The Virtual Memories Show

The great poet, critic, librettist and bon vivant J.D. McClatchy joins the show to talk about outliving his idols, adapting my favorite novel to opera, having his life changed by Harold Bloom, collecting letters from the likes of Proust and Housman, and marrying Chip Kidd! We also get into his friendship with James Merrill, pop culture's triumph over high culture, his genetic inability to read comics, why he loathed Ezra Pound as a person and as an artist, how sexual politics has replaced social politics, the experience of teaching the first gay literature course at Yale in 1978 (and getting dropped because of it), and how a serious poet writes for the dead, not the living.

Direct download: Episode_136_-_J.D._McClatchy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:45am EDT

Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh joins the show to talk about writing, choosing Chicago over LA & NYC, his fascination with boxing, the art world, and the White Sox, the narcissism of online living, the critique of global capitalism, the phases of life he enjoys writing about, and how he used to sneak into the library when his schoolmates weren't looking. Then writer/artist Dmitry Samarov rejoins the show to talk about the joys of getting off the social network treadmill.

Direct download: Episode_135_-_Irvine_Welsh_and_Dmitry_Samarov.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:22pm EDT

Warren Woodfin joins the show to talk about guest-curating Liturgical Textiles of the Post-Byzantine World at the Met (runs through Nov. 1, 2015). We also find out how he became a medieval art historian, the perils of archeolgoical digs in post-Soviet Ukraine, the bum rap art history gets from STEM proponents, and more!

Direct download: Episode_134_-_Angel_Lion_Ox_Eagle.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:15pm EDT

Stona Fitch joins the show to talk about his careers as a novelist, a publisher, and a freelance writer, the benefits of corporate hackwork, his decision to use the pen name Rory Flynn for his new novel, Third Rail, what led him to write one of the most disturbing novels ever, the value of giving something beautiful away, and more!

Direct download: Episode_133_-_What_If_We_Give_It_Away_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:17pm EDT

Christopher Bollen, author of the new novel Orient (Harper, 2015), talks about the difference between a murder mystery and a literary thriller, the perils of Male First Novel Syndrome, how he discovered the very end of the North Fork of Long Island, why it's too easy to write a parody of the contemporary art world, how his years at Inteview magazine honed his ear for dialogue, and more! (Also, you get my story about inadvertently blowing up a shopping mall when I was in high school.)

Direct download: Episode_132_-_Rootless_People.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am EDT

John Clute, author, critic, and science fiction encyclopedist, joins the show at Readercon 2015 to talk about aftermath culture, SF's ghettoization, the triumph of Ishiguro's The Buried Giant, the failure of moats, and why late-period Bob Dylan is radically more interesting than the early model.

Direct download: Episode_131_-_Ever_After.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:20pm EDT

Elizabeth Samet, professor of English at West Point and author of Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point and No Man's Land: Preparing for War and Peace in Post-9/11 America (and editor of the newly published Leadership: Essential Writings by Our Greatest Thinkers), joins the show to talk about teaching the humanities in the military, why she balked at learning the fine art of parachuting, how she tried (and failed) to convince Robert Fagles that Hector is the moral center of the Iliad, and a whole lot more! Bonus: I tell a long, awful and emotional story around the 75-minute mark. NOTE: The opinions Elizabeth Samet expresses in this interview are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of West Point, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense.

Direct download: Episode_130_-_The_Cult_of_Experience_and_the_Tyranny_of_Relevance.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:15pm EDT

Amanda Filipacchi joins the show to discuss her newest novel, The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty: A Novel (WW Norton), her solution to sexism in publishing, her garden-of-forking-paths approach to fiction, and more!

Direct download: Episode_129_-_Donkey_Skin.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:04pm EDT

"I remain certain that there is no one else who has had this sort of aesthetic influence." So says Rhonda K. Garelick, author of Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History. We talk about Chanel's impact on women's fashion and French national identity, how she managed not to get tried for collaboration after the war, the one figure from our age who compares to Chanel, and what it's like teaching the accordion-and-beret crowd.

Direct download: Episode_128_-_Impecunious_Nobles.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:33pm EDT

Pulitzer Prize-winning book reviewer Michael Dirda rejoins the show to talk about his new collection, Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books (Pegasus Books). We discuss the importance of reading for pleasure, the difference between book-collecting and shopping, the role of the book reviewer (and how it differs from that of the critic), a recent negative review he didn't want to write, why he doesn't read reviews of his work, what his mother said when he won the Pulitzer Prize, and more!

Direct download: Episode_127_-_The_Meandering_Reflections_of_a_Literary_Sybarite.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:02pm EDT

Award-winning author Elizabeth Hand joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about her latest novel, Wylding Hall. We also talk about her need to try different genres, getting pigeonholed by the literary establishment, how abandoning the supernatural for her noir novels was like working without a net, how her success at writing may be attributable to the Helsinki Bus Syndrome, what it was like to be at the punk scene in the mid-'70s, how she learned to strip down her prose for her recent (and excellent) noir crime novels, just how she ended up in coastal Maine, and more!

Direct download: Episode_126_-_People_From_Away.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:04pm EDT

Dan Perkins (a.k.a. Tom Tomorrow) joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about 25 years of making This Modern World, his new Kickstarter that annihilated all expectations and left him a gibbering (but very thankful) wreck, the lessons he learned from Charles Schulz, what it'll take for him to get a tattoo of Sparky the Penguin, and more!

Direct download: Episode_125_-_Signal_Boost.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:02pm EDT

Jonathan David Kranz joins the show to talk about his new novel, Our Brothers at the Bottom of the Bottom of the Sea (Henry Holt). We talk about what makes the Jersey Shore different from any other seaside amusement region, what he learned while writing for the YA category, the value of Grub Street writing courses vs. an MFA, why Tillie is a Jungian archetype, and more!

Direct download: Episode_124_-_Dont_Fall.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:21pm EDT

Professor Langdon Hammer joins the show to talk about his monumental new biography, James Merrill: Life and Art (Knopf). We discuss Merrill's significance as a poet and the alchemy that allowed him to turn base wealth into artistic gold. Hammer also talks about learning the art of literary biography on the fly, the challenge of recreating Merrill's life in Greece, how we can understand the Ouija board-derived poems of Merrill's masterwork, and more!

Direct download: Episode_123_-_The_Hidden_Wish_of_Words.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:05pm EDT

Farrar Straus Giroux president Jonathan Galassi has spent a lifetime in the literary publishing world, but now he gets to experience it all over again as a debut novelist! We talk about Muse (Knopf), how he had to short-circuit his editorial style in order to write what he thinks of the future (and past) of publishing, and more!

Direct download: Episode_122_-_A_Muse_Apart.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00pm EDT

British author Christie Watson joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about her newest novel, Where Women Are Kings. We discuss the process of adoption, her history with Nigeria (and why she loves its literary scene), the trick of balancing cultural differences and societal norms, and how she became a writer after years of planning her book tour outfits.

Direct download: Episode_121_-_The_Limits_of_Love.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:08pm EDT

The great Lorenzo Mattotti joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about art, comics, fashion, and the trees of Patagonia. It's a fascinating conversation about how a master of artistic manners has learned the joy of improvisation, why he likes working with writers, how he got started in fashion illustration, and what his parents made of his decision to become an artist.

Direct download: Episode_120_-_Laboratory_of_Imagination.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:14pm EDT

Cartoonist Chester Brown joins the show to talk about his life in comics, his history with prostitutes, his evolution into libertarianism, the catharsis of autobiography, and more! Plus, Nina Bunjevac sits in for a performance by the Paying for It Players!

Direct download: Episode_119_-_Paid_In_Full.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:04pm EDT

It's VMS Live! This episode comes from the panel, "Satirical Representations of Hitler in Contemporary Culture," held May 6, 2015 at the Goethe-Institut in NYC, in conjunction with the German Book Office! Panelists were Gavriel Rosenfeld, Liesl Schillinger and Timur Vermes, author of Look Who's Back, a satiric novel in which Hitler finds himself alive in 2011 Berlin. Listen to find out when it's okay to make fun of Hitler, the peril of laughing too much at him, and what the author learned in the process of writing in AH's voice! Photo credit © Goethe-Institut New York / Jacobia Dahm

Direct download: Episode_118_-_Table_Talk.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:15pm EDT

Artist Jonah Kinigstein is having his moment... at 92! His venomous editorial cartoons have been collected in a new book, The Emperor's New Clothes, and gained him an exhibition at the Society of Illustrators. We talk about where modern art went wrong, what he learned in his Paris years, what drives him to keep painting in his 10th decade, and more!

Direct download: Episode_117_-_Vernissage.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:26pm EDT

Thane Rosenbaum makes his second appearance on the show to talk about his new novel, How Sweet It Is! (Mandel Vilar Press), as well as his family history in '70s Miami, his path to becoming a novelist and human rights lawyer, the relative lunacy of First and Second Amendment absolutists, the allure of print, growing up in a city without a bookstore, and the fate of European Jewry.

Direct download: Episode_116_-_Magic_City.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:12pm EDT

Professor Edward Mendelson joins the show to talk about his new memoir, Moral Agents: Eight Twentieth-Century American Writers (New York Review Books), which profiles Lionel Triling, Dwight Macdonald, Alfred Kazin, William Maxwell, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, WH Auden, Frank O'Hara. We discuss the role of individuals in mass culture, the intellectual's temptation to be a leader, the outdated figure of the Beloved Professor, Orwell's misinterpretation of Auden, the writer he was terrified to meet, the failures of identity politics, the purpose of Columbia University's Core Curriculum, his lack of nostalgia for the era of public intellectuals, the way certain books need a year off from teaching in order to recharge, and more.

Direct download: Episode_115_-_Idlers_and_Belgians.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:09pm EDT

Brad Gooch joins the show to talk about his new memoir, Smash Cut, stumbling into a career as a literary biographer, his forthcoming bio of Rumi, the Life-During-Wartime aspect of the AIDS era in New York City, becoming a dad at 63, and the life and love of Howard Brookner.

Direct download: Episode_114_-_Roller_Coaster.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:41am EDT

When he was a kid in Minnesota, Michael Meyer papered his walls with National Geographic maps. A Peace Corps stint in 1995 began his 20-year odyssey in China, yielding two books, true love, and a unique perspective on the world's most populous country. We talk about his latest book, In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, life in rural China compared to suburban MN, the country's changes in the past two decades, the flexibility of the Communist party, China's uses and abuses of history, the tortured history of the Manchuria region, the need to explode Americans' myths about the country and its people, our favorite jet-lag remedies, the Chinese use of "uh" as a conversational placeholder, and more!

Direct download: Episode_113_-_Palimpsest.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:16pm EDT

The great poet, essayist, novelist, memoirist and TV host Clive James joins the show to talk about poetry, mortality, TV, Cultural Amnesia, Australia, his literary legacy and how his showbiz career helped and hurt it, and a lot more.

Direct download: Episode_112_-_Remainder.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:45pm EDT

Prue Shaw joins the show to talk about Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity. We talk about our favorite parts of the Dante's Commedia, the poem's transformation for her over the decades, Dante's challenge of expressing the inexpressible (especially in Paradiso), the fate of Jews in Dante's afterworld, and the reasons why we all -- poets and non-poets, believers and non-believers -- should be reading Dante.

Direct download: Episode_111_-_Time_Memory_Friendship_Poetry_Art.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:11am EDT

Witold Rybczynski discusses his newest book, How Architecture Works: A Humanist's Toolkit, and talks about that humanist approach to buildings, the problems with Brutalist architecture, the importance of having a canon of great buildings, the ways that digital technology are changing the practice of architecture, why there's no such thing as a 'theory of architecture', the reasons Philadelphia has such marvelous buildings, what it means to 'review' a building, why the 'Starchitect' phenomenon doesn't make for better buildings, and whether it's possible to improve the appearance of malls

Direct download: Episode_110_-_Thru_These_Architects_Eyes.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:08am EDT

Walter Kirn joins the show to talk about his latest book, Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade, all about his relationship to fraudster/murderer Clark Rockefeller. And then it gets complicated.

Direct download: Episode_109_-_The_Confidence_Man.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 9:46pm EDT

Renowned literary translator Anthea Bell joins the show to talk about getting her start in foreign languages, the schisms in the world of literary translation, the most challenging authors she's worked on, the one language she'd love to learn, and translating everything from Asterix to Zweig!

Direct download: Episode_108_-_From_Asterix_to_Zweig.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:53pm EDT

Playwright and author Yasmina Reza joins the show to talk about her new book, Happy are the Happy (Other Press). We also discuss the confluence and divergence of love and happiness, her surprise when her play Art was produced in Iran and Afghanistan, the appeal of Sarkozy as a literary character, her love of The Wire, and why she let James Gandolfini transpose The God of Carnage from Paris to Brooklyn.

Direct download: Episode_107_-_Silence_in_Translation.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:30pm EDT

Educator Matt Farber joins the show to talk about his new book, Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning (Peter Lang Academic). We talk about edutainment's bad rep, developing good games for students, getting getting buy-in from faculty, administration and -- most importantly -- students, the subjects that benefit most from game-based learning, why Pandemic is the best game he's ever used to teach, and more!

Direct download: Episode_106_-_The_Magic_Circle.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:47am EDT

Artist Mimi Gross joins the show to talk about her art, her life, and the joys of collaboration. How did she carve out an identity separate from "daughter of sculptor Chaim Gross" and "wife of artist Red Grooms"? Listen to the conversation to find out!

Direct download: Episode_105_-_Sincere_Observation.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:15pm EDT

Editor, book-blogger and podcaster Ron Hogan joins the show to talk about his 20-year history with the literary intenet, launching Beatrice.com, taking the wrong lessons from the work of Harlan Ellison, defending Hudson Hawk, retaining his inner fanboy, discovering romance fiction, overcoming gender/race imbalances in publishing (and podcasting), and generally trying to overthrow the hegemony. But first, Josh Alan Friedman reminisces about Joe Franklin!

Direct download: Episode_104_-_It_Came_from_Gen_X.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:07am EDT

The great cartoonist Jim Woodring joins the show to talk about comics, surrealism, Vedanta, the principle of fluorescence, and why he may be the reincarnation of Herbert E. Crowley! While he was in town for his first solo gallery show, Jim and I met up to talk about his conception of the universe, how his FRANK comics have and haven't evolved in 20+ years, how art can convey the existence of something it can't show, why it's easier to express the grotesque than the beautiful, why younger cartoonists may be lacking the bitter, competitive drive of past generations, and why I think the Prado is a second-rate museum!

Direct download: Episode_103_-_Nostalgia_of_the_Infinite.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:01pm EDT

Bon vivant Claudia Young joins The Virtual Memories Show to talk about fine dining, songwriting, the Flora-Bama, getting around Vietnam in a wheelchair, and making the most of the time we have.

Direct download: Episode_102_-_The_Sprinter.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 7:10pm EDT

Let's kick off 2015 wtih a conversation with Levi Stahl, editor of The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany!

Direct download: Episode_101_-_Simple_Tricks_and_Nonsense.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 7:16pm EDT

Let's celebrate the 100th episode of The Virtual Memories Show with the most boring guest ever: your host, Gil Roth! (with questions from dozens of past and upcoming guests!)

Direct download: Episode_100_-_The_Hollow_Man.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 7:08pm EDT

More than 30 of this year's podcast guests tell us about the favorite books they read in 2014! Guests include Maria Alexander, Ashton Applewhite, David Baerwald, Nina Bunjevac, Roz Chast, Sarah Deming, Michael Dirda, Jules Feiffer, Mark Feltskog, Mary Fleener, Nathan Fox, Josh Alan Friedman, Richard Gehr, Paul Gravett, Sam Gross, Rachel Hadas, Kaz, Daniel Levine, Sara Lippmann, Merrill Markoe, Brett Martin, Mimi Pond, George Prochnik, Emily Raboteau, Jonathan Rose, Ron Rosenbaum, Dmitry Samarov, Seth, Katie Skelly, Ron Slate, Maya Stein, Rupert Thomson, and Frank Wilson! Check out the list of books at our site!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_48_-_The_Guest_List_2014.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:59am EDT

From Rahway to Hollywood, by way of Underworld! Kaz joins the show to talk about his career(s) as a cartoonist, animator and artist. We talk about how he fell in love with the collaborative aspect of animation (and how the Spongebob Squarepants sausage gets made), how the world caught up to the outrageous depravity of his Underworld comic strip, how Art Spiegelman taught him to be an artistic magpie, how it felt to show his parents his work in an issue of Al Goldstein's Screw, how he learned to make a story turn funny, and what it's like to supply creativity on demand!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_47_-_Creativity_on_Demand.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 7:30am EDT

Artist Wayne White joins the show to talk about how his life and art have changed since he starred in the documentary Beauty is Embarrassing (which, if you haven't seen it, go do so now now NOW!). We talk about the allure and absurdity of hubris, how much of the movie-Wayne maps onto the real version, how LA influenced his word-paintings, how he balances art and commerce, what happens to the giant puppets that he makes for installations, what he thinks of Jeff Koons, why he's moving toward art-as-public-spectacle, what art form he's dying to get back to, what his next big project is, and when he's gonna get rid of that beard! Also, Mimi Pond returns to talk about the success of Over Easy, the surprises of the book tour, how the sequel's progressing, how it felt to win a PEN Center USA Literary Award, and more!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_46_-_Success_is_Embarrassing.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:06am EDT

Mucho Cubismo! Mary Fleener joins the show to talk about her career in cartooning, her love/hate relationship with LA (mostly hate now, but there was a little love in the early days), the Zora Neale Hurston story that made a cartoonist out of her, the tale of how Matt Groening accidentally derailed her career, the roots of her Cubismo drawing style, the joys of simplifying her life, the new book she's working on, the horrors of The Comics Journal's message board, and more!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_45_-_Our_Lady_of_Organized_Vituperation.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:42pm EDT

The legendary Jules Feiffer joins the show to talk about his new comic noir, Kill My Mother, as well as the preceding 60+ years of his career as a cartoonist, satirist, Obie Award-winning playwright, screenwriter, children's book author, and memoirist.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_44_-_Slow_Learner.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:56pm EDT

Maria Alexander joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about her debut novel, Mr. Wicker, her intern/protege relationships with Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman, and the art of shinkendo swordplay.

Also: what happens when Lovecraftian pastiche goes wrong • how she realized that even geniuses have to write drafts • how Mr. Wicker made its way from short story to screenplay to first novel • how she deals with severe carpal tunnel syndrome!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_43_-_The_Way_of_Pen_and_Sword.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:31pm EDT

Richard Gehr's new book, I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker's Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists, profiles a dozen of the great cartoonists at The New Yorker. We talk about his lifelong love for the magazine, making a career out of his weird enthusiasms, being in the Boy Scouts with Matt Groening, discovering Bob Mankoff's Database of Humor and the evil experiment of The Caption Contest, and the all-time best "celebrity I plotzed over" story in the history of this podcast!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_42_-_I_Was_a_Teenage_Structuralist.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:51am EDT

Sam Gross' gag panels warped me at a young age, so it was an honor to get him on mic to talk about his nearly six-decade cartooning career. We sat down in his studio to discuss the serious business of gags, how he went from drawing a Saul Steinberg nose to drawing a Sam Gross one, how he continues in his 80s to come up with a week's worth of new gags for Look Day, how he once got a Vanishing New York tour from Charles Addams, how he revels in the "humor of the handicapped", and the magazine he misses the most.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_41_-_Look_Day.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:08pm EDT

Ashton Applewhite is on a crusade against ageism. She joins the show to discuss the myths and roots of ageism and her talk series, This Chair Rocks. We also discuss her Yo Is This Ageist site, why she scoffs at the Life Extension crew, how her critique of ageism intertwines with her critique of capitalism, what it’s like to suffer from analexophobia, why we should all consider ourselves old people in training, and how she launched the Truly Tasteless Jokes empire.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_40_-_Much_Abides.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:28pm EDT

John Porcellino has been publishing his King-Cat Comics & Stories mini-comics for 25 years, but I managed not to check them out until last month. BIG mistake on my part! Turns out the critics were right; John P.'s one of the best autobio cartoonists out there, as well as "a master at miniature poignance" (Entertainment Weekly). We sat down at SPX 2014 to talk about publishing his new work, The Hospital Suite, as a standalone book and developing the skill and courage to tackle longer stories, his disdain for "the culture of like", overcoming the shame and stigma of his OCD, the process of discovering an audience for his work, the pitfalls of autobiographical comics, discovering the power of negative space, turning his life into a narrative, how comics enabled him to communicate with people, and, most importantly, being an NFL bigamist. Bonus: Roger Langridge gives us a few minutes at SPX to talk about his new book, Jim Henson's The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow!

"I managed to go 43 issues before I hit the paralyzing grip of self-doubt and self-consciousness [from realizing that I had an audience]. I feel lucky that I had all those years to write comics in essentially a vacuum. I can't imagine what it would be like to be 20 years old and trying to write comics in this world with the internet's immediate response."
Direct download: Season_4_Episode_39_-_35_Cents__a_Stamp.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:29pm EDT

This podcast often hangs out at the intersection of art and commerce, so I was happy when Dmitry Samarov drove up in a cab with his sketchbook!* Dmitry recently published Where To?: A Hack Memoir (Curbside Splendor Press), his second book of essays and art about his experiences behind the wheel of a taxi in Chicago and Boston. We talk about the job's intersection with his fine arts background, his compulsion to chronicle his working life in words and images, how he made the transition from 'zine to blog to book deal, how John Hodgman helped him get his break into publishing, what it's like to run a website built in 2004, why he fled Parsons School of Design after one semester, and how it felt to leave the cab-driving world behind.

"The great [storytelling] advantage to driving a cab is that you have the back of your head to the person. It makes them open up in a way that, if they saw my face, I don't think they could have. Then they would have had to reckon with me as a person, and I really wasn't a person to most of them."
Direct download: Season_4_Episode_38_-_A_Sense_of_Someplace_To_Go.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 7:32pm EDT

During the middle of the High Holidays, two Jews sit down in Manhattan to talk about antisemitism! Daniel Goldhagen joins the show to talk about his newest book, The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism. We discuss the public expression of antisemitism and why it's permitted in so many regions (and why it's not in America), how it's progressed through medieval, modern and global phases, how Jews have been able to survive millennia of ill-treatment, why "eliminationism" is a better term than "genocide", and how a guy who writes books on topics like this manages to stay upbeat.

The episode also includes my tribute to DG Myers, who died the previous weekend. Go visit his site to learn more about his life, death, and donations you can make in his honor.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_37_-_May_God_Remember.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 7:32pm EDT

"Fatherland is really about who my father was, getting to understand him, and also an attempt to explain how politics can tear a family apart, just like they tore apart the people of Yugoslavia in the 1990s."

Nina Bunjevac's new book, Fatherland, explores her family's fractured history against the backdrop of 20th century Yugoslavia. We talk about how she left her country in 1990 only to find that it wasn't there when she went back. We also explore the risks and challenges of researching a terrorist organization, the comics tradition in Yugoslavia, Serbia's culture of friendship, why the Toronto Comic Arts Festival is the best comics event in North America, the perils of too much stippling, the controversy of publishing Fatherland in Serbian dialect in Croatia, and more.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_36_-_Times_Bomb.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:49pm EDT

Come for the Friedman, stay for the Lippmann! Or vice versa! This week's podcast features two great conversations: first I talk with Drew Friedman at Small Press Expo '14 about his great new book of portraits, Heroes Of The Comics: Portraits Of The Pioneering Legends Of Comic Books (Fantagraphics), then Sara Lippmann and I solve the gender imbalance issue in literature, and the MFA vs. NYC issue, to boot! We talk about her debut short story collection, Doll Palace (Dock Street Press), getting over the fear of writing, how she lost the Rolex account for GQ, and more!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_35_-_Jewish_Gothic_and_the_Restless_Artist.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:35am EDT

The great Roz Chast talks about cartooning, The New Yorker, Disco the Talking Parakeet, and her fantastic new book, Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_34_-_Parental_Guidance.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 9:05pm EDT

Charles Bivona's business card reads, "Poet, Writer, Professor," but he's a lot more than that. Over the course of an hour, we talked about what it means to be NJPoet, his theory on the transmissibility of PTSD (based on the first-hand evidence of his father's Vietnam War trauma being visited on his family), the value of building a massive Twitter network, the lessons of growing up poor, how Walt Whitman saved him on one of the worst days of his life, the virtues of a gift economy, and why getting bumped out of academia for blogging may have been the best thing for him.

"I think people are experiencing a lot of things in America that they just don't have the words for. If I'm going to run around and wave this POET flag, then my job is to jump into the difficult situations and try to put them into words."
Direct download: Season_4_Episode_33_-_The_Peace_Poet.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:58pm EDT

Jonathan Rose, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of History at Drew University, joins the show to talk about his new book, The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor (Yale University Press). It's a fascinating work about the books and plays that influenced one of the 20th century's greatest statesmen, drawing connections from Churchill's literary interests to his policy decisions, and helping us understand Churchill as an artist first and foremost.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_32_-_The_War_Poet.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:45am EDT

Frank Wilson, book reviewer, columnist and founder of the Books, Inq. blog, completes our August book critics miniseries! Frank talks about 50 years in the book review biz, the similarities of poetry and religion, whether Catholics can write good novels, the perils of using big-name writers as book reviewers, the biggest gap in his literary background, his underrated/overrated ranks, and more!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_31_-_Critical_Mass.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00pm EDT

Jessa Crispin, founder of Bookslut and Spolia, joins us to talk about 12 years of book-blogging, the downsides of learnign to write online, how she learned to love Henry James, why lack of ambition may have been Bookslut's key to success, and more!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_30_-_Booksluts_Holiday.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 5:42pm EDT

Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michael Dirda rejoins the Virtual Memories Show at Readercon 2014 to talk about the time Neil Gaiman tried to explain Twitter to him, his new project on the golden age of storytelling, what he dislikes about the tone of today's book reviewers, and more! [Also, we remastered our original Dirda podcast from 2012, over here!]

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_29_-_Bookmans_Holiday.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 4:41pm EDT

Ron Rosenbaum returns to the show to talk about the new edition of his amazing book, Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil (Da Capo Press)! We talk Hitler, the meaning(s) of evil, determinism and free will, Hitler-as-artist vs. Hitler-as-suicide-bomber, "degenerate art," the tendency to blame Jews for their misfortune, and how internet culture has warped the meaning of Hitler in the 16 years since Ron's book was first published.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_28_-_Re-Explaining_Hitler.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:50pm EDT

"It's said that the sources of writing are mysterious, but the sources of not writing are pathological."

Ron Slate spent more than two decades in the corporate world before returning to poetry and writing The Incentive of the Maggott, an award-winning collection praised by the likes of Robert Pinsky. We talk about his roots in poetry, how those "lost" years weren't so lost, what it's like to be the guy who sees things late, and how his life was forever changed when he saw Buddy Rich's teeth.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_27_-_Buddy_Richs_Teeth_and_the_Corruption_of_Reality.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 10:23pm EDT

"Artistically, LA's a disaster. It's full of amazing stories. But as a city, it's not a city. Nobody but bus-drivers see the whole place."

Singer-songwriter, musician, inventor, dad, reader, and writer David Baerwald joins the show to talk about the ups and downs of his career in the music biz, his crazy family history, the perils of grafting personalities onto up-and-coming musicians, and why he doesn't trust happiness. We also talk about the Watchmen-like trail of destruction that followed Sheryl Crow's breakthrough album, why the drug business is notoriously filled with short-tempered people, how being a script analyst for a movie studio taught him how to write a song, and why he's a firm believer in the notion that to tell a big story, you have to tell a small one.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_26_-_Fail_Better.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 4:40am EDT

Comedy legend Merrill Markoe joins The Virtual Memories Show to prove Christopher Hitchens wrong: women can be very funny! We talk about her career, helping launch Late Night with David Letterman, her opinions on today's late-night TV scene, the show she'd write for if she was starting out in TV now, her literary influences, her favorite cartoonists, and why Curly was the greatest of the Three Stooges!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_25_-_Dogs_of_LA.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:09am EDT

How does a man go from being a ne'er-do-well in a Pennsylvania mining town to a tutor at St. John's College? Peter Kalkavage joins the show to talk about his path to that Great Books institution, what he's learned in his 38 years as a tutor, how he fell in love with the music program, what he learned from his study of Hegel, what he'd add to the St. John's curriculum, and more! (Also: Iliad or Odyssey?)

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_24_-_From_Billiards_to_Bach.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 9:21am EDT

The great cartoonist (and designer and illustrator) Seth joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about memory and time, his love of digression, being "Mr. Old-Timey", and learning to let go of the finish and polish that used to characterize his work.

"When I was young, I thought there were an infinite possibility of stories you could do. As you get older, you realize you're following a thread, and that you don't have as much choice about what you're writing about as you thought."
Direct download: Season_4_Episode_23_-_Haste_Ye_Back.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:24am EDT

"When I first started out, what I liked was the unlikely image, the unlikely metaphor. What I like now is finding that simple sentence that captures something you haven't thought of before."

Rupert Thomson joins us to talk about his new novel Secrecy (Other Press), a smart thriller set in 1690s Florence. We also talk about how to keep from hitting the reader over the head with research, how to learn archaic Italian curses, and more!

"There is a kind of comfort in having a part of yourself that will never be known, can never be known, by others."
Direct download: Season_4_Episode_22_-_Wax_Rhapsodic.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:47pm EDT

"I'm never gonna be a parent, but if I were, I'd be like, 'We're skippin' this Goodnight, Moon thing; you're goin' to Pale Fire.'"

Cartoonist Katie Skelly joins the show to talk about her new book, Operation Margarine (AdHouse Books), which is really just an opportunity for us to talk about Barthes, Edie Sedgwick, and The Maxx, before getting to the moment when she was 15 and read the least "YA"-friendly book ever for all the wrong reasons. Along the way, we also talk about how she manages to work on her comics while holding down a (respectable) full-time job, why she'd rather hunt for a rare comic than buy something new, what it was like to belong to a high school anime club that only had two members. Give it a listen!

"6 o'clock hits, it's time to leave the office; what are you going to do with the four or five hours you have before going to sleep?"
Direct download: Season_4_Episode_21_-_Theory_and_Practice.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:41am EDT

"Zweig was immersed in the problem of the disjunction between our grand desires for the kind of life we dream we should be living and the actual circumscribed canvas on which we must operate."

At his peak, Viennese author Stefan Zweig was one of the most widely read authors in the world. How did he and his wife end up a in a double-suicide in a bungalow in Petropolis, Brazil? George Prochnik joins us to talk about his new biography, The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World (Other Press). We discuss the arc of Zweig's exile, why Zweig remains important to our age (both in his writing and in his character), how he lost his belief in the power of bildung, the fleetingness of fame and the accident of survival, the role of education in changing political dynamics, the contemporary revival of Viennese culture, the reason why Zweig fled New York City, and more!

"I think he felt that the more we have to produce official documents to indicate who we are, the more we are reduced to that strip of paper."

We also talk about our respective introductions to Zweig's work, the ways that his final novella may be an allegory for Vienna, the danger of looking for clues to Zweig's suicide in his writing, and how he may have been the inspiration for Woody Allen's ZeligGive it a listen! Go pick up a copy of The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World! And check out my Zweig-shelf!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_20_-_Bildung_Stories.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 11:41am EDT

Mimi Pond joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about Over Easy, her 15-years-in-the-making, New York Times bestselling graphic novel about diners, drugs and northern California in the 1970s!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_19_-_The_Customer_is_Always_Wrong.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:45pm EDT

Listen in to part 2 of my conversation with Linn Ullmann about her new novel, The Cold Song (Other Press)! We talk about her writing habits and practices, her favorite Scandinavian authors, how she tweaked the book for its translation into English, and how August Strindberg got revenge on people. We also talk about the lengths she and her husband go to in order to get undisturbed writing time, when she realized she wasn't going to become a ballerina, and how to convey the Norwegian concept of skavank to some zhlub from New Jersey. Bonus: I let her interview me, and boy does THAT go off the rails!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_18_-_Persona.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:25pm EDT

In part 1 of our first 2-part episode, Linn Ullmann talks about the influences of her parents -- Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman -- on her storytelling process, her subversion of the "Scandinavian crime novel" in The Cold Song (Other Press), the importance of place in her writing, the perils of overthinking the ground rules for an interview (not ours!), how she transposed a character from The Wire from Baltimore to Norway, and how she managed to convince her book club to tackle Proust. We close out with the topic of Karl Ove Knausgard's work and the ethics of explicitly writing fiction from life (which is where part 2 picks up). Ms. Ullmann's a fascinating writer and this is (this first half of) an illuminating conversation about her work and life. Give it a listen!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_17_-_Lady_with_a_Dog.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:25am EDT

Novelist, essayist, poet, short story writer, and translator Lynne Sharon Schwartz sat down with me to talk about her newest essay collection, This Is Where We Came In: Intimate Glimpses (Counterpoint), but we talked about a lot more in our hour! Listen in to learn how she and her husband began recording literary readings by authors like James Baldwin, Philip Roth, John Updike, William Styron in the '60s, and how they've re-launched those recordings. We also discuss how second-wave feminism convinced her to pursue a writing career, how her ear for music influences her writing, why she swears by audiobook reader David Case, and how Margaret Atwood once dropped the boom on Norman Mailer.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_16_-_Euphonic_Sounds.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 1:57pm EDT

"I'm a person who works in comics and knows a lot about comics, and I'm teaching people who know nothing about comics to talk to other people who know nothing about comics, about comics."

Caitiln McGurk, fresh off of curating her first exhibition at Ohio State's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Irresistible Force Meets the Immovable Object: A Richard Thompson Retrospective, joins us to talk about how she got into the rather narrow field of comics librarian, the appeal of Columbus, OH, her dream-exhibition, how the Stations of the Cross got her started on comics, and what it was like to meet Bill Watterson! Give it a listen!

"Because of his whole mystique, people assume Bill Watterson's a real jerk or so socially awkward that that's why he doesn't want to talk to people. But he just wants to have his own life and not be bombarded by fans all the time."

We also talk about her theory on why Ohio has spawned more cartoonists than any other state in the union, how she worked with the cartoonist Richard Thompson to put together his retrospective, why she loves the lost New Yorker cartoonist Barbara Shermund, and more!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_15_-_Hello_Columbus.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 5:39pm EDT

"I like that we live in an age that's increasingly curious about this dark side, and not merely in terms of its pure darkness, but of how seemingly ordinary or normal people can commit atrocities."

Daniel Levine joins us to talk about his debut novel, HYDE, an inventive and gorgeous retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It's a fun conversation about our public and private selves, the ways we define evil, the mechanics of storytelling, the luck of human evolution, and more! Give it a listen!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_14_-_They_Call_Me_MISTER_Hyde.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 4:41pm EDT

Literature professor and book critic DG Myers is dying of cancer, but that doesn’t mean he’s planning to go gentle into that good night. In a wide-ranging conversation, we talk about why he believes university English departments will barely outlast him, how he made the move from Southern Baptist to Orthodox Judaism (getting recircumcised a few times along the way), what he’d like to be remembered for, why the idea of The Western Canon is a canard, which books and authors he's trying to get to before he dies, who he regrets not reading before now, the identity of the one author he’d like to hear from, and a WHOLE lot more.

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_13_-_Reading_Maketh_a_Full_Man.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:16pm EDT

Tova Mirvis joins The Virtual Memories Show to talk about her brand-new novel, Visible City and how she learned to act on her unhappiness, as well as the lifelong advice she got from Mary Gordon, the ways that writing a book is like building a stained-glass window, why being an orthodox Jew in Memphis wasn't just like Designing Women with better wigs, and the advantages of being offline for a week when the New York Times publishes your op-ed about getting divorced.

"I set up a scenario where all of my characters were unhappy in one way or another, and they were all watching other people, as opposed to looking inward at their own lives. I didn't know what people do about that. I was writing a realistic novel, but part of me believed that no one actually acts on their unhappiness."

We also talk about how one person’s urge to freedom is another person’s betrayal, why Visible City took her 10 years to write, what you can discover about yourself in your 40s and what you can leave behind, and the varieties of religious experience (ours, not William James’).

"Orthodox Judaism and southern culture meld beautifully. In the south, there's a way we do things and a way we don't do things. And it's the same in orthodox Judaism. They're both very well-structured worlds. I grew up as a sort of cocktail of those two worlds."

BONUS! You also get my essay/monologue about Jews & Geordies!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_12_-_Window_Pain.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:56am EDT

“Claressa Shields was the first boxer who showed me that women can be artists in the ring, like men. It was kind of like the first time I read Virginia Woolf."

Essayist, boxer, novelist, chef and more, Sarah Deming joins The Virtual Memories Show to talk about yoga’s role as a gateway drug into boxing, winning a Golden Gloves tournament, the joys of watching a great fighter, her literary idols, the miracle of Bernard Hopkins' longevity, and how she found her soul.

“I really like the people who write about boxing with empathy. There's a lot of subtly disrespectful boxing writing. I think it's essentially because of the threat the intellectual feels from the athlete, and I think racism underlies it, too."

We also talk about the spiteful inspiration for her first novel, the thread connecting boxers and adult film stars, the magic in the mundane, and why it's almost impossible to write something boring about sex or a fight! Give it a listen! And check out these wonderful essays she wrote on skydiving and vodka-peddling!

Direct download: Season_4_Episode_11_-_Stick_and_Move.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 8:37pm EDT

“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:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa Borders joins the show to talk about her new novel, The Fifty-First State! It's a fine book about mismatched half-siblings brought together by calamity, set in an area of New Jersey overlooked by most everyone but its residents. Lisa and I have a fun conversation about her work and influences, how her science background informs her writing process (she's a part-time cytotechnologist), why form has to rise from story, how to teach novel-writing, why she stands by Jonathan Franzen’s novels, how a Michael Cunningham short story changed her life, and whether southern NJ should secede and become America's fifty-first state.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_28_-_You_Cant_Get_There_From_Here.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:52am EDT

Editor, writer, publisher and translator Maxim Jakubowski talks about his lifetime & career in erotica, how he feels about being The King of the Erotic Thriller, his strategies for maneuvering through Book Expo America, the silliness of genre labels, the perils of having a bad book habit (that’s "bad book-habit", not "bad-book habit"), how e-books have amplified Sturgeon's Law, how he managed to make a killing off the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon under a BDSM pseudonym, and MUCH more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_27_-_Sex_Crime_and_Other_Arbitrary_Genre_Labels.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:41pm EDT

Virginia Postrel joins us to talk about her new book, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion. We talk about the uses and abuses of glamour, the nerd fixation on space travel, the first known symbol of glamour, how Barack Obama's first election campaign was heaven-sent for Ms. Postrel's book, and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_26_-_Glamour_Profession.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:18pm EDT

Hooman Majd joins us to talk about his new book, The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran, documenting his family's year-long stay in Teheran in 2011. We also cover Iran's conflict of nationalism and religion, its nuclear issue, the possibility of becoming a modern state without liberal democracy, why Israel and Iran should be BFFs, whether there's a word in Farsi for 'sprezzatura', and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_25_-_The_Land_of_the_Big_Sulk.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:07pm EDT

Cartoonist Roger Langridge joins us to talk about his work on The Muppets, Doctor Who, and Popeye, finding his niche in all-ages comics, his upbringing in New Zealand, learning to write his own stories, why he won't work with Marvel or DC anymore, and the one character from one of those companies that he'd have loved to work on. It's a delightful conversation with one of the nicest guys in comics!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_24_-_The_Show_Must_Go_On.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:47am EDT

Author Charles Blackstone drops in to talk about his new novel Vintage Attraction! Along the way, we talk about his managing editor role at Bookslut, what it's like to be married to a Master Sommelier, how deconstruction resembles molecular gastronomy, and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_23_-_Wine_Women_and_Novel-Writing.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:50pm EDT

Peter Bagge, the comics legend behind Hate!, Neat Stuff, Apocalypse Nerd and Everybody is Stupid Except for Me, joins us to talk about his new book, Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story. We have a great conversation about why he chose to write about the founder of Planned Parenthood, how he made the shift from fiction to nonfiction comics, who his favorite "pre-feminist feminists" are, why he decided to stick with comic books over paperback books (and why he came around on the latter), what the strangest sketchbook request he ever received is, and how he feels about being a comics convention prostitute.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_22_-_The_Least_Insane_of_Cartoonists.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:23pm EDT

Drew Friedman, the Vermeer of the Borscht Belt, joins us at the 2nd Ave. Deli in NYC to talk about painting Old Jewish Comedians, being Howard Stern's favorite artist, spending his childhood watching TV and reading comic books, why he left New York, and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_21_-_The_Guy_Who_Drew_the_Liver_Spots.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:34pm EDT

Phillip Lopate joins us to talk about his career as America's pre-eminent personal essayist, his literary influences, his teaching methods, his two new collections, his favorite NY Met, and more!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_20_-_Slipping_the_Noose_of_the_Topical.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:56am EDT

“It’s not natural to forgive without some sense of evening the score. It’s intolerable to know that someone gets away with something, and there’s no sense of avenging the act.”

Thane Rosenbaum talks revenge in the second episode of our two-part 9/11 special! An author and law professor, Thane recently published Payback: The Case for Revenge (University of Chicago Press), an exploration of how the American judicial system has excluded vengeance from justice, to the detriment of the polity and the moral universe.

“I’m not advocating that people go seek revenge as self-help; I am advocating that the legal system has to do a better job to do it on our behalf.”

We discuss why the American legal system has a problem with emotion, how victims have been trivialized, what to do about suicide bombers, how western man split justice and revenge (and why it was a huge mistake), how Aeschylus’ Oresteia creates a perfect model for the justice system, how to make better lawyers (and better people), and how The Godfather demonstrates the rule of proportionality.

“Let’s stop pretending that we don’t believe in vengeance. Because if you believe in justice, you believe in vengeance. It’s a false distinction between them.”

Bonus: You get to hear about the time I had to decide whether to have someone killed!

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_19_-_Great_Vengeance_and_Furious_Anger.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:38pm EDT

Jonathan Hyman is the first guest of our two-part 9/11 special! Jonathan began photographing 9/11 murals, tattoos and other memorials immediately after the attacks and continued the project for 10 years, amassing a collection of 20,000 photos, as well as field notes and interviews. (We first met when a mutual pal told him about my 9/11 tattoo.)

University of Texas Press recently published a collection of critical essays about Jonathan's work, The Landscapes of 9/11: A Photographer's Journey, and it includes some of his amazing photos (like the one above, as well as this guy), as well as some great commentary about memorial artwork in other cultures.

We had a fantastic conversation about his decade-long project, the notion of these mementos mori as American folk art, his own 9/11 experience, how he became a photographer, and his struggle to keep this work from defining him as a person.

Photo by Jonathan Hyman.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_18_-_American_Graffiti.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:54pm EDT

I take something that seems obscure, and it leads you to somewhere that is not where you expect.

--David Rothenberg

First, philosopher, musicologist, clarinetist and author David Rothenberg joins us to talk about his new book, Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise, and its accompanying CD. It's a fun conversation about rhythms and meta-rhythms, 17-year cicadas, David's lifetime of music, the joy of bringing different people's worlds together,  how aesthetic preference sorta trumps survival of the fittest. the development of bugstep, and the secret to finding a rewarding job teaching the humanities. (And, really, you should listen just to find out that secret.)

These points in your life, you often wonder what would have happened if you'd taken the other course. I could've gone into theology or some bloody thing. Instead I wound up in science and I'm atheist now.

--Clive Bennett

Then (around the 43:00 mark), we have a conversation with Clive Bennett, the CEO of Halo Pharma, a pharmaceutical contract manufacturing organization. I met Clive through my day job, and found him so delightfully literate, discursive and thoughtful that I asked him to record a segment on the podcast. Once I had him cornered, I asked him why he'd gone into the sciences, given his artistic, historical, musical and literary interests. (Really, I think it was just a condemnation of myself for not doing more with my time.) He decided to bring his Kindle along to break out what he's reading and why. It's two men talking about the choices we make and those that are made for us.

Direct download: Season_3_Episode_17_-_Arts_and_Sciences_and_Bugs.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:46pm EDT