The Virtual Memories Show

The Virtual Memories Show is a weekly interview podcast about books and life, not necessarily in that order. Your host, Gil Roth, interviews guests about their careers and the books that have helped shape their lives, and tries to engage in witty banter for which you’d think 47 years of dilettantism would have prepared him better.

Every Tuesday, you can expect a fascinating conversation with a fascinating person. So far, that includes a passel of Pulitzer Prize winners, two MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellows, an Emmy winner, an Oscar nominee, an Oscar winner, a National Book Award nominee, a Marine, a boxer, an MBE, and a whole bunch of cartoonists.

In fact, there’ve been so many cartooning-related episodes, I made a page for them over here!

And here’s an alphabetical list of guests, which may be easier than sorting through the chronological list below.

And here’s a list of podcasts by some of our guests (I’m always happy when past guests launch shows of their own).


There are plenty of ways you can follow The Virtual Memories Show!

Plus, sign up for the weekly e-mail!


If you’d like to learn more about Gil, click on the arrow for options


You can help keep the fine art of conversation alive by supporting The Virtual Memories Show!

Tell your friends about this podcast, promote it on social media (we’re @vmspod on Twitter), and provide regular financial support via Patreon or Paypal. And see who’s supporting the show!

Our Patreon page has lots of information on our fundraising goals and awards for patrons, including a monthly, patron-only podcast: Fear of a Square Planet! Go to and make a recurring donation to The Virtual Memories Show. If you’d prefer not to use Patreon, you can also visit and make either a one-time or recurring donation.

Supporters of the show will get access to exclusive content, including that monthly podcast, the lists of books we talk about during episodes, invites to special live events, and more. Patreon supporters will get access to a patron-only blog on that site, while non-Patreon supporters will get subscriber access to our super-secret website.

Help make this show sustainable and demonstrate your support for good, smart, fun conversation about books and life — not necessarily in that order.


We’ve gone to a lot of places to record episodes of the show:

Annapolis, MD • Arlington, MA • Atlantic Highlands, NJ • Baltimore, MD • Beacon, NY • Bennington, VT • Berkeley, CA • Binghamton, NY • Bronxville, NY • Brooklyn, NY • Burlington, MA • Cambridge, UK • London, UK • Chapel Hill, NC • Chelmsford, MA • Chicago, IL • Cincinnati, OH • Columbus, OH • Des Allemands, LA • East Hampton, NY • Encinitas, CA • Fairfax, CA • Hamden, CT • Hartford, CT • Henryville, PA • Highland Falls, NY • Keansburg, NJ • Laguna Beach, CA • Livingston, NJ • Los Angeles, CA • Madison, NJ • Malibu, CA • Manhattan, NYC • Milton, MA • Montclair, NJ • Morristown, NJ • New Haven, CT • New Milford, NJ • New Orleans, LA • Pine Brook, NJ • Nutley, NJ • Nyack, NY • Ottsville, PA • Philadelphia, PA • Princeton, NJ • Putnam Valley, NY • Queens, NYC • Quincy, MA • Rhinebeck, NY • Ridgefield, CT • Ringwood, NJ • Rockville, MD • Roxbury, CT • San Francisco, CA • Santa Monica, CA • Saratoga, NY • Sea Cliff, NY • Seattle, WA • Smallwood, NY • Staten Island, NYC • Stonington, CT • Swarthmore, PA • Toronto, CA • Ventura, CA • Washington, DC • Wassaic, NY • Westport, CT • West Cornwall, CT • Whippany, NJ • White Plains, NY • Woodstock, NY


The Virtual Memories Show is informed by a lifetime’s worth of reading. The quotes below are the closest it comes to having a mission statement.

“The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”
–Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

* * *

“The only truth is face to face.”
–Frank O’Hara, Ode: Salute to the French Negro Poets

* * *

“Then why do you give all these interviews?”

Salle thought for a moment. “It’s a lazy person’s form of writing. It’s like writing without having to write. It’s a form in which one can make something, and I like to make things.”

–Janet Malcolm, Forty-One False Starts


Check out the praise The Virtual Memories Show has received from guests and listeners over the years.

“Well done.”
Clive James

“In addition to being the best-dressed guy in the room, Gil knows how to ask thoughtful questions and keep a conversation flowing smoothly.”
Jason Lutes

“Gil Roth is every interviewee’s dream interviewer: relaxed, erudite, jaw-droppingly well-prepared, notably gracious in a graceless age.”
Mark Dery

“Gil Roth doesn’t just ask questions, he wants to know where the answers lead. One of the best interviews I’ve ever had!”
Kathe Koja, author of the Under The Poppy trilogy, The Cipher, and Skin

“I have done lots of interviews over the last year in connection with The Hirschfeld Century, but this one was the best as it touched on so many things in and out of the book. Gil Roth does a remarkable job of pulling out the stories from his guests, and avoiding the obvious.”
David Leopold

“Another I’ve come to enjoy a great deal is The Virtual Memories Show, hosted by the endlessly curious (and fascinating) Gil Roth, who roams far and wide to interview bookish people, authors, critics, librarians, illustrators, comic artists, cartoonists, and other smart and engaging people.”
Ernest Hilbert, E-Verse Radio

“It’s wonderful. Where has it been all my life?”
Christopher Bollen, author of Orient and Editor At Large for Interview

“Great talk, great books. Just listened to my first,
and it would appear Gil has the stuff.”
–Ron Rice, publishing, marketing & sales professional

“One of the best lit talk shows going.”
Dmitry Samarov, artist, former cab-driver, and author of Where To?: A Hack Memoir

“You’re doing something amazingly valuable with your interviews.”
Paul Gravett, The Man at the Crossroads

“Sexist and patronizing.”
–anonymous guest

“More like sexy and patriotic!”
–another anonymous guest

“If I’ve had a better interview, I don’t remember it.”
Bruce Jay Friedman, author, playwright, screenwriter

“One of the world’s great conversationalists.”
–D.G. Myers, A Commonplace Blog and
The Elephants Teach: Creative Writing Since 1880

“Your skills rival that of any NPR interviewer.”
Ron Slate, poet, author of
The Incentive of the Maggot and The Great Wave

“A great, omnivorous interviewer
on one of the most entertaining podcasts going.”
Peter Trachtenberg, author of Another Insane Devotion

“This is what NPR should be.”
–Fred Kiesche, The Lensman’s Children blog

“Thoughtful, smart.”
The Word Girl

‘Gil Roth is one of the best interviewers out there.’
Lisa Borders, author of The Fifty-First State

UPCOMING GUESTS (alphabetically)

There’s a H-U-G-E list of guests who’ve committed to join me for a Virtual Memories Show conversation. Check out the writers, artists, cartoonists, critics, and otherwise fascinating people who are on the roster!


Alphabetical list over here

#300 – ???

#299 – The Guest List 2018

#298 – Summer Pierre – In her new graphic memoir, All the Sad Songs (Retrofit Comics), Summer Pierre uses the mix-tapes of her 20s and 30s to tell us the story of her life, one wrong boyfriend, one cross-country drive, one Boston folk stage set at a time. We talk about the soundtracks to our lives, the memoir & comics influences that gave her permission to tackle her PTSD issues on the page, the discovery that she was making a 104-page comic instead of the 25-page one she set out to draw (or “getting used by the muse”), and how surprised she was that college students know what a mix-tape is. We also get into her artistic maturation out of the kamikaze-style of making comics, the Boston folk music scene she was in/around in her 20s, the somatic therapy that helped her deal with PTSD, the notion that mixes are self-portraits, and wanting to be her mother’s biographer, but realizing she knew almost nothing about her mom’s insane life. (12/4/18) – mp3

#297 – Shachar Pinsker – Jews have a long tradition with coffee (I can attest!). In A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture (NYU Press), Professor Shachar Pinsker explores the intersection of modernistic Hebrew literature and coffee. We get into the story of Jewish migration through Europe and into America and Israel, why coffeehouses were the silk road of secular Jewish creativity, the golden age of feuilletons, the semitic roots of coffee culture, the way A Rich Brew is about big cities as much as it is about coffeehouses, the importance of thirdspace to bridge the social and the private, and how Shachar narrowed the book down to 6 representative cities. We also get into how his Yeshiva education helped his secular literary studies, his night-and-day visits to Warsaw, and just how we define “modern Jewish culture”! (11/27/18) – mp3

#296 – Cathy B. Graham – Who starts a career at an age when most people are looking at retirement? Coming off a divorce and a three-decade hiatus from professional life, award-winning illustrator Cathy B. Graham is having a second bloom. We sat down to talk about painting, fashion illustration, and floral design, as captured in Second Bloom: Cathy Graham’s Art of the Table (Vendome Press). We get into her artistic upbringing, her RISD education alongside Roz Chast & Dave Calver, the art of entertaining, her love of the Thorne Miniature Rooms and their influence on her life, her trepidation about returning to oil painting, the joy of Instagram, her New York and how she shifted from SoHo artist to Upper East Side culture maven. Most importantly, we talk about the regeneration and finding your new life. (11/20/18) – mp3

#295 – Angela Himsel – How did Angela Himsel make the transformation from rural Indiana and apocalyptic, fundamentalist Christianity to the Upper West Side of Manhattan and observant Judaism? Her new memoir, A River Could Be a Tree (Fig Tree Books) chronicles that process, bringing to life a story of family and discovery. I talk with the award-winning columnist about how she came to Judaism from the Worldwide Church of God, when she met Jews for the first time, what Israel means to her, and what she considers the weirdest aspect of Judaism. We get into the difference between seeing the world as the emanation of God and seeing it as the Devil’s playground, her conversion to Philip Roth-ism, the beautiful family secret she uncovered in the process of writing her book, the decision to include her terrible teenage poetry in the memoir, why God may need therapy, and the Rapture-based prank she and her siblings still pull on each other. (11/13/18) – mp3

#294 – Mark Dery – For his first biography, Mark Dery picked a doozy of a subject: the great, creepy, droll, mysterious artist and writer Edward Gorey. We talk about Mark’s brand-new book, Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey (Little, Brown), his one in-person encounter with Gorey, how Gorey’s sexuality did and didn’t inform his work, and the challenge of writing the biography of an artist whose work always invited the reader to fill in the gaps. We get into how Gotham Book Mart made a cottage industry out of Gorey, the long-range impact of Gorey on America’s pop culture, the queerness of children’s literature beginning in the ’50s, the influence of Asian art and philosophy on Gorey’s work, his devotion to ballet and Balanchine, why the epic catalog makes for a great biographical tool, and a lot more, like Mark’s lifelong one-sided relationship with Patti Smith! (11/6/18) – mp3

#293 – Michael GerberThe American Bystander magazine is a print-only humor magazine, and while that may seem like an anachronism in this day and age, editor/publisher Michael Gerber joins the show to talk about why it’s the perfect vehicle for humor. I’ve been a fan of the Bystander since its (re-)inception in 2016, and it was a delight to talk with Michael about the magazine’s history, his background as “the world’s only expert on print humor magazines”, the decision to crowdfund the magazine and how it beats the days when “paper bag money” was necessary to get a magazine on the newsstand. We get into how he keeps the rhythm of the magazine flowing between prose pieces, gag panels, strips and other pieces, as well as the contributors who passed away before he could get them into The American Bystander, the ones he’s vowed to get, and the challenges of getting diverse voices in the magazine. We also discuss his vision for America, the politicization of history, the experience of reading National Lampoon when he was 4 years old, and finding his life’s purpose in trying to start a cult. (10/31) – mp3

#292 – Eddie Campbell – Legendary cartoonist Eddie Campbell joins the show to talk about his first (sorta) prose book, The Goat Getters: Jack Johnson, the Fight of the Century, and How a Bunch of Raucous Cartoonists Reinvented Comics! We get into this forgotten piece of comics history, the challenge of offensive ethnic stereotypes in old cartoons, cartoonists’ blind spot toward sports, the other pieces of cartooning history he wants to chronicle, and the amazing, unsung career of Kate Carew. We also talk about the bookshelf of Eddie’s comics work, what took him away from autobiography, the challenge of coloring From Hell (and succumbing to the temptation to redraw some of it), his Bizarre Romance comics collaboration with his wife, Audrey Niffenegger, the lessons of age, the joy of telling shaggy-dog stories, and what it’s like to be known as “Hayley Campbell‘s dad”. (10/23/18) – mp3

#291 – David Small – With a Caldecott Award-winning career in writing and illustrating kids books under his belt, David Small made a huge splash in the comics field with his National Book Award-nominated 2009 memoir Stitches. Now he’s back with the graphic novel Home After Dark (Liveright) and we got together at SPX to talk about how those careers mesh, how he got his start in illustration, how he approached his new book as fiction, and more. We get into his artistic, literary and cinematic influences, the struggles of studying representational art in the ’60s and ’70s, and the incredibly wrong geographic decision about a teaching gig that led him to the love of his life. We also discuss the elements of a good kids book and why so much of today’s market turns him off, the moment in Paris when he got over his fear of making comics, the memory palace he reverse-engineered to start his memoir, and the evolution Home After Dark took over 12 drafts (!) to tell the story David knew he had to tell. (10/16/18) – mp3

#290 – Jason Lutes – For the third installment in our ad hoc Germany/fascism triptych, Jason Lutes joins the show to talk about completing his 22-year opus, the 550-page graphic novel Berlin (Drawn & Quarterly)! We talk about the changes in his life, his art, and comics publishing over that course of this project, the ways Berlin evolved and changed over the years, Jason’s struggle not to re-draw panels or pages or full issues for the collected edition, what he learned about human nature and fascism in the course of making Berlin, and the imaginative benefit of not having Google Image search when he started doing research for it. We also get into his storytelling and cinematic influences, the balance of formalism with fluid storytelling, what he’s learned from teaching at the Center for Cartoon Studies, his epiphany at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum during CXC 2018, my inadvertent comparison of him to Britney Spears, and plenty more! (10/9/18) – mp3

#289 – Nora Krug – With the brand-new visual memoir Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home (Scribner), writer/illustrator Nora Krug explores her family’s history in World War II and her own struggles with her identity as a German expat in America. We get into the meaning of Heimat and why her questions arose when she was living outside of Germany, the challenges of telling the story without devaluing the Holocaust itself (thanks, Jewish beta-readers, incl. Nora’s husband!), the pendulum swing of collective guilt, the failings of German’s education system to address the war, and whether certain books should be banned (and what happened the time she tried reading Mein Kampf on the subway). We also get into the process of editing her life and her discoveries into a narrative without eliding the truth, how Belonging/Heimat has been received in Germany, writing it in English, and the detective work that went into making the book. Plus, we talk about her visual storytelling style, teaching art at Parsons, why she doesn’t keep a sketchbook (but doesn’t tell her students that), and the German stereotypes she does and doesn’t live up to (she’s getting better at small talk!). (10/2/18) – mp3

#288 – Ken Krimstein – With his new graphic biography The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth (Bloomsbury), Ken Krimstein combines his interests in comics, history and philosophy into a dream project. We talk about how he made the shift from “average NPR listener” to deep scholar of Hannah Arendt, teaching himself phenomenology in mid-life to balance story with philosophy, trying to understand the relationship between Arendt and Heidegger (and trying to understand Heidegger’s philosophy and whether it fed into his Nazism), seeing through Arendt’s eyes and taking solace from her philosophy, and how he got laughed at by other cartoonists when he told them he thought he could draw this 240-page book in 6-8 weeks. We also get into Ken’s history in comics and advertising, the alchemy of the New Yorker cartoon, how he learned about culture via Mad Magazine, his failed attempt to be Saul Bellow, the lesson that problem-finding is more important than problem-solving, the Chicago comics scene and the Evanston arts-mafia, what he misses about New York, and Saul Steinberg’s central role in art and comics for the 20th century and beyond. (9/25/18) – mp3

#287 – Audrey Niffenegger – In NYC for the Brooklyn Book Festival, author/artist Audrey Niffenegger joins the show to talk about her work and life. We get into her new collaboration, Bizarre Romance (Abrams), being Parent Trapped (maybe) by Hayley Campbell, her interest in taxidermy and what it does and doesn’t signify, how she shifts from prose to comics and vice versa, the allure of Chicago, getting consent to convert people into characters, writing the sequel to her best-known work, The Time Traveler’s Wife, how that book’s success changed her approach to art, how art school taught her to see, getting turned on to print-making as a teen by a book on Aubrey Beardsley, the books she’s still hoping to get around to reading, and plenty more! (9/18/18) – mp3

#286 – Moby – Electronic dance musician Moby joins the show to talk about what he learned from writing his memoirs and what he learned from reading bad ones. We get into the toughest/most embarrassing story he had to tell, the banality of turning 50, the benefits of pubic failure, the pros and cons of the infinite jukebox, his take on contemporary pop music, his decision to sell off most of his recording equipment and his records, the two things he would save if he had a house fire, his favorite Star Trek captain, and a lot more! (9/11/18) – mp3

#285 – Glen David Gold – How did Glen David Gold get over his Stalinist attitude against memoir to write his amazing new book, I Will Be Complete (Knopf)? Listen in as we talk about his transformation from novelist (Carter Beats the Devil and Sunnyside) to the narrator of his own life! We get into his realization that not only was his upbringing not normal, it needed to be revised and refined into a story (in which his dad comes off as a benign putz, which is fine compared to his mom . . .). We also talk about how Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story fixed him up, coming to understand the narrator’s voice by performing parts of the book at open-mic nights, his introduction to Marvel comics & the magic of Jack Kirby, how the UC Irvine fiction-writing program saved his career, his brilliant idea for a podcast (which I’m tempted to steal), his teenaged nerd-out moment with John Irving, the pros & cons of collaborating on comics and screenwriting vs. the solo work of novel-writing, the cultural history of LA, his 3-week work ethic, why he pushes Bourjaily’s Now Playing at Canterbury on anyone who’ll listen, and more! (9/4/18) – mp3

#284 – Richard Kadrey – On the eve of the publication of his 10th (!) Sandman Slim novel, Hollywood Dead, Richard Kadrey joins the show to talk about discovering himself as a series writer, converting the raw material of his religious upbringing into urban horror and fantasy, and his drive to understand the character of Lucifer and how evil has been portrayed in the western world. We also get into LA’s transparent power-dynamics, the moment when he started receiving fan art and fanfic of his work, his recognition that he’s a hard worker but a terrible employee, the ways his journalism training benefited his fiction writing, why the second Sandman Slim book was the hardest thing he ever wrote, his best practices for book tours, writing on drugs, keeping it together when he met JG Ballard, the importance of being unqualified for anything, and more! (8/28/18) – mp3

#283 – Robert Andrew Parker – At 91 years old, Robert Andrew Parker can’t stop making art. We sat down in his studio to talk about his 7-decade career in painting, illustration and printmaking. We talk about how a childhood bout of TB led to his becoming an artist, how he studied under German refugees at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, the challenges of keeping his fine art career running parallel with his commercial illustration career all these decades, how he got hired as Kirk Douglas’ hands in the Vincent Van Gogh biopic Lust for Life, his fascination with Kafka and the Metamorphosis, how he got started playing drums and how he felt about 4 of his 5 sons growing up to be drummers. We also talk about the worst part of his macular degeneration (hint: it involves books), why he prefers watercolors to oils, his favorite places when he traveled the world on magazine assignments, his profane correspondence with Thomas Berger (and a funny exchange with Nabokov), his astonishing “German Humor” series and why it had to be etched and not painted, how he nearly burned down a barn with nitric acid while prepping plates, why art agents and dealers need to be realists (but have a sense of humor), touring the Dardanelles with Edward Herrmann, and much more. (8/21/18) – mp3

#282 – Lance RichardsonHouse of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Row tells the story of Tommy & David Nutter, two brothers who grew up above a trucker cafe in Wales and managed to achieve glamorous heights in London and New York. Author Lance Richardson joins the show to talk about telling a queer history in Nutters’ clothing, the realization that he’d struck gold with Tommy and David Nutter’s lives, his education in tailoring, Savile Row culture and the transformation on London in the ’60s, the impact of AIDS and survivor’s guilt, the professionalization of celebrity, and the joy of getting a bespoke jacket from Tommy’s cutter. We also talk about Lance’s upbringing in rural Australia, his culture shock about America’s bureaucracy and healthcare system, the blessing and curse of being a generalist of a writer, scaling up his reporting skills for full-length non-fiction writing, his next project (a bio of Peter Matthiessen), the time he accidentally stalked Julianne Moore, the question of whether The Paris Review was a crutch for George Plimpton, and the reading list he had to build for himself as a youth, and more! (8/14/18) – mp3

#281 – Bill Plympton – Indie animation legend Bill Plympton joins the show to talk about his first short (the Oscar®-nominated Your Face), his latest feature (Revengeance), and everything in between! We talk about his indie ethos, the economics of animation and the benefits of Kickstarter, collaborating for the first time, launching the Trump Bites series of animated shorts and how they dovetail with his early career as a political cartoonist, his dream project (it involves Beatles music), his influence on generations of animators and artists, and how he discovered his hatching-sketchy style. Bill also gets into sticking with pencil and paper, falling in love with NYC 50 years ago and taking inspiration from it ever since, starting a family a little late and changing the work-life balance, giving career advice to young animators, and ripping off his idols. (8/7/18) – mp3

#280 – David Lloyd – From A(ces Weekly) to V (for Vendetta): UK comics legend David Lloyd joins the show to talk about his storied career, and how he made the shift from artist to publisher with the online comics anthology magazine Aces Weekly! We get into his roots as a cartoonist and noir storyteller, the co-creation of V for Vendetta with Alan Moore and what he thinks of the Guy Fawkes mask he designed for V being used by Occupy and Anonymous (and Trivia Revolution bar posters), his stint in advertising and what it taught him about storytelling, the youthful experience of having his mind melted by Ron Embleton’s Wrath of the Gods comic, the processes he invented to draw his 2006 graphic novel, Kickback, how he’s kept an ideas notebook most of his life and finds gold in decades-old entries, dealing with Moore’s tendency to overwrite and enforcing the boundaries between artist and writer, and what he’s learned about marketing in the internet era with Aces Weekly. It’s a career-spanning conversation! (7/31/18) – mp3

#279 – Hal Mayforth – Illustrator-painter-cartoonist-musician Hal Mayforth joins the show to talk about making art out of the everyday. We get into his daily sketchbook practice (along with transcendental meditation), the shelf-life of illustrators’ styles, the music he makes out of found vocals, and how he balances personal art alongside his professional work. We also talk about his explorations into AbEx and how he made the shift from illustration to fine art, how he built his portfolio by doctoring alt-weekly articles with his own illustrations, why playing in a band offsets the solitary aspects of making art, his Screaming Yellow Zonkers animation that never aired, whether living in New England (Burlington, VT especially) helped or hurt his illustration career, the inspiration of EO Wilson on his Biophilia paintings, teaching himself portraiture by working his way through an old World Book encyclopedia, his campaign to get May 4th declared a national holiday and why he feels upstaged by Star Wars fans, and why he chooses soul over technical perfection (and Lightnin’ Hopkins over Steve Vai). BONUS: Here’s a one-minute vid I shot of Hal playing slide blues prior to our conversation! (7/24/18) – mp3

#278 – Dmitry Samarov – After our pre-opening tour of the Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation museum, artist Dmitry Samarov and I repaired to a cafe where we recorded a noisy conversation while Dmitry sketched me. This ridiculously casual episode gets into artists and suicide, the process and revelations of assembling 20 years’ worth of work for a mid-career retrospective (as well as his new exhibition of his CTA illustrations), the losing proposition of chasing stats, the launch of his own semisorta podcast, the fanciest dumb-phone around, becoming a journalist/reviewer, and how you gotta find the right tool for the job/art. (7/17/18) – mp3

#277 – Nathaniel Popkin – He calls himself a master of nothing, but Nathaniel Popkin does a pretty good job for himself as a novelist, literary editor, critic, journalist, and urban historian. Nathaniel joins the show to talk about his new novel, Everything Is Borrowed (New Door Books), as well as the new literary anthology he co-edited, Who Will Speak for America? (Temple University Press). We get into the fertile subject and setting of Philadelphia, the goal of building a literary hub for his adopted city, the process of writing a novel about anarchists and architects (which I sorta characterize as the anti-Fountainhead), the necessity of self-delusion for artists, his background in urban planning and how it informs his writing, the challenges and rewards of seeking diversity in art, the importance of the Writers Resist movement, how becoming a writer was his way of being Jewish in the world, and why he eschewed MFA vs NYC in favor of PHL! (7/10/18) – mp3

#276 – Mark Ulriksen – His art has graced the cover of The New Yorker 60 times (!), and now award-winning artist/illustrator Mark Ulriksen joins The Virtual Memories Show! We talk about how he got his start in illustration at 37 (and compare mid-life crises) and how his previous career as an art director affected him, get into his paintings of dogs and why he likes painting them more than people, and issue our judgement on Barry Bonds’ MLB Hall of Fame chances. We also get into the ice-cream machine that changed his life, the good aspects of being typecast, the pros and cons of not going to art school, how he developed his “gracefully awkward” style, his love of sports (and the new gallery show of his sports-related work!), his artistic epiphany inspired by The Third Man (our mutual just-about-favorite movie), the graphic memoir he wants to make, why he loves drawing on an iPad, and how he’s managed to work around his idiopathic obliterative perifoveal retinal vasculopathy (it’s a bad eye disease). (7/3/18) – mp3

#275 – Dave Calver – Artist & illustrator Dave Calver joins the show to talk about Limbo Lounge (Yoe! Books), his first graphic novel! We discuss the ups and downs of his 40-year career in illustration, his pop-surrealism-lowbrow vibe, life in a vintage trailer park, and how he manages to draw macabre without being gross. We also get into his ’70s/’80s NYC experience (including witnessing collateral damage at a women’s wrestling match at Club 57), his time at RISD with Roz Chast and her club-days at Danceteria (!), the movie he’s writing and its Munchkinland-Goth scenery, the loss of era-specific styles, perfecting “nicotine-stained jewel tones” for Limbo Lounge, and how it all started with the image of flowers behaving badly! (6/26/18) – mp3

#274 – Chris ReynoldsThe New World: Comics from Mauretania collects what artist Chris Reynolds describes as “Strange Adventure Stories About Dreams”. During TCAF 2018, we get into Chris’ amazing body of comics work, the roles of intuition and reason in his storytelling, his panic when another artist (Seth) uncannily identified themes and threads throughout his work, and his sense of letting go of his stories now that they’ve been collected by New York Review Comics. We also talk about nostalgia for a time before he was born, the notion of writing after the big event instead of the event itself, the allure of Cordwainer Smith’s stories, and the phenomenon of having a distinctly cult following for his work. (6/19/18) – mp3

#273 – Alberto Manguel – Author, editor, translator, and (most crucially) reader Alberto Manguel joins the show to talk about his new book, Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions (Yale University Press). We discuss the lifelong act of building a library and how he deals with having no access to it, now that he’s had to pack up ~35,000 books (but he also tells us about the 3 books he took with him on his travels). We get into his new gig as director of Argentina’s National Library, our schism on whether to cull one’s book collection, his experience in his teens reading to a blind Borges, the book-fetish, our mutual preference for The Iliad over The Odyssey, the embarrassment of receiving an award that was previously given to Borges and Beckett, why translating a book takes more effort than writing one, how he deals with Argentina’s dirty war and the phenomenon of awful people liking great books, the book he still hopes to write, why Canada is home for this world traveler, and the problem with the problem with canons. BONUS: Our listeners weigh in on the books they’d bring with them for a 2-week hospital stay! (6/12/18) – mp3

#272 – Irvin UngarArthur Szyk was once one of the most popular artists in America, but after his untimely death his art vanished from public discourse. How did Szyk achieve and lose such renown? Irvin Ungar has spent the last 25 years championing Szyk’s work, most recently publishing the National Jewish Book Award-winning Arthur Szyk: Soldier in Art. We talk about his introduction to Szyk, the impact of Szyk’s work in his native Poland, the UK and the US, the way Szyk’s work in so many forms — illuminated manuscripts, Persian miniatures, political cartooning, and more — may have contributed to his posthumous decline, and why Syzk’s Haggadah is like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. We also get into Irv’s dayenu moments promoting Szyk’s legacy, and the curious story of how Irv entered the rabbinate as an alternative to serving in Vietnam, left to become an antiquarian bookseller, and how his rabbinic training let him recognize Arthur Szyk as an upstanding man. (6/5/18) – mp3

#271 – Christopher Brown – Science fiction author Christopher Brown joins the show to talk about his first novel, Tropic of Kansas (Harper Voyager), and the redemptive possibilities of dystopian fiction. We get into his SF pedigree, living in Austin and its influence on his ecological themes, the multivalence of Texas, his attempt at subverting the post-9/11 technothriller toward emancipatory ends, his background in business law and politics (and the role of power in both those milieux), his affinity for edgelands and the dysfunctions of time, the storytelling advantages of growing up in the midwest, his cynicism about humanity and optimism about nature, and working on Capitol Hill and realizing Ted Kennedy looked just like a certain Marvel character. (5/29/18) – mp3

2018 Memorial Day Bonus Mini-Episode – No conversation this time! On the occasions of Philip Roth‘s death and Sandy McClatchy‘s memorial service, I ruminate on opportunities missed and taken in this bonus episode. (5/26/18) – mp3

#270 – Ilana C. Myer – Fresh from her book tour, Ilana C. Myer joins the show to talk about her new novel, Fire Dance (Tor). We get into the jump she made for her second book, the process of crossing Celtic poets with troubadours and Mediterranean aesthetics and mythology as part of her world-building, the challenge of seducing the reader, why she writes fantasy instead of history, and her fixation on “books with magic in them” as a kid. We also get into how she balances life in Israel and the US, her process of self-discovery and her religious epiphany in a college astronomy class, the challenge of shutting out social media voices while keeping up a strong Twitter presence, and more! (5/22/18) – mp3

#269 – Michael Kupperman – Son of a Quiz Kid Michael Kupperman rejoins the show to talk about his new book, All The Answers! We talk about his father Joel Kupperman’s experience on the Quiz Kids radio and TV shows and how it led to a multigenerational chain of trauma, the shifting of gears from absurdist humor to heartfelt family memoir, the airing of family secrets, the five-plus years of work this book required, and more. We also get into how Mike learned to be a father on the fly, the way his PR push for the book has turned into an ongoing therapy session, why his comedy performances may have been a time-delayed act of paternal rebellion, why it’s important for him to reach a non-comics audience, the change to a mainstream house after working with comics publishers, and his assessment of his career and his perceived lack of respect (that would be the aforementioned therapy session). (5/15/18) – mp3

#268 – Roz Chast LIVE! – Live from MoCCA 2018, Roz Chast rejoins the show to talk about her 40-year+ career as the “different-different-different” cartoonist at The New Yorker, what her workday is like, why she avoids topical and political cartooning, the joy of drawing on an iPad and the fun of Instagram, and more! We get into her new book, Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York (Bloomsbury USA), and her issues with the suburbs, like learning to drive at 38 and being scared of having a basement. We also discuss the transition to a new cartoon editor at The New Yorker who’s the same age as her kids, the recent shift in gender representation, and the gags she couldn’t have made before she lost her parents. Plus: audience Q& A! (5/8/18) – mp3

#267 – JJ Sedelmaier – Director/Producer JJ Sedelmaier has been in and around animation for nearly 40 years. We sat down to talk about the false choice of art and commerce, how the advertising and animation businesses have changed over the years he’s been working in them, using animation for good instead of evil, how working in a Greek restaurant as a teen prepared him to run his own animation studio, the insane process of animating the first season of Beavis & Butthead, the joy of working with his favorite artists and cartoonists, not worrying about his road-not-traveled, stepping away from SNL’s TV Funhouse after 3 years (during which time he co-created Ace & Gary, the Ambiguously Gay Duo), the time he met Steve Ditko, how Mark Newgarden & Paul Karasik have taught him to appreciate Nancy, the trap of tapping into nostalgia (and the missed opportunity of that Geico ad with He-Man), his responses to my totally unfair “X or Y” questions (incl. “Herriman or McCay?” and “Kurtzman or Eisner?”), and plenty more! (5/1/18) – mp3

#266 – Steven Heller – Design scholar Steven Heller joins the show to talk about writing and editing more than 182 books on design and its history (and lamenting the books he still wants to do). We get into his evolution from cartooning to graphic design, how he became a scholar of satiric magazines, what went into building the MFA entrepreneurial design program at School of Visual Arts, and the maybe too-encompassing use of the word “design”. We also talk about the transition from print to digital media, how he manages to keep up a daily blog, his career at the New York Times (designing the op/ed page and the Book Review, and occasionally writing obits), his legacy, how he’s dealing with Parkinson’s syndrome, how a terrible student can become a good teacher, and more! (4/24/18) – mp3

#265 – Jaime Hernandez – He’s been on my list of dream-guests since I launched the podcast, and now Love & Rockets cartoonist Jaime Hernandez joins the show! We talk about his new book, The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America (TOON Graphic), the family-centric folktales of his own youth in Oxnard, CA, the fun of drawing for kids, and the times he’s felt Maggie Chascarillo had nothing left to say. We get into the origins of Love & Rockets, how he learned to tell a story and still develop characters, the L&R story that marked a turning point for him, what prompted a big reunion storyline of his key characters, the thing he most hates drawing, the first time he saw someone with a Love & Rockets tattoo (and the stories of his own tattoos), and the vital question: is punk rock dead? Plus, Katie Skelly (My Pretty Vampire) talks about what Jaime’s comics mean to her! (4/17/18) – mp3

#264 – Dean Haspiel – Cartoonist and playwright Dean Haspiel joins the show to talk about his new play, The Last Bar At The End Of The World (running April 10-15, 2018!) and how he looks at his life & career after turning 50. We get into his New Brooklyn series of webcomics, our mutual upbringing on superhero comics, the inherent lie of being a freelancer, his father’s friendship with Marilyn Monroe, writing for theater vs. comics, his devotion to Mamet’s On Directing Film, my theory that most of Tarantino’s movies are about acting, fulfilling his youthful dream of drawing the Fantastic Four, and the validity of Jack Kirby’s (apocryphal) statement, “Comics will break your heart.” (4/10/18) – mp3

#263 – Jonathan Ames – On the eve of the premiere of You Were Never Really Here, writer Jonathan Ames returns to his stomping grounds of northern NJ to talk about crime novels, the literary pilgrimages of his youth, getting laughs at AA meetings, and more. We get into the process of seeing his novella adapted into film, his decade-long fascination with Richard Stark’s Parker novels, the catharses and paradoxes of his confessional writing, learning on the fly to write for TV and working with a writers’ room for Bored to Death and Blunt Talk, the experience of studying creative writing at Princeton under Joyce Carol Oates, learning The Secret to stop being cheap with himself, his favorite writing form (given that he’s made novels, stories, columns, nonfiction, films, TV, and comics), the act of subsuming himself into fictional characters, the bizarre error on his IMDB page that left me totally flummoxed, and the amazing NJ coincidence of one of the locations used in the movie. (4/3/18) – mp3

#262 – Jerry Moriarty – Paintoonist (painter + cartoonist) Jerry Moriarty joins the show to talk about playing the Art Card all his life. We get into the genesis of his Jack Survives comics and his recent book, Whatsa Paintoonist? (Fantagraphics), his 50 years teaching at SVA, his move back to his childhood home in upstate NY in his 70s, the role of memory in art, his evolution from AbEx to Pop Art to representational to paintooning (with a sideline in magazine illustration), his experience playing at CBGB’s with the Steel Tips, his evening with Willem De Kooning, the belief that talent is a scam, why he doesn’t sell his paintings (and who he’s hoping to bequeath his paintings to), and a lot more! (3/27/18) – mp3

#261 – Robert WeilLiveright Publishing editor-in-chief Robert Weil joins the show on the eve of this year’s Festival Neue Literatur to talk about editing translations, why great translators are heroes (and ought to get credited on book covers), and his admiration/adoration for Barbara Perlmutter, winner of this year’s Friedich Ulfers Prize. Along the way, we talk about the nuts-and-bolts of editing writers and why good writers want to be edited, the ongoing relevance of The Scarlet Letter and our Hawthorne vs. Melville takes, the most haunting line of Henry Roth (“The grave is a barrier to all amends, all redress”), and Robert’s incredible run of graphic novels (think Will Eisner, Robert Crumb, Jules Feiffer, and David Small). Plus, we bond over the fact that he edited one of my all-time favorite books: Clive James’ Cultural Amnesia! (3/20/18) – mp3

#260 – Jesse Sheidlower – Time for a books & booze break! Lexicographer/bartender Jesse Sheidlower returns to the show (here’s our first ep.) to talk about bartending at The Threesome Tollbooth, a very intimate cocktail experience in Brooklyn (as in, there’s only space for two patrons and a bartender). We get into the origin of the Tollbooth and why it’s neither a “speakeasy” nor immersive theater, the confession-booth aspect of the space and the sanctity of the bartender-patron relationship, the reasons classic cocktails become classic and why barely anyone’s ever had a real daiquiri, and how you can get New Yorkers to stop looking at their phones. Plus, we talk about Jesse’s new built-in bookshelves (which are a sight to behold)! (3/13/18) – mp3

#259 – Lavie Tidhar – Science fiction author Lavie Tidhar joins the show to talk about the five topics that Israeli novelists are allowed to write about, his affinity for pulp fiction tropes, when it’s okay to make fun of Hitler (which he does at great length in A Man Lies Dreaming), why he finds utopias sinister (hint: he was raised on a kibbutz), how to build a career on ambitious failure, the eye-opening experience of editing world anthologies of SF, the difference between having fans and having readers, the distracting joy of Twitter, why not getting published in Israel felt like a reverse-BDS movement, and what it’s like never knowing which shelf a bookstore will decide to put his books. (3/6/18) – mp3

#258 – Willard Spiegelman – Critic and essayist Willard Spiegelman returns to the show to talk about his new book, If You See Something, Say Something: A Writer Looks at Art (SMU Press), collecting his art reviews from the Wall Street Journal. We get into the notion of legacy after his retirement from 45 years of teaching, then tackle the process of learning to look at paintings, his favorite museums, the question of whether Hockney’s happiness makes him less of an artistic genius than grim/tormented artists, whether one should buy art to match one’s furniture, his love of Marfa, TX, the differences between being a pilgrim and a tourist, the role of curiosity as a remedy for boredom, the challenge of editing a literary magazine in this day and age, whether he’s a role model to younger gay people, the first time he had a student who was the child of one of his first students (that is, when he realized he was getting old), and more! (2/27/18) – mp3

#257 – Jerry Beck – Animation historian Jerry Beck joins the show to talk about his recent Museum of Modern Art screening, Cartoons You Won’t See on TV (and the ongoing exhibition it accompanies). We get into Jerry’s career arc, starting with his research gig for Leonard Maltin, the importance of curation in the arts, his role in the anime revolution in the US, the uphill battle to preserve and restore old cartoons, the book he’s proudest of, the importance of talking to the old-time inkers and behind-the-scenes artists (and not just the big names), how he teaches animation history to students who grew up watching Rugrats, why What’s Opera, Doc? is the greatest cartoon of all time, what’s going to be in his dream animation festival, and more! (2/20/18) – mp3

#256 – Lauren WeinsteinVillage Voice cartoonist Lauren Weinstein joins the show to talk about the balancing act of making comics. We get into how she integrates the political and the personal, finds humor alongside near-tragedy, and deals with the temptation to do self-help/identity comics. We also get into how she manages the tightrope walk of motherhood and comics-making (esp. with a 10-month-old who’s constantly grabbing for her ink), the conversation around a comic she did about potentially passing along a hereditary disease to her unborn daughter, the moral tensions of teaching comics, drawing strips for digital vs. print, the transformative effect of reading Dan Clowes’ Art School Confidential strip, having an on-stage persona for a mutant band where the mantra was “keep your eye off the ball”, needing neck surgery but worrying how paralysis would affect her cartooning, and more! (2/13/18) – mp3

#255 – Henry Wessells – Antiquarian book dealer Henry Wessells joins the show to talk about his new exhibition at the Grolier Club and its accompanying book, A Conversation larger than the Universe: Readings in Science Fiction and the Fantastic, 1762-2017 (Oak Knoll). We get into his collecting impulse and why he’s not really a book collector, the childhood influence of Doc Savage and the adult influence of Robert Sheckley, Mary Shelley’s primary role in the invention of science fiction, the relevance of John Crowley’s Little, Big to our current moment, the ways the internet has changed book-collecting and casual reading, the vicarious thrill of book-dealing, our mutual teenaged meltdowns when we encountered Neuromancer, the unsung writers in his collection, the one book he wishes he owned, and a whole lot more. (2/6/18) – mp3

#254 – Ann HulbertAtlantic Monthly literary editor Ann Hulbert joins the show to talk about her new book, Off the Charts: The Hidden Lives and Lessons of American Child Prodigies (Knopf). We get into the history of child prodigies and what we can learn from the rest of their lives, how the prodigy experience can be a version of normal childhood writ large, and how to deal with the “race to nowhere” aspects of our high achievement culture. We also talk about Ann’s career as a literary editor (from The New Republic to Slate to The Atlantic), the advantages of living outside the New York publishing ecosystem, the challenges of assigning books for review, the perils of monomania, her father’s belief that children are “guests in the house”, and more! (1/30/18) – mp3

#253 – John Leland – New York Times reporter John Leland joins the show to talk about his new book, Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old. We get into his year-long project of profiling 6 people aged 85+, how it blew up his preconceptions about old age and became an elderly version of The Real World, and what it taught him about living in the here and now. We also get into his history in journalism, his interest in The Beats, what it was like to arrive in NYC in 1977, the time he trained at a pro wrestling school, his decision to write a book treating On The Road as if it was a self-help book, which New York Times building he prefers, our shared love of David Gates’ fiction, and more! (1/23/18) – mp3

#252 – Seymour Chwast & Ann Rivera – Legendary illustrator / designer / artist Seymour Chwast joins the show to talk about what it means to continue past “legendary” status. We dive into his 60-plus-year career, from Push Pin Studio  and beyond, to the reasons why he can’t slow down (much less retire). Then, our very first Virtual Memories Show guest, Ann Rivera, drops in on the way home from MLA 2018 to talk about the future of the humanities! (1/16/18) – mp3

#251 – Paul Karasik & Mark Newgarden – How deep can deep reading go? Paul Karasik & Mark Newgarden talk about the 10-year project of exploring a single Nancy strip, for their new book How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels (Fantagraphics). We get into the wonders of Ernie Bushmiller’s signature strip, the transformative class they took with filmmaker Ken Jacobs, the malfunctioning tape recorder that led to the whole project, the challenges of getting Jerry Lewis to write the book’s foreword, Nancy’s role as proto-feminist, and more! (1/9/18) – mp3

#250 – Dave McKean – Artist, writer, illustrator, cartoonist, designer, director, composer, and all-around creative force Dave McKean joins the show to talk about how the story dictates the medium, why comics-making shouldn’t be taught, the balancing act of collaborative and solo work, the missed opportunity of Tundra Publishing, his forays into theater and film with the WildWorks team and how they taught him to give up his control-freak nature, the influence of his jazz background, why it’s okay sometimes to judge a book by its cover, the problem-solving nature of a long walk, how the early loss of his father plays out in his work, his tendency to start every project with a complete failure of confidence, and the confluence of forces that led to his amazing new book, Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash! (1/2/18) – mp3

2017 Year-End Bonus Mini-Episode – No interview this time, just a guy talking to himself! A column by Oliver Kamm about the importance of Asterix the Gaul causes me to recap a little of 2017, lament the decline of Oliver’s mother, past guest Anthea Bell, fill you in on the regrets of some of the guests I missed out on, and talk through why I’m doing what I’m doing here. No visitation by Christmas ghosts necessary! (12/25/17) – mp3

#249 – The Guest List – Three dozen of the year’s Virtual Memories Show guests tell us about the favorite books they read in 2017 and the books they hope to get to in 2018! Guests include Pete Bagge, Kathy Bidus, Sven Birkerts, RO Blechman, Kyle Cassidy, Graham Chaffee, Howard Chaykin, Joe Ciardiello, John Clute, John Crowley, John Cuneo, Ellen Datlow, Samuel R. Delany, Nicholas Delbanco, Barbara Epler, Joyce Farmer, Sarah Williams Goldhagen, Paul Gravett, Liz Hand, Vanda Krefft, Michael Meyer, Cullen Murphy, Jeff Nunokawa, Mimi Pond, Eddy Portnoy, Keiler Roberts, Martin Rowson, Matt Ruff, Ben Schwartz, Vanessa Sinclair, Ann Telnaes, Michael Tisserand, Gordon Van Gelder, Shannon Wheeler, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Matt Wuerker . . . and me! (12/19/17) – mp3

#248 – Cullen Murphy – This podcast has been to Hicksville and Coconino, so why not Fairfield County, CT? Cullen Murphy‘s new book, Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe, tells the story of Prince Valiant cartoonist John Cullen Murphy and the community of cartoonists, illustrators and comic-book artists who settled the southeastern corner of Connecticut in the ’50s and ’60s. Cullen & I talk about the confluence of factors that led to that community and his goal of preserving that golden age in this book, his realization that “cartoonist” was not a normal job for one’s dad, his own cartooning aspirations, what writing Prince Valiant with his father taught him about storytelling, how his upbringing around cartoonists affected how he worked with illustrators as a magazine editor, and what Cartoon County taught him about himself & his family. (12/12/17) – mp3

#247 – Vanda Krefft – Quick: Who is the “Fox” in 20th Century Fox? You’d know if you read Vanda Krefft‘s fantastic new book, The Man Who Made the Movies: The Meteoric Rise and Tragic Fall of William Fox (Harper)! Vanda joins the show to talk about William Fox’s contributions to the movies, why he’s virtually unknown today, and how she discovered his story. We also get into her decade-plus experience of researching and writing the book, Vanda’s transition from journalist to biographer, the limits of historical records, the damage Fox wrought on his extended family by supporting them, the biographer’s need to correct for hindsight, the influence of Nancy Drew on her writing career, the contrasts of her early life in Canada and her adult life in the US, and more! (12/5/17) – mp3

#246 – Eddy Portnoy – Yiddish scholar and raconteur Eddy Portnoy joins the show to talk about his new book, Bad Rabbi: And Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press, and how he turned a really fun hobby into a low-paying career. We get into the tabloid craziness of bigamist rabbis, fights over a Jewish beauty queen, 600-lb. wrestlers, and the déclassé Jews of Poland and New York from the heyday of Yiddish newspapers. We also talk about how Eddy taught himself to read & write Yiddish as a teen, the slip of the microfilm dial that led to this book, his embarrassing story about meeting (and lecturing) Ben Katchor, his resemblance to Geddy Lee, and more. But what will his poor mother think? (11/28/17) – mp3

#245 – Eshkol Nevo & Paul Gravett – Israeli author Eshkol Nevo talks about his new novel, Three Floors Up (Other Press), after having to explain it to Passport Control. We get into how his fiction-writing career both integrates and rejects his past lives in advertising and psychology, explore the Robin Hood model of the creative writing school, and discuss the background PTSD of daily life in Israel. Then British comics scholar Paul Gravett rejoins the show (here’s our first ep.) to talk about his new MANGASIA exhibition (here’s a video), and the accompanying book. Plus, I tell a story about bumping into Graydon Carter in Ottawa! (11/21/17) – mp3

#244 – Nicholas Delbanco – He’s been blackening the blank page for more than 50 years, and now Nicholas Delbanco joins the show to talk about writing, teaching, and sleepwalking through life! We get into his new essay collection, Curiouser and Curiouser, the importance of establishing a writing routine or habit, the process of revising a decades-old trilogy in light of his growth as a writer, the art of faking spontaneity on the page, the value of a good MFA program, his assessment of himself as a minor writer (or, even worse, “a writer’s writer”), and the one place the deracinated consider home. – (11/14/17) – mp3

#243 – Martin Rowson – It’s the first anniversary of the 2016 presidential election, so who better to have on the show than viciously satirical political cartoonist Martin Rowson? We talk about the purpose of satire, subversion-vs.-respectability, journalism-vs.-art, the idiocy of the ruling classes, his literary adaptations, his change of outlook at 50, and the benefits of selling original art to UKIP. (11/7/17) – mp3

#242 – George Lois – Legendary ad-man George Lois joins the show to talk about 50+ years of shaping American culture and to give us some Damn Good Advice. Find out how the immigrant Greek florist’s son became the guy behind The Big Idea and revel in stories about Muhammad Ali, Jagger, Dylan, Warhol, and more! (10/31/17) – mp3

#241 – Barry Blitt – Why is award-winning illustrator Barry Blitt so uncomfortable with the flap copy praise of his new decades-spanning compendium, Blitt? We spend an hour trying to get to the bottom of that, starting with his horror at looking back at his early work (both from seeing rookie mistakes and from deciding he was better back then). We talk about how his New Yorker covers shifted from observational to topical illustrations, how he’s become the de facto voice of that magazine, his Canadian roots (and how its attendant hockey fetish got him started as an illustrator), the difference between punching down and going for cheap laughs, and making the most of his uncanny resemblance to Bob Balaban. (10/24/17) – mp3

#240 – John Crowley and Michael Meyer – From crows in the underworld to the Beijing of the US, this episode features return guests John Crowley, author of Little, Big, The Aegypt Cycle, and the brand-new Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr, and Michael Meyer, author of The Last Days of Old Beijing, In Manchuria, and the brand-new The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up. (Check out my previous episodes with John and Michael!) (10/17/17) – mp3

#239 – Pete Bagge and Mimi Pond – Live from CXC – Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, it’s my Spotlight sessions with the great cartoonists Peter Bagge and Mimi Pond! (10/10/17) – mp3

#238 – Shannon Wheeler – It’s late-night podcast-action with cartoonist Shannon Wheeler! We get into the history of his Too Much Coffee Man comics and his new book, Sh*t My President Says: The Illustrated Tweets of Donald J. Trump, becoming a The New Yorker cartoonist and learning to work with the new cartoon editor, his dream project on the history of northern California, and the redemption of the guy who used to dress up as TMCM at conventions! It’s coffee-fueled! (10/3/17) – MP3

#237 – Ann Telnaes and Matt Wuerker – It’s a double-Pulitzer-winner episode! First, the great editorial cartoonist, animator and essayist Ann Telnaes joins the show to talk about the role of satire against the abuse of power, her political awakening, her present sense of urgency and her upcoming Trump’s ABC (Fantagraphics), the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo murders, the images editors won’t print, and the sanctuary of the Alexander Calder room at the National Gallery. Then past guest Matt Wuerker returns to the show (here’s our first ep.) to talk about The Swamp, the loss of comity and the growth of tribalism in contemporary DC (characterized by that weekend’s dueling rallies between Trump supporters and Juggalos), the problem with having easy targets, bringing conservative cartoons into his weekly roundup for Politico, taking up fly-fishing in his dotage, and more! (9/26/17) – mp3

#236 – Mimi Pond – Cartoonist and humorist Mimi Pond makes her third appearance on the show, this time to celebrate publication of The Customer is Always Wrong (Drawn & Quarterly). We talk about the joys of coming back to NYC, her favorite diner in the city, the process of translating her book from prose to comics, the differences between working in print and making web-comics for The New Yorker, publishing the conclusion of her unreliable memoir and lamenting a story that didn’t make it didn’t make it into the book, navigating celebrity-adjacent moments in LA, her fascination with the Mitford sisters, having a very creative plan for dental coverage, why she considers Beverly Clearly the Hemingway of children’s writers, and her great lesson for being an artist: “make friends with discomfort”! (9/19/17) – mp3

#235 – Liz Hand and John Clute – It’s another Readercon episode! First, Liz Hand rejoins the show for a little conversation about what she’s been reading lately (it’s some creepy stuff, of course), the regenerative aspects of Readercon, why the novella is ideal for dark/spooky fiction, and whether the attendee wearing an ASIA t-shirt is doing so ironically. Then John Clute talks about the ruins of futurity and the launch of the Clute Science Fiction Library at Telluride Institute. We get into the need for visual presentation and accessibility of original books in their context (including dust jackets), his transition from book accumulator to collector, the externalization of one’s mind into one’s library, why he doesn’t write fiction, the Easter eggs he sneaks into the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, why Galaxy Quest is the best Star Trek movie (except for Wrath of Khan), reaching a uniform degree of incompletion, generational shifts in SF/F, and the sneaky adoption of Fantastika. (9/12/17) – mp3

#234 – Kathy Bidus – Poet/muse/amanuensis Kathy Bidus joins the show to talk about her contribution to the new collection SisterWriterEaters (Griffith Moon). Along the way, we get into her “quit college and move to New York” decision in the late ’70s, the formation of an art salon in the early 80s, her Jean Valjean moment, meeting her husband (artist and past pod-guest Drew Friedman), Mad cartoonist Al Jaffee’s impact on her sense of humor, the Old Jewish Comedian she’s had a crush on all these years, what she learned from raising champion beagles, and the worst “please read my poetry” moment she ever had. Plus: I talk a LOT about dogs. (9/5/17) – mp3

#233 – Ellen Datlow – Legendary (as in mega-award-winning) horror, science fiction and fantasy editor Ellen Datlow joins the show to talk about her career. We get into defining horror (and its subset, the conte cruel), how the business has changed and hasn’t, the proper care and feeding of writers, dealing with diversity and representation in the anthologies she edits, finding good stories in translation, the pros and cons of blurring genre boundaries, keeping up with new voices, her preference for editing short fiction over novels, the writers she wishes she solicited stories from, running the monthly Fantastic Fiction reading series at the KGB Bar, the editing lesson she got from Ben Bova, and why it’s never good when an author says, “This is the best thing I’ve ever written”! (8/29/17) – mp3

#232 – Gordon Van Gelder – Editor/publisher Gordon Van Gelder joins the show to talk about his career in the science fiction and fantasy fields. We get into publishing F&SF Magazine, coping with burnout, balancing the demands of art and business, exploring the differences between editing for magazines vs. anthologies, trying to avoid disruption, handling diversity issues without implementing a quota, figuring out the dystopian theme of his current run of anthologies, dealing with the cultural, um, norms of stories of past decades, avoiding the perils of chasing “name” authors and rejecting a story by Ray Bradbury, making the shift from print to online, watching new writers develop a strong voice, working with the necessary egotism of writers, explaining how the internet has wrecked SF/F criticism, and more! (8/22/17) – mp3

#231 – Sven Birkerts – In the ’90s, Sven Birkerts cautioned us about the impact of technology on reading with The Gutenberg Elegies. In 2017, we mute our iPhones to talk about his new book, Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age (Graywolf Press). We dive into the impact of digital technology on perception and identity, but also get into the way life becomes a thematic puzzle in middle age, why he stepped down from his role directing the low-residency MFA program at Bennington, the joy of bringing his favorite writers in as instructors (and the ones he regrets not getting), the challenge of interviewing fiction writers, his big literary 0-fer and what I’m missing about Virginia Woolf, how he’s adapting to a year-long sabbatical and how he understands his writing life, what he’s learned editing the literary magazine AGNI, and why the prerequisite for anything he’s reading is that it has to be more interesting to me than whatever it is he’s vaguely brooding about. (8/15/17) – mp3

#230 – Patty Farmer – How did Patty Farmer go from businesswoman to historian of the Playboy empire? “I don’t do well when I’m bored,” she tells me, as we talk about her new book/oral history, Playboy Laughs: The Comedy, Comedians, and Cartoons of Playboy. We get into the cultural impact of Playboy (the clubs, resorts and jazz festivals, not just the magazine), my own history with same, the process of becoming friends with one’s interviewees, gaining access to Hugh Hefner’s immense archives, combining comedians and cartoonists into a single volume, the amazing work Hef did as a cartoon editor, how she swung from business deals to entertainment history, and more! (8/8/17) – mp3

#229 – Matt Ruff – Novelist Matt Ruff joins the show to talk about how his fantastic novel Lovecraft Country began as a TV pitch 10 years ago, and is now on its way to becoming an HBO series. We get into cultural appropriation issues (Matt’s white and LC‘s about a black family dealing with racism and the supernatural in 1950s Chicago), the pros and cons of genre-hopping, the differences between mid-century racism in the North and the South, growing up over the course of his first three novels and learning to be happy with his voice, becoming friends with one of his favorite authors (past and future pod-guest John Crowley), his ambivalence toward HP Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick and his affinity for their imitators, why he loved the descriptions of late Heinlein novels but was disappointed by the books themselves (when he was 12!), bucking his family’s religious traditions, missing his opportunity to babysit Thomas Pynchon’s kid, and more! (8/1/17) – mp3

#228 – Ellen Forney – The great Seattle cartoonist Ellen Forney joins the show to talk about comics, civic art, being bipolar, and the challenges of maintaining! We get into her 2012 graphic memoir, Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me, finding a graphic representation of her depressive states, the evolution in her drawing style, the letter she stole from Michael Dougan, the process of going from comics panels to enormous murals for a light-rail station in Seattle, the influence of the Moosewood Cookbook, the importance of a psychology stats class she took in college, how she learned to teach comics, the moment when she felt she was using all her artistic tools, and why she needed Kaz to design her back-tattoo! (7/25/17) – mp3

#227 – Ben Schwartz – Comedy writer, journalist and screenwriter Ben Schwartz joins the show to talk serious laughs. We discuss his work on American humor between the wars, writing for Billy Crystal on the Oscars and his contributions to David Letterman’s monologues, the profundity of Jack Benny and the importance of Bob Hope, his amazing (but unproduced) screenplay about Bob Hope and Larry Gelbart in Korea, how Jaime Hernandez’ comics prepared him to move to LA, his take on Charlie Hebdo, and what it’s like having the same name as the actor who played Jean-Ralphio on Parks & Rec! (7/18/17) – mp3

#226 – Joyce Farmer – “I’m not interested in doing something if it isn’t groundbreaking.” Joyce Farmer joins the show to talk about her transition from housewife to underground comics legend, the adventure of disposing of 40,000 copies of her comic when the state of California was trying to pinch her and her partner, traveling the world and landing in Greece, making Special Exits (Fantagraphics), the heartbreaking comic memoir about the death of her folks after a decade or two away from cartooning, and why she could swear and curse just as much as her male underground peers. (7/11/17) – mp3

#225 – Howard Chaykin – Comics legend Howard Chaykin joins the show to talk about his career, the early assignment he’ll never live down, getting clean and being boringly sober, how Gil Kane taught him how to behave as a cartoonist, why he’s never gone to a strip club, what it’s like to be a brand but not a fan-favorite, his love of television and his hatred of writing for television, the reason he brought Jewish leads (and reformed shitheels) to mainstream comics, the narrative values that led to his innovative page designs, discovering his bastardy in his 40s, the role of music and musicality in his work, why Jersey Boys makes him cry, and the influence of American Flagg! on multiple generations of cartoonists (for better and worse). (7/4/17) – mp3

#224 – Graham Chaffee – Master tattooist and comics artist Graham Chaffee joins the show to talk about his new graphic noir, To Have & To Hold (Fantagraphics)! We get into the culture(s) of LA and why it’s the quintessential 20th century American city, the way the internet has changed the tattoo business, Graham’s history with comics, the difference between the story and the plot, his lengthy hiatus from making comics and what brought him back to it, the joys of drawing a good dog, the accidental portrayal of race in his comics, and the time he did a full-back tattoo portraying the dark night of Lisa Simpson’s soul! (6/27/17) – mp3

#223 – Joe Ciardiello – Award-winning illustrator Joe Ciardiello reflects on 43 years as a freelancer, the jazz portraits that turned his career around, his drumming and how it influences his artwork, having more illustrator-friends than non-illustrator-friends, why he’d rather not be called a caricaturist, the time he was accused of ripping off the style of one of his idols, the search for perfect pen and paper (and how he keeps his Rapidographs working), and his amazing Spaghetti Journal project! (6/20/17) – mp3

#222 – Arnie Levin – Cartooning, illustration and animation legend Arnie Levin joins the show to recount his epic career and life. We talk about Beatnik-era New York, his mother’s decades-long plot to turn him into a New Yorker cartoonist, the value of a good art director, telling the Marines he wanted to be a photographer, his two-minute education in directing animation, what it was like to see his style copied by an artist who was previously copying another artist’s style, the time Allen Ginsberg tried to give him an iguana, and more! (6/13/17) – mp3

#221 – Kyle Cassidy – Photojournalist Kyle Cassidy returns to talk about his new book, This Is What a Librarian Looks Like! Along the way, we get into photography, his love letter to America, the difference between knowledge and information, the heroism of NASA scientists, the example of Mr. Rogers, his continued use of LiveJournal, the joy of running, and how he convinced his wife that they should take vacations to visit libraries. (6/6/17) – mp3

#220 – Seth – Straight outta Palookaville! Seth returns to the show to talk about his changing relationship to comics and cartoonists (including the ’90s cohort he came up with), the creative sanctity of the studio and the creation of art no one will see, finishing his Clyde Fans serial after 20 years (and what he wants to work on next, being the subject of a documentary, seeing his work animated, doing collaborative work, taking up photography, a key lesson he learned about marriage, the disadvantages of being a people pleaser, why Kickstarter may be like an IQ test, and more! Plus, he asks me some questions! (5/30/17) – mp3

#219 – Keiler Roberts – Cartoonist Keiler Roberts joins the show to talk about her new book, Sunburning (Koyama Press). Oh, and parenthood, bipolar disorder, the avoidance of style, learning art while teaching art, making snap judgements about parents, having the world’s worst wedding photos, trimming a 150-page memoir down to 12 pages, and why she cried when she got a blurb from Roz Chast! (5/23/17) – mp3

#218 – RO Blechman – Legendary cartoonist, illustrator, animator, ad-man, artist RO Blechman joins the show to talk about his work and life. We get into the importance of play, the development of his trademark squiggly line (and how he feels when he sees it in other people’s work), his literary upbringing, his News of the Weak series of painting/collages, why he counsels against going to art school, the fateful career decision that he rues 60+ years later, his Mad Men experience and what he learned about management from running his own animation studio, the mistake of turning down a Curious George movie, creating a fore-runner of the graphic novel, and being a 2-D character in a 3-D world. (5/16/17) – mp3

#217 – Vanessa Sinclair – Make psychoanalysis subversive again! Vanessa Sinclair joins the show to talk about her new book, Switching Mirrors. We get into psychoanalysis, art and the occult, magical thinking (good and bad), Vanessa’s use of cut-up theory and practice, finding The Third Mind with her collaborator, Katelan Foisy, how she went from ghost-hunter to psychoanalyst, the problem with the lack of rites of passage in western culture, where psychology went wrong, having a book problem, and co-founding an underground anarchist psychoanalyst gang! (5/9/17) – mp3

#216 – George Prochnik – “Scholem teaches us that the Jewish tradition is so capacious it could embrace its own subversion.” George Prochnik returns to The Virtual Memories Show to talk about his new book, Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem (Other Press). (We talked about Stefan Zweig back in 2014.) We get into the life of Jewish mysticism’s greatest scholar, how the theories of Zionism butted up against the reality of Palestine and Israel, the alchemical friendship of Scholem and Walter Benjamin, the way Kabbalah serves as the hidden, subterranean layer of Judaism, Scholem’s example of a life lived in resistance, the great contrast of Scholem with Prochnik’s previous biographical subject, our author’s addiction to Jerusalem and the books he hasn’t escaped in 30 years, and whether Walt Whitman was an intuitive American Kabbalist! (5/2/17) – mp3

#215 – Charif Majdalani – He’s been called the Lebanese Proust, thanks to his series of novels chronicling the modern history of his home country. Charif Majdalani joins the show this week to celebrate the first American publication of his wonderful novel, Moving the Palace (New Vessel Press). We talk about the the dynamic of French and Arabic languages, Lebanon’s fixation on the eternal present and its sense of living under the volcano, his process of escaping his literary influences, why he needed to get away to France to gain perspective on home, and what he wants to do on his first trip to America. (4/25/17) – mp3

#214 – Wallis Wilde-Menozzi – Poet, novelist and essayist Wallis Wilde-Menozzi returns to the show to talk about her novel, Toscanelli’s Ray, the ways Italy has changed in her four decades there, her recent work in narrative medicine, survival tips from living through the Berlusconi era, writing a polyphonic novel of Florence in the ’90s and hearing how those voices have changed, differences between her Italian and American students, balancing poetry and prose, her favorite book of the Divine Comedy (we also get into why I like a different one), accidentally winning a DAR award when she was a schoolgirl, what foods she misses when she’s in the US, thinking in Italian, and more! (4/18/17) – mp3

#213 – Sarah Williams Goldhagen – Why are our buildings crushing our quality of life? Sarah Williams Goldhagen joins the show to talk about her new book, Welcome to Your World, and how we can live in a better built environment. We get into the theory of mind-body-environment consciousness, the perils of lowest-common-denominator construction and design, the perils of the “starchitect” phenomenon, the limits of Jane Jacobs’ urban proscriptions, the experience of going on urban planning vacations as a kid with her dad, how she and her family wound up living in a converted church in East Harlem, the challenges of architecture criticism, how her book was predicted by one of my favorite 1980s comics, the planning process a year-long around-the-world trip, and more! (4/18/17) – mp3

#212 – Samuel R. Delany – Legendary author (and longtime pal) Samuel R. Delany (a.k.a. Chip) joins the show to talk about the sex lives of older gay men, how he’s taken to Facebook, how losing his library was akin to lobotomization, the writers he misses, Star Wars, his attraction to homeless men, retiring from teaching, the one thing he wanted to teach students but was never allowed to, the split between good writing and award-winning writing, and his passive-aggressive technique for getting me to organize a breakfast brunch for him. (4/4/17) – mp3

#211 – John Cuneo – Award-winning illustrator John Cuneo joins the show to talk about his new work, Not Waving But Drawing (Fantagraphics Underground), the arc of 40 years of work and art and artwork, the process of moving from a collection of mannerisms to a style, his insecurity about his working-class upbringing and lack of artistic education, the cliff-diving aspect of the blank sheet of paper and why good drawing is courage, keeping his son out of the family business, the dynamic of New Yorker illustrators vs. cartoonists, what brought him to Woodstock, what keeps him there, and the bizarrely storied history of his home, why so many dirty pictures, and more! (3/28/17) – mp3

#210 – Tony Tulathimutte – I get over my insecurity about younger authors and talk with Tony Tulathmiutte about his debut novel, Private Citizens! We discuss his critique of the idea of voice-of-a-generation novels, the heavy and weird expectations of being an Asian-American writer, the impossibility of satire, what he got out of his years working in Silicon Valley, writing good bad sex scenes, and his discovery that Jonathan Franzen thinks he uses “overly interesting verbs”. (3/21/17) – mp3

#209 – Jeff Nunokawa – For more than a decade, Princeton literature professor Jeff Nunokawa has posted daily mini-essays using Facebook Notes. We talk about how he discovered that form, the audience that grew around his work, writing without links, the experience of producing a print edition of the notes, and his ambivalence over the final product. We get into the negative review that affirmed all of his self-doubts and pushed him toward his goal of becoming transparent, the benefits of consolatory drivel, dreaming of the next day’s note and making writing a source of pleasure, his mixed-race heritage (his dad’s Japanese, his mom’s caucasian-American) and his childhood in the 60s, his 30 years at Princeton, his joy at living in the same world as Torres and Ronaldo, and why you have to feel homesick before you feel home. (3/14/17) – mp3

#208 – Barbara Epler – New Directions publisher Barbara Epler joins the show to talk about her accidental career, the pros and cons of New Directions’ size, the Moneyball aspect of publishing works in translation, surviving a Nobel crush, the importance of secondary rights, the language she most wishes she could read, the novel she promises never to write, the book whose success surprised her the most, where WG Sebald’s work might have gone, and more! This is part of our Festival Neue Literatur series; Barbara is the 2017 recipient of the FNL’s Friedrich Ulfers Prize! (3/7/17) – mp3

#207 – Garth Greenwell – Debut novelist Garth Greenwell joins the show to talk about the poetics of cruising (and cruising’s great leveling potential) in his life and in his novel What Belongs to You, the hyper-masculine culture and homophobia of Bulgaria, his concern that contemporary English-language writers don’t read in other languages (or read in translation), his role chairing the 2017 Festival Neue Literatur, the dangers of LGBTQ mainstreaming, the fragility of cosmopolitanism, the state of queer fiction, and our mutual admiration of Samuel R. Delany! (2/28/17) – mp3

#206 – Jessa CrispinBookslut founder Jessa Crispin rejoins the show to talk about her new book, Why I Am Not A Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto (Melville House), while I gripe over the fact that it’s the third book she’s published since we recorded in 2014. We also get into learning to stop reading reviews, the aftereffects of carrying her belongings on her back for 18 months, the black magic revival and her experience as a tarot card reader, her detachment from NYC publishing culture, her fascination for Catholicism and female saints, falling in love with opera, never quite getting over the core guilt of her Protestant upbringing, and why she won’t leave the US for good and won’t write about expat Paris! (2/21/17) – mp3

#205 – Patrick McDonnellMutts creator Patrick McDonnell joins the show to talk about getting a late start on his career as a daily strip cartoonist, how Mutts has changed in its 23 years, the evolution of his interest in animal advocacy, the overlap of comic strips and poetry, finding his Coconino County in the New Jersey suburbs, learning from Jules Feiffer’s paste-ups, the greatest blurb he’ll ever get, taking up painting, finding joy in collaborating (occasionally), and how the gospel of Peanuts taught him that the essence of life is love. (We also talk about what to do after you’ve lost a long-loved dog, but neither of us cry, I swear!) (2/14/17) – mp3

#204 – Phillip Lopate – Is wisdom possible? One of my favorite writers, Phillip Lopate, returns to The Virtual Memories Show to talk about his new book, A Mother’s Tale, where he revisits a series of taped conversations he had with his mother in the mid-’80s. We talk about listening to his mother’s voice years after her death, whether I should record with my parents, the way people try to be honest but back away in the face of their own mythologies, the one venue he’s always wanted to write for, the border traffic between fiction and nonfiction, the impact of the 2016 presidential election on his psyche, his prediction for the New York Mets, what it’s like for him to write a blog and the mistrust between mother and son that never goes away. (2/7/17) – mp3

#203 – Ben Yagoda – Author Ben Yagoda joins the show to talk about teaching journalism, 40 years (!) of writing language columns, the influence of Harry Potter own his students, the history of the memoir, the mystery of why the “Great American Songbook” withered after WWII, his hatred of the term “creative nonfiction”, the invasion of Britishisms into American English, our shared history in the Make-Believe Ballroom, the challenges of watching sporting events on tape delay, and more! (Also, I talk about the refugee-ban protests of the past weekend.) (1/31/17) – mp3

#202 – Karen Green – Curator of the Comics and Cartoons collection at Columbia University, the amazing Karen Green joins the show to talk about her secret origin! How did she go from bartender to medieval scholar to comics librarian? We get into the evolution of the library and comics scholarship, her proudest acquisitions, her love of NYC and being a bartender there in the ’80s, reading Playboy for the cartoons, the experience of having a portrait done by Drew Friedman, her Venn diagram with Mimi Pond, and the one cartoonist she’s speechless around. (1/24/17) – mp3

#201 – Brad Gooch – Author Brad Gooch returns to the show to talk about his new book, Rumi’s Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love (Harper). We dive right into Brad’s Orientalist fantasy of researching Rumi and the realpolitik that intruded on it (including getting detained at gunpoint), how he recreated the polyglot, multi-religious culture of 13th century Turkey (hint: it involved having to learn Farsi), the temptation to psychologize Rumi’s life, why the poet’s work has survived all these centuries (and what makes it so tweetable), what his own new fatherhood taught him about Rumi’s later years, and more! (1/17/17) – mp3

#200 – Thomas Dolby – Two-hundred episodes!? Who’d’a thunk it? My guest for this special anniversary show is musician, tech entrepreneur, professor and now memoirist Thomas Dolby! We talk about his new book, The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology: A Memoir, the upsides and downsides of his major careers, the gestalt of artist-artwork-audience, his curious mixture of shyness and arrogance, our respective imposter syndromes, teaching music for films, moving beyond the keyboard as a computer interface, having students who don’t know about his music career, looking back at his life and starting to figure out the big picture, and the one rock band that doesn’t find Spinal Tap funny. (1/10/17) – mp3

#199 – Michael Tisserand – For our 199th episode, Michael Tisserand joins the show to talk about his fantastic new book, Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White (Harper). We discuss Krazy Kat, race in America and the phenomenon of racial passing, newsroom culture, conducting research on microfilm in the age of Google, the allure of New Orleans, what it was like to write the biography of an enigma, and a lot more. Don’t be a bald-faced gazooni! (1/3/17) – mp3

#198 – Ed Ward – Lifelong rock & roll journalist Ed Ward joins the show to talk about his new book, The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1963. We get into how he discovered his calling, how he memorized Billboard charts the way other kids memorized baseball cards, the joy of being a “rootless cosmopolitan”, the music world’s shift from A&R to audience-driven songwriting (and why they were tired of guys named Bobby from Philadelphia), why Tutti Frutti is the “first” rock & roll record, how he wound up in Austin, the experience of meeting 50-somethings who don’t know Chuck Berry’s Maybelline, how he got hired at and fired from Rolling Stone, and more! (12/20/16) – mp3

#197 – The Guest List 2016 – It’s our year-end Guest List episode! I asked the past year’s podcast-guests what their favorite book was in 2016 and what/who they hope to read in 2017! Participants include Glen Baxter, Ross Benjamin, Harold Bloom, MK Brown, Nina Bunjevac, Hayley Campbell, David M. Carr, Myke Cole, Liza Donnelly, Bob Eckstein, Glynnis Fawkes, Rachel Hadas, Liz Hand, Glenn Head, Virginia Heffernan, Harry Katz, Ed Koren, David Leopold, Arthur Lubow, Michael Maslin, David Mikics, Ben Model, Christopher Nelson, Jim Ottaviani, Ann Patty, Burton Pike, Frank Sorce, Willard Spiegelman, Leslie Stein, Tom Tomorrow (a.k.a. Dan Perkins), Andrea Tsurumi, Carol Tyler, Jim Woodring! There’s lots of great book-talk, and I also chip in with a few picks & 2017 aspirations! (You should also check out the 2015, 2014 and 2013 editions of The Guest List) (12/13/16) – mp3

#196 – Myke Cole – Author Myke Cole joins the show to talk about military fantasy and his fantasies about the military, his journey from IT to CIA to merc to Coast Guard to fantasy writer, his biggest nerd-out author moments, how he came up with his “Black Hawk Down Meets The X-Men” series of Shadow Ops novels, what PTSD feels like, the importance of having a plan for crisis management, reconciling his art, politics, job, and readership, and more! (11/29/16) – mp3

#195 – Thanksgiving Special – For Thanksgiving this year, I decided to eschew the regular interview-based podcast and ask all of my past guests what they’re thankful for. Guests include Respondents include Andrea Tsurumi, Dmitry Samarov, Chris Nelson, Sheila Keenan, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Summer Pierre, Glen Baxter, Hayley Campbell, Kathe Koja, Charles Blackstone, Elizabeth Hand, David M. Carr, David Jaher, Zachary D. Martin, Willard Spiegelman, Roz Chast, Mary Fleener, Glynnis Fawkes, Ed Hermance, Josh Alan Friedman, Jonathan C. Hyman, Liesl Schillinger, Rachel Hadas, Ron Hogan, Scott Edelman, Tom Spurgeon, and me. (11/22/16) – mp3

#194 – Bob Eckstein – Artist, writer, humorist and cartoonist Bob Eckstein joins the show to talk about his wonderful new book, Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers. We get into the origins of the project, how he survived the sheer volume of bookstore-cat stories, how he once got dirty in the back of the Strand Bookstore, getting introduced to art by Sports Illustrated, a great lesson in comic timing, getting a late start in cartooning but making up for lost time, marrying his biggest enemy from art school (and eloping to Iceland), becoming a champion of bookstore culture, and more! (11/15/16) – mp3

#193 – Ed Koren – Artist Ed Koren‘s cartoons and covers have graced The New Yorker for more than 50 years, so it was honor to record with him during CXC about his career, his perspective on generations of cartoonists, the development of his unique style (he has a good answer to my question, “Why so hairy?”), the persistence of his middle-class work ethic, his first encounter with the Undergrounds, his lithography “uptown” art, the advantages of having small ambitions, and more! (11/8/16) – mp3

#192 – Jim Woodring – The legendary Jim Woodring rejoins the show to talk art, comics and the Unifactor! During a break at SPX 2016, we sat down to discuss the importance of Fantagraphics on its 40th anniversary, Jim’s move to Seattle in 1974 and his move away from there last year, camaraderie with the cartoonists of his generation, what he’d do if he was just starting out as a cartoonist today, the experience of seeing Frank in 3-D, the joys of drawing with a six-foot pen, just what Art is there for, and more! (11/1/16) – mp3

#191 – Ben Katchor – Cartoonist, artist, librettist and urbanite Ben Katchor rejoins the show to talk about the 25th anniversary edition of Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay (Drawn & Quarterly)! We talk about those aforementioned pleasures, the boredom of the modern flaneur, his evolution from genre fandom to “literary comics” (my awful term, not his), the danger in comics becoming over-academic, the challenges of writing a world history, and more! (10/26/16) – mp3

#190 – Liza DonnellyNew Yorker cartoonist, women’s rights activist and live-drawing legend Liza Donnelly joins the show to talk about the weird overlap of respectability, responsibility and cartooning, her work for Cartooning for Peace, the joys of drawing on the subway, how she benefited from Tina Brown’s love of snarky women, why she’s considering (but is daunted by) making a long-form comic, the evolution of her feminist consciousness, her trouble drawing George Clooney, and more! (10/18/16) – mp3

#189 – Glen Baxter – Artist Glen Baxter joins the show for a conversation about his new collection, Almost Completely Baxter: New and Selected Blurtings (New York Review Comics). We get into the roots of his absurdism, his first visit to New York City in the ’70s and how it changed his life, where his cowboy-thing started, why he doesn’t define himself as either an artist or a cartoonist (but maybe as a visual poet?), the challenge of doing long-form narrative when so much of his work is single-panel, our mutual dislike of the contemporary art scene, and more! (10/11/16) mp3

#188 – Hayley Campbell – Writer and Twitter provocateur Hayley Campbell joins the show for a conversation about her inability to describe her job (don’t call her a “content provider”). We talk about growing up in comics royalty (her dad is the great cartoonist Eddie Campbell), Alan Moore’s magic tricks, nearly losing a comic-shop job because of her lack of a college degree, the celebrity retweet she’s proudest of, and having an accidental career path, no fixed home, and a traumatic brain injury that gooses with her memory (and whether those three things are somehow connected). Also, we get into how she recently embarrassed Jonathan Safran Foer, and more! (10/4/16) mp3

#187 – Tom Gauld – Cartoonist & illustrator Tom Gauld joins the show to talk about his new book, Mooncop (Drawn & Quarterly), and developing a post-optimistic view of the future. We get into his drawing and storytelling influences, how he got a weekly gig doing literary gags at The Guardian, why he likes doing illustration work, the time he melted down when he met his comics-idols, how he got his first New Yorker cover, the two key elements of productivity for all artists and writers (coffee & walking) and more! (9/26/16) mp3

#186 – Michael Maslin – Michael Maslin joins the show to talk about his new book, Peter Arno: The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker’s Greatest Cartoonist (Regan Arts). We talk about his own career at The New Yorker, marrying a fellow cartoonist, becoming a cartoon detective, the allure of Arno and the days when cartoonists were cited in gossip mags, why it took him 15 years to write this biography, and more! (9/21/16) – mp3

#185 – Willard Spiegelman – Willard Spiegelman returns to the show (here’s his 2013 show) to talk about his wonderful new essay collection, Senior Moments: Looking Back, Looking Ahead (FSG). We get into the process of deaccessioning, Mark Strand’s advice on paring down to 100 books, Willard’s take on 45 years living in Dallas (and what he’ll miss about it now that he’s retired), the joy of getting lost in Italy, the best way to pick someone up in NYC, the contrast of his 50th high school and college reunions, and more. (9/13/16) mp3

#184 – David M. Carr – Biblical scholar David M. Carr joins the show to talk about his book, Holy Resilience: The Bible’s Traumatic Origins (Yale University Press). We get into how the Hebrew and Christian scriptures were shaped, the parallels between trauma and religion, the personal trauma that led to his thesis, the perils of applying modern psychology to people in antiquity, how he balances his faith with his scholarship, the problems with seeing yourself as “chosen”, the personal and communal trauma of 9/11 (it gets pretty heavy), and more! (9/6/16) mp3

#183 – Jeff Gomez – Transmedia producer and Starlight Runner CEO Jeff Gomez joins the show to talk about the evolution of storytelling. We get into how the internet is driving communal narrative, the role of fandom in our culture, the way every new media is touted as the Destroyer of Worlds, the outgrowth of “canonical” storytelling and his one-time role as Keeper of the Canon at a comic company, the parallels between sports-nerds and fantasy-nerds, the old entertainment properties he really wishes he could work on, and just what it was in his childhood that led him into this role! (8/30/16) – mp3

#182 – Virginia Heffernan – “It’s very, very weird to do something along with three billion other people.” Cultural critic Virginia Heffernan joins the show to talk about her new book, Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art (Simon & Schuster)! We talk about what’s behind the screen, why the internet is bigger than the Industrial Revolution, her first experience online in 1979, what it’s like to be in a piece of performance art with half the world’s population, her crushing defeat at meeting Joan Didion, why she’s nostalgic for landline phones, the motive motive of Pokemon Go, asking The New York Times to host a shred-guitar competition, and why there’s value in Reading The Comments. (8/23/16) – mp3

#181 – Chris RoseChris Rose wrote the definitive book of life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, 1 Dead in Attic. I caught up with him for his Magical Musical Mystery History walking tour of the French Quarter, and after we sat down in Harry’s Corner bar and talked about his life, his art, his three literary feuds, how he went from winning a Pulitzer Prize to waiting tables, going from celebrity-stalker to the Bard of the Crescent City, the myths and truths of the French Quarter, and a whole lot more. (8/16/16) – mp3

#180 – Leslie Stein – Cartoonist Leslie Stein joins the show to celebrate her new book, Time Clock (Fantagraphics)! We talk about her amazing diary comics (recently collected in Bright-Eyed At Midnight), why she picked a really weird name for her ongoing comics project (Eye of the Majestic Creature), the artistic benefits of boredom, finding her style(s), drawing for online vs. print (and color vs. b/w), her strategy for surviving comic cons and festivals, how she got a gig publishing comics at VICE, the disconcerting discovery that she had an audience, and how she strikes a balance of cartooning, being in a band, and tending bar! (8/9/16) – mp3

#179 – Andrea Tsurumi – Rising comics star — don’t blame me, that’s what Publishers Weekly just called her — Andrea Tsurumi joins the show to talk about her new collection, Why Would You Do That? (Hic & Hoc Publications). We get into her off-kilter sense of humor and why I love it, why she chose that title, the most sadistic children’s book ever written and why she adapted it, the comics industry’s saving grace (it’s too small to fail), staged photos during the Civil War, the challenge of teaching comics, her attempt at a work/art/life balance, the comics, cartoons and picture books that influenced/warped her, why she left New York, the truth about cakes vs. pies, and more! (8/2/16) – mp3

#178 – Arthur LubowArthur Lubow‘s fantastic new book, Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer (Ecco), explores the life and death of a key figure in the history of photography-as-art. We talk about the evolution of photography from documentation to expression, the role Diane Arbus played in that transformation, her sensibility and intellect and how she expressed them both in her photography and her writing, Arbus’ collaborative method of portraiture, her fascination with and sympathy for “freaks”, why it’s counterproductive to look to Arbus’ photos for clues to her suicide, and more! (7/26/16) – mp3

#177 – MK Brown – Legendary cartoonist MK Brown joins the show to talk about her lifetime in comics and art, her years with B. Kliban and how they worked out opposite work/sleep schedules, the ups and downs of The National Lampoon, the balancing act of motherhood and art, her trepidation at organizing a multi-decade collection of her work (and her idiosyncratic chapter headings for the book), her love of westerns, her favorite political comic, her secret stash of unprintable comics and gags, working in animation, the future of Aunt Mary’s Kitchen, and why she goes by “MK”. (7/19/16) – mp3

#176 – Malcolm Margolin – After a remarkable 40-year career, publisher Malcolm Margolin is retiring from Heyday Books in Berkeley. He joins the show to talk about the liberation of being unimportant, building a roundhouse to fall apart, the “dress code” necessary to make things palatable to a mainstream audience, his efforts to chronicle California Indian culture, his next act(s), and more! (7/12/16) – mp3

#175 – Paul Mavrides – Legendary artist and cartoonist Paul Mavrides joins the show to talk about Underground Comix, the Church of the SubGenius, the Zapruder film, black mold, Idiots Abroad, Richard Nixon’s threat on his life, and the time he traded an issue of Zap Comix for a copy of Awake! (7/5/16) mp3

#174 – Ann Patty – Why did former publisher and book editor Ann Patty start studying Latin at age 58? Find out in our conversation about her book, Living with a Dead Language: My Romance with Latin (Viking). We talk about her deep dive into a dead language, the “Living Latinist” revival, her unceremonious exit from the NY publishing world, the terror of the blank page, the perils of groupthink, how her pursuit of Latin reconciled her to the memory of her mother, and more! (6/28/16) – mp3

#173 – Christopher Nelson – My two years at St. John’s College’s Graduate Institute was the most important part of my life. During my recent trip back to Annapolis, I sat down with outgoing president Christopher Nelson to talk about lessons learned during his 26-year tenure, the books that guided him to the college, the ones he returns to, and the ones that gave him the most trouble as an undergrad, what he’ll miss and what he hopes to do next, his key advice for his successor, and more! (6/21/16) – mp3

#172 – Glynnis FawkesGlynnis Fawkes joins the show to talk about archeology, comics, dig romances, Homer and more! We celebrate her award-winning new comic, Alle Ego, figure out how to make art while raising a family (hint: mine your family to make art), explore the correlation of Greek vases to comics, and lament the savage history of Troy and Gallipoli, while embracing the comics-centric world of Angouleme! (6/14/16) – mp3

#171 – Jim OttavianiJim Ottaviani joins the show to talk about his new graphic biography, The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded, drawn by Leland Purvis (Abrams ComicArts). We get into how Jim went from nuclear engineering to writing comics about scientists, the amazing life of Alan Turing, why emotional truth plus factual truth must be greater than 100%, the challenge of conveying hard concepts and theories to lay-readers, the difference between ordinary geniuses and extraordinary geniuses, how his engineering background feeds his storytelling mode, and more! (6/7/16) – mp3

#170 – Chester Brown & Nina Bunjevac – The Paying For It Players return! During the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Chester Brown and Nina Bunjevac rejoin the show to perform a chapter from Chester’s amazing new book, Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus! Then we talk with Chester about his understanding of God, the role of prostitution in the Bible, his favorite stories from the Hebrew and Christian gospels, and the girlfriend who accidentally spurred his interest in Biblical scholarship. Then Nina Bunjevac discusses the fallout of her book tour for Fatherland, laments the loss of small bookstores in North America, explains why she’s changing course in her comics career, and more! Plus, this month’s #NJPoet’s Corner with Charles Bivona talks about his evolution on Twitter! (5/31/16) – mp3

#169 – David Mikics – Author and professor David Mikics joins the show to talk about his wonderful new book, Bellow’s People: How Saul Bellow Made Life Into Art (Norton). We get into Bellow’s legacy, his fall from academic favor, his transmutations of life into art, David’s humorously accidental introduction to his work, what Jewishness meant to Bellow, whether Philip Roth was right when he told Bruce Jay Friedman, “Saul Bellow am de daddy of us all,” and more! (5/24/16) – mp3

#168 – Harry KatzHarry L. Katz, former head curator of prints and photographs for the Library of Congress, joins the show to talk about his new project on David Levine, his love for Herblock, how his work on the Civil War and baseball differs from Ken Burns’ work on same, what it was like to assemble the LoC’s archive of 9/11 photography and pictures, the process of learning how to see images critically, the tragic story of Arthur Szyk, and more! (5/17/16) – mp3

#167 – John HollJohn Holl joins the show to talk about his new book, Dishing Up New Jersey: 150 Recipes from the Garden State (with photos by my wife)! We also get into his work as editor of All About Beer, becoming a journalist at 16, traveling to Cuba on a beer run, the weirdest ingredients that craft brewers incorporate, why he thinks NJ is the best dining state in the country, and more! Recorded at Carton Brewing Co. (5/10/16) – mp3

#166 – Ben ModelBen Model joins the show to talk about his career as a silent-film accompanist. It’s a fascinating conversation about music, audience, cinema, mentorship, technology, crowdsourcing, the permission to laugh, the fleetingness of reputation, the reasons we make art, and why little kids will lose their minds over the Stan Laurel short Oranges and Lemons. (5/3/16) – mp3

#165 – Fred Kaplan w/#NJPoet’s CornerFred Kaplan, author of Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, rejoins the show to talk about the tangled, wild-west story of how cyber warfare is waged, where it might go in future, and why it’s the ultimate asymmetric warfare. We also talk about the role of cyber in the success of the Iraq surge, the story of Stuxnet, the problem with not having rules of engagement for cyber war, how he came to respect the NSA, the statist/libertarian divide at the core of encryption battles, and what he thinks of Edward Snowden. And #NJPoet (aka Charles Bivona) joins the show to talk about his dream course to teach: Batman Studies! (4/26/16) – mp3

#164 – Kliph Nesteroff (& Liz Hand) – He’s gone from the woods of western Canada to Hollywood, and now Kliph Nesteroff joins the show to talk about his new book, The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy. We get into the evolution of comedy over the century (from vaudeville to comedy podcasters) and how he got started chronicling it, and more. Plus, Liz Hand rejoins the show to celebrate the publication of her new book, Hard Light: A Cass Neary Crime Novel. (4/19/16) – mp3

#163 – David LeopoldDavid Leopold, author of The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age (Knopf), joins the show to talk about the 13 years he spent working with the great artist Al Hirschfeld, how he wound up running the Ben Solowey Studio, his career curating museum exhibitions, what he learned from following The Grateful Dead, and more! (4/12/16) – mp3

#162 – Phoebe GloecknerPhoebe Gloeckner, the author of The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures joins the podcast on way too little sleep to talk about transgressing borders: national borders, panel borders, and familial borders. We talk about Diary’s hybrid structure and why it would have been unpitchable to a publisher (luckily, she had a two-book contract), the tightrope of portraying a 15-year-old girl’s affair with her mother’s 30-something boyfriend without making her strictly a victim or “asking for it”, and some audiences’ obsession with “the facts” of the book. We also get into her ongoing, decade-long multi-media project to recreate a life in Juarez, Mexico, her place in the comics scene (too young for the undergrounds, too old for the alternatives), her unrepeatable approach to making art, her great first meeting with Matt Groening, and more! (4/5/16) – mp3

#161 – Dan Perkins (Tom Tomorrow) LIVE & #NJPoet Corner – Last July, I talked to Dan Perkins (aka Tom Tomorrow) as he was launching a Kickstarter to produce 25 Years of Tomorrow, a massive quarter-century collection of his This Modern World comic strip. It was way more successful than he anticipated (356% overfunded!), so at his book launch party at Mark Twain House in March, we recorded an on-stage followup conversation, plus audience Q&A! Plus, it’s the debut of our new monthly feature, #NJPoet’s Corner, where philosopher-historian-zen-monk-poet Charles Bivona talks philosophy, history, zen and poetry (and Batman)! (3/29/16) – mp3

#160 – Bob Stein & Ashton ApplewhiteAshton Applewhite rejoins the show to talk about the publication of her new book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism (Networked Books)! But first, her partner Bob Stein talks about his decades riding the wave of digital media (seriously, he’s been at the forefront of a lot of media innovations since 1979). (3/22/16) – mp3

#159 – Burton Pike – Translator and emeritus professor Burton Pike has been teaching literature for 50 years, and also helped bring Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities into English. We talk about his lifetime in the arts, his accidental path to becoming a translator, the way his dream assignment fell into his lap, the joys of hitchhiking across Europe in the ’50s, and how translation is about more than the words on the page. (3/15/16) – mp3

#158 – Glenn Head – In his new comix memoir, Chicago (Fantagraphics), Glenn Head follows Orwell’s maxim, “Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.” We talk about how he approached his first long-form comic, what prompted him to return to his mid-’70s self, how his next work may mirror another bit of Orwelliana, and why it’s always good to delate your heroes. (3/8/16) – mp3

#157 – Dan Cafaro – How do you make a go of it as an indy publisher in The Distracted Age? Dan Cafaro, publisher of Atticus Books and the Atticus Review, joins the show to talk about making the transition from sportswriter to bookseller to book-blogger to publisher, building a writers’ community, the diversity challenge, and more! Recorded at Short Stories Community Book Hub. (3/1/16) – mp3

#156 – Ross Benjamin – With the 7th annual Festival Neue Literatur a few days away (Feb. 25-28, 2016), we spoke with translator Ross Benjamin about how he curated this year’s “Seriously Funny” event. In the process, we try to blow up some German stereotypes, translate a notoriously difficult word in Kafka’s diaries, and figure out whether it’s better to translate living authors or dead ones! (2/23) – mp3

#155 – Christopher Kloeble – Our first podcast as a Media Partner for the 7th annual Festival Neue Literatur (held Feb. 25-28, 2016 in New York) features German author Christopher Kloeble! We talk about his first US publication, Almost Everything Very Fast (Graywolf Press), the perils of translation, German sense of humor (the theme of FNL ’16 is “Seriously Funny”), becoming a Person of Indian Origin, and transcending the limits of empathy in prose. (2/16) – mp3

#154 – Kriota WillbergKriota Willberg joins the show to talk about her work teaching anatomy, pathology, drawing, and massage, and her focus on keeping cartoonists from suffering work-related injuries (or art-related injuries, I suppose) through her minicomics and exercise programs. Also, Paul Di Filippo comes in to talk about The Black Mill: Issue Zero Kickstarter that he just launched with Orion Zangara and Derek L. Chase (2/9/16) – mp3

#153 – Rachel Hadas – Poet Rachel Hadas returns to the show to talk about her new books, Talking To The Dead (Spuyten Duyvil Press), and Questions in the Vestibule (Northwestern University Press). It’s been two years since we last talked (over here), so I had plenty of questions for her. How did she rebuild her life after losing her husband to early onset dementia? How did she wind up pals with James Merrill (and what’s her take on his Ouija poems)? What do we lose and gain in the act of translation? And how did she become a love poet after spending her career writing elegies? (2/2/16) – mp3

#152 – Carol TylerCarol Tyler spent 10 years making Soldier’s Heart: The Campaign to Understand My WWII Veteran Father: A Daughter’s Memoir, so what’s her perspective now that it’s in her rear-view mirror? We also talk about the glass ceiling for female cartoonists, what it means to be a parent first and cartoonist second (and getting judged as the wife of a famous cartoonist), how her dad’s PTSD affected so much of her life, how she drew the last part of Soldier’s Heart in hospital rooms, going on food stamps in the midst of this project, her struggle to retain her hippie-ish enthusiasm during a period of heavy loss, and how she broke into a frat-house to steal post-party empties for recycling. It’s a fun, deep conversation with a master cartoonist (even when it borders on Gil-as-therapist). (1/26/16) – mp3

#151 – Harold Bloom – One of my literary idols, Harold Bloom, joins the show to talk about his new book, The Daemon Knows, the weight of age, the intifada of the young, and the epigraphs of his life. It’s a heavy-duty episode with a legendary critic and professor; that’s why we call this “a podcast about books and life — not necessarily in that order.” The part where he recites Tea at the Palaz of Hoon is worth the price of admission.(1/19/16) – mp3

#150 – Molly Crabapple – Artist Molly Crabapple joins the show to talk about writing her new memoir, Drawing Blood (Harper), making illustrated journalism in Syria, Guantanamo and Abu Dhabi, translating Nizar Qabbani, growing into her parents’ legacy of art, Marxism and argumentation, finding her soul in the Damascus Room at the Met, balancing community and competition, and more! (1/12/16) – mp3

#149 – Keith Knight – Gentleman cartoonist Keith Knight joins the show to talk about comics, race, his career as a Michael Jackson impersonator, how he would fix the Star Wars prequels, why you never see black people on Antiques Roadshow, the importance of crowdfunding, the one song that will blow up any moribund party, and more! Plus: I launch a Patreon site! (1/5/16) – mp3

#148 – The Guest List 2015 – It’s our year-end Guest List episode! I asked the past year’s podcast-guests what their favorite book was in 2015 and what/who they hope to read in 2016! Participants include Anthea Bell, Brad Gooch, Claudia Young, Dan Perkins, David Jaher, John Derf Backderf, Dmitry Samarov, Dylan Horrocks, Elizabeth Samet, Gil Roth, Irvine Welsh, JD McClatchy, Jennifer Hayden, Jim Woodring, John Clute, Jonathan Galassi, Jonathan Kranz, Kathe Koja, Langdon Hammer, Levi Stahl, Liesl Schillinger, Liz Hand, Lorenzo Mattotti, Matthew D. Farber, Michael Dirda, Michael Meyer, Peter Kuper, Posy Simmonds, Ron Hogan, Rupert Thomson, Scott McCloud, Summer Pierre, Tom Tomorrow, Warren Woodfin, and Witold Rybczynski! There’s lots of great book-talk, and I also chip in with a few picks & 2016 aspirations! (You should also check out the 2014 and 2013 editions of The Guest List) (12/28/15) – mp3

#147 – Peter KuperLast interview episode of 2015! Alt comix lifer Peter Kuper joins the show to talk about his new graphic novel, RUINS, life & art in Oaxaca, Mexico, co-launching World War 3 Illustrated, teaching at Harvard, inking Richie Rich, the joys of building your own arts scene, the pessimism of protesting climate change, his most feared GOP ’16 candidate, and more! (12/14/15) – mp3

#146 – David JaherDavid Jaher’s new book, The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World (Crown), was one of my favorite reads of 2015! We sat down to talk about Houdini’s duel with a high-society medium, the post-WWI craze for Spiritualism, the need to believe even after all the objects of belief have been taken away, and the balancing act of writing a page-turner that also offers a deep perspective on America and mankind’s desire to get word from beyond the grave. (12/8/15) – mp3

#145 – Kathe Koja & John Clute – Kathe Koja talks about going from splatterpunk to YA to the 19th C. romance of her Under the Poppy trilogy, and then John Clute discusses launching Clute Science Fiction Library @ Telluride(12/1/15) – mp3

#144 – Posy Simmonds – UK cartooning legend Posy Simmonds, author of Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe, joins the show for a charming conversation about her career as a “literary” cartoonist, her childhood in postwar Britain, where she was raised on American comics and Americana, the allure of London, her top methods of procrastination, seeing her work turned into movies, why her characters occasionally get trampled by livestock, what the French word is for comics with too many word balloons, and more! (11/24/15) – mp3

#143 – Jennifer Hayden & Summer Pierre – Jennifer Hayden, author of The Story of My Tits, and Summer Pierre, cartoonist of Pencil Paper Life, join us for a live podcast recorded at Labyrinth Books in Princeton, NJ to talk about comics, cancer, middle age, art vs. work, learning compassion through memoir, and more! (11/17/15) – mp3

#142 – Rupert ThomsonRupert Thomson returns to the show to talk about his new novel, Katherine Carlyle (Other Press, 2015). We also discuss IVF babies, keeping the reader’s interest in a “road movie” novel, prioritizing imaginary facts above real facts, his pros & cons list for becoming a parent, the long and short answer of “Where do you get your ideas?”, how he got James Salter to blurb his new book, and more! (11/10/15) – mp3

#141 – Francoise Mouly – Designer, editor and publisher Francoise Mouly joins the show to talk about 20+ years of New Yorker covers, launching TOON Books, the pros and cons of going viral, the time she got hauled into a meeting with an Arab Anti-Defamation League, the notion that comics are kids’ gateway drug for reading, and more!Part of our Cartoon Crossroads Columbus series of live podcasts. (Sorry, no talk about her time with RAW magazine, since she and her husband, Art Spiegelman, were interviewed about that later at the festival.) (11/3/15) – mp3

#140 – Dylan Horrocks – Straight Outta Hicksville! (Okay, “Straight Outta Auckland, NZ”.) Dylan Horrocks, author of Hicksville and Sam Zabel And The Magic Pen, joins us for a live podcast to talk about his fear of comics, our responsibility for our fantasies, the way he built a fruitful career around creative block, the influence of Maori culture on white New Zealanders’ perspectives, the way his backup stories keep becoming his major projects, his take on Charlie Hebdo and how it ties into his experience with the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, and the idea that America is a story we tell ourselves. Part of our Cartoon Crossroads Columbus series of live podcasts. (10/27/15) – mp3

#139 – Derf Backderf – How do you go from garbageman to winner of the Angouleme prize? Derf Backderf, author of My Friend Dahmer and Trashed, tells us how! We talk rustbelt collapse, mid-career reboots, being big in Paris, the death of alt-weeklies, and more! (10/20/15) – mp3

#138 – Bill Griffith – Are we having pod yet? Bill Griffith, cartoonist behind Zippy the Pinhead, joins the show to talk about his history in underground comics, becoming a better cartoonist over 30 years of drawing a daily strip, and publishing his new 200-page graphic memoir, Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Love Affair With A Famous Cartoonist (Fantagraphics). Part of our CXC series of podcasts! (10/13/15) – mp3

#137 – Scott McCloud – Is Scott McCloud comics’ leading theorist or a deranged lunatic? Find out in this lengthy conversation we recorded during SPX 2015! We talk about his new 500-page comic, The Sculptor (and how he’s happy that readers can tackle it in a single sitting), his idea of success, how crowdfunding may transform the landscape for cartoonists and other creators, and more! (10/6/15) – mp3

#136 – J.D. McClatchy – Poet, critic, librettist and bon vivant J.D. McClatchy joins the show to talk about outliving his idols, adapting my favorite novel (The Leopard!) to opera, having his life changed by a course with Harold Bloom, collecting letters from the likes of Proust and Housman, and marrying Chip Kidd! We also get into his friendship with James Merrill, pop culture’s triumph over high culture, his genetic inability to read comics, why he loathed Ezra Pound as a person and as an artist, how sexual politics has replaced social politics, the experience of teaching the first gay literature course at Yale in 1978 (and getting dropped from the university because of it), how a serious poet writes for the dead, not the living, and more! (9/29/15) – mp3

#135 – Irvine Welsh / Dmitry SamarovIrvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, joins the show to talk about writing, Chicago, and standing up David Bowie (twice), and return guest Dmitry Samarov discusses the art of memoir and the joys of getting off of the social network treadmill. (9/22/15) – mp3

#134 – Warren Woodfin: Angel, Lion, Ox, EagleWarren Woodfin, CUNY professor and guest curator of Liturgical Textiles of the Post-Byzantine World installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, talks about becoming a medieval art historian, the perils of archeolgoical digs in post-Soviet Ukraine, the bum rap art history gets from STEM proponents, and more! (9/15/15) – mp3

#133 – Stona Fitch: What If We Give It Away?Stona Fitch, author of Senseless and publisher of Concord Free Press, joins the show to talk about writing a series of crime thrillers under the nom de plume Rory Flynn, balancing novel-writing with work and family, the great writing advice Russell Banks gave him, and why one of his favorite things is to take a character, figure out what’s most important to them, and then take it away and see what they do. (9/8/15) – mp3

#132 – Christopher Bollen: Rootless PeopleChristopher Bollen, author of the new novel Orient and editor-at-large of Interview, joins the show to talk about the difference between a “smart murder mystery” and a “literary thriller,” the perils of Male First Novel Syndrome (as evinced in Lightning People: A Novel), the challenges of writing about Long Island, how his years at Interview magazine honed his ear for dialogue, his fascination with rootlessness, why it’s too easy to parody the contemporary art scene, and more. (9/1/15) – mp3

#131 – John Clute: Ever After – John Clute, editor of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, joins the show to talk about the market-based ghettoization of SF and its eventual triumph over other modes of storytelling, the bar-code model of human identity and interaction, why the loss of streetcars explains so much about our time, and more! (8/25/15) – mp3

#130 – Elizabeth Samet: The Cult of Experience and the Tyranny of Relevance – Elizabeth Samet, author of Soldier’s Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point and No Man’s Land: Preparing for War and Peace in Post-9/11 America, joins the show to talk about her experience as a (civilian) professor of English at West Point, how she balances the humanities with the military’s regimentation, her attempt at convincing Robert Fagles that Hector is the moral center of The Iliad, and more! (8/18/15) – mp3

#129 – Amanda Filipacchi: Donkey SkinAmanda Filipacchi joins the show to talk about her new novel, The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty, her solution to sexism in the publishing world, her garden-of-forking-paths approach to fiction-writing, and more! (8/11/15) – mp3

#128 – Rhonda Garelick: Impecunious NoblesRhonda K. Garelick, author of Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History, joins the show to talk about the enormous impact of Chanel on female identity and French national image, the similarities of fashion and fascism, how we reconcile a person’s awful behavior while enjoying her brand, and more! (8/4/15) – mp3

#127 – Michael Dirda: The Meandering Reflections of a Literary Sybarite – Michael Dirda comes back for his third podcast! We talk about his new collection, Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books, the importance of reading for pleasure, the difference between book-collecting and shopping, the role of the book reviewer (and how it differs from that of the critic), a recent negative review he didn’t want to write, why he doesn’t read reviews of his work, what his mother said when he won the Pulitzer Prize, and more! (7/28/15) – mp3

#126 – Liz Hand: People From Away – Award-winning author Elizabeth Hand joins the show to talk about her new novel, Wylding Hall, her need to try different genres, getting pigeonholed by literary gatekeepers, how abandoning the supernatural was like working without a net, bearing witness to the punk scene in the mid-’70s, learning to strip down her prose for her recent (and excellent) noir crime novels, just how she ended up in coastal Maine, and more! (7/21/15) – mp3

#125 – Dan Perkins/Tom Tomorrow: Signal BoostDan Perkins (aka Tom Tomorrow) joins the show to talk about the resounding success of his Kickstarter to commemorate 25 years of This Modern World (he hit his funding goal in less than a day, and most of his stretch goals within a week). We contrast the isolation of his career as a cartoonist with the vindication of receiving overwhelming fan support. We also talk about the depressing aspects of his job, why a Trump candidacy is actually bad for his comic, how it felt to look over a quarter-century of his work, why Pearl Jam lent him a hand on his Kickstarter (which is open through August 4), and more! (7/14/15) – mp3

#124 – Jonathan David Kranz: Don’t FallJonathan David Kranz, author of Our Brothers at the Bottom of the Bottom of the Sea, joins the show to talk about what it means to miss NJ, how he got started on his first novel at 50, the Joseph Conrad passage that threw him for a loop, and more! (7/7/15) – mp3

#123 – Langdon Hammer: The Hidden Wish of Words – Langdon Hammer joins us to discuss his monumental new biography, James Merrill: Life and Art (Knopf). We talk about Merrill’s allure as a poet and the alchemy that allowed him to turn base wealth into artistic gold. He also talks about learning the art of literary biography on the fly, the challenge of recreating Merrill’s life in Greece, Merrill’s silence over AIDS, how we can understand the Ouija board-derived poems of Merrill’s masterwork, and more! (6/30/15) – mp3

#122 – Jonathan Galassi: A Muse Apart – Jonathan Galassi, president of FSG and publishing lifer, joins the show to talk about his debut novel, Muse (Knopf). Along the way, we talk about the future (and history) of literary publishing, how he learned to shut off his inner editor and give himself permission to write prose, why great literary authors shouldn’t self-publish, how he wound up becoming a hybrid of two publishing father-figures, and more! (6/16/15) – mp3

#121 – Christie Watson: The Limits of Love – British author Christie Watson joins the show to talk about her new novel Where Women Are Kings (Other Press). We talk about the process of adoption, her history with Nigeria (and why she loves its literary scene), the trick of balancing cultural differences and societal norms, and how she became a published writer in her 30s, after years of planning her book tour outfits. (6/9/15) – mp3

#120 – Lorenzo Mattotti: Laboratory of Iimagination – One of my favorite artists, Lorenzo Mattotti, joins the show to talk about his new Hansel and Gretel book, how he discovered his improvisational style, how his comics, painting and commercial illustration work influence each other, how he accidentally became a massively successful fashion illustrator, and more! (6/2/15) – mp3

#119 – Chester Brown: Paid In Full – The great cartoonist Chester Brown joins us to talk about the evolution of his work, the response to his 2011 book, Paying for It: A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John, the many reasons sex workers love him, the perfect Venn diagram of his next book, how he learned to abandon the negative aspects of religion and embrace the good stuff, and more! Plus, Chester and past guest Nina Bunjevac do a dramatic reading from Paying For It! (5/19/15) – mp3

#118 – Timur Vermes/Gavriel Rosenfeld/Liesl Schillinger: VMS LIVE – Table Talk – This live episode of the Virtual Memories Show features a panel conversation on Satirical Representations of Hitler in Contemporary Culture, organized by the Goethe-Institut NY and the German Book Office. Gavriel Rosenfeld, Liesl Schillinger, and Timur Vermes (author of the newly published Look Who’s Back) and I talk about when it’s okay to make laugh at (and with) Hitler, whether Germany will ever be ‘normal’, the perils of using Hitler as the symbol of anything we don’t like, whether it’s okay for some ethnic groups (okay, Jews) to make fun of Hitler but not for other ethnic groups to do so, what Timur Vermes learned in the process of writing a novel in Hitler’s voice, whether Mein Kampf should be published freely in Germany, and more! (5/12/15) – mp3

#117 – Jonah Kinigstein: VernissageJonah Kinigstein is having a moment . . . at 92! The painter and cartoonist has published his first collection, The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Tower of Babel in the “Art” World (FU Press) and had an exhibition of his work at the Society of Illustrators in the past few months, and he’s just getting warmed up! We met at his studio to talk about the abysmal and unredeemable state of modern art, and why he elected to stay in the representative mode of painting despite the allure and rewards of conceptual art. He also talks about a near-century of New York City, his glory years in Paris and Rome, his disenchantment with the National Academy, and more! (5/5/15) – mp3

#116 – Thane Rosenbaum: Magic CityThane Rosenbaum rejoins the show to talk about his new novel, How Sweet It Is!, the debut book from the new publisher Mandel Vilar Press! We talk about Thane’s family history from the concentration camps to ’70s Miami, his path to becoming a novelist and human rights lawyer, the relative lunacy of First and Second Amendment absolutists, the allure of print, growing up in a city without a bookstore, the fate of European Jewry, and more. (4/28/14) – mp3

#115 – Edward Mendelson: Idlers and Belgians – Edward Mendelson joins the show to talk about his new book, Moral Agents: Eight Twentieth-Century American Writers, which profiles Lionel Triling, Dwight Macdonald, Alfred Kazin, William Maxwell, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, WH Auden, Frank O’Hara. We discuss the role of individuals in mass culture, the intellectual’s temptation to be a leader, the outdated figure of the Beloved Professor, Orwell’s misinterpretation of Auden, the artist he was terrified to meet, the failures of identity politics, the purpose of Columbia University’s Core Curriculum, his lack of nostalgia for the era of public intellectuals, the way certain books need a year off from teaching in order to recharge, and more.  (4/21/15) – mp3

#114 – Brad Gooch: Roller CoasterBrad Gooch joins the show to talk about his new book, Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s & the ’80s
(Harper), as well as his biographies of Frank O’Hara, Flannery O’Connor and Rumi, his need to chronicle his life and love with Howard Brookner, and why the early AIDS years in New York felt like Life During Wartime. (4/14/15) – mp3

#113 – Michael Meyer: Palimpsest – Michael Meyer joins the show to talk about his new book, In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, and to help dash Americans’ preconceptions about China. We talk about his perspective after 20 years in the Middle Kingdom, and how difficult it is to research history in a place where history is continually revised and erased in the name of political progress. (4/7/15) – mp3

#112 – Clive James: Remainder – Poet, essayist, novelist, TV host and charter member of the Virtual Memories Dream-Guest List Clive James joins the show to talk about poetry, mortality, Veronica Mars, the clash of cultures, what it means to be Australian (even after nearly 60 years in England),the sequel to Cultural Amnesia, and more! (3/31/15) – mp3

#111 – Prue Shaw: Time, Memory, Friendship, Poetry, Art – Prue Shaw joins the show to talk about Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity. We talk about our favorite parts of the Dante’s Commedia, the poem’s transformation for her over the decades, Dante’s challenge of expressing the inexpressible (especially in Paradiso, the fate of Jews in Dante’s afterworld, and the reasons why we all — poets and non-poets, believers and non-believers — should be reading Dante. (3/24/15) – mp3

#110 – Witold Rybczynski: Thru’ These Architects’ Eyes – Renowned writer, scholar, and former architect Witold Rybczynski discusses his newest book, How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit, and talks about that humanist approach to buildings, the problems with Brutalist architecture, the importance of having a canon of great buildings, the ways that digital technology are changing the practice of architecture, why there’s no such thing as a ‘theory of architecture’, the reasons Philadelphia has such marvelous buildings, what it means to ‘review’ a building, why the ‘Starchitect’ phenomenon doesn’t make for better buildings, and whether it’s possible to improve the appearance of malls. (3/17/15) – mp3

#109 – Walter Kirn: The Confidence Man – Author and journalist Walter Kirn joins the show to discuss his latest book, Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade (Liveright Press), which chronicles his relationship with con artist/sociopath “Clark Rockefeller”. We talk about how Clark hacked the social software, how attending Princeton and Oxford prepared Walt to be fooled by Clark’s lies, why he thinks Clark was actually a progenitor of the social media age, whether writing his best book was worth losing his faith in humanity, what it felt like to be the Nick Carraway to Rockefeller’s Gatsby, and more. (3/10/15) – mp3

#108 – Anthea Bell: From Asterix to Zweig – Renowned literary translator Anthea Bell joins the show to talk about getting her start in foreign languages, the schisms in the world of literary translation, the most challenging authors she’s worked on, the one language she’d love to learn, translating everything from Asterix to Zweig, and more! (3/3/15) – mp3

#107 – Yasmina Reza: Silence in Translation – Playwright and author Yasmina Reza joins the show to talk about her new book, Happy are the Happy (Other Press). We also discuss the confluence and divergence of love and happiness, her surprise when “Art” was produced in Iran and Afghanistan, the appeal of Sarkozy as a literary character, her love of The Wire, and why she let James Gandolfini transpose The God of Carnage from Paris to Brooklyn. (2/17/15) – mp3

#106 – Matthew Farber: The Magic Circle – Educator Matthew Farber joins the show to talk about his new book, Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning. We talk about edutainment’s bad rep, developing good games for students, getting getting buy-in from faculty, administration and — most importantly — students, the subjects that benefit most from game-based learning, and why Pandemic is the best game he’s ever used to teach. (2/10/15) – mp3

#105 – Mimi Gross: Sincere Observation – Artist Mimi Gross joins the show to talk about life of a working artist. We talk about the problems and perks of being the child of a working artist (sculptor Chaim Gross) and the (ex-)wife of a working artist (Red Grooms), and (plenty) more! (2/3/15) – mp3

#104 – Ron Hogan: It Came From Gen X! – Editor, book-blogger and podcaster Ron Hogan joins the show to talk about his 20-year history with the literary internet (and also to defend Hudson Hawk). But first, Josh Alan Friedman calls in to reminisce about Joe Franklin! (1/28/15) – mp3

#103 – Jim Woodring: Nostalgia of the Infinite – While he was in town for his first solo gallery show, the great cartoonist Jim Woodring joins the show to talk about comics, surrealism, Vedanta, the principle of fluorescence, and why he may be the reincarnation of Herbert E. Crowley! (1/20/15) – mp3

#102 – Claudia Young: The Sprinter – From the Flora-Bama to Vietnam, Claudia Young has sprinted through life. We got together to talk about running songwriting workshops in Nashville, redesigning the menu for the hippest bar in Cleveland, living in the Chelsea Hotel as a teen, and being confined to a wheelchair for the past 35 years. (1/13/15) – mp3

#101 – Levi Stahl: Simple Tricks and Nonsense – Levi Stahl, the editor of The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany, joins us to talk about Westlake, crime fiction, how he got started in publishing, how he can root for the Cardinals and the Cubs, his favorite books from 2014, and more! (1/6/15) – mp3

#100 – Gil Roth: The Hollow Man – For the 100th episode of The Virtual Memories Show, we bring you an interview with your podcast host, Gil Roth! Thirty past and future guests provide the questions for an in-depth conversation about books and life. Find out about my reading childhood, my dream list of pod-guests, my best practices for productivity (don’t have kids!), my favorite interview question, my top guest in the afterlife, the book I’d save if my house was on fire, what I’d do if I won a Macarthur Grant. and more! (I promise not to do this again until ep. #200!) (12/30/14) – mp3

Season 4

#99 – The Guest List 2014 – More than 30 of this year’s guests tell us about the favorite books they read in 2014! It’s a Virtual Memories tradition! Participants include Maria Alexander, Ashton Applewhite, David Baerwald, Nina Bunjevac, Roz Chast, Sarah Deming, Michael Dirda, Jules Feiffer, 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! Visit the special Guest List page for info on all the books! (12/16/14) – mp3

#98 – Kaz: Creativity on Demand – Cartoonist, animator and artist Kaz joins the show to tell us how he went from Rahway to Hollywood, by way of Underworld! We talk about falling in love with the collaborative aspect of animation, making SpongeBob Squarepants, learning to be an artistic magpie, maybe making Mark Beyer cry, showing his parents an issue of Al Goldstein’s Screw so they could see his comics, what it’s like to supply creativity on demand, and more! (12/9/14) – mp3

#97 – Wayne White/Mimi Pond: Success is Embarrassing – Artist Wayne White talks about how his life and art have changed since the release of the documentary Beauty is Embarrassing. We discuss the arc(s) of his career, how LA influenced his word-paintings, why he’s dying to get back to making comics, and what he’s reading (of course). Plus, Mimi Pond rejoins the show to talk about the success of her graphic memoir, Over Easy! (12/2/14) – mp3

#96 – Mary Fleener: Our Lady of Organized Vituperation – Mary Fleener talks 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! (11/25/14) – mp3

#95 – Jules Feiffer: Slow Learner – Jules Feiffer‘s career as a cartoonist has spanned eight decades (!) and he’s not slowing down! At 85, he just published his first comic noir, Kill My Mother, and is working on two more volumes. We sat down to talk about his career, what he learned about storytelling from this jump into long-form comics, why he left satire behind in the ’90s, how he survived the experience of making Popeye with Robert Altman, and how it feels to be in his 80s and finally able to draw like he wanted to when he was 16. (11/18/14) – mp3

#94 – Maria Alexander: The Way of Pen and Sword – Maria Alexander talks about her debut novel, Mr. Wicker, her intern/protege relationships with Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman, the art of shinkendo swordplay and what George R.R. Martin gets wrong about swords. Also, we learn what happens when Lovecraftian pastiche goes wrong, how Maria realized that even geniuses have to write drafts, how her parents took syncretism to new heights, how Mr. Wicker made its way from short story to screenplay to first novel, how she deals with severe carpal tunnel syndrome, and what her love of swords has taught her about editing her work! (11/11/14) – mp3

#93 – Richard Gehr: I Was a Teenage Structuralist! – Arts journalist Richard Gehr joins the show to talk about his new book, I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists, in which he profiles a dozen New Yorker cartoonists. We also bond over Abe Vigoda, ponder why so many New Yorker cartoonists had teachers or educators for parents, talk about his time in the Boy Scouts with Matt Groening, discuss making a career out of oddball enthusiasms, and reveal the most mind-blowing ‘Which celebrity did you totally melt down around?’ story in this podcast’s history. (11/4/14) – mp3

#92 – Sam Gross: Look Day – Sam Gross, author of I Am Blind and My Dog is Dead, talks about his 60-year career in cartooning, keeping up his gag-panel work ethic & humor in his 80s, his enjoyment of “the humor of the handicapped,” missing National Lampoon, learning how to draw for himself and not for a specific editor, the  Vanishing New York tour he once got from Charles Addams, and more! (10/28/14) – mp3

#91 – Ashton Applewhite: Much AbidesAshton Applewhite talks about ageism and her lecture series, This Chair Rocks. We also discuss her Yo Is This Ageist tumblr, 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 consider ourselves old people in training, and how she launched the Truly Tasteless Jokes empire. (10/21/14) – mp3

#90 – John Porcellino: 35 Cents & a Stamp – John Porcellino, author of King-Cat Comics and Stories and The Hospital Suite, talks about 25 years of producing mini-comics, developing the skill and courage to tell long-form 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, and, most importantly, reconciling NFL bigamy. (10/14/14) – mp3

#89 – Dmitry Samarov: A Sense of Someplace To Go – Artist/writer Dmitry Samarov, author of Where To?: A Hack Memoir, talks about his days as a cab-driver in Chicago and Boston. We discuss whether it was more soul-destroying to hold that job or to spend his first 8 years growing up in Soviet Russia, as well as how he made the ‘zine-to-blog-to-book transition and how John Hodgman helped him along that path. Oh, and we get into why Boston is a hellhole, too! (10/7/14) – mp3

#88 – Daniel Goldhagen: May God Remember – Daniel Goldhagen, author of The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism, discusses the evolution of antisemitism, why this prejudice is unique in human history, how Jews have managed to survive in the face of it, and how it feels to go into The Family Business! Bonus: I mourn the loss of D.G. Myers, a guest from earlier this year who recently died of prostate cancer. (9/30/14) – mp3 

#87 – Nina Bunjevac: Time’s Bomb – Nina Bunjevac, Doug Wright award-winning cartoonist and author of the forthcoming Fatherland: A Family History, talks about her family history against the backdrop of Serbian independence. We also talk about her comics-epiphany, the joys of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and the respective perils of researching terrorist organizations and using too much stippling in her drawings. (9/23/14) – mp3

#86 – Sara Lippmann/Drew Friedman: Jewish Gothic and the Restless Artist – Sara Lippmann joins us to talk about her debut collection, Doll Palace (Dock Street Press), but first, Drew Friedman returns to the show for a conversation about his new book, Heroes Of The Comics: Portraits Of The Pioneering Legends Of Comic Books (Fantagraphics). One or the other discusses MFA vs. NYC, Sammy Petrillo vs. Jerry Lewis, and me vs. books by women. You’ll be surprised to discover which one is working on a project set in the Borscht Belt! (9/16/14) – mp3

#85 – Roz Chast: Parental Guidance – Great New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast talks about her new book, the National Book Award-nominated Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir (Bloomsbury), why drawing chops aren’t the be-all and end-all, her two biggest pieces of advice for people with elderly parents, her love for Disco the Talking Parakeet, and more. (9/9/14) – mp3

#84 – Charles Bivona: The Peace Poet – Charles Bivona joins us to talk about his passage from a working-class, war-traumatized youth into his life as a writer, professor, social media guru, and NJPoet. We get into a pretty heavy conversation about the role of poetry in America today, his theory on the transmissibility of PTSD, 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, and why getting bumped out of academia for blogging may have been the best thing for him. (9/2/14) – mp3

#83 – Jonathan Rose: The War Poet – Jonathan Rose, author of The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor, joins us to talk about understanding Winston Churchill the statesmen via Winston Churchill the artist. Along the way, we talk about Churchill’s roots in Victorian melodrama, his no-brow approach to art, how Hitler was like a photo-negative of Churchill, the one book Prof. Rose wishes Churchill had read, and what it’s like teaching history to students who weren’t alive during the Cold War. (8/26/14) – mp3

#82 – Frank Wilson: Critical Mass – Frank Wilson, book reviewer, columnist and founder of the Books, Inq. blog, completes our 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 lists, and more! (8/19/14) – mp3

#81 – Jessa Crispin: Bookslut’s Holiday – Jessa Crispin, founder of Bookslut and Spolia, joins us to talk about 12 years of book-blogging, the advice she’d give her 23-year-old self, the downsides of learning to write online, her take on the state of book reviewing, her upcoming book, The Dead Ladies Project, how she learned to love Henry James while nursing a breakup, and more! (8/12/14) – mp3

#80 – Michael Dirda: Bookman’s Holiday – Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michael Dirda rejoins the show during Readercon 2014 to talk about his new project on the golden age of storytelling, how he can’t bring himself to cull his library, why he’s never read Portrait of a Lady, and what happened the time Neil Gaiman tried to explain Twitter to him. Bonus: I remastered the 2012 edition of our podcast(8/5/14) – mp3

#79 – Ron Rosenbaum: Re-Explaining Hitler Ron Rosenbaum returns to the show to talk about the new edition of his fantastic book, Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil. 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. (7/29/14) – mp3

#78 – Ron Slate: Buddy Rich’s Teeth and the Corruption of Reality – Why do we write? Why don’t we write? Ron Slate spent more than two decades in the corporate world before returning to poetry and writing an award-winning collection of poems. We talk about his poetic roots, how those “lost” years weren’t so lost, what it’s like to get poetry-stalked by Louise Glück, and how his life changed the day he saw Buddy Rich’s teeth. (7/22/14) – mp3

#77 – David Baerwald: Fail Better – Singer/songwriter David Baerwald about his career in music, the uses and abuses of L.A., the writers who inspired the hit album Boomtown, the perils of grafting personalities onto up-and-coming musicians, and why he doesn’t trust happiness. We also talk about the trail of destruction that followed Sheryl Crow’s breakthrough album, 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. (7/15/14) – mp3

#76 – Merrill Markoe: Dogs of LA – Merrill Markoe, Emmy award-winning TV writer, co-creator of Late Night with David Letterman, and author of eight books of essays and novels, including Cool, Calm & Contentious, joins us to talk about her career, the show she’d want to write for if she was starting out today, being too busy worrying about cancellation to notice that she was helping change the nature of TV comedy, her technique of sleepywriting, her love of dogs, her favorite Stooge, her literary influences, her favorite cartoonists, and more! (7/8/14) – mp3

#75 – Peter Kalkavage: From Billiards to Bach – 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 going into his 38th year as a tutor, how he fell in love with the college’s music program, what his study of Hegel taught him, what he’d add to the St. John’s curriculum, and more! (Also: Iliad or Odyssey?) (7/1/14) – mp3

#74 – Seth: Haste Ye Back – Seth, cartoonist/creator of Palookaville, George Sprott, Wimbledon Green, and The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists, joins us to talk about memory and time, his love of digression, being ‘Mr. Old-Timey’, what it means to be a Canadian cartoonist, and learning to let go of the finish and polish that used to characterize his work. (6/17/14) – mp3

#73 – Rupert Thomson: Wax, Rhapsodic – Rupert Thomson joins the show to talk about his new novel, Secrecy (Other Press), a 1690’s-based thriller about the Florentine wax-sculptor Zumbo, as well as the perils of researcher’s block, his 90-minute audience with James Salter, a great book of archaic Italian curses, the joys of visiting the graves and/or homes of his literary idols, why finding the psychological truth of a story is more important than the details and background, and why it always helps to know a good histopathologist. (6/10/14) – mp3

#72 – Katie Skelly: Theory and Practice – Katie Skelly, cartoonist/creator of Operation Margarine, joins the show to talk about Edie Sedgwick, Roland Barthes, The Maxx, the juggling act of holding down a (respectable) full-time job while working on her art, her disdain for YA fiction, and how she was warped by reading Nabokov for all the wrong reasons. (6/3/14) – mp3

#71 – George Prochnik: Bildung Stories – 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 in a double-suicide in a bungalow in Petropolis, Brazil? George Prochnik, author of The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World, helps us understand the arc of this amazing writer’s life, how his dream of pan-Europeanism ended in tatters, and why his life and his writing resonates today. (5/27/14) – mp3

#70 – Mimi Pond: The Customer is Always WrongMimi Pond, author/cartoonist of New York Times-bestselling graphic novel Over Easy, joins the show to talk about her 15-years-in-the-making book, what she hopes to show a younger generation about life in the drug-addled, sex-liberated 1970s of Oakland, CA, how she met her One True Love at a puppet show, her fixation on the Patty Hearst kidnapping, the variety of ways she was screwed over by book publishers, and more! (5/20/14) – mp3

#69 – Linn Ullmann: Persona – In part 2 of my conversation with Linn Ullmann about her new novel, The Cold Song (Other Press), I foolishly let the interviewee ask some questions, and boy does THAT go off the rails in a hurry. Still, there’s lots of great talk about Linn’s writing practices and habits, her methods for avoiding distraction, her favorite Scandinavian authors, and how (and why) she reworked some of the The Cold Song for its translation into English. (5/13/14) – mp3

#68 – Linn Ullmann: Lady with a Dog – In our first 2-part episode, Linn Ullmann discusses her new novel, The Cold Song (Other Press), the influences of her parents — Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman — on her storytelling process, her subversion of the ‘Scandinavian crime novel,” and how she managed to convince her book club to tackle Proust. We also get into the question of the ethics of writing fiction explicitly from life, vis-a-via the success of her fellow Norwegian novelist Karl Ove Knausgard, and set the stage for a follow-up conversation about the very nature of making art. (5/6/14) – mp3

#67 – Lynne Sharon Schwartz: Euphonic Sounds – Novelist, essayist, short story writer, poet and translator Lynne Sharon Schwartz joins us to talk about her newest book, This Is Where We Came In: Intimate Glimpses, as well the re-launch of Calliope Author Recordings, the series of readings she and her husband recorded 50 years ago by the likes of James Baldwin, John Updike, Philip Roth and William Styron. (4/29/14) – mp3

#66 – Caitlin McGurk: Hello, Columbus – Caitlin McGurk talks about becoming a curator at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library, her favorite forgotten cartoonist, the joy of curating the new Richard Thompson exhibition, what it’s like to meet Bill Watterson, how the Stations of the Cross got her started on comics, why Dan Clowes always makes That Face in photos, and more! (4/22/14) – mp3

#65 – Daniel Levine: They Call Me MISTER Hyde!Daniel Levine discusses his debut novel, HYDE, an imaginative and gorgeous retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Along the way, we talk about the nature of evil, the luck of human evolution, the allure of working in another author’s world and time, and the mechanics of telling a story from the perspective of Mr. Hyde. (4/15/14) – mp3

#64 – D.G. Myers: Reading Maketh a Full Man – Literary critic and professor D.G. Myers is dying of cancer, but that doesn’t mean he’s planning to go gentle into that good night. We have an expansive conversation about the sad state of the humanities, why college English departments may not outlive him by much, how he made the transition from Southern Baptist to Orthodox Judaism, what books are on his bucket list, and much more. Trust me: this one’s a doozy. (4/8/14) – mp3

#63 – Tova Mirvis: Window, Pain – Tova Mirvis discusses her new novel, Visible City, and her 10-year odyssey to write it. We also cover the best writing advice she ever got, the ways that writing a book is like building a stained-glass window, why growing up 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. BONUS! You also get my monologue/essay on Jews & Geordies! (4/1/14) – mp3

#62 – Sarah Deming: Stick and Move – Essayist, boxer, novelist, chef, and more, Sarah Deming explains yoga’s role was a gateway drug into boxing, her spiteful inspiration for her first novel, the thread connecting boxers and adult film stars, how it felt to win a Golden Gloves tournament, the female boxer who reminded her of Virginia Woolf, why it’s almost impossible to write something boring about sex or a fight, and more. (3/25/14) – mp3

#61 – Maya Stein: The Stars Have Anemia – Ninja poet, writing guide, and creative adventuress Maya Stein joins us from the confines of M.A.U.D.E., the restored trailer of her Food for the Soul Train creativity company, to talk about poetry, her upcoming Type Rider II project, building an audience, and the difference between making a living and making money. (3/18/14) – mp3

#60 – Sheila Keenan/Nathan Fox: Semper Fido – Just in time for K-9 Memorial Day, writer Sheila Keenan and artist Nathan Fox join us to talk about Dogs of War (Scholastic Graphix), their YA historical graphic novel about the use of dogs in wartime. We discuss the genesis of the book, how their collaborative process developed, how the book has been received by vets (that’s “veterans,” not “veterinarians”), how each of their family histories with war informed their work, and whether it’s feasible to own a dog while living in New York City. (3/11/14) – mp3

#59 – Bruce Jay Friedman: The Slippery Animal: Bruce Jay Friedman, the author of Stern, About Harry Towns, A Mother’s Kisses, Lucky Bruce, and the screenplays for Stir Crazy and Splash, joins us for the newest installment of our Capturing the (Other) Friedmans series! We talk about his six-decade literary career, the mystery of success in Hollywood, his lifelong struggles with short stories, why Dustin Hoffman hates him, and more! (3/4/14) – mp3

#58: Removed at request of interviewee

#57 – Bean Gilsdorf:The Realm of the Possible – Bean Gilsdorf talks 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 Help Desk column at the Daily Serving, the difference between the fictional and the imaginary, and more! (2/11/14) – mp3

#56 – Paul Gravett: Feeling Gravett’s Pull – Paul Gravett, a.k.a. The Man at the Crossroads, talks about his new book, Comics Art, the Comics Unmasked exhibition he’s curating at the British Library, the reason manga took over the world (but mutated in the process), the history of the British comics scene and his history within it, and more. (2/4/14) – mp3

#55 – Josh Alan Friedman: Crackers and Bagels – It’s part 3 of our “Capturing the (Other) Friedmans” series! Writer/guitarist Josh Alan Friedman, author of Black Cracker, Tales of Times Square, and I, Goldstein: My Screwed Life, talks about forging a career as a beat writer during Times Square’s most sordid era, collaborating on comics with his brother, Drew Friedman, being the only white student in a black elementary school in the 1960s, making his bones as a guitarist in Texas, and more. (1/28/14) – mp3

#54 – Rachel Hadas: The Consolation of PoetryRachel 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. (1/21/14) – mp3

#53 – Emily Raboteau: A Place to Rest – Emily Raboteau, author of Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora, talks about the Promised Land, talks blackness, whiteness, and everydamnthing in between, as well as 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, and why Jewish book reviewers may have thought she was pulling a bait-and-switch. (1/14/14) – mp3

#52 – Brett Martin: Changing Channels – 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! Lots of talk about the recent golden age of TV, what precipitated it, what comes next, and why the personalities behind those shows were as important as the characters they created and the stories they told. (1/7/14) – mp3

Season 3

#51 – The Guest List: 2013 – For our year-end podcast, I invited this season’s guests to tell us about the favorite books they read in 2013! More than 20 guests participated, sending recordings or writeups about their favorite books, and I finish off the episode with a fave of my own. Check out The Guest List and this cheat sheet find out about some great books! (12/31/13) – mp3

#50 – Kipp Friedman: The Whimsical Barracuda – Author Kipp Friedman joins The Virtual Memories Show to talk about his first book, the memoir Barracuda in the Attic! We talk about the ups and downs of being part of a comedic dynasty (his dad is Bruce Jay Friedman and his brothers are Drew and Josh Alan Friedman), how he caught the writing bug, how he wound up with a “real job,” how it felt to get a pop culture education in ’60s and ’70s NYC, and why he’ll never forgive the New York Knicks! (12/17/13) – mp3

#49 – Peter Trachtenberg: On Cats and Calamities – Author Peter Trachtenberg joins The Virtual Memories Show to talk about his work, including The Book of Calamities and Another Insane Devotion! We discuss the tension between non-fiction and fiction, how to search for a lost cat, where the line is between the private and the public, how he stumbled into the lyric essay form, how the process of getting clean and sober influenced his writing, how marriages fall apart and how they (maybe) come back together, and more! (12/10/13) – mp3

#48 – Zachary D. Martin: War is a Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone – Zach Martin recently retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after 16 years in the service. But 25 years ago, he and your host were hyperliterate misfit high-school pals, trading Thomas Pynchon, Thomas Disch and Robert Anton Wilson novels. So how did he end up commanding Marine Recon forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as Maj. Zachary D. Martin? Let’s find out on The Virtual Memories Show! (12/3/13) – mp3

#47 – Lisa Borders: You Can’t Get There From Here – Our fifty-first interview is with Lisa Borders. author of The Fifty-First State! It’s a fine book about mismatched half-siblings brought together by calamity, set in an area of New Jersey overlooked by most everyone but its residents. We have a fun conversation about her work and influences, how her science background informs her writing process, why form has to rise from story, why she defends Jonathan Franzen’s novels, how a Michael Cunningham short story changed her life, and whether southern NJ should secede and become America’s fifty-first state. (11/26/13) – mp3

#46 – Maxim Jakubowski: Sex, Crime, and Other Arbitrary Genre Labels – Editor, writer and publisher Maxim Jakubowski talks about his lifetime in erotica, strategies for maneuvering through Book Expo America, the silliness of genre labels, the perils of having a bad book habit (that’s “bad book-habit”, not “bad-book habit’), how e-books have amplified Sturgeon’s Law, how he feels about being The King of the Erotic Thriller, and how he managed to make a killing off the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. (11/19/13) – mp3

#45 – Virginia Postrel: Glamour Profession – Virginia Postrel talks about her new book, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion! We discuss the uses and abuses of glamour, the nerd fixation on space travel, the first known symbol of glamour, and how Barack Obama’s first election campaign was heaven-sent for Ms. Postrel’s book! (11/12/13) – mp3

#44 – Hooman Majd: The Land of the Big Sulk – Hooman Majd, author of The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran, talks about Iran and his family’s year-long stay there in 2011, the conflict of nationalism and religion, the nuclear issue, the possibility of becoming a modern state without liberal democracy, why Israel and Iran should be BFFs, whether there’s a word in Farsi for ‘sprezzatura’, and more! (11/5/13) – mp3

#43 – Roger Langridge: The Show Must Go On – Roger Langridge, cartoonist/creator of Fred the Clown, talks about how he found that niche, his work on (and love of) The Muppets, Popeye, and Dr. Who, the responsibility of helping attract the next generation of comics readers, his lifetime love of vaudeville, his upbringing in New Zealand, how he accidentally became a pioneer in webcomics, why he decided not to work for Marvel or DC, and the one character from one of those companies that he’d love to work on. It’s a delightful conversation with one of the nicest guys in comics! (10/29/13) – mp3

#42 – Charles Blackstone: Wine, Women and Novel-Writing – Charles Blackstone, managing editor of Bookslut, talks about his new novel, Vintage Attraction, as well as what he’s learned about book publicity, how the story dictates the form, what bottle of wine I should pick if I were to fall of the wagon, the similarities between deconstruction and molecular gastronomy, how to master the party-throwing art of taking a guest’s coat while handing them a beverage, and more. (10/22/13) – mp3

#41 – Peter Bagge: The Least Insane of Cartoonists – Peter Bagge, cartoonist/creator of Hate! joins us to talk about his new book, Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story. We have a great conversation about why he chose to write about the founder of Planned Parenthood, how he made the shift from fiction to nonfiction comics, who his favorite “pre-feminist feminists” are, why he stuck with comic books over paperback books for too long, what the strangest sketchbook request he ever received is, and why R. Crumb considered him the least insane of cartoonists. (10/15/13) – mp3

#40 – Drew Friedman: The Guy Who Drew the Liver SpotsDrew Friedman, the Vermeer of the Borscht Belt, the great painter, cartoonist,  and chronicler of modern fame (and infamy), invited me out to 2nd Ave. Deli in NYC to record a conversation about art, show biz, R. Crumb, Joe Franklin, the Friars Club, Howard Stern, Abe Vigoda, the gallery show commemorating his books on Old Jewish Comedians, and more! It’s a fun conversation with someone who watched even more TV and read even more comic books as a kid than I did! (10/8/13) – mp3

#39 – Phillip Lopate: Slipping the Noose of the Topical – Phillip Lopate, the finest personal essayist of our time, joins us to talk about finding his voice, the difference between memoir and essay, teaching students to use the self to fetch the world, why blogs remind him of Sei Shonagon’s pillow books, what’s too personal for a personal essay, how he balances writing fiction, creative nonfiction and essays, how readers read and misread his work, his methods for fusing the personal and the critical, whether he considered going Hollywood, why and how he assembled The Art of the Personal Essay anthology, who his favorite New York Met is, and more! (9/24/13) – mp3

#38 – Thane Rosenbaum: Great Vengeance and Furious Anger – In part 2 of our 9/11 special, author and law professor Thane Rosenbaum joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about his new book, Payback: The Case for Revenge. We discuss how the human mind is hard-wired for vengeance, how the American legal system has let down its victims, how Aeschylus devised the perfect (metaphorical) system for justice, how to get revenge after suicide attacks, and why Thane is easier on Germany than on Poland, when it comes to holding a grudge about their treatment of Jews. Bonus: I talk about the time I had to decide whether to have two guys killed! (9/10/13) – mp3

#37 – Jonathan Hyman: American Graffiti – Jonathan Hyman is the first guest of our two-part 9/11 special! Jonathan began photographing 9/11 murals, tattoos and other memorials immediately after the attacks and continued the project for 10 years, amassing a collection of 20,000 photos, as well as field notes and interviews. We talked about his new book, his decade-long project, mementos mori as American folk art, non-New Yorkers’ reticence to let him photograph them, his own 9/11 experience, and his struggle to keep this work from defining him as a person. (9/3/13) – mp3

#36 – David Rothenberg/Clive Bennet: Arts and Sciences and Bugs – Philosopher, musicologist and clarinetist David Rothenberg talks about his latest book and CD, Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise. Then pharma CEO Clive Bennett reveals himself through the contents of his Kindle and explains the fork-in-the-road moment that may have defined his life. (8/20/13) – mp3

#35 – Theodora Goss/Valya Dudycz Lupescu/Nancy Hightower: Readercon – Monsters, Memories and Mythmaking – Part two of our Readercon special features conversations with a trio of writers: Theodora Goss, author of The Thorn and the Blossom: A Two-Sided Love Story, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, author of The Silence of Trees, and Nancy Hightower, author of the forthcoming Elementari Rising! We talk monsters, memories, nutty professors, and authors we’re afraid of freaking out around. (8/6/13) – mp3

#34 – John Crowley/Scott Edelman: Readercon – Fairies and Zombies – It’s the first of a two-part podcast recorded at Readercon 24! This time, John Crowley talks about his great novel Little, Big, how writing it opened the doors for his subsequent books, and how the fantasy genre has changed over the course of his career. Then longtime writer, editor and con-goer Scott Edelman talks about his zombie-fiction, his tenure at Marvel in the ’70’s, his 40-plus years of attending science fiction, comics and fantasy cons, and the pros and cons of writing workshops. (7/23/13) – mp3

#33 – David Gates/Ann Rivera: The Wonders of the Audible World – David Gates, the author of Jernigan, Preston Falls, The Wonders of the Invisible World and an upcoming collection of stories talks about his writing career, owning his niche (once accurately described as “smart but self-destructive white American middle-class men in crisis”), teaching fiction, leaving the east coast for Montana, building a country/rock band of writers and critics, how he feels about the end of Newsweek, and the anxiety that drove him into writing his first novel. It’s a fun, rambling conversation with one of my favorite living writers. Then, our very first guest Ann Rivera rejoins us to talk about her recent reads and how she escaped the postmodern condition! (7/9/13) – mp3

#32 – Michael Kupperman/Ivan Brunetti: Mike and Ivan’s Comics Cabaret – It’s a comics double-episode! Eisner Award-winner Michael Kupperman of Tales Designed To Thrizzle joins us to talk about his Mark Twain fetish, why he decided to make a 20-page comic starring Quincy, and how the UCB taught him how to perform his comics. Then Cartoonist Ivan Brunetti talks about his new book, Aesthetics: A Memoir, what he learned from drawing Nancy strips, how he found himself teaching cartooning, and how he set the (low) bar for self-loathing comics in the ’90s. (6/25/13) mp3

#31 – Eva Brann/Ian Kelley: Highest Learning – It’s a Great Books Double Feature! First, Eva Brann discusses her fifty-plus years teaching the Great Books curriculum at St. John’s College, how it’s changed (and how it hasn’t), her role as a female tutor at a time when virtually the entire faculty, student body, and curriculum was male, and more! Then we have a conversation with St. John’s alumnus and Virtual Memories pal Ian Kelley about his experiences in the program and how they informed his life ever since. (6/11/13) – mp3

#30 – Lori Carson: Little Suicides, Little Fish – Singer-songwriter, member of the Golden Palominos, and debut novelist Lori Carson talks about her new book, The Original 1982, the blurring of fact and fiction, the differences between songwriting and prose-writing (and album vs. book launches), the transformation of the  music industry, her favorite authors and the books that sustained her through her first novel, and more! It’s a great conversation with one of my favorite musical artists. (5/28/13) mp3

#29 – Wallis Wilde-Menozzi: Eternity is Music that Plays – Poet, novelist, memoirist and all-around wonderful writer Wallis Wilde-Menozzi talks with about her two new books, The Other Side of the Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italy and Toscanelli’s Ray! It’s a great conversation about the nature of art, the joy of poetry, the American experience in Italy over a span of 40 years, and more. (5/14/13) – mp3

#28 – Jesse Sheidlower: Putting the “Pro” in Profanity – Jesse Sheidlower, editor-at-large for the Oxford English Dictionary and author/editor of The F-Word, talks about the shifting idea of “offensive” language, how one becomes a lexicographer, the OED’s digital challenge, the history of Jesse’s Word, and more! Bonus: you get to listen to me hesitate and trip over myself while trying not to make poor word choices! (4/30/13) – mp3

#27 – Ben Katchor: Visible Cities – Ben Katchor is the guest for the first LIVE recording (as in, in front of an audience of 50 people) of The Virtual Memories Show! Our conversation (and Q&A with the audience) covers Ben’s new collection of comics, Hand-Drying in America, his creative process, his relationship with technology, his non-nostalgic laments for lost urban totems, and more! This episode was recorded in conjunction with the New York Comics & Picture-stories Symposium. (4/16/13) – mp3

#26 – Craig Gidney/Ed Hermance: The Importance of Being Out – It’s our first double-episode of the year! First, Craig Gidney discusses his new YA/bullying novel, Bereft, and then Ed Hermance talks about the history of Giovanni’s Room, his queer bookstore that’s celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2013. Lots of great conversation about writing, publishing and bookselling in this episode. (4/2/13) – mp3

#25 – Matt Wuerker: Cartoon Character – Matt Wuerker, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, joins The Virtual Memories Show to talk about his career (including his fascinating non-comics work and his prescient move to the online world with POLITICO), the experience of winning ‘the Academy Award for cartoonists’, his artistic and political influences, what it takes to get on the NRA’s Enemies List, the opportunities for editorial cartoonists in a post-print world, how his parents felt about his decision to become a cartoonist, whether he had it easier during the Bush/Cheney era or the Tea Party era, and why he thinks the golden age of cartooning is still ahead of us! (3/19/13) – mp3

#24 – Greg Gerke: Sound Before Story – To celebrate the publication of Middle C, the new novel by literary legend William Gass, I sat down with writer Greg Gerke, who interviewed Gass for Tin House literary magazine. We talked about Gass’ position in the postmodern literary tradition (as it were), what Greg learned over the course of reading much of Gass’ writings and interviewing The Great Man, what it’s like to construct a literary monument to horror, which authors Greg discovered through Gass’ essays over the years, how you can’t judge a man by his (roommate’s) bookshelf, why Gass holds self-publishing in disdain, and how one can build a powerful literary career by putting Sound Before Story. (3/5/13) – mp3

#23 – Fred Kaplan: God’s Way of Teaching Americans Geography – Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Fred Kaplan talks about his new book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War, how we fought the wrong war the wrong way for years in Iraq, why the Army threw out its training manuals after Vietnam, what our original sin in Afghanistan was, and why he got into war writing. Also, I connect war-waging with pharmaceutical clinical trials. (2/19/13) – mp3

#22 – Miss Scorpio: All Tomorrow’s Parties – Miss Scorpio, party planner extraordinaire and mistress of Gemini and Scorpio, talks about 10 years of throwing fabulous themed costume parties, curating one of New York City’s largest underground mailing lists of offbeat cultural events, how to build your own social network, and why you never want to do dinner and a movie for your internet first date. (2/5/13) – mp3

#21 – Willard Spiegelman: The Magnificent Seven – Reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming, and writing: these are the activities organizing the life of this episode’s guest, Willard Spiegelman, author of Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness! We talk about his wonderful book (go read it!), his addiction to ballroom dancing, how to find joy in the day-to-day world, why he hates book clubs, how he turned me on to one of my favorite novels, who his Desert Island Poets are, and, again, Harold Bloom (sigh). (1/22/13) – mp3

#20 – Ron Rosenbaum: Disarm – We kick off the new year by talking about the end of the world! Guest Ron Rosenbaum, one of my favorite living writers, discusses his new book on nuclear war, How the End Begins, the paradox of deterrence, the evolution of literary journalism, his inadvertent contribution to the founding of Apple, Nixon’s final lie, what he thought of Harold Bloom at Yale, and more! (1/8/13) – mp3

Season 2

#19 – Kyle Cassidy: Not the camera but the eye – Final episode of 2012! Amazing photographer Kyle Cassidy talks about gun culture(s) in America, science fiction authors’ writing desks, fan subcultures, the breakdown of discourse in America, how he got started in photojournalism, his most hated digital photography tricks, and whether he owns a gun, among other topics. His cat Roswell makes a cameo. (12/16/12) – mp3

#18 – Scott Hoffman: Hassling the Hoff – Scott Hoffman, co-founder of Folio Literary Management, joins us to talk about his transition from Washington, DC lobbyist to New York literary agent, the future of book publishing (including What Publishers Want and What Readers Want), why zombies are hot, where e-publishing is going, the explosion of the YA market, and the diminishing relevance of publishing’s gatekeepers, and more. (12/11/12) – mp3

#17 – R. Sikoryak: Classical Pop – R Sikoryak, creator of Masterpiece Comics and ringmaster of the Carousel Cartoon Slideshows, joins us to talk about his mashups of “high” literature and “low” comics, the 1980’s art scene in NYC, the sea change in the acceptance of comics as art and entertainment, the (un)importance of having an individual drawing style, and more. (Kindasorta sponsored by Out Of Print Clothing.) (11/26/12)- mp3

#16 – Michael Dirda: The Correction of Taste – Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michael Dirda talks about his lifetime of reading and career in writing, the essence of book reviewing and the role of negative reviews, breaking free of genre ghettoes and the pretense of literary immortality, how the web has changed the reviewing ecosystem, and why Mao would have loved the collective wisdom of the internet. (Kindasorta sponsored by Out Of Print Clothing.) (10/16/12) – mp3

#15 – Tom Spurgeon: Comic Sans – Tom Spurgeon, editor of The Comics Reporter and one of my closest pals, talks about his near-death experience in June 2011 and how he’s changed his life since, a process that involved losing more than 175 lbs. in 16 months. We also talk about  the insatiability of junk culture, the good and bad sides of internet commenters, and the meanings of nostalgia. And nothing about the new Batman movie. (Kindasorta sponsored by Out Of Print Clothing.) (10/2/12) – mp3

#14 – Boaz Roth: Fire and Bleak House – My brother, Boaz Roth, reflects on what it means to lose his library in house fire. Along the way, we also talk about the joys of Bleak House, the lasting influence of Orwell’s Inside the Whale, the Tolstoyan qualities of Lost, and what he’s learned over 18 years of teaching literature. Oh, and I offer up The Key To Quentin Tarantino’s Movies. (9/13/12) – mp3

#13 – Lyn Ballard: Four Quartets and Other Pilgrimages – Former literature professor Lyn Ballard talks about her gateway books, the metaphysical poets, reading Huck Finn at the age of 5, an embarrassing Stanley Elkin anecdote, the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, the importance of making literary pilgrimages, and more! (9/5/12) – mp3

#12 – Jane Borden: New York and Old South – Jane Borden discusses her memoir, I Totally Meant To Do That, her life as a debutante-hipster hybrid, the night at the UCB that changed her life, the ways in which we find and lose ourselves in New York, and the challenges of finding a standup venue in Sewanee, TN (along with her favorite comics and how she built her writing career). (8/9/12) – mp3

#11 – Diana Renn/Paul Di Filippo: Manga-loids and Steampunks! – Diana Renn discusses her new YA novel, Tokyo Heist, and science fiction writer/critic Paul Di Filippo discusses his 30 years as a freelance writer, what forces shape the SF market, what it’s like to be regarded as “King of Steampunk,” and how he would’ve handled a Before Watchmen offer. (7/5/12) – mp3

#10 – Tom May: Here At the Western World – Part II of The Piraeus Tapes sees Tom May, a tutor at St. John’s College, about his path to the school, how the place has changed over the years, and how he had to get a note from his priest to read books from the Vatican’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum. (6/16/12) – mp3

#9 – David Townsend: My Old School Part I of The Piraeus Tapes, where St. John’s College tutor David Townsend talks about his path to becoming a tutor at St. John’s College, how to build an American notion of education, what we can learn from the Koran, and whether comic books may ever make it on to St. John’s Great Books curriculum. (6/15/12) – mp3

#8 – John B.: Look In Your Heart – John B. talks about being dead for 10 minutes last year, and being alive since; Gil talks about Robert Caro and the publicity-industrial complex – mp3

#7 – Removed at request of interviewee

#6 – Ann Rivera: Good Housekeeping – Guest Ann Rivera talks about Housekeeping in the first Secondhand Books conversation – mp3

#5 –  Burning libraries, Geoff Dyer, and Norah Jones – No interview, just rambling. mp3

#4 –  Bach, Piers Anthony and the escapism of being a geek – No interview, just rambling. mp3

Season 1

#3 – Ernesto Sabato, Clive James, and Borges’ library – No interview, just rambling. mp3

#2b – Not-quite-an-episode – No interview, just reading an old blog-post about Proust, love and Hegel – mp3 only

#2a – Not-quite-an-episode< – No interview, just reading a passage from a William Gass essay on Proust. mp3

#2 – Invisible Cities – On Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and the high school teacher who turned me on to that book. Music by Telepopmusik – mp3

#1 – Welcome to the Pod-party Just a brief proof-of-concept introduction and a little Calvino reading. Music by Danny Wilson (covering Bowie) – mp3