Mon, 29 December 2014
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
Tue, 16 December 2014
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
Tue, 9 December 2014
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
Tue, 2 December 2014
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
Mon, 24 November 2014
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
Mon, 17 November 2014
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
Tue, 11 November 2014
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
Mon, 3 November 2014
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
Mon, 27 October 2014
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
Mon, 20 October 2014
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
Mon, 13 October 2014
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
Mon, 6 October 2014
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
Mon, 29 September 2014
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
Mon, 22 September 2014
"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
Tue, 16 September 2014
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
Mon, 8 September 2014
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
Mon, 1 September 2014
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
Tue, 26 August 2014
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
Mon, 18 August 2014
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
Mon, 11 August 2014
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
Mon, 4 August 2014
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
Mon, 28 July 2014
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
Mon, 21 July 2014
"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
Tue, 15 July 2014
"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
Tue, 8 July 2014
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
Tue, 1 July 2014
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
Mon, 16 June 2014
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
Mon, 9 June 2014
"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
Tue, 3 June 2014
"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
Mon, 26 May 2014
"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 Zelig. Give 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
Mon, 19 May 2014
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
Mon, 12 May 2014
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
Tue, 6 May 2014
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
Mon, 28 April 2014
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
Mon, 21 April 2014
"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
Mon, 14 April 2014
"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
Mon, 7 April 2014
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
Mon, 31 March 2014
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
Mon, 24 March 2014
“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
Sun, 16 March 2014
“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
Mon, 10 March 2014
"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
Mon, 3 March 2014
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
Mon, 10 February 2014
"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
Mon, 3 February 2014
"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
Mon, 27 January 2014
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
Sun, 19 January 2014
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
Mon, 13 January 2014
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
Mon, 6 January 2014
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