The Virtual Memories Show

With Parade Of The Old New, artist Zoe Beloff has created a panoramic history painting documenting the depths of the Trump years. We get into the impetus for that project, its enormous scale (140 feet long), its Brechtian roots, and its reproduction as a 19-foot accordion book (available only from Booklyn). We talk about notions of rights and responsibilities for artists, the debate over displaying Philip Guston's work, the angry e-mail Zoe received from a white male Marxist that critiqued her for "her own benefit", and why Parade Of The Old New is getting exhibited in Europe & Russia but not America. We also dive into her fascination with artists and thinkers of the interwar era, like Bertolt Brecht & Walter Benjamin, her family's refugee history and why it left her feeling like a Rootless Cosmpolitan, the ways she interweaves painting, film, installation, picture-storytelling (or cartooning) and other forms, the vision of NYC that brought her to the city in her 20s from Scotland, and why being a story-scavenger rather than an inventor means she gets to live in the worlds of her art. Also, we talk about her new multimedia project to celebrate essential workers, my no-fly list for pod-guests, why telling her mother and grandmother's refugee story is the closest she'll come to autobiography, and a LOT more. Follow Zoe on Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_456_-_Zoe_Beloff.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:27pm EDT

Writer, poet, professor & editor Charles Bivona returns to the show for a wide-ranging conversation about art, depression, anxiety, midlife health crises (his diabetes, my CLL), Buddhism, Vietnam & contagious trauma, writing his autobiography on Patreon, and more. Our 20+ years of friendship yield an intriguing conversation about how our lives have changed in response to and/or defiance of the world around us. We get into the heavy stuff this time, but don't fret: there's room for humor with my old pal, too. Follow Charles on Twitter and Instagram, support his Patreon, and read his memoir • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_455_-_Charles_Bivona.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:04am EDT

Lincoln Center Theater's dramaturg Anne Cattaneo joins the show to celebrate her new book, The Art of Dramaturgy (Yale University Press). We answer the pivotal question, "What does a dramaturg DO, exactly?" and explore the tradition of dramaturgy in Europe and America, while diving into the phenomenon of good theater, and the existence of Theatrons, those mysterious particles that circulate from stage to audience and back when Good Theater Happens. We get into how a dramaturg can supplement the work of the actors and director, how plays change during rehearsal and over the course of production, the importance of intuition and collaboration (as well as a thick skin) for a dramaturg, the joy of discovering new plays (and lost plays, and out-of-fashion plays) and finding new ways to stage classics, and the treasures that can be found in archives. We also talk about the economics of regional theater and how it constrains what plays get produced, the deep research she did to help a pair of actors in Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia understand why their characters had an affair, the triumph of staging Mule Bone, a lost play by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, the impact of the pandemic on theater, the need to support older playwrights, and a LOT more. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_454_-_Anne_Cattaneo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:18pm EDT

It's part 2 of a 2-part show about the new Philip Roth Personal Library at the Newark Public Library! This week, Supervising Librarian Nadine Sergejeff joins the show to talk about the process of going through 300+ boxes of Philip Roth's books to figure out what should go on display in the PRPL. We talk about the challenges of documenting and organizing Roth's notes and other ephemera, the discovery of his mother's scrapbooks of his career in a box marked "PRINTER", the edits and commentary Roth made in his own novels, and how she managed to organize the library without marking up any of the volumes. We also get into what it was like to assemble and open the PRPL during the pandemic, how Roth's tweed jacket made it into the collection, Nadine's path to becoming a librarian and how she wound up taking on this project, how archive researchers have changed over the years (and the problem with not being able to read cursive), what makes a good library, what NJ means to her and what Newark meant to Roth, and more! (Go check out part 1, feat. library trustee and Roth pal Rosemary Steinbaum!) Follow the Philip Roth Personal Library on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_453_-_Nadine_Sergejeff.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:11pm EDT

It's part 1 of a 2-part show about the new Philip Roth Personal Library at the Newark Public Library! This week, NPL trustee Rosemary Steinbaum talks about working with Philip Roth over the years and helping convince him to donate his books and belongings to the PRPL. We get into her friendship with Roth, her visits to his Connecticut home to figure out what would be in the personal library, her favorite discoveries in the collection, and the joy of reading his notes and marginalia. We also talk about her favorite literary pilgrimages, her love of The Counterlife, Roth's funeral, the themes of Roth's work that could become future exhibitions at the library, her Newark and how she helped Liz Del Tufo develop a Roth-tour of the city (which Roth once tagged along on), the donation of Roth's letters from his teen sweetheart (including a reading list for her), and more! Follow the Philip Roth Personal Library on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_452_-_Rosemary_Steinbaum.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:09am EDT

Professor Jacques Berlinerblau joins the show to celebrate his new book, The Philip Roth We Don't Know: Sex, Race, and Autobiography (UVA Press)! We get into a deep dive on All Things Roth: #metoo, reverse-biography, metafiction, rage merchants, Rothian Path Dependency, literary legacy & reputation, the changing expectations and tolerances of readers, and the writer Roth cites more than any other in his books. We also talk about the scandal around Roth's biographer and why I think it's greatest metafictional novel Roth never wrote, the role of race & racism in Roth's work (and in Jacques' broader areas of study), why Jacques never wanted to meet Roth, his love of The Anatomy Lesson, the disillusionment he had upon reading Roth's letters in the Library of Congress, why we should all read My Dark Vanessa, whether not winning the Nobel really burned Roth's ass, and so much more! Follow Jacques on Twitter • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_451_-_Jacques_Berlinerblau.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:55am EDT

With his new book, Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption (Pegasus Books), author & literary editor Robert McCrum uses Shakespeare's plays, poems, life and history to examine how Shakespeare is a mirror of human experience, and why his lines continue to resonate 400+ years after his death. We talk about Robert's history with the plays (beginning with his role as First Fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the age of 13) and the 2017 performance of Julius Caesar in Central Park that inspired the book, the ways in which the Plays and the Sonnets complement each other, and how those works influence our understanding of the self and self-consciousness. We also get into the vicissitudes of literary reputation, the way Shakespearean fits as the capstone of Robert's Disruption Trilogy, along with My Year Off and Every Third Thought, the first play Robert's Shakespeare Club plans to see post-pandemic, the snobbery that drives Shakespeare denialism, how America became Shakespearean, and the urban myth that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during lockdown, as well as the ways plague influenced Shakespeare's entire career. Plus: where I should begin with Wodehouse, what prompted Robert to finally finish Proust (and then re-read him), and the nightmare of interviewing Philip Roth! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_450_-_Robert_McCrum.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:35am EDT

With How To Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education (Princeton University Press), Scott Newstok explores the Bard's schooling, how it contrasts with the No Child Left Behind model of today, and how we're failing both students and teachers. We get into Scott's love of Shakespeare and the history of education, why the drive for "assessment" is inimical to real learning, the false oppositions about education today, the value of play & conversation, and how the pandemic may have put the nail in the coffin for distance learning. We also get into his new project on Montaigne, the importance of having a couple of key teachers in one's youth, the importance of student evaluations, why he'll opt for Marlowe over Shakespeare if he needs to turn students on to Elizabethan theater, his thoughts on translating Shakespeare into "modern English, the scaleability of a Renaissance education, and more! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_449_-_Scott_Newstok.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:15am EDT

With Ars Vitae: The Fate of Inwardness and the Return of the Ancient Arts of Living (Notre Dame Press), Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn explores how different philosophies of the ancient Greeks and Romans continue to play out in our modern era. We talk about the interplay between antiquity & modernity, how we can learn to move beyond therapeutic culture, and why she's a born Platonist (the book also gets into Gnosticism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Cynicism). We also get into why instrumentalizing people is one of the worst developments of our time, what it means to have an authentic outward-facing inwardness, rather than the inward-facing outwardness of our age, whether philosophy prepares us for death (and whether it should). Plus we discuss how students have & haven't changed over her 30 years as a professor, the vale of WikiHow, the moment she was entranced by a philosophy seminar titled "Love", and what virtue is & whether it can be taught. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_448_-_Elisabeth_Lasch-Quinn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:08am EDT

I traveled up to the Catskills this weekend for a round of Rip Van Winkle-themed putt-putt golf, lunch, and some conversation with New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl. We get into Peter's 2019 diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer and how he gained & then lost the persona of The Dying Man during his one piece of memoiristic writing about it. We also talk about his accidental transition from poet to art writer in the '60s, why his two criteria for writing about art are quality & significance, his bias for authenticity over authority and sophistication over education, how HOWL changed his life, why he hates reproductions of paintings, why it took him years to come around on Rembrandt, his experience of revisiting Velazquez' Las Meninas over the years, the piece of art he'd like to revisit when we can travel again, his love of (& aesthete's approach to) fireworks, and plenty more on the art of living! • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_447_-_Peter_Schjeldahl.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:06pm EDT

With his compulsively entertaining new book, Drafted: A Memoir of the '60s (Tolmitch Press), author, screenwriter, and director Heywood Gould takes his reader on a rollicking tour of New York City in America's most turbulent decade as he explores his draft-dodging days in the buildup of the Vietnam war. We get into how Drafted evolved from a screenplay into a novel into a memoir, what it was like being a reporter for the New York Post at 22 (when it was a pinko rag, rather than a right-wing rag) and working alongside Nora Ephron and Pete Hamill, his family's tension between communist leanings & patriotism, and how his race to get out of the draft led him to Paris, civil rights protests, almost to the wedding altar, and Fort Dix. We also talk about Heywood's career writing and directing movies and TV (like Cocktail, Fort Apache, The Bronx, One Good Cop, The Boys From Brazil and The Equalizer), his one Gabriel Byrne story, why he'll take NYC over LA, and all the ways Hollywood has changed over the decades, especially in the streaming era. Plus we discuss why he reads the Torah daily (for the storytelling!), his stab at adapting Isaac Babel for the movies, how the Great American Novel has eluded him so far, how he learned Hemingway's trick of writing fiction like a news story, why being a mortician's assistant was his favorite non-writing job, and why his next book will be How Not To Be A Cancer Patient, a memoir of his 20 years (and counting) of experience with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_446_-_Heywood_Gould.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:39am EDT

Author & professor Heather Cass White joins the show to celebrate her wonderful new book. Books Promiscuously Read: Reading as a Way of Life (FSG). We get into what reading does & doesn't do for us, how we can lose ourselves & find ourselves in books, how this book gestated for decades while she was working on her scholarship of Marianne Moore, how she snagged the title from a line by Milton, and how promiscuously we should read the word "promiscuously". We also talk about her read-to-bits childhood copy of Anne of Green Gables, the possibility of getting too much out of Henry James, the lessons she took from studying with Harold Bloom, why you shouldn't read as if you're going to die (prompted by my recent health issues), the importance of keeping a patient attitude toward poetry, why she decided not to do more reading about reading once she started to write a book about reading, and more! More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_445_-_Heather_Cass_White.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am EDT

Writer Jonathan Baylis joins the show (in person!) to celebrate the latest issue of his autobio comics series, So Buttons (Tinto Press/Alchemy Comix). We talk about how he found a home in the Pekar mode, writing scripts for cartoonists to draw, and how he went all-Harvey for a strip with Noah Van Sciver. We get into his comics upbringing and his work experiences at a variety of comic companies, how his time at NYU film school informed his storytelling style, the artists he's hoping to work with, and how his body of work has revealed meta-themes about his stories. We also discuss being a subject in his wife's monologues (she's comedian Ophira Eisenberg), our reminiscences of Tom Spurgeon, working with his cartooning idols, our weirdest Tarantino-moments, and more! Follow Jonathan on Twitter and Instagram, as well as his professional site • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_444_-_Jonathan_Baylis.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:10am EDT

With her new book, Another History of Art (Fantagraphics), legendary illustrator & artist Anita Kunz beautifully reimagines classic paintings from a female perspective, offering up homages to the works of Leona Da Vinci, Paola Picasso, Gertrude Klimt, and many more. We get into the origins of this project, what it meant when she flipped the gender pronouns and feminized the names of artists & critics across the centuries, and how important it is for her to make art with a purpose, whether it's cultural, social or political. We get into how her career as an illustrator has evolved over 4+ decades, how she straddles the line between illustration & fine art, the importance of working with great art directors, and the old days when she had to race to an airport to make changes to a piece of art. We also get into how primatology explains politics, the joy of discovering that she has multiple books ahead (like this fall's Original Sisters), why she's been making a painting a day during the pandemic, why she volunteered at a monkey sanctuary & how she wound up collaborating with a Capuchin monkey named Pockets Warhol, and much more! (Plus, you get some news about my recent health issues.) Follow Anita on Facebook and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_443_-_Anita_Kunz.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:32am EDT

With her gorgeous new graphic memoir, Let's Not Talk Anymore (Drawn & Quarterly), artist Weng Pixin (a.k.a. Pix) explores 5 generations of women in her family, from each one's perspective at the age of 15. We got together to talk about how Pix built a multigenerational history of her family through silences, how she reverse-engineered her way into making comics, the challenges of growing up in an emotionally repressed environment and figuring out how to make art out of it, and how Singapore's money-driven culture makes it difficult to build art communities. We get her history in the arts, the female cartoonists in Buenos Aires who changed her life, what she's learned from teaching art to kids, whether it's good to post in-progress art online, how cleaning up her Dropbox folder made her realize she had built a body of work in comics (leading to her first collection, Sweet Time), whether her mother is going to read her new book, and more! Follow Pix on Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_442_-_Weng_Pixin.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:06am EDT

With The Book Tour (Top Shelf Productions), cartoonist Andi Watson makes his triumphant return to 'grown-up' comics, spinning a tale more Waugh than Kafka about a midlist British author on a book tour from hell. We get into the book's path to publication, the new drawing style he developed for this one, why he's shifted genres & styles over the course of his career, and how this book's visual setting was inspired by Atget's early-morning photos of Paris. We talk about the YA and middle-reader comics he's made in recent years, the quirks of writing for different age-tiers, how comics publishing has changed since he got into the field in the '90s, how Love & Rockets bent his brain at 18 & sent him on this wayward path, and why he's looking forward to going on a real book tour for The Book Tour someday! Follow Andi on Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to his e-mail and support his work via Patreon • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_441_-_Andi_Watson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:04am EDT

Practice makes person! With his new book, Our Endless and Proper Work: Starting (and Sticking to) Your Writing Practice (Belt Publishing), Ron Hogan explores how writing can be the process of becoming who you are, the importance of attention & focus and a regular writing practice, and why process is more important than product. We get into his sensation of receiving a Calling a few years ago and how he's carried that experience in his day-to-day life, the challenge of making your day job feed your inner life, the ways we can try to carve out time for that writing practice (and the ways to keep from beating yourself up when you don't stick to it), and why letting go of competitive goals can be a boon for a writer. We also talk about what he learned during the pandemic, how the realness of our virtual selves has evolved along with the internet, what he gets from returning to Robert Anton Wilson's memoir over the years, the misuses of Stoicism, and why he didn't use the title of his writing e-mail, Destroy Your Safe & Happy Lives, for the book. Follow Ron on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_440_-_Ron_Hogan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:38am EDT

With his new graphic memoir, Chartwell Manor (Fantagraphics), cartoonist Glenn Head returns to the scene of the crime: the boarding school where he and his fellow students were sexually and emotionally abused in the 1970s. We talk about why the toughest challenges of the book were artistic and not emotional, why he was just as unsparing in depicting himself as an adult, why the trauma of his time at Chartwell doesn't provide him a get-out-of-jail-free card, and why it wasn't exactly cathartic but was definitely empowering to draw and tell this story. We also get into why memoir is like striptease, the influence of the Patrick Melrose novels on this book, Glenn's lifelong debt to the great Underground Comix artists, his drive for personal exposure, why his wife is his best editor (and only reader), the next book he's working on, and more. Follow Glenn on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_439_-_Glenn_Head.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:50am EDT

Cartoonist and illustrator Will McPhail joins the show to celebrate his debut graphic novel, IN. We talk about weaponized self-awareness, the genesis of his poignant and hilarious tale of anhedonia, the value of real conversation, and how he stretched from single-panel cartoons to a long-form book. We also get into how finishing the book during the pandemic informed its earlier parts, what we'll talk about when we can talk in person again, and how IN took him away from submitting gags to The New Yorker at an opportune moment. Plus we get into the problem with "mindfulness" apps and the real definition of meditation (which we happen to find in the same place), why I should pay more attention to Bill Watterson's trees, and otters, stoats, and Will's other favorite animals to draw. Follow Will on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_438_-_Will_McPhail.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:23am EDT

Artist and cartoonist Keiler Roberts returns to the show to celebrate her new book, My Begging Chart (Drawn & Quarterly), and explain how she found a new mode for her wry comics about being a mother, daughter, wife, and artist. We get into how her multiple sclerosis diagnosis left her in lockdown mode a year before the rest of the world joined her, why she withdrew from comics for a while and why she returned to them, and how she short-circuits her anxiety about reader expectations. We discuss why she shredded some of her sketchbooks and journals to clear physical and mental clutter, her daughter's role as her editor, why she'd keep making comics regarded of the business circumstances, her fixation on the smell of Cabbage Patch Kids, the impact of MS on her life & art, the joy of making a new discovery at the Art Institute Museum in Chicago, the weirdness of being the subject of a profile in the Chicago Tribune, and more! Follow Keiler on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_437_-_Keiler_Roberts.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:38pm EDT

With his new book OLD STYLE, artist & author Dmitry Samarov moves from memoir into a (mostly) fictional mode, chronicling the lives and deaths of a pair of Chicago bars. We get into the liberations & responsibilities of fiction, the challenges of writing about bars while avoiding nostalgia, and how he put in the time to understand the bar patrons and their archetypes. We also talk about making art through the pandemic, turning his old art & writing into collage books, the need to change his palette, and what it was like for him to teach drawing for the first time (at 50!) and the curriculum he'd design if he had the opportunity. Plus, we get into his is recent NYC trip to see the Alice Neel retrospective, the next book he's hoping to write, and his semi sorta envy at my taking up drawing at 50. • Check out Dmitry's newsletter • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_436_-_Dmitry_Samarov.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:42am EDT

For my first in-person podcast since March 2020 (!), I talked with writer, memoirist & biographer Dorothy Gallagher about her beautiful new collection, Stories I Forgot To Tell You (NYRB). We get into the 2010 death of her husband, literary editor & raconteur Ben Sonnenberg, and how it took her five years before she could begin to write about him, the need to balance elegy and humor in her writing, and the importance of her early days working at Magazine Management (alongside the likes of Mario Puzo & Bruce Jay Friedman). We also discuss whether things are "only things" or evidence of a life, why it's not good for a biographer to actively dislike her subject, the one biography she'd love to write, her atheist's notion of an afterlife (less eternal punishment/reward, more eternal cocktail hour), her favorite time & place in NYC, why she misses flea markets, the impact/scars of her Communist upbringing, how she's handled the pandemic, and why the isolation would have driven her late husband nuts. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_435_-_Dorothy_Gallagher.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:56pm EDT

Cartoonist & illustrator Karl Stevens rejoins the show to celebrate his new book, Penny: A Graphic Memoir (Chronicle Books), in which Karl explores the inner life of his eponymous cat Penny. We get into the challenges of realistically drawing a tortoiseshell cat (and writing her existentialist thoughts), the book's origins in his Village Voice strip, and how he avoided plenty of cartoon cat cliches while crafting a book that can appeal to non-comics readers. We also get into his new work adapting another writer's script for a comic, the experiments he's doing with different drawing styles, his productive pandemic, and how he's trying to create book about his father's Vietnam experience. And we talk about our respective running habits, the virtues of Transcendental Meditation, his learning curve with New Yorker comic submissions, and his deep-dive into back issues of Heavy Metal. Follow Karl on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_434_-_Karl_Stevens.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:50am EDT

On May 4, 2021, news came out that rock & roll journalist and historian Ed Ward was found dead in his home in Austin, TX. In honor of Ed's work, I've collected our podcast conversations from 2016 and 2019. We were ostensibly there to discuss the first and second volumes of his History of Rock & Roll, but Ed can TALK, and we managed to go both wide & deep on a variety of subjects. I was hoping against hope for Vol. 3, so we could continue our conversation. • More info at our site

Direct download: Ed_Ward_Tribute_Episode.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:40pm EDT

With the new edition of Billionaires: The Lives of the Rich an Powerful (Drawn & Quarterly), cartoonist Darryl Cunningham explores the lives and businesses of Rupert Murdoch, the Koch Brothers, and Jeff Bezos to understand how they built their wealth and warped the lives of the rest of us in the process. Darryl talks about the genesis of Billionaires and its roots in his earlier work on the 2008 financial crisis, and why this book won't (necessarily) turn you into a communist. We get into his roots as a cartoonist, how a failed branch of his career made him a better writer and researcher, why getting technically better creates its own set of problems, and the comics that first inspired him. We also discuss his upcoming book on Putin & Russia, and whether the trolls and bots that might come after him online will be tougher than the homeopaths and chiropractors who got mad at his book on science denial. Plus, we talk about his new work with the NHS and why he's trying to avoid doing books on Brexit or Trump. Follow Darryl on Twitter, and Instagram and support his work through Patreon • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_433_-_Darryl_Cunningham.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:04am EDT

Legendary cartoonist & humorist Shary Flenniken joins the show to celebrate the long overdue collection of her amazing Trots & Bonnie comics (New York Review Comics). We get into her process of selecting the strips from Trots & Bonnie's ~20-year run at National Lampoon, her realization of how funny her comics still are, the joy of seeing the restored artwork, and the fun of providing annotations for each of the strips. We talk about her time among the Air Pirates, the great advice she got from Charles Vess, what she learned during her stint as an editor at National Lampoon, the importance of Kermode's The Sense Of An Ending and the challenge of a punchline, the impact of her comics on their intended and unintended audiences, and whether she considers her art's place in the history of underground comics. We also discuss our dogs, her lifelong love of popular fiction, her new comics work, her favorite pen nib and her shift to digital art, and a whole lot more. Follow Shary on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_432_-_Shary_Flenniken.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:51am EDT

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and cultural critic Louis Menand joins the show to celebrate his phenomenal new book, THE FREE WORLD: Art And Thought In The Cold War (FSG). We get into his process for chronicling the artistic, cultural, intellectual, technological and literary movements of the postwar era, the stories of the lives behind those movements and how he threads them together, what we mean when we talk about freedom, why writing can be like kicking open a rolled-up carpet, and the toughest art form to write about. We talk about the influence of John Cage (whose work we both dislike), the amazing creative lineage of Black Mountain College, the ~75,000 words he had to cut (the book is plenty hefty as is) and why he would have liked to include a chapter on Japan's art scene, the role of the CIA in funding movement and artistic venues, and the one person he regrets not interviewing for this project. We also discuss his pandemic life, the One More Book he wants to write, his father's anti-anti-Communist stance, the book's original title and why it had to change, and why his students at Harvard seem more interested in the '50s than the '60s. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_431_-_Louis_Menand.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:26am EDT

Lexicographer, bartender and bon vivant Jesse Sheidlower rejoins the show to talk about his new project, the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction. We get into the 20-year-old origins of the project and the ways it mirrors the development of the internet over that span, the importance of fandom and community in science fiction, how the culture transitioned away from treating SF & fanzines as ephemera, and his own history with the genre. We also discuss the ways in which the Oxford English Dictionary was the original crowdsourced project, how people misunderstand the mission & spirit of the OED, the variety of rabbit-holes a lexicographer can fall down, and my own experience creating a glossary for the pharma manufacturing industry. Plus, we talk about his pandemic life, the Threesome Tollbooth, and the post-COVID party he's planning! Follow Jesse on Twitter • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_430_-_Jesse_Sheidlower.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT

How will we remember and recover from the last 5 years? National Book Award-winning cartoonist Nate Powell's new collection, Save It For Later: Promises, Parenthood, and the Urgency of Protest (Abrams ComicArts) explores America's fractures and its hopes for the future. We talk about the impetus of the book, how it follows his work adapting Rep. John Lewis' story in the MARCH trilogy, and how his conversations with the late congressman scared him even more about the impact of the previous presidential administration. We get into the Save It For Later's balancing act of memoir & essay, his decision to draw his kids as magical animals, what MARCH taught him about comics storytelling and how it influenced his recent work. We also discuss the irony of Gen X's apolitical nature, Nate's punk ethos, the combo of thrash metal & X-Men comics that instilled a social conscience in him, the delight of visiting the quarter bins in his childhood comic shop when he goes home, why not being an activist doesn't equal being a defeatist, and a lot more. Follow Nate on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_429_-_Nate_Powell.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:16am EDT

Cartoonist Michael DeForge joins the show to celebrate his amazing new graphic story collection, Heaven No Hell (Drawn & Quarterly). We get into his prolific comics career, his compulsion to jump genres, the ways we relitigate the traumas of our lives, and why he digs he self-imposed challenge of a daily comic strip (on top of his other comics and his illustration work). We get into how revolutionary politics permeates his art and how he engages in community activism, what it means to rethink our relationship to social media, why technology will always outpace his attempts at ridiculing it, and why Reading The Comments led him to explore a creative path when he was making Leaving Richard's Valley. We also discuss the uses of absurdism & satire, how his dystopian stories have him rooting for utopian ideas, how he bullied his way into judging butter tart competitions, and more. Follow Michael on Twitter and Instagram and follow his current serial, Birds Of Maine, on Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_428_-_Michael_DeForge.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:37am EDT

It's been a year since I started the COVID Check-In series of podcasts, so I decided to return to the very first guest in that series, artist Kate Lacour, to celebrate! (You know what I mean.) We talk about how her life has changed over a year in Pandemia, and how the urge to document those first few months gave way to other outlets. In her case, Kate rediscovered herself through taxidermy. We get into how she taught herself the rudiments of that art through YouTube and online groups, her philosophy of animals and bodies, the question of realism vs. subjectivity, and why New Orleans is an awfully good place to make a living as a taxidermist. We go deeper into what comics mean to her and how she may return to them, the post-pandemic trip she wants to take, what progress looks like in the sequence of animals she's preserved, and more. Follow Kate on Twitter and Instagram and support her via Patreon • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_427_-_Kate_Lacour.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:42pm EDT

Finnish novelist Laura Lindstedt joins the show to celebrate the US publication of My Friend Natalia (Liveright, tr. David Hackston). We get into the challenges of translating a novel that's all about the therapy sessions of an extremely literate and hypersexual patient, how the therapist's method parallels Laura's writing process, and my meta-theory of who's actually narrating this amazing novel. We also talk about the influence of Nathalie Sarraute's poetics and the literary notion of Tropism (physical reaction of natural world), Helsinki's book-life and how it's changed in recent years, the joy of playing with the Finnish language and its etymologies, and the notion of gendered writing and why Laura chose to keep the narrator non-gendered (and why that made the audiobook a challenge). Plus, I get to founder over Finnish names, and Laura tells us the place she really wants to visit when we're post-pandemic. Follow Laura on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_426_-_Laura_Lindstedt.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:24pm EDT

Literary and feminist legend Vivian Gornick joins the show to celebrate her new collection, Taking A Long Look: Essays on Culture, Literature, and Feminism in Our Time (Verso Press). We talk about the biggest shock of looking back at her work for this career-spanning collection, why she organized it from most recent to oldest, and the difference between being smart and being wise. We get into the process of discovering her voice and figuring out she's a minimalist, how she got better at judging her own work, her criteria for culling books from her apartment (and her embarrassment when one showed up in an unexpected place), the importance of rereading (and why she wrote a book about it), and why the New York Review of Books recently said she "has long enjoyed an audience of literary depressives and feminists". We also discuss her 1970s essays on feminism, the movement's evolution in the past 50 years, how the Brilliant Exception became the rule, why political correctness if different than ideological splits, the New York she loves most, and why she's dying to go to a movie theater again. More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_425_-_Vivian_Gornick.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:44pm EDT

What price fame? With her debut novel, We Play Ourselves (Random House), writer and playwright Jen Silverman tells a comedic tale of theater life gone wrong, internet humiliation, a teenage feminist fight club, queer absurdist puppetry, the boundaries of documentary filmmaking, and a lot more. We get into the roots of her novel, what writing for theater and TV/film taught her and what she had to unlearn for this book, how she balanced her love for absurdism with narrative realism, and how to figure out which stories belong in which medium. We talk about the difference between "theater" and "Broadway" and how the pandemic has wiped out the communal experience of theater (for now), how the economics of theater can perpetuate a lack of diversity and how it feels to be "the woman" playwright in a season, how she learned to navigate the heightened unreality of LA, the difference in searching for The Path and finding A Path, why the hunger for being seen can warp pretty much all human activities, why she draws sad pandas, and more! Follow Jen on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_424_-_Jen_Silverman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:14pm EDT

With her latest graphic memoir, I Know You Rider (Drawn & Quarterly), Leslie Stein reveals a piece of her life that she'd never shared with anyone: her decision to have an abortion. We talk about why she chose to tell that story, how her family reacted to the book, why she told the story in a direct, unmediated narrative, what it was like to have the book come out in the early days of the pandemic, and her one regret about the experience itself. We get into her pandemic life, and why her new comic (currently being serialized on her Instagram) portrays the exact opposite: touring the country in a van with a band and playing music in crowded bars. We also discuss her dream-book of a history of Green-Wood Cemetery, what it's like to treat your life as content, and the one project that keeps making her run away into other projects. Follow Leslie on Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_423_-_Leslie_Stein.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:51am EDT

Let's commemorate the 200th anniversary of John Keats' untimely death with a conversation with Anahid Nersessian, author of Keats' Odes: A Lover's Discourse (University of Chicago). We get into how she read Keats' letters to Fanny Brawne at WAY too young an age, how she's lived with his poems since childhood and how they've changed for her over the years, and why it kills her that no one has disinterred Fanny's final letters to Keats (which he never read and are buried with him). We talk about her relationship to the western canon, the implicit (and explicit) sexual violence of Ode on a Grecian Urn, her harassment by a Latin teacher in high school and how it affected her career path, Keats' radicalist, proto-Marxist tones and the benefits of reading The Communist Manifesto in funny voices as a 7th grader. We also discuss what it's like to have a couple of strict old-school Freudians for parents, why she doesn't have time for social media (and why she didn't go overboard integrating her personal experiences into the book), the thread of Keats' Odes that has led to her next book on the Cato Street Conspiracy, and more. More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_422_-_Anahid_Nersessian.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:06am EDT

Author, editor and activist Kate Maruyama rejoins the show to celebrate the publication of her wonderfully creepy new novella, Family Solstice (Omnium Gatherum). We get into why she wrote a haunted house story at a time when everyone's stuck in their homes, how she pushed herself to finish the book during the early months of the pandemic, and how Family Solstice celebrates the great (and maybe a little haunted) home she grew up in. We get into what Kate's mother, the late, great Kit Reed, might have made of This Whole Situation we're in, the positives of holding a virtual book tour (including the launch in a virtual version of her childhood home), what her and her students' pandemic-era fiction looks like, the joy of getting her first Asimov's publication last year, and more! Follow Kate on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_421_-_Kate_Maruyama.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:27pm EDT

With Drawn & Quarterly publishing new editions of King-Cat Classix, Map of My Heart, and Perfect Example, what better time for John Porcellino to return to the podcast? We talk about how King-Cat Comics & Stories has evolved over the ~30 years (!) he's been making it, how the refinement of his art and storytelling mirrors the battle of intuition vs. OCD, and how his newest comics (even those written before 2020) reflect life during the pandemic. We get into how Buddhism has helped him cope with life and aging, his lurking concern that he has an expiration date, what he wants to accomplish before then, and what it means to publish issue #80 and to look at reaching #100. We also discuss the joyfully awful band Flipper and what it's like being Flipper for aspiring storytellers, the example Lynda Barry set for him, the influence John has had on my stories in recent years, his joy at seeing his name drawn by Robert Crumb, and why his new dog Arlo is A Good Boy even when he barks during podcasts. Follow John on Twitter and Instagram, and support his work via Patreon • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_420_-_John_Porcellino.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:13am EDT

With her debut memoir, Aftershocks (Simon & Schuster), Nadia Owusu explores the fault lines of identity, race, and justice, and the ways trauma and myths are transmitted through the generations. We talk about her upbringing in Europe (UK& Italy) and Africa (Ghana, Tanzania & Ethiopia), the meanings of skin color in different cultures, her social justice work, and what she had to learn about race in America. We get into what it's like to live on high alert, how we reclaim our stories and reframe our world, how Aftershocks evolved from private project to public document, and how even thin soil can let us extend roots. Follow Nadia on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_419_-_Nadia_Owusu.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:24pm EDT

Is it unhip to search for a meaningful pattern in life? Sven Birkerts rejoins the show to talk about his new book, Vladimir Nabokov's Speak, Memory: Bookmarked (IG Publishing), which explores time, memory, and those aforementioned meaningful patterns. We get into Sven's history with Nabokov's memoir, his own impulse toward memoir as he approached 50, and the challenge of writing about someone whose prose is as incandescent as Nabokov's. We talk about larger questions of literary greatness, the nature of individuality in an age of distributed social networks, whether Nabokov's best-known book will survive, and what other books and authors have become "unsafe" for undergrad readers. We also gab about packing one's library, finding the perfect notebook, and what the post-pandemic world may look like. Follow Sven on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_418_-_Sven_Birkerts.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:42am EDT

A series of deaths and personal losses in 2018 hang over Mark Wunderlich's poems in his new collection, God of Nothingness (Graywolf Press). We talk about that writing, how living through it unwittingly prepared him for the past year in Pandemia, and how the current situation compares with his arrival in NYC at the height of AIDS. We get into the uses of autobiography in poetry (his editor refers to his poems as "fiercely autobiographical"), Mark's queerness being tied to his poetic-self, the inspiration of James Merrill and his mentorship by JD McClatchy, the notion of a poem as a created environment permitting freedom, why his poems go from longhand to typewriter to computer, his experience conducting a Rilke course by snail-mail in 2020, his pandemic-adjustments as director of the Bennington Writing Seminars graduate writing program, and more. Follow Mark on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_417_-_Mark_Wunderlich.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:28am EDT

"At 50, everyone has the face he deserves," said George Orwell, but he died at 47, so what does he know? To celebrate turning 50, I use an obscure Woody Allen movie to talk about why I can't take stock of my life. Then the good part: I ask nearly 40 guests of the podcast one question, "What do you wish you'd done before the pandemic?" (You can skip right to that at 18:45.) Participants include Witold Rybczynski, Kathe Koja, John Holl, Emily Flake, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Ian Kelley, David Townsend, John Bertagnolli, Jennifer Hayden, Richard Kadrey, Joan Marans Dim, Liniers, Sven Birkerts, Barbara Nessim, David Leopold, Tess Lewis, Ken Krimstein, Michael Shaw, Dmitry Samarov, Maria Alexander, Paul C. Tumey, Kyle Cassidy, Henry Wessells, Warren Woodfin, ES Glenn, Philip Boehm, Woodrow Phoenix, Rian Hughes, Alta L. Price, Derf Backderf, Frank Santoro, Boaz Roth, Carol Tyler, David Mikics, Michael Gerber, Walter Bernard, Whitney Matheson and Dean Haspiel! Follow me on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_416_-_Wendung.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:54am EDT

With his amazing new novel, Sergeant Salinger (Bellevue Literary Press), Jerome Charyn evokes and explores J.D. Salinger's WWII experience in the Counter Intelligence Corps. We talk about Jerome's history with Salinger's work, his disdain for The Catcher in the Rye and his love of Nine Stories and their depiction of NYC of the 1940s and early '50s, the range of meanings and misunderstandings of Salinger's later silence, and Jerome's own terror of writing. Along the way, we get into Jerome's ventriloquism in his historical fiction, the limits of his artistic audacity, and whether he'd write a pastiche of Hemingway now that Hem's in public domain. Jerome being Jerome, we also discuss ping-pong, professional basketball, the older Michael Jordan as a Shakespearean character, and why he's writing a big essay about Mank. Follow Jerome on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_415_-_Jerome_Charyn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:24am EDT

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