The Virtual Memories Show

Artist Drew Friedman rejoins the show to celebrate his wonderful new book, Maverix and Lunatix: Icons of Underground Comix (Fantagraphics). We talk about his mind-blowing portraits of the legends of the Underground era, how he pared his list of subjects to 100 (from ~3000), why he decided to paint everyone in their prime years rather than present-day old (and the good stuff his subjects have said about their portraits), the research that went into writing biographical sketches of his subjects (and the challenges in getting photo reference for some of them), this book's departure from his Heroes of the Comics and Old Jewish Comedians paintings, and why he's not planning to do another book about Alt-comics artists of the '80s & '90s. We get into how Robert Crumb convinced him to draw people he doesn't like, the griping Marc Maron made about writing the foreword, how he came around on certain artists while working on the book, and his complaints about having to paint so many men with '70s era long hair and shaggy beards (and why he wants his next book to be all bald men). We also discuss how painting changed him as an artist, how he wound up recreating his early stippling effect with the brush, his realization that he was over a lot of his youthful grudges and resentments, his bucket list of people he hasn't gotten around to drawing, why Harvey Kurtzman is his most controversial subject in the book, and a LOT more. • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_516_-_Drew_Friedman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:16am EDT

Writer, journalist and speaker David Sax joins the show to celebrate his new book, THE FUTURE IS ANALOG: How to Create a More Human World (Public Affairs Books). We get into how we all got dragged at once into the digital future in spring 2020 and what it taught us, how surprised he was at response to his 2016 book, The Revenge of Analog, and why this book is its perfect companion, and why analog, real world experience has grown more important even as digital activity reaches its peak. We also talk about how he structured the book's main topics and days of the week — Work, School, Commerce, The City, Culture, Conversation, and Soul, corresponding with Monday to Sunday —, the ways in which we're growing disenchanted with Silicon Valley's vision of the future, why he will cite 1993 movie Demolition Man at the drop of a hat, and why a periodic digital sabbath is a good thing. Plus, we discuss the fundamental misunderstanding of what productivity is, why capital's extractive model can only lead to burnout & ruin, whether it was a good or bad thing that the pandemic curtailed his improv lessons, the Philip Roth book that he had to beg his book club's forgiveness for selecting, his belated dive into John Le Carré, and a lot more. Follow David on Twitter • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_515_-_David_Sax.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:50am EDT

Writer Jim Ottaviani rejoins the show to celebrate his new graphic biography, EINSTEIN (First Second)! We get into his collaboration with artist Jerel Dye & colorist Alison Acton on telling Einstein's story, the chutzpah involved in tackling the bio of the man whose name is a synonym for genius, and how he kept from falling into the rabbit hole of Too Much Research. We talk about how Jim used Einstein's major theories as a way of exploring the man and his times (and why this book is more of a story than a biography), the way 20th century popular culture latched on to Einstein, how he contrasts with some of the other biographical subjects Jim has tackled, and the mystery of what happened to Einstein's first child. We also discuss the process of working with a new artist, the writing hints that come from the subconscious, the physics teacher who helped him explain the trickier theories in the book, whether the pandemic-era anti-science movement has made Jim doubt his work or has him doubling down on it, and (of course) our running stories. Follow Jim on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_514_-_Jim_Ottaviani.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:18pm EDT

Classicist, editor, and writer Peter Stothard joins the show to celebrate the publication of his amazing new book, CRASSUS: The First Tycoon, the first in Yale University Press' Ancient Lives series. We get into what drew him to Crassus, how Crassus' understanding of finance and money revealed new ways to exert power beyond military strength in ancient Rome, how he tried to balance the strengths of Pompey & Julius Caesar as part of the "three-headed monster" that ruled Rome, whether Crassus deserves to be lost to history because of his brutal actions putting down the Spartacus slave revolution, and why writing about the ancients is like walking along a wall and looking down to see the familiar and the alien. We talk about Peter's journey from council estate to studying classics at Oxford to editing the Times of London and then the Times Literary Supplement, the lessons antiquity has for modernity, what he learned in writing a book about Tony Blair and the buildup to the Iraq War, and his upcoming work on the development of the bureaucratic class. We also discuss how he survived a catastrophic form of cancer, rediscovered himself as a classicist-memoirist, and learned how much one gains in life by overcoming a fear of death, and a lot more. Follow Peter on Twitter • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_513_-_Peter_Stothard.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:23am EDT

Photographic historian & writer Michael Lesy joins the show to celebrate his amazing new book, WALKER EVANS: LAST PHOTOGRAPHS & LIFE STORIES (Blast Books). We get into his friendship with Evans & their shared interest in Lyrical Documentary, why Evans' last photos were dismissed by academics (even though they are, in fact, amazing), what he learned from writing a mini-biography of Evans for the book, how Evans returned to one of his first cameras — the Polaroid SX-70 — in his last year, and what Michael felt seeing his late wife among the final portraits Evans shot. We also get into Michael's ~50-year career from Wisconsin Death Trip to now, how reading the Russians — especially Turgenev — turned him into a writer, how he feels about everyone taking pictures on their phones, and the importance of understanding photo history. Plus, we discuss how he taught Literary Journalism at my alma mater, Hampshire College, for ~30 years, the audition test he gave his students so they could write their way into his class, why students became much more frail over the decades, and a LOT more. More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_512_-_Michael_Lesy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:15pm EDT

This week, writer, professor & critic Marina Warner joins the show to talk about her new book about her parents, Esmond and Ilia: An Unreliable Memoir (New York Review Books). She gets into the memory of her father's Cairo bookshop getting burned down in a riot, the huge cache of letters and documents her mother left behind and what it taught her about her mother's life & deep sadness, how this book transitioned from novel to memoir and what novelistic aspects it retained, and why she disagrees with the standard memoir's notion of an integral self. We also talk about transformations from Ovid to COVID, her upcoming work on the concept of sanctuary and her interest in refugees, what it means to be at home in the world and how to give refugees a sense of attachment through imagination, why fairy tales and myth need to be reinterpretable and not fixed in meaning, how it felt to have one of her books cribbed by WG Sebald, how the myrrh bush captured her imagination, and why I think she should watch Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Plus, we discuss the loss of Carmen Callil and the need to champion women writers, her role as the first woman president of the Royal Society of Literature from 2017 to 2021 and the RSL's recent unwillingness to hold an event in support of Salman Rushdie, and a lot more. Follow Marina on Twitter • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_511_-_Marina_Warner.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:31am EDT

Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz joins the show to celebrate his new collection, ART IS LIFE: Icons and Iconoclasts, Visionaries and Vigilantes, and Flashes of Hope in the Night (Riverhead Books). We get into the ways his book chronicles tumultuous transformations in the art world in the 21st century, his late start (almost 40) as an art critic and how his lack of art history training affects his writing, the works of art that inspired his writing, and the transcendent joy of Jeff Koons' 43-foot-tall topiary puppy. We also talk about how a critic can try to avoid the sclerosis they're all liable to suffer, why he's the least reliable critic of Matthew Barney, why he thinks some critics are holding back on negative reviews, what it's like to attend 25-30 gallery shows a week (with his wife, the great NYT art critic Roberta Smith) and what it meant when pandemic lockdown hit. And we discuss his 35-year friendship with the late Peter Schjeldahl, his attempt at getting up to speed on classic books, his disdain for cynics and 'knowers', the artists he missed the boat on, and how art saved his life. Follow Jerry on Twitter and Instagram • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

Direct download: Episode_510_-_Jerry_Saltz.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00pm EDT