The Virtual Memories Show
“There's a sort of romance in riding a bicycle across the country. It's something that some people would fantasize about, and when they saw me ride into their town, it brought them back to their own dreams, their own wishes about what they wanted to fill their life with."

Maya Stein is a poet, a teacher, a photographer, and more. We sat down in her restored trailer, M.A.U.D.E. (Mobile Art Unit Designed for Everyone), to talk about her life as an artist, how she built an audience for her work over the years, how she got the idea to ride a bicycle (towing a typewriter, folding table and folding chair) from Massachusetts to Wisconsin, and how she got that Type Rider journey funded on Kickstarter.

“I think about 'making a living' as 'making a life'. I don't think about money being the driving force behind the decisions I make as a writer or artist."

We also talk about writing prompts, her new initiative to build Little Free Libraries via Type Rider II, and her epiphany in Elkhart, Indiana. And you get to hear my theory on how the internet makes us all normal (except for the crazy people)! Give it a listen!

About our Guest

Maya Stein is a Ninja poet, writing guide, and creative adventuress. Among her latest escapades are a 1,200-mile bicycle journey with a typewriter, a cross-country poetry trip, a French crepe stand at a Massachusetts farmers market, a relocation from San Francisco to suburban New Jersey and most recently, a collaboration — Food for the Soul Train — turning a vintage trailer into a mobile creative workshop space. (She also ran a catering business for six years and specialized in hors d’oeuvres and the finer points of napkin folding.) Her favorite body part is her left hand, as it has gifted her with the ability to sink a nearly invincible hook shot, peel a whole apple without a break, and transcribe the poems living in her heart. You can learn more about Maya’s adventures at www.mayastein.com.

Credits: This episode’s music is Typewriter (Tip Tip Tip) by Kisore Kumar & Asha Bhosle. The conversation was recorded at M.A.U.D.E on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. There was a space heater going, so I used a noise removal filter in Audacity. Photo of Ms. Stein (solo) by me, and photo of Ms. Stein and me by Amy Roth.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_10_-_The_Stars_Have_Anemia.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:35pm EDT

"We move through a human-centric world as if that is reality, but we're surrounded by other species, and their species is centric to their world. I'm interested in how that works, not in humanizing other animals."

In honor of K-9 Veterans Day, our guests are Sheila Keenan and Nathan Fox, the writer and the artist behind Dogs of War, a YA graphic novel about dogs on the battlefield. We talk about their collaborative process and how it developed over the course of this project, as well as the challenges of writing about war for a YA audience, how the trajectory of dog use parallels the development of military technology, and the ways that our empathy for animals can help us better understand the cost of conflict.

"I want the power of time and imagination that resides in the white space between panels."

Also, find out about their circuitous paths to comics, the alchemy of a writer's vision interpreted by an artist, why Nathan launched an MFA program at the School of Visual Arts, and how Sheila’s husband wooed her with a page of Love & Rockets!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_9_-_Semper_Fido.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:12pm EDT

Bruce Jay Friedman on The Virtual Memories Show (2)

Virtual Memories – season 4 episode 8 - The Slippery Animal

"I'm always in the middle of a struggle with a short story. You'd think I'd have the hang of it by now. It's a slippery animal.'"

Literary legend Bruce Jay Friedman joins the Virtual Memories Show for a fun conversation about his literary career, which encompasses six decades of short stories, novels, plays and Oscar®-nominated screenwriting. We talk about his newest projects, how both the writing and the sale of short stories have changed over the course of his career, and why he's happier in that form than the novel. Why was he successful in Hollywood when F. Scott Fitzgerald and Anthony Powell crapped out there? Listen in to find out!

"Hollywood to me was fun. Like a boy being let loose in a candy store. I was offended when I'd get called in off the tennis court to write a few scenes. I can tell you: there is no one who had more fun than I did in Hollywood."

We also talk about how stories begin, where he sees himself in the continuum of Jewish American writers, why Dustin Hoffman hates him, whether he’s ever been tempted to write The Big Novel, why he’s getting more Jewish as he gets older, why he prefers the Franco-Prussian war over other wars, and how to find the right kind of pistachio nuts.

"I always feel guilty about being entertained. I feel like I should be reading Suetonius."

Bonus: I rant about leaving my job and ask you for money!

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

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About our Guest

Novelist, playwright, short story writer and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Bruce Jay Friedman was born in New York City. Friedman published his first novel Stern in 1962 and established himself as a writer and playwright, most famously known for his off-Broadway hit Steambath (1973) (TV) and his 1978 novel The Lonely Guy's Book of Life. In addition to short stories and plays, Mr. Friedman has also published seven other novels, and has written numerous screenplays, including the Oscar-nominated Splash (1984). His memoir, Lucky Bruce, came out in 2011. He resides in New York City with his second wife, educator Patricia J. O’Donohue. Check out his Amazon page for info on his books and plays.

Credits: This episode’s music is Frenesi by Artie Shaw. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Friedman's home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Mr. Friedman by me.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_8_-_The_Slippery_Animal.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:38pm EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Blackstone
Tampa - Alissa Nutting

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

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

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

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

Craig Gidney
A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar

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

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

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

Maxim Jakubowski
The Art of Disappearing - Ivy Pochoda

Ian Kelley
Skagboys - Irvine Welsh

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

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

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

Zach Martin
Anna Karenina - Tolstoy

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

David Rothenberg
The Woman Who Lost Her Soul - Bob Shacochis

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

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

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

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

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