director of Argentina's National Library, our schism on whether to cull one's book collection, his experience in his teens reading to a blind Borges (and why literature should be considered Before and After Pierre Menard), the book-fetish, our mutual preference for The Iliad over The Odyssey, the embarrassment of receiving an award that was previously given to Borges and Beckett, why translating a book takes more effort than writing one, how he deals with Argentina's dirty war and the phenomenon of awful people liking great books, the book he still hopes to write, why Canada is home for this world traveler, and the problem with the problem with canons. BONUS: Our listeners weigh in on the books they'd bring with them for a 2-week hospital stay! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_273_-_Alberto_Manguel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:51pm EST

Arthur Szyk was once one of the most popular artists in America, but after his untimely death his art vanished from public discourse. How did Szyk achieve and lose such renown? Irvin Ungar has spent the last 25 years championing Szyk's work, most recently publishing the National Jewish Book Award-winning Arthur Szyk: Soldier in Art. We talk about his introduction to Szyk, the impact of Szyk's work in his native Poland, the UK and the US, the way Szyk's work in so many forms -- illuminated manuscripts, Persian miniatures, political cartooning, and more -- may have contributed to his posthumous decline, and why Syzk's Haggadah is like Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling. We also get into Irv's dayenu moments promoting Szyk's legacy, and the curious story of how Irv entered the rabbinate as an alternative to serving in Vietnam, left to become an antiquarian bookseller, and how his rabbinic training let him recognize Arthur Szyk as an upstanding man. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_272_-_Irvin_Ungar.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:01am EST

Science fiction author Christopher Brown joins the show to talk about his first novel, Tropic of Kansas (Harper Voyager), and the redemptive possibilities of dystopian fiction. We get into his SF pedigree, living in Austin and its influence on his ecological themes, the multivalence of Texas, his attempt at subverting the post-9/11 technothriller toward emancipatory ends, his background in business law and politics (and the role of power in both those milieux), his affinity for edgelands and the dysfunctions of time, the storytelling advantages of growing up in the midwest, his cynicism about humanity and optimism about nature, and working on Capitol Hill and realizing Ted Kennedy looked just like a certain Marvel character. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_271_-_Christopher_Brown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:04pm EST

On the occasions of Philip Roth's death and Sandy McClatchy's memorial service, I ruminate on opportunities missed and taken in this bonus episode. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: 2018_Memorial_Day_Bonus_Mini-Episode.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:51am EST

Fresh from her book tour, Ilana C. Myer joins the show to talk about her new novel, Fire Dance (Tor). We get into the jump she made for her second book, the process of crossing Celtic poets with troubadours and Mediterranean aesthetics and mythology as part of her world-building, the challenge of seducing the reader, why she writes fantasy instead of history, and her fixation on "books with magic in them" as a kid. We also get into how she balances life in Israel and the US, her process of self-discovery and her religious epiphany in a college astronomy class, the challenge of shutting out social media voices while keeping up a strong Twitter presence, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_270_-_Ilana_C._Myer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:35pm EST

Michael Kupperman rejoins the show to talk about his new book, All The Answers! We talk about his father Joel Kupperman's experience on the Quiz Kids radio and TV shows and how it led to a multigenerational chain of trauma, the shifting of gears from absurdist humor to heartfelt family memoir, the airing of family secrets, the five-plus years of work this book required, and more. We also get into how Mike learned to be a father on the fly, the way his PR push for the book has turned into an ongoing therapy session, why it's important for him to reach a non-comics audience, the change to a mainstream house after working with comics publishers, and his assessment of his career and his perceived lack of respect (that would be the aforementioned therapy session). • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_269_-_Michael_Kupperman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:12pm EST

Live from MoCCA 2018, Roz Chast rejoins the show to talk about her 40-year+ career as the "different-different-different" cartoonist at The New Yorker, what her workday is like, why she avoids topical and political cartooning, the joy of drawing on an iPad and the fun of Instagram, and more! We get into her new book, Going Into Town: A Love Letter To New York (Bloomsbury USA), and her issues with the suburbs, like learning to drive at 38 and being scare of having a basement. We also discuss the transition to a new cartoon editor at The New Yorker who's the same age as her kids, the recent shift in gender representation, and the gags she couldn't have made before she lost her parents. Plus: audience Q&A! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_268_-_Roz_Chast.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:15pm EST

Director/Producer JJ Sedelmaier has been in and around animation for nearly 40 years. We sat down to talk about the false choice of art and commerce, how the advertising and animation businesses have changed over the years he's been working in them, using animation for good instead of evil, how working in a Greek restaurant as a teen prepared him to run his own animation studio, the insane process of animating the first season of Beavis & Butthead, the joy of working with his favorite artists and cartoonists, not worrying about his road-not-traveled, stepping away from SNL's TV Funhouse after 3 years (during which time he co-created Ace & Gary, the Ambiguously Gay Duo), the time he met Steve Ditko, how Mark Newgarden & Paul Karasik have taught him to appreciate Nancy, the trap of tapping into nostalgia (and the missed opportunity of that Geico ad with He-Man), his responses to my totally unfair "X or Y" questions (incl. "Herriman or McCay?" and "Kurtzman or Eisner?"), and plenty more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_267_-_JJ_Sedelmaier.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:41pm EST

Design scholar Steven Heller joins the show to talk about writing and editing more than 182 books on design and its history (and lamenting the books he still wants to do). We get into his evolution from cartooning to graphic design, how he became a scholar of satiric magazines, what went into building the MFA entrepreneurial design program at School of Visual Arts, and the maybe too-encompassing use of the word "design". We also talk about the transition from print to digital media, how he manages to keep up a daily blog, his career at the New York Times (designing the op/ed page and the Book Review, and occasionally writing obits), his legacy, how he's dealing with Parkinson's syndrome, how a terrible student can become a good teacher, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_266_-_Steven_Heller.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:40pm EST

He's been on my list of dream-guests since I launched the podcast, and now Love & Rockets cartoonist Jaime Hernandez joins the show! We talk about his new book of Latin American folktales, The Dragon Slayer (TOON Graphic), the family-centric folktales of his own youth in Oxnard, CA, the fun of drawing for kids, and the times he's felt Maggie Chascarillo had nothing left to say. We get into the origins of Love & Rockets, how he learned to tell a story and still develop characters, the L&R story that marked a turning point for him, what prompted a big reunion storyline of his key characters, the thing he most hates drawing, the first time he saw someone with a Love & Rockets tattoo (and the stories of his own tattoos), and the vital question: is punk rock dead? Plus, Katie Skelly (My Pretty Vampire) talks about what Jaime's comics mean to her! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_265_-_Jaime_Hernandez.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:18pm EST

Cartoonist and playwright Dean Haspiel joins the show to talk about his new play, The Last Bar At The End Of The World (running April 10-15, 2018!) and how he looks at his life & career after turning 50. We get into his New Brooklyn series of webcomics, our mutual upbringing on superhero comics, the inherent lie of being a freelancer, his father's friendship with Marilyn Monroe, writing for theater vs. comics, his devotion to Mamet's On Directing Film, my theory that most of Tarantino's movies are about acting, fulfilling his youthful dream of drawing the Fantastic Four, and the validity of Jack Kirby's (apocryphal) statement, "Comics will break your heart." • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_264_-_Dean_Haspiel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:01pm EST

On the eve of the premiere of You Were Never Really Here, writer Jonathan Ames returns to his stomping grounds of northern NJ to talk about crime novels, the literary pilgrimages of his youth, getting laughs at AA meetings, and more. We get into the process of seeing his novella adapted into film, his decade-long fascination with Richard Stark's Parker novels, the catharses and paradoxes of his confessional writing, learning on the fly to write for TV and working with a writers' room for Bored to Death and Blunt Talk, the experience of studying creative writing at Princeton under Joyce Carol Oates, learning The Secret to stop being cheap with himself, his favorite writing form (given that he's made novels, stories, columns, nonfiction, films, TV, and comics), the act of subsuming himself into fictional characters, the bizarre error on his IMDB page that left me totally flummoxed, and the amazing NJ coincidence of one of the locations used in the movie. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_263_-_Jonathan_Ames.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:32pm EST

Paintoonist (painter + cartoonist) Jerry Moriarty joins the show to talk about playing the Art Card for 80 years and counting. We get into the genesis of his Jack Survives comics and his recent book "whatsa paintoonist?", his 50 years teaching at SVA, his move back to his childhood home in upstate NY in his 70s, the role of memory in art, his evolution from AbEx to Pop Art to representational to paintooning (with a sideline in magazine illustration), his experience playing at CBGB's with the Steel Tips, his evening with Willem De Kooning, the belief that talent is a scam, why he doesn't sell his paintings (and who he's hoping to bequeath his paintings to), and a lot more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_262_-_Jerry_Moriarty.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:05pm EST

Liveright Publishing editor-in-chief Robert Weil joins the show on the eve of this year's Festival Neue Literatur to talk about editing translations, why great translators are heroes (and ought to get credited on book covers), and his admiration/adoration for Barbara Perlmutter, winner of this year's Friedich Ulfers Prize. Along the way, we talk about the nuts-and-bolts of editing writers and why good writers want to be edited, the ongoing relevance of The Scarlet Letter and our Hawthorne vs. Melville takes, the most haunting line of Henry Roth, and Robert's incredible run of graphic novels (think Will Eisner, Robert Crumb, Jules Feiffer, and David Small). Plus, we bond over the fact that he edited one of my all-time favorite books: Clive James' Cultural Amnesia! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_261_-_Robert_Weil.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:43am EST

Time for a books & booze break! Lexicographer/bartender Jesse Sheidlower returns to the show to talk about bartending at The Threesome Tollbooth, a very intimate cocktail experience in Brooklyn (as in, there's only space for two patrons and a bartender). We get into the origin of the Tollbooth and why it's neither a "speakeasy" nor immersive theater, the confession-booth aspect of the space and the sanctity of the bartender-patron relationship, the reasons classic cocktails become classic and why barely anyone's ever had a real daiquiri, and how you can get New Yorkers to stop looking at their phones. Plus, we talk about Jesse's new built-in bookshelves (which are a sight to behold)! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_260_-_Jesse_Sheidlower.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:32pm EST

Science fiction author Lavie Tidhar joins the show to talk about the five topics that Israeli novelists are allowed to write about, his affinity for pulp fiction tropes, when it's okay to make fun of Hitler (which he does at great length in A Man Lies Dreaming), why he finds utopias sinister (hint: he was raised on a kibbutz), how to build a career on ambitious failure, the eye-opening experience of editing world anthologies of SF, the difference between having fans and having readers, the distracting joy of Twitter, why not getting published in Israel felt like a reverse-BDS movement, and what it's like never knowing which shelf a bookstore will decide to put his books. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_259_-_Lavie_Tidhar.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:01am EST

Critic and essayist Willard Spiegelman returns to the show to talk about his new book, If You See Something, Say Something (SMU Press), collecting his art reviews from the Wall Street Journal. We get into the notion of legacy after his retirement from 45 years of teaching, then tackle the process of learning to look at paintings, his favorite museums, the question of whether David Hockney's happiness makes him less of an artistic genius than grim/tormented artists, whether one should buy art to match one's furniture, his love of Marfa, TX, the differences between being a pilgrim and a tourist, the role of curiosity as a remedy for boredom, the challenge of editing a literary magazine in this day and age, whether he's a role model to younger gay people, the first time he had a student who was the child of one of his first students (that is, when he realized he was getting old), and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_258_-_Willard_Spiegelman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:03pm EST

Animation historian Jerry Beck joins the show to talk about his recent Museum of Modern Art screening, Cartoons You Won’t See on TV (and the ongoing exhibition it accompanies). We get into Jerry's career arc, starting with his research gig for Leonard Maltin, the importance of curation in the arts, his role in the anime revolution in the US, the uphill battle to preserve and restore old cartoons, the book he's proudest of, the importance of talking to the old-time inkers and behind-the-scenes artists (and not just the big names), how he teaches animation history to students who grew up watching Rugrats, why What's Opera, Doc? is the greatest cartoon of all time, what's going to be in his dream animation festival, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_257_-_Jerry_Beck.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:44pm EST

Village Voice cartoonist Lauren Weinstein joins the show to talk about the balancing act of making comics. We get into how she integrates the political and the personal, finds humor alongside near-tragedy, and deals with the temptation to do self-help/identity comics. We also get into how she manages the tightrope walk of motherhood and comics-making (esp. with a 10-month-old who's constantly grabbing for her ink), the conversation around a comic she did about potentially passing along a hereditary disease to her unborn daughter, the moral tensions of teaching comics, drawing strips for digital vs. print, the transformative effect of reading Dan Clowes' Art School Confidential strip, having an on-stage persona for a mutant band where the mantra was "keep your eye off the ball", needing neck surgery but worrying how paralysis would affect her cartooning, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_256_-_Lauren_Weinstein.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:07pm EST

Antiquarian book dealer Henry Wessells joins the show to talk about his new exhibition at the Grolier Club and its accompanying book, A Conversation larger than the Universe: Readings in Science Fiction and the Fantastic, 1762-2017 (Oak Knoll). We get into his collecting impulse and why he's not really a book collector, the childhood influence of Doc Savage and the adult influence of Robert Sheckley, Mary Shelley's primary role in the invention of science fiction, the relevance of John Crowley's Little, Big to our current moment, the ways the internet has changed book-collecting and casual reading, the vicarious thrill of book-dealing, our mutual teenaged meltdowns when we encountered Neuromancer, the unsung writers in his collection, the one book he wishes he owned, and a whole lot more. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_255_-_Henry_Wessells.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:17pm EST

 

Atlantic Monthly literary editor Ann Hulbert joins the show to talk about her new book, Off the Charts: The Hidden Lives and Lessons of American Child Prodigies (Knopf). We get into the history of child prodigies and what we can learn from the rest of their lives, how the prodigy experience can be a version of normal childhood writ large, and how to deal with the "race to nowhere" aspects of our high achievement culture. We also talk about Ann's career as a literary editor (from The New Republic to Slate to The Atlantic), the advantages of living outside the New York publishing ecosystem, the challenges of assigning books for review, the perils of monomania, her father's belief that children are "guests in the house", and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_254_-_Ann_Hulbert.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:20pm EST

New York Times reporter John Leland joins the show to talk about his new book, Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old. We get into his year-long project of profiling 6 people aged 85+, how it blew up his preconceptions about old age and became an elderly version of The Real World, and what it taught him about living in the here and now. We also get into his history in journalism, his interest in The Beats, what it was like to arrive in NYC in 1977, the time he trained at a pro wrestling school, his decision to write a book treating On The Road as if it was a self-help book, which New York Times building he prefers, our shared love of David Gates' fiction, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_253_-_John_Leland.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:10pm EST

Legendary illustrator/designer/artist Seymour Chwast joins the show to talk about what it means to continue beyond "legendary" status. We get into his 60-plus-year career and why he can't slow down (much less retire), the impact of Push Pin Studios, the (de-)evolution of commercial art, his mutant hybrid of typography and design, the process of overcoming the anxiety that Saul Steinberg made all the great work already, the immediate gratification of woodcuts, the reason he makes classic literary adaptations, how a gay dance instructor helped him avoid the draft for the Korean war, and more! Then, our very first guest, Ann Rivera, drops in on the way home from MLA 2018 to talk about the future of the humanities, her love for Pete Bagge's bio of Zora Neale Hurston, whether students should be seen as consumers or constituents, the success of the Yale history department's revamp, the role of the public intellectual, the problems with academia's insularity, and the novel she returns to every year. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_252_-_Seymour_Chwast__Ann_Rivera.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:03pm EST

How deep can deep reading go? Paul Karasik & Mark Newgarden talk about the 10-year project of exploring a single Nancy strip, for their new book How To Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels (Fantagraphics). We get into the wonders of Ernie Bushmiller's signature strip, the transformative class they took with filmmaker Ken Jacobs, the malfunctioning tape recorder that led to the whole project, the challenges of getting Jerry Lewis to write the book's foreword, Nancy's role as proto-feminist, and more! Plus, I get them to talk about the secret story of the first time they met, where their collecting impulse came from, the pleasure of finding a good flea market, Art Spiegelman's strength as a teacher, how each of them teaches comics and how a lot of students have no sense of comics history, and how they keep the "ick" in "academic"! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_251_-_Paul_Karasik__Mark_Newgarden.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:17pm EST