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 53 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 one for episodes with translators and/or works in translation, and another one for Philip Roth-related episodes.

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

Here’s a page of the guests who have died, my little podcast-Valhalla.


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

Sign up for the free 2x/weekly Virtual Memories News e-mail!


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. Hit the arrow to check them out.

“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

*  *  *

“I would say it comes down to creating a situation where people want to talk to you. It has nothing to do with strategy, calculation. I’d say it has more to do with a kind of openness, a willingness to listen, which I have a hard time doing. I sometimes think that I have interviewed people simply because I have such a hard time listening to anybody, and this is a way of enforced, regimented listening.”

—Errol Morris, “The World, Of Course, Is Insane” (2019 New Yorker interview)


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 Instagram). You can provide regular financial support via Patreon or Paypal or by paying for a Substack subscription, but I gotta be honest; my day job pays me just fine, and it’d mean more to me if you contributed to other artists, or charities, or people or institutions in need. I mean, I literally donate more than 100% of my Patreon income to other people on Patreon, so you oughtta cut out the middle man and just donate to other creators who need it more.

But you CAN support this show by telling other people about it, and by sending me postcards, letters (10 Alta Vista Dr., Ringwood, NJ 07456), or e-mails (, or by leaving a message on my Google Voice #(973) 869-9659. Tell me what you like and don’t like about it, who you’d like to hear me record with, or what movie, TV show, book, art, theater or music you think I should turn listeners on to. And that Google Voice # goes directly to voice-mail, so you don’t have to worry about me picking up and getting stuck in a conversation with me. Messages have a 3-minute time limit.


If you’re in PR and would like to pitch a potential guest on The Virtual Memories Show (or if you’re thinking of pitching yourself as a guest), here are some guidelines and notes:

  • The podcast is audio only.
  • I prefer to record in person, but since the pandemic, I’ve made accommodations for remote guests, via
  • I’m based in northern NJ and drive into New York City and environs to record. If your guest is based in the NYC area, please check to see if we can record at their home or if there is another private/quiet location that can be used. I’ve also recorded several episodes in my home, with guests who live in or travel through NJ.
  • If your guest is visiting NYC, please see if their hotel or another private/quiet space is available for our session; as a last resort, I can ask to borrow a friend’s apartment.
  • I travel for my day job, so a non-NY/NJ recording is a possibility, but it may not fall into your publishing-date window.
  • Recording sessions usually run from 1 hour to 90 minutes.
  • As mentioned, I have a day job, so a weekend session is usually more convenient than a weekday.
  • I have recorded live episodes at festivals, conventions, and bookstore signings and may be available to do one with your guest.
  • I attend several annual festivals during the year and have recorded episodes during them, like Small Press Expo (SPX), Readercon, Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF), and Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC).
  • I read guests’ books as part of my prep, so I need some notice.


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

Amherst, MA • Annapolis, MD • Arlington, MA • Atlantic Highlands, NJ • Baltimore, MD • Beacon, NY • Bennington, VT • Berkeley, CA • Binghamton, NY • Boston, MA • Bovina, NY • Bronxville, NY • Brooklyn, NY • Burlington, MA • Cambridge, UK • Chapel Hill, NC • Chatham, NY • Chelmsford, MA • Chicago, IL • Cincinnati, OH • Columbus, OH • Cresco, PA • Des Allemands, LA • East Haddam, CT • East Hampton, NY • East Hartland, CT • Encinitas, CA • Fairfax, CA • Germantown, NY • Hamden, CT • Hartford, CT • Henryville, PA • Highland Falls, NY • Hoboken, NJ • Jersey City, NJ • Keansburg, NJ • Laguna Beach, CA • Livingston, NJ • London, UK • Los Angeles, CA • Madison, NJ • Malibu, CA • Manhattan, NYC • Milton, MA • Montclair, NJ • Morristown, NJ • New Haven, CT • New Milford, NJ • New Orleans, LA • New York, NY • Nutley, NJ • Nyack, NY • Ottsville, PA • Philadelphia, PA • Pine Brook, NJ • Princeton, NJ • Providence, RI • Putnam Valley, NY • Queens, NYC • Quincy, MA • Reading, UK • 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, CAN • Ventura, CA • Washington, DC • Wassaic, NY • Westport, CT • West Cornwall, CT • Whippany, NJ • White Plains, NY • Woodstock, NY


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

“Well done.”
Clive James

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

“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, The Destroyers, A Beautiful Crime, and The Lost Americans, 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

“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


Alphabetical list over here

Upcoming (as soon as I get the scheduling squared away): Phillip Lopate, Mirana Comstock, Danielle Chapman, Joe Coleman, Seth Lorinczi, Graham Chaffee, Amor Towles, Glynnis Fawkes, Nick Hilton, Michael Andor Brodeur, Marc Sobel, Michael Sapporo,  Nicholas Delbanco, Eric Drooker, and Doug Brod

#600 – Guess I should do something special for the Big Round Number, huh?

#599 – Jess Ruliffson, author of Invisible Wounds

#598 – Anita Kunz, author of Striking A Pose

#597 – Shalom Auslander, author of FEH: A Memoir

#596 – Maurice Vellekoop, author of I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together

#595 – Laura Beers – Historian, professor & author Laura Beers joins the show as we celebrate her important new book, ORWELL’S GHOSTS: Wisdom and Warnings for the Twenty-First Century (Norton). We talk about her course on Orwell and the making of the early twentieth century, how the post-Jan. 6 misuse of “Orwellian” inspired her to write this book, and her own path into Orwell. We get into Orwell’s balancing act between freedom of speech and obligation to truth, what he meant when he wrote that he was “for democratic socialism, as I understand it,” his family’s history with Empire and his hatred of inequality, why my favorite of his essays, Inside The Whale, may be the most misunderstood Orwell piece of all (!), and why The Road To Wigan Pier might have the most influence on her. We also discuss the ways to reckon with Orwell’s prejudices and especially his misogyny, why students are still coming into college with Animal Farm under their belt, Laura’s trip to Barcelona to follow Orwell’s steps in the Spanish Civil War, how her chapter on gender involved some deep, critical reading and writing, how we should look at the “blacklist” Orwell provided to the Information Research Dept., how Laura’s next book on the politics of infertility sort of dovetails with Orwell’s Ghosts, and more! (7/10/24) – mp3

#594 – Robert Pranzatelli – Author, publicist and partially involved narrator Robert Pranzatelli joins the show to celebrate his amazing new book, PILOBOLUS: A Story of Dance and Life (University Press of Florida). We talk about the origins of the legendary Pilobolus dance company, his transformational first experience seeing them in 1997, the workshops he took with them and the friendships they engendered, and the “itchy fingers” moment when he realized he had to write their history. We also get into Pilobolus’ unique melding of improvisation and dance technique, the joyful challenge of describing their dance pieces on the page, the importance of capturing the time capsule of Pilobolus’ ’70s roots (and covering All The Affairs, along with the friendships and fallings-out), how Pilobolus was taken seriously by dance critics long after audiences flocked to them, the company’s through-line in its 50+-year history and how they managed to continue the tradition of something that was based on overthrowing tradition. Plus we discuss Robert’s history as a writer, how Metal Hurlant & Moebius blew his mind as a teen, how he became a book publicist at Yale University Press, his narrow-focus mode of reading, his greatest eBay score, why he got choked up while reading a text he sent Pilobolus’ artistic directors after a performance, and more. (7/2/24) – mp3

#593 – Bob Fingerman – With That’s Some Business You’re In (Zoop), cartoonist-humorist-author Bob Fingerman has created a career retrospective to celebrate (lament?) his 40th year in comics (with an intro by Bill Sienkiewicz!). We got together in LA to talk about that milestone, what it meant to him to bring together decades of his comics, art, and illustration into a single volume, the challenges of writing the narrative to his work-life, and what he learned from looking at the arc of his career. We get into the ‘maybe someday’ vibe of the big projects he wants to tackle, the process of getting over his younger shame at making comics for, um, ‘lower-prestige’ (but well-paying) magazines, the distance he needed on his best-known comic, Minimum Wage, the artist’s retrospective he really wants to see, why he enjoys creator-owned work instead of someone else’s IP, and his true artistic goal. We also discuss the life-changing stuff — like addressing the tension between narcissism and imposter syndrome, the nature of change, the toxicity of NYC, and the need to leave a better memory — while we talk about life in LA, the writers who blew him away and how he can’t begin to emulate them, the way his characters changed from punching bags to people, the joy of hummingbirds and small dogs, and a lot more. (6/25/24) – mp3

#592 – Swan Huntley – Author & illustrator Swan Huntley joins the show to celebrate her two new books, I WANT YOU MORE (Zibby Books), and YOU’RE GROUNDED: An Anti-Self-Help Book to Calm You the F*ck Down (Tarcherperigee). We talk about how ghostwriting a memoir for a Real Housewife of New York led her to write I Want You More, a thriller novel about fame, identity, and murder, why she uses the first person in fiction and loves the challenge of lying to the reader, how we’re seen by others and how we want to be seen, and the fun of writing thrillers and melding character with a big plot. We also talk about how You’re Grounded took shape as a melding of words and drawings, how she settled on “anti-self-help”, how her various addictions shaped her identity and what it meant to be herself as she overcame (some of) them, how taking up drawing in a writing lull helped bring out different voices, and the need to calm the f*ck down. We also discuss the creation of identity vs. the discovery of identity, why she biked the El Camino pilgrimage solo, the memoir she’s working on, the nature of celebrity & our reactions around famous people (& her upcoming essay, “My Best Friend Is Famous”), how she found her place in Los Angeles, and more. (6/20/24) – mp3

#591 – Stan Mack – Legendary cartoonist & artist Stan Mack pioneered documentary comics and bought New York’s multitudes to life with Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies (RLF) in the Village Voice, and now he joins the show to celebrate the publication of STAN MACK’S REAL LIFE FUNNIES: The Collected Conceits, Delusions, and Hijinks of New Yorkers from 1974 to 1995 (Fantagraphics)! We talk about winnowing down 1,000+ RLF strips to 275 for this book, the comic’s secret origin and how we share some Milton Glaser conceptual DNA, what he learned about cartooning and storytelling, the creeping realization that people were actually reading RLF, and how he and the comic grew over 20+ years. We get into whether Real Life Funnies and its snippets of street dialogue could work today when everybody just stares at their phones, how his pre-Voice stint as art director at the New York Herald Tribune made an editor out of him, the moment he realized he was a New Yorker, how he became an activist and used RLF to highlight the squatters’ rights movement, the AIDS crisis, and more in NYC, how important the Village Voice was to the city and to America in the ’70s and ’80s and why we need to bring it out of the pre-digital memory hole (a la DW Young & his new documentary, UNCROPPED), Stan’s failure as a backup dancer for Lionel Richie, and a lot more. (6/11/24) – Give it a listen!

#590 – Jim Moske – With his amazing new book, DEATHS OF ARTISTS (Blast Books), archivist Jim Moske explores art, mortality, media, fame and our secret lives. We talk about his chance discovery in the Met Museum’s archives of century-old scrapbooks filled with artists’ obituaries, his attraction to the obits’ brutal tabloid poetry, and how he fell down the rabbit-hole of figuring out the scandalous, redemptive life of their compiler, Arthur D’Hervilly. We get into what these obits — and D’Hervilly’s life — can teach us about art and artistic reputation, the challenges of working with 100+-year-old newsprint, the aesthetic pleasure of historical records, and why Jim considered doing this project as a ‘zine (just like last week’s guest!). We also discuss how he got started as an archivist, his favorite phases of the Met’s history, how artists have responded to his book, his archive of illegible historical documents (!), the impact of digitization and electronics on the archivist field, what we lose when materiality goes away, the oblique influence of Bolaño’s 2666 on Deaths of Artists, and how D’Hervilly’s art-obit collection became a chronicle of the democratization of art. (5/21/24) – mp3

#589 – Adam Moss – With his amazing new book, THE WORK OF ART: How Something Comes From Nothing (Penguin Press), hall-of-fame magazine editor Adam Moss explores the artistic process by interviewing more than 40 creators about the evolution of a piece of their art. We talk about the archeology of early drafts and sketches, why he took up painting and how its vexations drove him into making this book, what it’s like to tour artists’ heads, the creative benefits of “the bounce,” the differences between collaborative and solo art-making, and the dizzying iterations of a single artwork by Amy Sillman. We get into where his 40-year magazine editing career began (and where it ended), the process of figuring out how to write and edit his own prose for this project, the incredible design project of bringing The Work Of Art to life as a museum of creativity (& its early life as a ‘zine), what happened when he pitched Warren Beatty on this project, and his ongoing attraction to the artifacts of artists in the midst of artworks. We also discuss why I may be the ideal reader for this book, how the introspection of COVID & lockdown influenced The Work Of Art and its subjects, what he learned about interviewing (& which subject intimidated him the most), how he finally learned to stop waiting for a catharsis and learned to take joy in the making of art rather than the finished artwork, and plenty more. (5/14/24) – mp3

#588 – Randy Fertel – With WINGING IT: Improv’s Power & Peril in the Age of Trump (Spring Publications), author, professor & philanthropist Randy Fertel explores the role of improvisation & spontaneity in the arts, sciences & culture. We talk about what drew him to the conflict between reason and intuition, the importance of “Yes, And” in more than just a comedic context, the neuroscience of Hot and Cold Cognition, and the moment in graduate school that started him down this path 50 years ago. We get into what improvisation really is, how it underlies creativity and innovation, how Trump embodies its dark side, and how his upbringing in New Orleans may have contributed to his improv-epiphany. We also discuss how canonical authors & works began as outsiders, why the essence of improv is disruption, the importance of ego death and unmediated experience (and why he futilely took heroic amounts of hallucinogens to prepare for a conference panel), the relationship of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to his archetypes, his love for Jon Batiste’s 2023 Jazz Fest set, his next project exploring the emergence of global pop culture, and a lot more. (5/6/24) – mp3

#587 – D.W. Young – For more than 40 years, the breathtaking pictures of photographer James Hamilton have chronicled New York City and America (and a couple of war zones), and now the amazing new documentary UNCROPPED (Greenwich Entertainment) by director D.W. Young has launched a rediscovery of James Hamilton’s work, life & times. D.W. rejoins the show to talk about how James’ career at the NY Herald, Village Voice, and NY Observer opened the door to a a bigger story about NYC, arts/culture and media, how NYC has changed and how the culture adapts, and how young viewers react upon learning about the city’s vibrant newspaper & alt-weekly scene that preceded the internet. We get into the difference between empathy & formality in photography, how after D.W.’s previous movie (The Booksellers) he really didn’t want to make another NYC film but wound up making the MOST, James’ shift from film to digital (and why some of UNCROPPED is shot on film), why sit-down interviews in documentaries get a bad rap but why they can be so valuable, and how Wes Anderson ended up being interviewed in the movie in a largely empty room. Plus we discuss D.W.’s first post-lockdown movie-theater viewings, the relief of making a short narrative film (Dancing on the Silk Razor) in the midst of making Uncropped, what he learned from making The Booksellers (and what he had to unlearn), why it’s a travesty that the Village Voice archives aren’t digitized, and a lot more. (4/30/24) – mp3

#586 – Jen Silverman – Author-playwright-screenwriter-poet Jen Silverman returns to the show to celebrate their amazing new novel, THERE’S GOING TO BE TROUBLE (Random House). We get into how Jen accidentally stumbled into the 2018 Gilets Jaunesprotests in Paris and triggered this new book, the ways we’re shaped by our parents’ failures and secrets, the many routes of radicalization, and the theatricality of protests, how they draw people in (with a boost from Théâtre du Soleil), and how they contrast with theater itself. We also talk about the role of art in understanding the times, how Jen’s stories start with character, their work on Tokyo Vice and how TV writing differs from other storytelling modes, what it means to protest alongside someone whose politics you disagree with, and what the pandemic era has taught them about community. Plus we discuss the nirvana of MacDowell Colony, learning to use research without being beholden to it, ways to be an effective, engaged human (not just engaged/enraged), the contrast between book and theater critics, the existential question of the past few years, and, oh yeah, whether or not people can change. (4/23/24) – mp3

#585 – Leonard Barkan – With Reading Shakespeare Reading Me (Fordham), professor Leonard Barkan blends memoir and deep reading of Shakespeare’s greatest plays to explore his lifelong relationship with literature and the way(s) we use art to construct our identities. We get into what it means to read, hear, perform, direct, teach Shakespeare, why it took him a lifetime to get to this book, how he contrasts himself with a radically naive reader (and why it’s important to try to capture our naïveté), the gayness of Shakespeare’s two Antonios, the stories he couldn’t tell until his folks were gone, and the role Shakespeare played in Leonard’s gay coming of age. We also talk about Narcissism vs. Wissenschaft, his next book about the WWII loss of 434 paintings by the Great Masters (!), Cervantes’ role as Shakespeare’s literary peer, the on-stage therapy session he held at his career-celebration, and his stint as a theater director and what it taught him about teaching. Plus we discuss the strangeness of King Lear’s opening scene, the eerie humor of Hamlet, the fraught subject of having kids, the glory & limitations of mimesis, how it felt to see his book The Hungry Eye on a bookshelf in The Bear, the lifelong struggle of living up to his promise, and a lot more. (4/16/24) – mp3

#584 – Emily Raboteau – After a ~10-year gap, Emily Raboteau rejoins the show to celebrate her amazing new essay collection, LESSONS FOR SURVIVAL: Mothering Against “The Apocalypse” (Holt). We talk about her sparkbird and the Audubon Mural Project in Washington Heights that center the book, her transformation into a climate activist, the joy of the flaneuse, her scavenger hunt for Justin Brice Guariglia‘s environmental art, and the idea of pain with a purpose. We also get into the differences between mothering & motherhood, the reason she put “the Apocalypse” in quotes in her subtitle, how COVID lockdown made her realize her kids’ lives had been overscheduled (and how lockdown gave them some room to breathe), and the nor’easter-battered book-event in Princeton that corroborated her book’s community-thesis. Plus we discuss her dream of interviewing Vivian Gornick, how we need to overcome pandemic-amnesia, the place her children really want to visit, how she’s changed as a writer since we last talked, what the difference is between surviving and living, and a lot more. (4/9/24) – mp3

Bonus Episode – Trillian Stars & Kyle Cassidy – Photographer and writer Kyle Cassidy and actor and model Trillian Stars join us for a Bonus Episode to talk about their new Kickstarter, THIS IS ONLY EARTH, MY DEAR – POEMS & PHOTOS (closing May 4, 2024)! We get into their inspiration to make a book combining the poems of Pre-Raphaelite muse-model-artist Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal with photos of Trillian (in a Pre-Raphaelite mode), how the project changed once they began shooting in East London, how they found enough costumes for all the photos they wanted to take, and why Lizzie Siddal was dismissed by the peers of her husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. We also get into what they’ve learned from nearly a dozen Kickstarters, what stretch goals they’re hoping to reach for this one, how modeling and acting overlap and differ (and why Kyle prefers shooting with actors), how the ghost of old London lives in modern London, and what a gift Lizzie Siddal’s poems are. (4/8/24) – mp3

#583 – Leela Corman – At long last, artist Leela Corman joins the show as we celebrate her breathtaking new graphic novel, VICTORY PARADE (Schocken Books)! We talk about how the book brings together the women welders of WWII-era Brooklyn Navy Yards, professional wrestling, and her lifelong obsession with the Shoah, how discovering her watercolor style was like the portal between life and death opening, the art school experience that derailed her, and how the artistic ground start shifting beneath her as she got serious about her comics. We get into her life-defining visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the sacred responsibility of teaching, the influence of New Objectivity (& a bazillion other styles and modes of art & storytelling) on her work, why she brought characters from her earlier GN Unterzakhn into Victory Parade, her twin polestars of Primo Levi & Lisa Carver, and her music-comics collaboration with Thalia Zedek. Plus we discuss the Gen X practice of warts-and-all autobio comics, transgenerational trauma and the next book in her ‘Birnbaumiad’ triptych, the BS of artist’s statements, the revelation of Neko Case’s music, and a lot more. (4/2/24) – mp3

#582 – Keith Mayerson – How did a late-night eBay search lead to the discovery of a lost classic of comics? How can art help us build a better America? Artist and teacher Keith Mayerson joins the show to talk about co-editing the amazing new book, Frank Johnson: Secret Pioneer of American Comics, Vol. 1 (Fantagraphics) and his multi-decade “wordless novel” in paintings, My American Dream (Karma). We get into how Frank Johnson made thousands of pages of comics in private, never published, and may have created the first American comic-book in history, whether he constitutes an Outsider Artist, how his creative legacy contrasts with Henry Darger‘s, and what it means to make a lifelong body of work with no sense or expectation of a readership. We also get into Keith’s My American Dream project, its roots in 9/11 & the GWBush era, how his paintings play off of each other like panels in a comic (and how the curation of art exhibitions is a form of comics), the mash-up of key cultural figures of modern America, his art-subject trinity of James Dean, Elvis, and Keanu Reeves (and his story of meeting Keanu), how My American Dream works to synthesize aspects of Warhol & Rembrandt (& Haring), and the vitality of his painting of Kermit the Frog on a bicycle and the significance of the Muppets in his vision of America. Plus we discuss Keith’s art & comics upbringing, the process of building comics programs at SVA and USC, his cult classic queer horror graphic novel with Dennis Cooper, the artistic act of suturing in to his subjects, why the job of art is keeping hope alive, how he felt when he found a parallel, secret history of comics taking place solely in one person’s mind, and a lot more. (3/26/24) – mp3

#581 – Edith Hall – Classicist Edith Hall joins the show to talk about her fantastic, important new book, FACING DOWN THE FURIES: Suicide, the Ancient Greeks, and Me (Yale University Press). We talk about the taboo of talking about suicide, how that taboo can lead to transgenerational damage, how that compares to the family curses in Greek tragedies, and what the Tragedians have to teach us about life (and death) today. We get into her grandmother’s suicide and her mother’s conspiracy of silence around it, her own suicidal ideation and how Heracles Mad helped her through her worst phase, the way Facing Down the Furies sprung from Edith’s previous book, Aristotle’s Way, the process of researching her family history after her mother’s death, and how Philoctetes embodies It Gets Better. We also get into the gender difference of existentialists and the crappy behavior of male philosophers, the gender difference in our readings of Alcestis, why she’s Team Iliad (and supports my reading of Achilles’ tragedy), the one Greek tragedy that she wishes survived to reach us, and a lot more. Also, I go LONG in the intro about some family stuff that came up in the lead-in to this episode. CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNING: if discussions about suicide are a problem for you, DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS ONE. (3/20/24) – mp3

Bonus episode – LEAN INTO DEAN – Cartoonist, playwright, schmoozer, etc. Dean Haspiel returns for a Bonus Episode to talk about his new Kickstarter, THE RED HOOK X DEAN HASPIEL (closing March 28, 2024, so GO SUPPORT IT)! We get into why he’s making the plunge into Meta-Mem-Noir and bringing Dean Haspiel as a character into his New Brooklyn comics universe, what it’s like to be part of the story, and how this podcast is also becoming more autobiographical with each passing week. Plus, we talk about getting old and not being able to stay out all night (even though he gave it his best shot this weekend), what it’s like to treat comics as a reductive art rather than a rendering one, the play Dino’s working on, what he’s learned from his previous Kickstarter projects, Covid Cop and Billy Dogma and Jane Legit, why he’s holding off on reading the finale of Howard Chaykin‘s Time² project, and more! (3/17/24) – mp3

#580 – David Small – With his brand new collection, THE WEREWOLF AT DUSK and Other Stories (Liveright), David Small brings us a trio of stories about the beast within (that is, within the heart, within the psyche, and within the body politic). We talk about the on-and-off 40-year history of this collection, the themes of transformation and aging that suffuse these stories, and the schism in Leonora Carrington’s estate that nearly derailed the whole project. We get into the the challenges of adapting prose fiction into comics, his move from graphic novels (think Stitches and Home After Dark) to short stories, why he’s come to love drawing digitally, and just how bad most surrealist fiction can be. We also discuss the decline in kids’ books, our respective life changes from 2020’s COVID check-in, his Truman Capote kick, how we deal with monstrous artists, how hard he has to work to make his drawings look like they were done in 15 seconds, and a lot more. (3/12/24) – mp3

#579 – Brad Gooch – With RADIANT: The Life and Line of Keith Haring (Harper), Brad Gooch brings us the biography of Keith Haring, an artist who transformed public art & the art world in the 1980s and whose work has become part of global culture in the three decades since his untimely death from AIDS. We get into Brad’s common threads with Haring, the parallels between this book and his biography of Rumi, how fatherhood helped Brad better understand Haring, and his surprise at discovering what a serious artist Haring was. We talk about why Haring’s work makes more sense now than in the ’80s, what he would have made of social media, the fire that drove him to make more than 10,000 pieces of art in his decade-plus career, the relationship of Haring to artists of color (among other race issues), where the Radiant Baby image came from, and what the younger gay population doesn’t know about the AIDS crisis. We also discuss the incredible memorial of Keith and Howard Brookner at a recent Madonna concert, why 60 is a great age to start having kids, how Instagram reminds him of ’80s social life, the parallels between the AIDS crisis and the early months of COVID, what Brad’s learned in the course of writing four biographies, why Barbra Streisand’s memoir reminds him of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle (!), and more. (3/5/24) – mp3

#578 – Japan – No conversation this week, except for our host, Gil Roth, in conversation with some virtual memories of his own! On the occasion of going to the movies for the first time since 2018, to see Wim Wenders’ amazing new film Perfect Days, he reflects on a cusp-of-pandemic trip to Japan. This one’s got Keith Haring & Koji Yakusho, a misplaced fortune, The Tokyo Toilet, an empty parking lot, Country & Western, a special 5K run, a big bag of Kit-Kats, and more, so give it a listen. (2/25/24) – mp3

#577 – Scott Guild – With his fantastic debut novel, PLASTIC (Pantheon), Scott Guild brings us a dystopian future of eco-terrorism, meta-reality, and . . . a world populated by plastic figurines who break out in song? We talk about the 10-year process of writing the book, how he found the stylistic elements that made it work, and why making the lead characters plastic let him bring comedy into his apocalyptic vision of the future. We get into Scott’s history as a musician and how songwriting differs from fiction, the album he made (with all sorts of great artists) to accompany the novel, why he’d love to do live performances of it, and how the songs changed genre from the ones in the novel. We also discuss his writing influences, esp. Kafka & Plath, why he dedicated PLASTIC to his high school English teacher, how he accidentally created his own Barbenheimer (the Barbie movie created a conceptual entry point for readers, but the characters are under the Oppenheimer-esque shadow of a nuclear war), why he didn’t show his novel to his wife until 3-4 months before their wedding, whether he played with dolls as a kid (spolier: we both did), who wins in the Dostoevsky-Tolstoy Steel Cage Match, and a lot more. (2/20/24) – mp3

#576 – Aaron Lange – What is the meaning of Cleveland? Cartoonist Aaron Lange joins the show to talk about AIN’T IT FUN: Peter Laughner & Proto-Punk In The Secret City (Stone Church Press), his breathtaking new graphic novel that weaves together obscure records, urban legends and psychographic history. We talk about Aaron’s fascination with Cleveland’s punk scene, why the musician Peter Laughner stood out to him, the way Cleveland’s hidden landmarks pointed him toward this massive project. We get into the research and interviews Aaron conducted for Ain’t It Fun, the process of editing this work into a looping, flaneur-like, discursive (but never aimless) narrative, and the influence of Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces, Iain Sinclair’s Lud Heat, and Adam Curtis’ documentaries. We also discuss post-Laughner Pere Ubu, using graphic design rather than panel-to-panel cartooning, visiting the zodiac circle by the Cleveland Museum of Art at all 4 equinoxes, chronicling the city’s brutalist architecture, the constraints of the comics market on a book that defies easy description, and a lot more. (2/13/24) – mp3

#575 – Donald J. Robertson – With Marcus Aurelius: The Stoic Emperor (Yale University Press), author & therapist Donald J. Robertson brings us the life and philosophy of the last of the Five Good Emperors. We talk about how knowing the life and travails of Marcus Aurelius helps one understand how to lead a Stoic life, how the Antonine Plague compares with our life in Pandemia, the reasons Donald found modern biographies of Marcus Aurelius wanting, and how this book brought him new understanding of the intricacies of Ancient Roman life and Marcus Aurelius’ big decisions. We also get into the role of Stoicism in his own life and how that philosophy’s been debased into the unhealthy “lower-case stoicism”, the literal toxicity of being a tough guy, how Stoicism and its nuanced view of emotions inspired modern Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, why the psychotherapy field is resistant to acknowledging that contribution, and why Freudians really disapprove. We discuss the importance of building emotional resilience and understanding one’s value judgements, Robert Burns’ role as a gateway drug to Stoicism, the alternate history in which Socrates was part of Christian tradition, Donald’s Eureka! moment and how he accidentally became a writer, how Wilko Johnson can help me live a fuller mortal life, and a lot more. (2/6/24) – mp3

#574 – Elizabeth Flock – With her incredible new book, THE FURIES: Women, Vengeance, & Justice (Harper), journalist Elizabeth Flock explores the lives of three women who responded to violence with violence, and how they run up against the social institutions that seem designed to grind them down. We get into how the book grew from her interest in female vigilantes and her own experience of sexual violence, how she wound up reporting on the YPJ all-women army in Syria (but didn’t tell her mom until a few days before flying out there), how we try to reconcile revenge and a just world, and how cultures of honor wreak havoc on women and men. We talk about how she balanced reporting with the near-mythic characters of some of her subjects, what she’s learned over 15+ years in journalism (including how not to re-traumatize her subjects as they tell her their stories), the mind-body connection & how wrecked her body got by the time she finished writing this book, and how she went into this book starry-eyed and came away with a muddied picture. And we discuss how flexible podcasts are for journalistic storytelling, how women and men have responded to The Furies, what it was like reporting in Alabama, India and Syria during the pandemic, the time her dad took her to a murder scene when she was a kid (tbf, he was a journalist), guns & gun culture (& my embarrassing gun story), having her first child a few months ago, whether things are getting a little better for women, and more.  (1/30/24) – mp3

#573 – David Thomson – Hey! Anything good on TV? I know, right? Let’s listen to legendary film critic David Thomson as we celebrate his amazing new book, REMOTELY: Travels in the Binge of TV (Yale University Press)! David & I get into how TV has changed and how it’s changed us, the communal experience of going to the movies vs. sitting on the sofa, the ways his relationship with his wife deepened in front of the tube during lockdown (and why he gave her some of the best lines in Remotely), and the personal, political, & social implications of watching crap over a long period of time. We talk about falling into the stream of streaming, how advertising was the snake in American TV’s garden, BBC’s very strange exception for its licence fee, the courage in actually writing about what he’s watching (even though Remotely isn’t a critical guide), and what made Ozark special to him. We also discuss Clive James‘ transformation of TV criticism, the end of a golden age of TV, the importance of live sports events, the joy of seeing Barbie in a packed theater, how everything points to a world where no one is in charge, and a lot more. (1/23/24) – mp3

#572 – Sammy Harkham – With his graphic novel, BLOOD OF THE VIRGIN (Pantheon), Sammy Harkham tells a story of personal and professional disintegration, against the backdrop of exploitation movies and the Iraqi Jewish diaspora in ’70s L.A. We get into the obsessions and family lore that drove him to make the book, why it took him 14 years to complete it, what it means to focus on the ‘novel’ part of ‘graphic novel’, and how craft is always trying to catch up to ambition. We talk about the need to get past the cliches of the ‘inside Hollywood’ story, what he learned about his process over the course of making this book, why he didn’t read the earlier chapters until he finished the story, and the John Steinbeck advice that got him over the finish line. We also discuss his comics upbringing, his religious upbringing, his thoughts on the late Joe Matt, the Jim Woodring panels that have haunted him for decades, the joyful anxiety of not knowing what his next project will be, and a lot more. (1/16/23) – mp3

#571 – Ed Subitzky – The great cartoonist and humorist Ed Subitzky gets his long-delayed due with the new collection, POOR HELPLESS COMICS! (New York Review Comics). We talk about Ed’s amazing career at National Lampoon, how he developed his “can’t draw’ style after taking a cartooning class with RO Blechman & Charles Slackman A DOZEN TIMES, how the Rapidograph became his Excalibur, and why this collection includes some of his favorite prose pieces alongside all the comics. We get into how he began experimenting with the form & structure of comics, his lifelong curiosities for science and philosophy and how he wound up getting published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, how he juggled all these great comics with his longtime career writing direct marketing pieces, and how it took preparing this book and looking back at his work for him to realize his comics were really funny. (1/9/24) – mp3

#570 – Chris Silverman – Did you make a 2024 resolution to put down your phone? This week’s guest might make you rethink that! Chris Silverman has been making gorgeous, weird, haunting artwork daily for more than 2 years, using only his iPhone’s Notes app and his fingertips. We get into how #notesArt began, how it’s evolved, what his drawing process is like, what it’s been like to build an audience for his art, and how viewers bring their own meanings to his #notesArt. We talk about the challenges of keeping up a regular art practice (daily!), how upgrading to iOS17 jump-started his new creative phase, the artists and cartoonists who influence him, whether Undo is his friend or enemy, his fascination with traffic lights, empty buildings, and masks, and the subconscious burbling that gives birth to the images he draws. We also share our thoughts on mortality, authenticity and identity, what it means to share your art with the world, the pressure that comes when someone is watching, and a lot more! (1/2/24) – mp3

#569 – Silence – No interview this time! Instead, our host, Gil Roth, closes out the year with the story of a week of transformations! This one’s got a Yom Kippur fast gone trippy, and a bathroom-door-induced concussion, a lightning-bolt realization about grief and mourning, a secret mission at a comics festival in Ohio, the Book of Life & the books of the dying, a pharma conference, Tom The Emotional Support Dancing Bug, crying eyes and deaf ears and a mess of signs & portents, plus a dwarf, a salamander, David Koechner and a lot more. But seriously, it’s about coming to terms with the loss of a dear friend, and what it means to know you’re not alone. (12/28/23) – mp3

#568 – The Guest List 2023 – Seventeen of this year’s Virtual Memories Show guests tell us about the favorite books they read in 2023 and the books they hope to get to in 2024 for our annual edition of The Guest List! Guests include Ho Che Anderson, Josh Bayer, Howard Fishman, Priscilla Gilman, Bill Griffith, Dean Haspiel, Sara Lippmann, Patrick McDonnell, James McMullan, Lisa Morton, Jonathan Papernick, Andrew Porter, Dawn Raffel, Paul B. Rainey, Peter Rostovsky, Scott Samuelson, and Karl Stevens (+ me)! (12/19/23) – mp3

#567 – Jarrett Earnest – For the last guest-episode of 2023, art critic Jarrett Earnest joins me to celebrate his beautiful new book, VALID UNTIL SUNSET (Matte Editions), which brings together his Polaroids and a second-person narrative to create a bewitching trip through memory, art, grief, friendship, and more. We talk about how the sudden death of his father paralyzed and then catalyzed him, the importance of making art before fully recovering from a bad experience, how the artist’s job is to be a question mark, and how a Nan Goldin exhibition started him on taking pictures of the people and places that mattered to him. We get into his friendships with Genesis P-Orridge and Peter Schjeldahl, and Genesis’ imprecation to do/make/be the Most Fabulous Imaginable Version, the importance of road trips and pilgrimages, what he learned from interviewing a series of art critics, the freedom & addictiveness of writing in the second person, why we need to make an argument about why any art matters at all today, and why he loves writing about artists he knows. Plus, we discuss the value of public-facing life in NYC, how it felt to perform selections from Valid Until Sunset, how he thinks of writing in terms of shape, the importance of having a really good analyst and really dumb personal trainer, why you don’t need to be part of Barbenheimer, and a lot more. (12/12/23) – mp3

#566 – Christian Wiman – With his new book, ZERO AT THE BONE: Fifty Entries Against Despair (FSG), Christian Wiman fuses essay, poem, memoir and anthology in a singular work that explores how the act of writing a poem is a gesture of faith. We talk about the varieties of despair and joy, the question of whether the world is chaos or has order, and whether the relationship between art and life is a tension or an actual antipathy (as Henry James would have it). We also get into the urgency of mortality and the rare cancer that almost killed Christian on three separate occasions (including this year), the notion of having a calling and the difference between given and earned callings, who we’re really trying to reach when we write a poem, whether Philip Larkin’s Aubade is a poem of pure despair, how literature has taken the place of sacred texts, and what he’s learned from teaching at Yale Divinity School. We also discuss The Void & how to tune it out, his thoughts on faith and Christ and how the incarnation of God in Jesus sacralizes the physical world, where poetry began for him, whether joy is passed down epigenetically like trauma (allegedly) is, what it’s like having a Ninja Blender for a brain, coming around on poets in translation like Yehuda Amichai, the meaning of existence, and a lot more (I mean, if you can have a lot more after the meaning of existence). (12/4/23) – mp3

#565 – Danny Fingeroth – With the 60th anniversary of the assassinations of JFK & Lee Harvey Oswald, Danny Fingeroth brings us the new biography, JACK RUBY: The Many Faces of Oswald’s Assassin (Chicago Review Press). Danny & I talk about what drew him to tell Ruby’s story, how many JFK conspiracy rabbit-holes he had to avoid, the challenges of separating Ruby’s life from myth & speculation, and how the bio began as a graphic novel collaboration with Rick Geary (!) before its prose incarnation. We get into what he learned from talking to Ruby’s rabbi, the figures he would have loved to interview for this book, what Ruby’s siblings & their kids went through in the aftermath of Jack’s moment of infamy, the circus of Ruby’s murder trial, and the danger of treating Ruby’s life like a sitcom. We also discuss Danny’s dizzying résumé, including his 20-year run as a writer & editor at Marvel Comics, discovering himself as a biographer with Stan Lee: A Marvelous Life, the complexity of the (working) relationships of Lee, Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko, the surreal of experience of meeting Gabe Kaplan while promoting JACK RUBY, and more. (11/28/23) – mp3

#564 – Matt Bors – With The Nib, cartoonist & editor Matt Bors helped build an online (and print!) venue for political satire, graphic journalism and non-fiction comics that featured some of the best names in comics and gave space to a bazillion up-and-comers. Matt & I sat down during CXC to talk about his decision to close down The Nib after 10 years, how it felt to bring together the best political cartoonists under a single online umbrella, how tech money giveth and taketh away, and what this fall’s farewell tour means to him. We get into what comes after The Nib (like Justice Warriors comic), how it felt to see one of his comics displayed on the floor of the House of Representatives, the challenges & rewards of building a diverse roster of cartoonists, why he always wanted a print companion of The Nib, and how mainstream comics and dystopian science fiction have always held an appeal for him (and why he’d love to do more with his Wasteland characters). We also discuss how it feels to have traded America for Canada and how the move has changed his perspective, the ways his post-Nib self spends less time getting mad online, how he plans to catch up on all the comics he’s missed in the last decade, what it’s like having his first two-week stretch as an adult without immediate editorial deadlines, and more! (11/21/23) – mp3

#563 – Phillip Lopate – With his new collection, A YEAR AND A DAY: AN EXPERIMENT IN ESSAYS (NYRB), master essayist Phillip Lopate explores the world & himself through the mode of a weekly blog. We get into how he adapted to a short, time-constrained essay form for The American Scholar, how he avoided The Columnist’s Curse (limitless curiosity helps!), whether an essayist can truly write about anything, and how he has and hasn’t changed since the 2016-17 period in which he wrote these pieces. We talk about Phillip’s integration of the private and public self in his writing, how his wife & daughter felt about being included in this book, the question of whether he’s fulfilled as a writer, why he hides his journal, and how editing the three Great American Essay collections allowed him to leave something canonical behind for students & readers. We also discuss how it feels when readers thinking they know him from his essays, how his books and essays add up to a fragmentary, lifelong memoir (and why he’ll likely never write an actual memoir or autobiography), why his multiple myeloma diagnosis was more of a psychological hit than a physical one, how he found himself working on a biography of Washington Irving, the benefits of a fragmentary unitary self, his thoughts on present-day personal essay tropes, the career validation of being inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Letters, and a LOT more. (11/14/23) – mp3

#562 – Leslie Stein – With her wonderful, hilarious & heartfelt new graphic novel, Brooklyn’s Last Secret (Drawn & Quarterly), cartoonist Leslie Stein brings us the story of Major Threat, a getting-over-the-hill indy band on tour. During SPX 2023, we talked about how she mined the raw material of her own rock & roll tour experiences (and those of her friends) to make a comedy about touring life, why she started it during COVID lockdown in 2020, and how serializing it on Instagram served as an antidote to doomscrolling. We got into the evolution of her cartooning style and how she finds new modes to work in, the expectations vs. the reality of artistic life, the experience of going viral with a comic about Nirvana T-shirts (and her time playing in a Nirvana cover band). We also discussed going back to cons & festivals, why it’s important to be an entertaining panelist, the role of music in art-making, why it’s best not to open up emotionally to your bandmates when on tour, and more. (11/7/23) – mp3

#561 – Josh Bayer – With his new graphic novel/memoir, UNENDED (Uncivilized Books), cartoonist Josh Bayer explores family trauma, memory, art, and more. We get into how Josh spent five years trying to adapt his late father’s unfinished play into a comic, the ways it did & didn’t help him come to terms with his father’s life and his mother’s death, and why he blurs out his character’s face on the page. We talk about the punk rock inspiration in his writing and art, the systems he uses to pull him out of storytelling morasses and how he learned to teach them to his students, learning to cope with his ADD (and wondering whether I have it too), studying at SVA in his 30s, and why he pursued comics over fine art. We also discuss mental health and treatment and how we deal with our father-issues, Josh’s recent stint working at Carol Tyler‘s Ink Farm, the impact of the Masters of 20th Century Comics exhibition on his career, why it’s tough to be Rollins, the question of whether he’s forgiven his dad, and a lot more. (10/31/23) – mp3

#560 – Adam Sisman – With The Secret Life of John le Carré (Harper), Adam Sisman reveals the secrets he couldn’t publish in 2015’s John le Carré: The Biography, and explores how serial deception & betrayals — through the multiple affairs le Carré (a.k.a. David Cornwell) conducted during both of his marriages — can provide a key to understanding the late, great spy novelist. We get into how Adam became a combo detective-psychoanalyst-confessor during his work on the biography, how he learned of le Carré’s messy private life, why he decided to wait until after the author and his wife had died before publishing this new book, and why these new revelations ought not to diminish le Carré’s literary stature. We talk about le Carré’s monumental achievements chronicling the Cold War and Britain’s decline (& his top 3 le Carré novels), the man’s undeniable charm & his self-mythologizing, the times when he thought the biography might not happen, how he felt when le Carré published a memoir after Adam’s biography came out, and the ways in which le Carré’s upbringing — abandoned by his mother, reared by a con man father he struggled to escape from — may have contributed to his devotion to duplicity & seduction. We also discuss the moment Adam realized that biography is a human process, his thoughts on the new Errol Morris documentary with le Carré, the limits of interviews in general (NO!), what it means to put le Carré behind him with this new book, and plenty more. (10/24/23) – mp3

#559 – Lisa Morton – Let’s celebrate spooky season with The Art of the Zombie Movie (Applause Books)! Author Lisa Morton & I talk about her new book and the fun of researching the history of zombies in pop culture and folklore, the challenge & joy of assembling the 500 illustrations in the book (including one-sheets, stills, alternative art, and more), and how she got messed up at an early age by Dawn Of The Dead. We get into her history of horror (it was all over once she saw The Exorcist), how she found herself as a writer and wound up with 6 Bram Stoker Awards®, her take on fast vs. slow zombies, and what she found researching the George Romero papers at UPitt. We also discuss her experience as a bookseller in Los Angeles (go, Iliad Bookshop!), LA’s writer-culture, getting her heart broken by screenwriting, her work to bring the classic Fantasmagoriana anthology to a new reading public, and a lot more. (10/17/23) – mp3

#558 – Daniel Clowes – With MONICA (Fantagraphics), legendary cartoonist Daniel Clowes has pushed the limits of his storytelling and art to make one of the great graphic novels of the decade. We sat down during CXC weekend to talk about this amazing, haunting, hilarious book and how it grew out of his attempts at trying to figure out his childhood, the ways in which MONICA is haunted by the deaths of cartoonists Richard Sala and Gary Leib (oh, and those of Daniel’s brother and mom), what art, community and mortality have come to mean to him, and how certain panels took him 5 years to draw. We get into what he’s learned from using multiple genres within a single book, the artists who influenced him and the ones he had to escape, the 7-year gap from his previous book, PATIENCE, and what’s changed, and his late-stage depression at finishing MONICA. We also discuss how he was always awaiting the shift from pamphlet-comics to hardcover original books, how thankful he was to not be good enough to get work at Marvel or DC in his youth, what it’s like writing and drawing his books without any editorial input, his only takeaway from writing for movies, the Americanness of his comics, why he prefers drawing over writing even though A) he’s a really good writer and B) would never draw from someone else’s script, the only advice he would ever give young artists, and a lot more. (10/10/23) – mp3

#557 – Rachel Shteir – With her fantastic new biography, Betty Friedan: Magnificent Disrupter (Yale University Press), Rachel Shteir sheds light on a key figure in the women’s rights movement. We get into how Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique is being erased or glossed over by contemporary writing about women, how the 50th anniversary of TFM sparked this biography, the challenge of balancing Friedan with her work and threading her life and the massive shift in women’s rights she helped cause. We talk about Friedan’s involvement in Esalen & Human Potential Movement and how it influenced her later work, why knowing her midwestern family upbringing is key to understanding her choices (good and bad), the battle between equal rights and sexual politics and how feminism got away from her, the intersection of Judaism and feminism, and how Friedan began to recognize her mistakes and try to correct for them over time. We also discuss how “What Would Betty Do?” in relation to today’s politics and the Me Too movement (potentially not well), how Rachel finds synergies between biography and dramaturgy, and a lot more. (10/3/23) – mp3

#556 – Patrick McDonnell – What’s it like to put out books with Jack Kirby and the Dalai Lama in the same year? Legendary cartoonist & artist Patrick McDonnell rejoins the show to talk about his amazing new books THE SUPER HERO’S JOURNEY (Abrams ComicArts), his collaboration with the Dalai Lama, HEART TO HEART: A Conversation on Love and Hope for Our Precious Planet (Harper One), and more! We get into the secret origin of The Super Hero’s Journey, the joy of getting to play with the comic-book characters of his youth and remix 1960s panels & pages with his own art & story, how he made a spiritual book disguised as a Marvel comic, and why the best art is when your mind is not involved. We also talk about the making of Heart To Heart, Patrick’s combination of minimal (but gorgeous) art with the Dalai Lama’s words to tell a story of ecological survival, getting to meet the Dalai Lama in Dharmshala (& finding some bliss), and the struggle of drawing a cartoon version of His Holiness and his small nose. Plus we discuss the approaching 30th anniversary of his MUTTS comic-strip and how Patrick keeps finding inspiration & fun in making it, how making books and paintings allows him to flex and play with his art, the ways making a comic strip parallels making haiku, the experience of showing his paintings at a big exhibition at OSU in 2021, and how purposefulness suffuses Patrick’s art & life. (9/26/23) – mp3

#555 – Keith Knight – How did the writers’ strike get Keith Knight to finish his long-awaited graphic memoir, I WAS A TEENAGE MICHAEL JACKSON IMPERSONATOR (Keith Knight Press)? Find out in our conversation at SPX about his wonderful new book, which chronicles Keith’s 18-month stint as an MJ impersonator in the mid-’80s! We get into how he found himself by being someone else, what he learned about audiences and the business of entertainment, the role music has played in his life, his favorite MJ song, why Off The Wall is better than Thriller, and how Janet Jackson was the lucky one, all things considered. We also talk about Keith’s experience writing and producing two seasons of WOKE on Hulu (sadly cancelled), how he got involved in every aspect of making that show, what he learned about storytelling in the writers’ room, and what he wants to bring to his next TV project. Plus we discuss why comics are the ultimate DIY art form, the differing modes of audience-artist interaction from comics to TV to slideshow lectures to MJ performances, how deadlines can be your friend, why Stevie Wonder may have the best three-album run of anyone in music history, and a LOT more. (9/19/23) – mp3

#554 – Brett Martin – Ten years can be a lifetime (or two or three): Brett Martin returns to the show to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his book DIFFICULT MEN: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution (Penguin), and we talk about how the TV landscape — prestige & otherwise — has changed in the past decade, how it felt to revisit the book 10 years later, and why this anniversary was more startling than his turning 50. We get into how Difficult Men was lauded for its criticism and analysis at the time but now shines for its reporting and character studies, how the explosion of prestige TV was unsustainable but led to amazing shows, how the #metoo movement intersected with male-dominated writers’ rooms (and which show-creators in Difficult Men looked bad 10 years ago & worse now), and his feelings about the writers’ and actors’ strikes. We also discuss Brett’s writing career, what food media really talks about, his reporting on the history (& racial complexities) of Preservation Hall, what he’s learned about interviewing, why he’s crushed by the retirement of Bartolo Colon, what our favorite eras of M*A*S*H are, why he’s enjoying the heck out of Inkmaster and the new Night Court, and a lot more. (9/12/23) – mp3

#553 – Peter Rostovsky – How did a hangover in 2015 lead to an award-winning debut graphic novel in 2023? Find out as Peter Rostovsky joins the show to celebrate the release of DAMNATION DIARIES (Uncivilized Books)! We get into the origins of his gorgeously & grotesquely drawn social satire about Hell (& Hell’s therapist, Fred Greenberg), what he had to learn about comics in the process of making his first one, how comics allowed him to wed his polemical nature to a deeply personal story, and why his version of Hell bears an awful lot of similarities to life in NYC. We also talk about what it was like emigrating from Russia to the Bronx as a 10-year-old kid in 1980, how comics helped him learn English, his strategies for blending in as a teen, and how he found redemption & maximalism in heavy metal. And we discuss his history in the worlds of fine art, art theory, internet utopianism, and teaching International Art English, the time he broke up a fight between a sculptor and a painter, whether AI is a McLuhan-esque ‘prosthesis’ for art, his mother’s recent death and how he feels about rendering her in Hell in Damnation Diaries, why I think he needs to write about his occasional childhood exile in a garden in the Hermitage, how giving up his solo studio and joining Dean Haspiel & others in Studio CLOACA gave him a community, and more. (9/5/23) – mp3

#552 – Bill Griffith – Legendary cartoonist Bill Griffith returns to celebrate his fantastic new book, THREE ROCKS: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller, The Man Who Created NANCY (Abrams ComicArts). We get into his lifelong history with NANCY, how that strip was like a lesson in what comics are, the time he brought his Zippy The Pinhead into Bushmillerland, why Bushmiller and Crumb are the only two cartoonists whose work gives him 100% pleasure (and don’t inspire criticism or jealousy), how the idea for Three Rocks percolated for a few decades until he read Paul Karasik & Mark Newgarden‘s book HOW TO READ NANCY, and why he decided not to draw Bushmiller’s characters in his book (he collages existing Nancy, Sluggo, & Fritzi art instead). We also discuss how many of his cartooning students have never read NANCY but still wear T-shirts with her face (& trademark spiky hair), the problems younger cartoonists have with continuity in storytelling, and what he’s learned from teaching. And then we talk about the death of Bill’s wife, the great underground cartoonist Diane Noomin, and how he’s gotten by in the year since. We get into the new comic Bill made about (& with) Diane, The Buildings Are Barking (Fantagraphics/FU), how he still hears her voice, what it’s like to work on a new book without the person who read every panel of his for 49 years, keeping Zippy going while grieving, how having a daily strip all this time seems to have immunized him from anniversaries, the ferry ride he & Diane used to share, how the death of Aline Kominsky-Crumb two months after Diane’s brought him and Robert Crumb closer, and more. (8/29/23) – mp3

#551 – Jerome Charyn“The word is far more real than the world”: Jerome Charyn rejoins the show to celebrate his new novel, RAVAGE & SON (Bellevue Literary Press), a fantastic noir about the Lower East Side in 1913. We talk about his love for the LES and the Bintel Briefs in The Forward, why he wanted to write a Jewish Jekyll & Hyde story, and how adopting a cat changed the course of this amazing novel. We also get into life on the page, the music of the sentence, and the self-revelation of writing, why so many of his characters attend Harvard, the holiness of books and why he reads so little of others’ books nowadays, treating writing as an apprenticeship rather than a career, and how he got overwhelmed for a year after writing in Abe Lincoln’s voice. Plus we discuss his reverence of Joyce Carol Oates and Cormac McCarthy (and ambivalence toward Henry James, who makes an appearance in Ravage & Son), the reason so many of his characters attend Harvard, the sense of being transported by the ballet performances of Allegra Kent, how it felt to write a character who’s in love with destruction, why gender fluidity is essential to human nature, and the one advantage to living long enough: understanding that nothing remains and everything disappears. (8/23/23) – mp3

#550 – Ron Rosenbaum – With the release of IN DEFENSE OF LOVE: An Argument (Doubleday), Ron Rosenbaum offers up a series of essays to save love from scientizers, extremists, the jaded, and anyone else who doubts whether Amor Vincit Omnia. We get into why love needs a defense and how it’s not reducible to chemical surges on an fMRI scan, the overwhelming emotion of Linda Ronstadt’s Long Long Time, the beauty of Philip Larkin’s poem An Arundel Tomb and why Larkin may have been embarrassed by the honesty of its last line (“What will survive of us is love.”), and the ways bullshit science can lead people ridiculously astray. We talk about seeing Tolstoy in the light of his late novellas, in which he puts forth an extinction agenda and wants to end human reproduction, the first and last times Ron fell in love, why he included a closing chapter on his own experiences of love & regret, whether dangerous passion outweighs a moderate marriage, and whether one can write about human nature without having a fully human nature. Plus, we talk about Ron’s writing career, his arrival during the late days of magazines’ golden age, how he discovered his superpower of close reading, why America’s greatest love poems come from country music, and a lot more. (8/15/23) – mp3

#549 – Karl Stevens – With MOTHER NATURE (Titan Comics), artist Karl Stevens adapts a graphic novel from an eco-horror screenplay by Oscar™-winner Jamie Lee Curtis & Russell Goldman. We get into how he wound up collaborating with JLC, the challenges in adapting a screenplay into comics and how it was sort of like directing his own movie, how he discovered his affinity for horror, and how nervous he was to show Jamie Lee his drawings of the character who’s modeled after her. We also discuss comics-making & graphomania, the long-lost comic shops & record stores of Northampton, MA, his drive to make it onto the cover of The New Yorker, and why he’s used the same pen nib for the last 30 years. Plus, we talk about the challenges and moving parts in making a biography of his father (and his dad’s insane Vietnam draft experience), how his family history goes back to the 1720s pre-America, the Artist’s Editions volumes he’s been collecting lately, why his favorite era of Jack Kirby was the ’70s, and of course, running. (8/9/23) – mp3

#548 – Howard Fishman – Writer, musician and composer Howard Fishman joins the show to celebrate his amazing new book, TO ANYONE WHO EVER ASKS: The Life, Music and Mystery of Connie Converse (Dutton). We get into how he discovered the music of the enigmatic Connie Converse, when he realized her life was a rabbit hole that would take more than a decade to delve through, what it was like to write a biography around the gaps in her life, and the sheer amount of chance, happenstance, and miraculous occurrences that led to this book. We talk about how Connie Converse arose as a singer-songwriter in 1950s NYC (maybe) just a few years ahead of her time, her subsequent role as a public intellectual and progressive activist, her Cassandra-like nature, the analytical mind she brought to music, policy, and every other topic in her life, and how she vanished without a trace in the mid-’70s. We also discuss his time as a research assistant for NYT editor Arthur Gelb, how his idea of artistic legacy changed in light of learning Connie Converse’s story, the relationship between artist and audience (and the Cat Stevens story that first brought him to my attention), what it means to renounce one’s art, how he tried to do justice to the Connie Converse story, and a lot more. (7/25/23) – mp3

#547 – Christopher Brown – During Readercon weekend, Christopher Brown rejoined the show for our first conversation since the 2020 release of his novel FAILED STATE. We talk about the nonfiction project he’s working on, tentatively titled THE SECRET HISTORY OF EMPTY LOTS, the surprising reach of his FIELD NOTES weekly newsletter, tribes’ creation myths and how they manage to justify dominion over the land, why the outdoors is one of America’s most segregated spaces, and why he thinks calling Washington, DC “The Swamp” is an insult to swamps. We get into the differences and similarities between his fiction and nature writing, the impact of Tesla and the Gigafactory on life in/around Austin, TX (esp. for its neighbors in unincorporated land), the tensions of child-rearing at a time of ecological disaster, what it means to read science fiction through nature-lens (esp. Annihilation and Neuromancer), the natural world’s response to COVID lockdowns and capital’s post-COVID snapback, and what it was like to vacation in South Padre Island, TX during the hottest week in history. Plus, we discuss the fun of coming back to Readercon, the old semi-hip days of psychogeography, our backup plans to bug out of the failed state, and plenty more. (7/18/23) – mp3

#546 – Rian Hughes – Writer, graphic designer, typographer, illustrator, comics writer/artist, and photographer Rian Hughes rejoins the show to celebrate the US release of his fantastic novel, The Black Locomotive (Pan Macmillan). We talk about how he wanted to follow up 2020’s XX with something more plot-driven & less philosophical and wound up celebrating his love affair with London while getting in touch with his inner JG Ballard. We get into his integration of prose, typography, and graphic design in the new book, what he’s learned about writing (and the new novel he’s working on), the nature of font-design (and the real difference between sans-serif & serif fonts), and what he thinks about AI image-generation and its impact on creative fields (and what it says about popular tastes). We also discuss Rayguns & Rocketships, the recent book of his collection of vintage science fiction book cover art, the collector impulse and how to short-circuit it, the fun of writing the song for a fictional club of train aficionados & having his sister set it to music (and then hearing it remixed by Scott Hoffman), his fear of accidentally kicking off a flamewar among stream-train enthusiasts, and a LOT more (just like in our 2020 conversation). (7/12/23) – mp3

#545 – Eddie Campbell – With the publication of The Second Fake Death of Eddie Campbell (Top Shelf), the great cartoonist Eddie Campbell brings his decades-long autobiographical comics project into the COVID era. In this return conversation (go listen to our 2018 episode & our 2020 COVID check-in) we talk about the meta-narratives that haunt his books, the culture of masks that prompted his latest work, how it felt getting back to making long-form comics again, and whose idea it was to publish this one like an Ace Double along with the revised version of The Fate Of The Artist. We also get into how he learned to make art with computers and how that learning curve accelerated when he was making the color version of From Hell, the temptation to revise past work, why his last two major autobio books involve his fictional death, and a lot more. (7/11/23) – mp3

Bonus Episode – Remembering Michael Denneny – No show this week, but here’s a bonus episode with my impromptu speech at the remembrance-memorial for the late Michael Denneny, recorded June 19, 2023. Michael & I were supposed to record a podcast on April 15 about his collection, On Christopher Street (U of Chicago), but he was dead when I arrived at his apartment. I recorded a wrenching monologue about that discovery the next day, and a followup a week later, so this piece serves as a sort of coda to that, and a celebration of all Michael meant to the literary and gay communities. If you’d like to watch the video of my speech, it’s on YouTube. We’ll be back next week. (7/4/23) – mp3

#544 – Mitch Prothero – Investigative journalist & longtime pal Mitchell Prothero joins the show to talk about his new podcast, GATEWAY: Cocaine, Murder, and Dirty Money in Europe (Project Brazen). We get into how the project evolved from his reporting on the global war on terror, how the cocaine trade mirrors the globalization wave, how Colombia’s piece deal led to mega-cartel consolidation, why his EU law enforcement sources did not want to talk about the cocaine trade, and whether the Netherlands trial of drug kingpin Ridouan Taghi reveals cracks in the security of the state itself. We also talk about the differences between writing for a podcast vs. writing for readers (like his reporting at VICE News), the strains of scheduling interviews with people under security detail, the changes in the media landscape over the course of his career, and his path through journalism, covering our days together in Annapolis to his time as a Capitol Hill reporter to stints in Afghanistan, Iraq, Serbia, and beyond. And we discuss what he misses about America and how living and reporting in Baltimore in the 1990s prepared him for pretty much any scenario he’s encountered since. (6/27/23) – mp3

#543 – Joseph Monninger – With his new memoir, GOODBYE TO CLOCKS TICKING: How We Live While Dying (Steerforth), writer and professor Joseph Monninger writes through the experience of a stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis, delivered only 3 days into his retirement in 2021. We talk about how he’s navigating life on borrowed time (& the miracle drug that’s loaning him that time), his notion of legacy and how it plays out in his books and his students, and what he’s learned about impatience and regret. We get into the books that brought him solace, the comforts of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, how Wilder’s Our Town inspired the memoir’s title, and his desire to take the world in while he’s still in it. We also discuss the origins of his writing life, his Peace Corps stint in Burkina Faso and the big novels that he and the other volunteers traded, whether there are any books he wants to get to before he dies, what we each learned about oncology waiting room etiquette and the grace & goodwill of oncologists, the issue of assisted suicide, and a LOT more. (Plus, I talk about this week’s NYC memorial for Michael Denneny.) (6/20/23) – mp3

#542 – Andrew Porter – With his new story collection, THE DISAPPEARED (Knopf), Andrew Porter explores the intricacies of loss in day-to-day life, and all that vanishes as we grow into middle age. We talk about how the stories came together for him, why he set (almost) all the stories in The Disappeared in San Antonio and Austin, how he had to adjust his writing life once he became a dad, and why he loves writing about artists. We also get into his path into writing, the moment he discovered contemporary fiction is his jam, and his lessons learned from teaching fiction for more than 20 years: how student sensibilities around genre have changed, the stories he’s had to retire from teaching, and Marilynne Robinson’s influence of his teaching style. Plus, we discuss stories vs. novels, the changes in literary magazines, his newfound penchant for flash fiction, how he lost all his writing in an apartment break-in 20+ years ago (and my twisted idea for a story about that), and more. (6/13/23) – mp3

#541 – Jonathan Papernick – Author Jonathan Papernick joins the show to celebrate his fantastic new short story collection, Gallery of the Disappeared Men, and new novel, I am my Beloveds (Story Plant). We talk about his writing life, the weirdness & joy of retracing the footsteps of his characters in Israel, his move into playwriting and how it contrasts with writing novels & stories, and how a failed novel sparked a very successful novella. We also get into his career teaching fiction writing, what he’s learned from teaching, how his students have changed and how he learned to appreciate trigger warnings, and the Tobias Wolff story he uses in virtually all of his fiction-writing classes. Plus, we discuss Judaism, his multi-generation Canadian roots, why he likes living in Providence after leaving Boston, the very embarrassing time he met Margaret Atwood, and more! (6/6/23) – mp3

#540 – Scott Samuelson – Let’s visit the Eternal City! Philosophy professor Scott Samuelson joins the show to discuss his wondrous new book, ROME AS A GUIDE TO THE GOOD LIFE: A Philosophical Grand Tour (University of Chicago Press), and we get right into how he fell in love with Rome, what it means to engage with the city philosophically, and how he blended place, history, philosophy, art, poetry, religion and more in his exploration of Rome and the vita beata. We talk about mortality and mercy, the way Roman philosophers remind him of jazz musicians, critiques of Roman imperialism and why the city of Rome itself is its best defense against its colonial-critics, and what he’s looking forward to when he returns to Rome after a 3-year hiatus. We also discuss his experience teaching philosophy to non-traditional students, why he resisted specialization in his field, his love of cooking and the last meal he made for a dying friend, the importance of forgetting and/or externalizing memory, whether my “Virgil is to Homer as Kobe is to MJ” comp holds up, and more! (5/30/23) – mp3

#539 – Brian Dillon – With AFFINITIES: On Art & Fascination (NYRB), Brian Dillon completes a “loose trilogy” of books revolving around his connections to art, writing & the world, this time through a series of amazing essays about photography, dance, video, and other art forms, as well as the drift-nature of affinity itself. We get into the tendrils of influence (and how he has to shake himself loose of the reticence of Barthes & Sebald), the act of close looking. the way metaphors & images enable to him to explore art, and why he embraces mood over argument in his essays. We also talk about the ways his recent books (Affinities, Suppose a Sentence, & Essayism) have served as a reboot of his writing, the challenges in wedding the critical/analytic & the memoiristic, his decision to rewrite by hand the previously published pieces for this book to see if new connections revealed themselves, and how he never knows what to ask an artist in the studio. Plus, we discuss how much personal info is too much in an essay, the parallels between his aunt’s descent into paranoia with his own pursuit of close looking/reading, the writers he discovered late, what comes next, why he doesn’t shy away from calling Affinities an essay collection, and more! (5/16/23) – mp3

#538 – John Kropf – With his new book, COLOR CAPITAL OF THE WORLD (University of Akron Press), John W. Kropf explores the history of the American Crayon Co., Sandusky, OH, and his own family, while telling a bigger story about America. We get into the family stories & lore that led him to write the book, the toughest parts of researching it, when he realized that the story would involve the history of American immigration, innovation, chemistry, industry, public education, labor, and the rapaciousness of finance, and why he made sure to get a Gordon Lightfoot reference into its pages. We also talk about what crayons meant to American kids, whether he still draws with them, why his family sold out of the company, and how he met the challenge of including personal memoir in the story of a company town. Plus we contrast his multi-multi-generational history in America with my rootless cosmopolitanism, reflect on his writing life, and figure out who he’s been reading lately. (5/9/23) – mp3

#537 – John Wray – With his A-W-E-S-O-M-E new novel, GONE TO THE WOLVES (FSG), John Wray explores the metal scene of the 1990s, from Gulf Coast Florida to LA to the wilds of Norway. We get into his history with metal (starting with AC/DC), why he wanted his lead characters to be fans with no aspirations to be musicians themselves, the coolness fallacy of authors writing about rock music, the brief era where a band like Cannibal Corpse could sell hundreds of thousands of records, and why this was his most fun book to write. We also talk about the theology of Norwegian black metal, this book’s relationship to Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke, his favorite drummer, and how he settled into Graham Greene’s writing practice of having a word count for each day. Plus, we discuss his recurring neurotic breakdown when a book is in galleys, his realization that his parents did not take his writing seriously (when he was an 8th grader), the process of renovating a brownstone in Prospect Park and renting out rooms to other writers (like Nathan Englander), becoming a dad in recent years (and failing to teach his son how to fly a kite), the tension between writing the books he wants to write and selling more copies, the risk of getting sued by Vince Neil, and a lot more. (5/2/23) – mp3

#536 – Ho Che Anderson – With GODHEAD Vol. 2 (Fantagraphics), Ho Che Anderson has fulfilled a graphic novel science fiction adventure 20 years in the making. He rejoins the show so we can talk about how GODHEAD changed over the years, where the idea of a device that lets users commune with God came from (and how it kinda sorta mirrored his grandmothers’ war for his soul), and what the process of making this book taught him about writing and comics storytelling. We get into why he loves science fiction on the screen, his experiences writing for film, prose & comics, the experience he had at Marvel with a controversial Luke Cage miniseries that got cancelled at the last minute, and our Frank Miller experiences & some of the visual cues of RONIN in GODHEAD. We also discuss the need for religion, his fascination with the ocean, finding himself as a screenwriter (even with overlong drafts), why he donated his pages & materials from his MLK biography to the Billy Ireland library, his notion of legacy, and a lot more. (4/25/23) – mp3

Bonus Episode – After Michael – Last week I talked about finding Michael Denneny dead at his apartment when I showed up for our podcast session (here’s his Washington Post obit and here’s Michael’s final book, On Christopher Street). This brief (11+ min.) bonus episode covers the week since then, the response from his friends, colleagues, and loved ones, and how I’ve been doing since then. (4/23/23) – mp3

#535 – Finding Michael Denneny – This week’s guest, gay author and editor Michael Denneny, was found dead when I arrived at his apartment to record our session on Saturday, April 15, 2023. This episode consists of a monologue of my experience that day, my appreciation of his amazing and important new collection, ON CHRISTOPHER STREET: Life, Sex and Death After Stonewall (University of Chicago Press), my thoughts on legacy, identity, mortality, the AIDS crisis, what it means to bear witness, and more. (4/16/23) – mp3

#534 – Noah Van Sciver LIVE! – Live from MoCCA Fest 2023, it’s an Artist’s Spotlight feat. Noah Van Sciver! I host a live session with Noah (with audience Q&A) to talk about his career in comics, his return to autobiography with his new Maple Terrace comic (Uncivilized Books), what his graphic biography of Joseph Smith taught him about comics, when he realized/accepted he was Alt and not Mainstream, and the great wisdom his father gave him about comics (and how his dad named one of his sisters about a character from a Conan comic). We also get into looking at 40 and how it compares to the comic he did about turning 30, why ex-Mormons appreciate his Joseph Smith bio, the challenges of getting work done as a father, how the American Splendor and Crumb movies set him on his path, the influence of Kerouac and the Beats on his writing and art, the original comic art that made him plotz, his sense of obligation to share the work of older artists, and a lot more. (4/11/23) – mp3

#533 – Stevan Weine – With BEST MINDS: How Allen Ginsberg Made Revolutionary Poetry From Madness (Fordham University Press), Dr. Stevan M. Weine has written an amazing, illuminating and important new book. We get into the nexus of poetry, suffering and trauma that enveloped Ginsberg’s life, what it took for him to write Howl, and his mother Naomi’s schizophrenia and what it meant for him to wrestle with it in Kaddish. We talk about the history of psychiatry, the legacy of some truly terrible practices (like prefrontal lobotomization), and what lies ahead for the field, while also exploring Stevan’s mid-’80s interviews with Ginsberg and the discoveries he made in the family’s psychiatric records, the power of self-mythology and how it can elide the facts (like how old Allen was when had to sign the consent form for his mother’s lobotomy), and how Ginsberg balanced on the fine line between madness and great art. Plus, we discuss Ginsberg’s activism and advocacy (including a controversial endorsement), the impact of his best-known poems on the public’s understanding of mental illness, what it meant to Stevan to discover Ginsberg’s poetry in junior high, whether he’s got some poems of his own, and a lot more. (4/4/23) – mp3

#532 – Priscilla GIlman – With her new memoir, The Critic’s Daughter (Norton), Priscilla Gilman explores her relationship with her father, Theater Critic and Yale Drama professor Richard Gilman (as well as with her mom, literary agent Lynn Nesbit). We get into the perils of literary-kid memoir, the NYC book-scene she grew up in, her parents’ divorce and how it led to her learning way too much about her dad’s sexuality at 10 years old, and the challenges of capturing her early selves without jarring the reader. We also talk about how much she enjoyed recording her own audiobook, the role of the critic and the golden age of literary reviewing, what she’d ask her dad if he were around now, the disconnect between her parents’ public & private personae, and the lessons she had to learn for herself about love, marriage, and parenthood. Plus, we share a literary lightning round, some football talk, and our Thurman Munson memories! (3/28/23) – mp3

#531 – Timothy Goodman – Artist (& SO much more) Timothy Goodman joins the show to talk about his gorgeous new graphic memoir: I ALWAYS THINK IT’S FOREVER: A Love Story Set in Paris As Told By An Unreliable But Earnest Narrator (Simon Element). We get into how his murals and online posts coalesced into a memoir, the nature of attachment disorder and heartbreak, Timothy’s penchant for social experiment, what drove him to spend a year in Paris in 2019, and why he used a variety of mediums to tell a single story (& in the process tell a much bigger story). We also talk about his artistic history & influences, the drive to fill every inch of the canvas, using art for social good, the musicality of his art & art-making process, how he graduated from house painting to design to art, and his Excalibur moment of discovering the Sharpie. Plus we discuss toxic masculinity & therapy, the difference between traveling the world and depaysement, our favorite NBA teams, and more. (3/21/23) – mp3

#530 – Christopher Bollen – Author, journalist and interviewer Christopher Bollen returns to the show to celebrate his thrilling new crime novel, The Lost Americans (Harper). We talk about his childhood obsession with ancient Egypt and how it led him to set the novel in Cairo, what’s gotten easier & tougher after 5 novels, what it was like to write this one while under lockdown, and why he dived into politics and the global arms trade this time around. We also get into our respective (and multiplying) midlife crises, the tarot reader who told him he’d only write 9 books (!), the reading education he got from judging the PEN Faulkner awards, the debts he owes past writers (& the time he bought a plant for Robert Stone), and why he’d like to learn to paint. Oh, and we discuss our share postcard fetish, the horror novel he’s writing, his rediscovery of Philip Roth, the loss of artistic reputation, and a LOT more. (3/14/23) – mp3

#529 – Dean Haspiel – Artist, writer, cartoonist, playwright, director etc. Dean Haspiel rejoins the show to talk why he’s launched his first Kickstarter (open through 3/30/23) to support a new comic, COVID Cop (think “unholy but hilarious combo of Judge Dredd, The Toxic Avenger, Sin City, and Marshal Law“)! We get into how his approach to storytelling has changed in recent years, how he felt about the COVID-delayed debut of his play The War Of Woo, the thrill of making his short movie There Is No Try, and what it’s like to work in hyper-collaborative mediums like theater & film. We also talk about the experience of drawing Superman at Yaddo, why he needed to revisit his pitch for COVID Cop now that we’re semisorta past the worst of the pandemic, returning to his fave character, Billy Dogma, and wrapping up one phase of his The Red Hook series, the influence of Kyle Baker’s Why I Hate Saturn on his upcoming work, the experience of mentoring comics artists at Atlantic Center for the Arts last month, his take on AI art for comics, and a lot more. (3/7/23) – mp3

#528 – Willard Spiegelman – Author, critic, professor and now biographer Willard Spiegelman rejoins the show to talk about his amazing new book, NOTHING STAYS PUT: The Life and Poetry of Amy Clampitt (Knopf). We get into his winding history with Amy Clampitt, why he thought a biography of her would be impossible and why he decided to write it anyway, what made her poems so special, and what it was like to have such a late-blooming career (she first published at 58). We talk about the learning curve of writing his first (and only) biography, why he thinks Clampitt stubbornly stuck with prose instead of poetry for decades (and why she stuck with a terrible play about the Wordsworth circle in her last few years), how coastal Maine helped her write about her home prairies of Iowa, and why Willard choose to use the poems to expand on phases of her life from decades earlier. Plus we discuss Clampitt’s resonances with Emily Dickinson, the epiphany she had at the Cloisters that started her on the path to poetry, her spiritual and political engagement and how she felt about being a “female poet”, and her enthusiasm for enthusiasm. Plus, Willard looks back at the 10 years since we first recorded! (2/28/23) – mp3

#527 – Matt Ruff – Author Matt Ruff rejoins the show to celebrate his fantastic new book, THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS: A Return To Lovecraft Country (Harper). We talk about his reason for doing a sequel to his best-known novel, Lovecraft Country, why he’d love to continue the story for a few more books, and what it means to carry on his characters’ stories. We also get into the experience of seeing Lovecraft Country adapted into an HBO series and how its departure from his book thrilled him, the importance of not letting the present influence his writing of the past (and whether the George Floyd protests influenced his writing of his African-American protagonists this time around), and the many ways he could have died while visiting the Great Dismal Swamp to research for this book. Plus, we discuss screenwriting, the different structure this novel has from its previous one, why the quiet moments of conversation are the most important in the book, whether it’s unfair that it takes him 3-4 years to write a book that takes me 3-4 hours to read/devour, and more. (2/21/23) – mp3

#526 – James McMullan – Legendary artist and illustrator James McMullan joins the show to celebrate his new book, HELLO WORLD: The Body Speaks in the Drawings of Men (Pointed Leaf Press). We talk about James’ three-plus decades of posters for Lincoln Center Theater, the importance of the human figure in his art, how drawing with color opened a more expressive channel for him, and why Hello World is his most personal project (even more than his memoir). We get into the intersection of illustration & fine art and whether he resented being overlooked by the museum set, the experience of making more than 90 (!) posters for Lincoln Center Theater over the decades and helping define NYC theater (despite being neither “a New York guy” nor a hardcore theater-goer), how he makes his art in a perpetual state of risk and being willing to let that risk show, the ways his literary reading feeds his art and vice versa, and how he invested $11,000 in a supply of his favorite paper a dozen years ago and how it feels to reach the last of it. Plus, we discuss his High Focus Drawing approach, the gestalt between model and artist, how it felt to be a ‘sissy kid’ who found power in art, why he shows feet when everyone else is focused on the intimacy of close-up faces, and a lot more. (2/14/23) – mp3

#525 – Paul B. Rainey – With his fantastic new graphic novel, Why Don’t You Love Me? (Drawn & Quarterly), cartoonist Paul B. Rainey has crafted a deeply human story out of a deeply weird premise, taking the reader from bleak, black humor to the most heartfelt moment of connection. We get into the challenges of serializing this story over 6-plus years, the ways in which science fiction can help us reframe our day-to-day lives, the midlife meltdown that led to the creation of My Imaginary Band, and the ways Why Don’t You Love Me? explores what it’s like to look at one’s life and ask, “How did I get here?” We also talk about the perils of writing a story with such a great twist that it’s difficult to talk about (spoiler alert!), the amazing experience of being published by D&Q after years of self-publishing his comics, the amazing experience of getting a blurb from Neil Gaiman, why he’s never watched Groundhog Day, how Planet of the Apes either ruined or fulfilled his life, how he finally came around on Krazy Kat, and a lot more. (2/7/23) – mp3

#524 – Thomas Woodruff – Artist and illustrator Thomas Woodruff joins the show to celebrate his amazing new graphic opera, Francis Rothbart! The Tale of a Fastidious Feral (Fantagraphics). We get into how Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan floored him and inspired him to make this 300-page extravaganza, what it was like to finally make a comic after decades of critiquing them in his role at the School of Visual Arts, and how living through the AIDS crisis forced an emotionalism into his art. We talk about the terrible glamour of his art, his predilection for making series of works (like his 365 paintings of apples and his ongoing series of apocalyptic, graceful dinosaur paintings), the virtues of carbon pencil and his hunt for the last supply of his favorite paper, and why he treats teaching drawing is like a religious rite. We also discuss his legacy vis-a-vis the students he taught and the programs he built, his philosophy of using the same model for a full year of drawing classes, the story of his first tattoo and the apotropaic act, the difference between having a sensibility vs. a style, why he retired from SVA after 20 years of chairing the Illustration and Cartooning departments, how students changed over that span, the mind-melting experience of watching Diver Dan as a child, The Next Project, and more! (1/31/23) – mp3

#523 – Dawn Raffel – Author Dawn Raffel rejoins the show to celebrate her wonderful new book, Boundless As The Sky (Sagging Meniscus Press), a gorgeous series of stories & a novella that take us from Invisible Cities to the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. We talk about how Dawn’s previous nonfiction book, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney, led into this new book, how she became obsessed with the Century of Progress World’s Fair (and how she wishes she could have asked her parents about visiting it in their youth), why Chicago was always her Emerald City, and how NYC has transformed over the decades she’s lived here. We also get into the strong influence of Invisible Cities on her book and how she felt about writing a feminine/feminist response to Calvino, how the two parts of Boundless As The Sky — stories, novella — talk to each other, the twin writing-joys of unexpected resonances and sentence-building, and how incorporating Yoga Nidra offers new approaches to writing workshops. We also get into her recent trip to Kenya for International Literary Seminars, her pandemic Zoom writing-accountability partners, how she finally got around to reading Moby-Dick (and what she made of it), and a lot more. (1/24/23) – mp3

#522 – Ross Benjamin – Acclaimed translator Ross Benjamin returns to the show to celebrate the publication of his translation of The Diaries of Franz Kafka (Schocken Books). We get into the twisted history of the diaries, Ross’ monumental achievement of bringing them into English, the how ambiguity and circularity pervade Kafka’s very language, and the question of whether one can be qualified for this sort of task before actually doing it. We also talk about how this edition restores the bodily, sensual, sexual, and public-facing Kafka (& speculate on why K’s literary executor, Max Brod, bowdlerized the diaries in their initial incarnation), what it was like to translate the private writings of someone who was the personification of ambivalence, what the process taught Ross about his own life and how it revealed new aspects of Kafka to him, and what it’s like to catch Kafka in the act of writing. Plus, we discuss the feeling of accomplishing a dream project like this by the age of 40 and having the sense that he’s served the purpose he was meant for (which leads to the question of What Comes Next), the blurbs that made him plotz and the post-pub tribute from his daughter that brought him to tears, and a lot more. (1/17/23) – mp3

#521 – Sara Lippmann – Author Sara Lippmann returns to The Virtual Memories Show after almost a decade to celebrate her debut novel, LECH (Tortoise Books). We talk about how she had to move out of her comfort zone of short fiction (see her collections Doll Palace and Jerks) to write a novel, whether she felt guilty teaching a course on novel-writing before she’d finished her first one, the research that went into writing a book about the Catskills in decline, and what it means to find the right container for a story. We also get into the book’s title, and how it plays off of the Biblical notion of Lech Lecha (“go forth”) and the tradition of novels named after their protagonists’ last names (Herzog, Stern, Jernigan), and how LECH looks at those books through a feminist lens. On top of that, we discuss the silliness of “literary immortality” and what it means that almost no one reads Saul Bellow anymore, my absolutely ingenious idea for changing the nature of my podcast, how she took up running at 40 to combat depression, the moment she learned to stop caring about external validation, and the new novel she’s working on. Oh, and I stupidly ask her for a writing prompt. (1/10/23) – mp3

#520 – Gil Roth and Aaron Finkelstein, or Two Gentlemen With The ‘Rona – Let’s kick off 2023 with . . . me! I My long-time pal Aaron Finkelstein returns to interview me for what we’ve decided to make an annual Virtual Memories tradition. Listen to Two Gentlemen With The ‘Rona (okay, he’s recovering, but I tested positive a few days earlier) check in on the changes a year has wrought. We get into how a Yom Kippur fast sent me on some strange paths, how our cultural touchstones mark us, what it means to be fair to our college-aged selves, and the one Watchmen character I never identified with. Along the way, we work through some of my personal failings and my ego-vanity complex, the analog/digital tightrope, whether bookishness is something we need to get over, and a LOT more, including an intro about my end-of-year COVID experience. (1/3/23) – mp3

#519 – The Guest List 2022 – Twenty-two of this year’s Virtual Memories Show guests tell us about the favorite books they read in 2022 and the books they hope to get to in 2023 for our TENTH ANNUAL edition of The Guest List! Guests include Jonathan Ames, Richard Butner, Howard Chaykin, Joe Ciardiello, Darryl Cunningham, Eva Hagberg, Kathe Koja, Ken Krimstein, Glenn Kurtz, W. David Marx, Dave McKean, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Jim Ottaviani, Celia Paul, Nicole Rudick, Jerry Saltz, Dmitry Samarov, David Sax, Ruth Scurr, Sebastian Smee, Peter Stothard, and Marina Warner (+ me)! (12/20/22) – mp3

#518 – Dmitry Samarov – For our last interview episode of the year, artist & author Dmitry Samarov rejoins the show to talk about his new book, PAINT BY NUMBERS, the disastrous experience he had trying to profile a pair of renowned artists, and why he chose to chronicle (& fictionalize) it years later in this book. We get into the conflict of art & commerce, fame & failure in America, and the relationship of artist, artwork, and audience. We also talk about the Lynda Barry class that opened his eyes to his own art-making process, what he’s learned from making a podcast of his own, the surprise bliss of holding a book-event with no audience, how he’s changed through the newsletter he’s been keeping up regularly for a dozen-plus years, what his ongoing collage-art has unlocked for him, whether there’s such a thing as an artistic dead-end, and more. (12/13/22) – mp3

#517 – Steven Heller – Author, design guru, blogger, instructor, graphic designer and treasure Steven Heller rejoins the show to celebrate his wonderful new book, Growing Up Underground: A Memoir of Counterculture New York (Princeton Architectural Press). We get into why he was ready to dive into memoir after 200 (!) books on design, how he found his voice for this book, what it was like revisiting his life from the mid-’60s to ’70s, and how he wed his personal development with his growth as a graphic designer & art director. We also talk about his literary influence (go, Team Orwell!), the question of legacy, the artist he wishes he could have worked with in his storied career, and how he reassessed his past design work via captions in the book. Plus, we discuss AI images & the future of art direction, fascist symbology & whatever’s going on with Ye, the joy of an empty New York City, his ongoing battle between hubris & neurosis, and a lot more. (12/6/22) – mp3

#516 – Drew Friedman – Artist Drew Friedman rejoins the show to celebrate his wonderful new book, Maverix and Lunatix: Icons of Underground Comix (Fantagraphics). We talk about his mind-blowing portraits of the legends of the Underground era, how he pared his list of subjects to 100 (from ~3000), why he decided to paint everyone in their prime years rather than present-day old (and the good stuff his subjects have said about their portraits), the research that went into writing biographical sketches of his subjects (and the challenges in getting photo reference for some of them), this book’s departure from his Heroes of the Comics and Old Jewish Comedians paintings, and why he’s not planning to do another book about Alt-comics artists of the ’80s & ’90s. We get into how Robert Crumb convinced him to draw people he doesn’t like, the griping Marc Maron made about writing the foreword, how he came around on certain artists while working on the book, and his complaints about having to paint so many men with ’70s era long hair and shaggy beards (and why he wants his next book to be all bald men). We also discuss how painting changed him as an artist, how he wound up recreating his early stippling effect with the brush, his realization that he was over a lot of his youthful grudges and resentments, his bucket list of people he hasn’t gotten around to drawing, why Harvey Kurtzman is his most controversial subject in the book, and a LOT more. (11/29/22) – mp3

#515 – David Sax – Writer, journalist and speaker David Sax joins the show to celebrate his new book, THE FUTURE IS ANALOG: How to Create a More Human World (Public Affairs Books). We get into how we all got dragged at once into the digital future in spring 2020 and what it taught us, how surprised he was at response to his 2016 book, The Revenge of Analog, and why this book is its perfect companion, and why analog, real world experience has grown more important even as digital activity reaches its peak. We also talk about how he structured the book’s main topics and days of the week — Work, School, Commerce, The City, Culture, Conversation, and Soul, corresponding with Monday to Sunday —, the ways in which we’re growing disenchanted with Silicon Valley’s vision of the future, why he will cite 1993 movie Demolition Man at the drop of a hat, and why a periodic digital sabbath is a good thing. Plus, we discuss the digital era’s misunderstanding of what productivity is, why capital’s extractive model can only lead to burnout & ruin, whether it was a good or bad thing that the pandemic curtailed his improv lessons, the Philip Roth book that he had to beg his book club’s forgiveness for selecting, his belated dive into John Le Carré, and a lot more. (11/22/22) – mp3

#514 – Jim Ottaviani – Writer Jim Ottaviani rejoins the show to celebrate his new graphic biography, EINSTEIN (First Second)! We get into his collaboration with artist Jerel Dye & colorist Alison Acton on telling Einstein’s story, the chutzpah involved in tackling the bio of the man whose name is a synonym for genius, and how he kept from falling into the rabbit hole of Too Much Research. We talk about how Jim used Einstein’s major theories as a way of exploring the man and his times (and why this book is more of a story than a biography), the way 20th century popular culture latched on to Einstein, how he contrasts with some of the other biographical subjects Jim has tackled, and the mystery of what happened to Einstein’s first child. We also discuss the process of working with a new artist, the writing hints that come from the subconscious, the physics teacher who helped him explain the trickier theories in the book, whether the pandemic-era anti-science movement has made Jim doubt his work or has him doubling down on it, and (of course) our running stories. (11/19/22) – mp3

#513 – Peter Stothard – Classicist, editor, and writer Peter Stothard joins the show to celebrate the publication of his amazing new book, CRASSUS: The First Tycoon, the first in Yale University Press’ Ancient Lives series. We get into what drew him to Crassus, how Crassus’ understanding of finance and money revealed new ways to exert power beyond military strength in ancient Rome, how he tried to balance the strengths of Pompey & Julius Caesar as part of the “three-headed monster” that ruled Rome, whether Crassus deserves to be lost to history because of his brutal actions putting down the Spartacus slave revolution, and why writing about the ancients is like walking along a wall and looking down to see the familiar and the alien. We talk about Peter’s journey from council estate to studying classics at Oxford to editing the Times of London and then the Times Literary Supplement, the lessons antiquity has for modernity, what he learned in writing a book about Tony Blair and the buildup to the Iraq War, and his upcoming work on the development of the bureaucratic class. We also discuss how he survived a catastrophic form of cancer, rediscovered himself as a classicist-memoirist, and learned how much one gains in life by overcoming a fear of death, and a lot more. (11/15/22) – mp3

#512 – Michael Lesy – Photographic historian & writer Michael Lesy joins the show to celebrate his amazing new book, Walker Evans: Last Photographs & Life Stories (Blast Books). We get into his friendship with Evans & their shared interest in Lyrical Documentary, why Evans’ last photos were dismissed by academics (even though they are, in fact, amazing), what he learned from writing a mini-biography of Evans for the book, how Evans returned to one of his first cameras — the Polaroid SX-70 — in his last year, and what Michael felt seeing his late wife among the final portraits Evans shot. We also get into Michael’s ~50-year career from Wisconsin Death Trip to now, how reading the Russians — especially Turgenev — turned him into a writer, how he feels about everyone taking pictures on their phones, and the importance of understanding photo history. Plus, we discuss how he taught Literary Journalism at my alma mater, Hampshire College, for ~30 years, the audition test he gave his students so they could write their way into his class, why students became much more frail over the decades, and a LOT more. (11/11/22) – mp3

#511 – Marina Warner – Writer, professor & critic Marina Warner joins the show to talk about her new book about her parents, Esmond and Ilia: An Unreliable Memoir (New York Review Books). She gets into the memory of her father’s Cairo bookshop getting burned down in a riot, the huge cache of letters and documents her mother left behind and what it taught her about her mother’s life & deep sadness, how this book transitioned from novel to memoir and what novelistic aspects it retained, and why she disagrees with the standard memoir’s notion of an integral self. We also talk about transformations from Ovid to COVID, her upcoming work on the concept of sanctuary and her interest in refugees, what it means to be at home in the world and how to give refugees a sense of attachment through imagination, why fairy tales and myth need to be reinterpretable and not fixed in meaning, how it felt to have one of her books cribbed by WG Sebald, how the myrrh bush captured her imagination, and why I think she should watch Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Plus, we discuss the loss of Carmen Callil and the need to champion women writers, her role as the first woman president of the Royal Society of Literature from 2017 to 2021 and the RSL’s recent unwillingness to hold an event in support of Salman Rushdie, and a lot more. (11/8/22) –  mp3

#510 – Jerry Saltz – Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz joins the show to celebrate his new collection, ART IS LIFE: Icons and Iconoclasts, Visionaries and Vigilantes, and Flashes of Hope in the Night (Riverhead Books). We get into the ways his book chronicles tumultuous transformations in the art world in the 21st century, his late start (almost 40) as an art critic and how his lack of art history training affects his writing, the works of art that inspired his writing, and the transcendent joy of Jeff Koons’ 43-foot-tall topiary puppy. We also talk about how a critic can try to avoid the sclerosis they’re all liable to suffer, why he’s the least reliable critic of Matthew Barney, why he thinks some critics are holding back on negative reviews, what it’s like to attend 25-30 gallery shows a week (with his wife, the great NYT art critic Roberta Smith) and what it meant when pandemic lockdown hit. And we discuss his 35-year friendship with the late Peter Schjeldahl, his attempt at getting up to speed on classic books, his disdain for cynics and ‘knowers’, the artists he missed the boat on, and how art saved his life. (11/1/22) – mp3

#509 – Darryl Pinckney – Literary & cultural critic Darryl Pinckney rejoins the show to celebrate his new memoir/memorial, Come Back In September: A Literary Education on West Sixty-Seventh Street, Manhattan (FSG). We get into Darryl’s friendship with (& apprenticeship to) Elizabeth Hardwick, and the relationships he built with Susan Sontag, Barbara Epstein, and the New York Review of Books in the ’70s & beyond. We also talk about recognizing a golden age when you’re in it, our current professionalization of culture and why it leads to meh art, the value of his literary/writing education from Hardwick (& others), the NYC New Wave scene he was a part of alongside Howard Brookner, Lucy Sante, Felice Rosser, and others, and why the one place he felt a sense of belonging was on the red sofa in Elizabeth Hardwick’s home. Plus, we talk about his massive project on the history of black literature in the 20th century, why there are so few examples of failure in black autobiographical tradition and why (and whether) he considers himself a failure, why someone once told him, ‘You’re very disciplined at beating yourself up,’ why we bonded over the same character in Middlemarch, and more. (10/25/22) – mp3

#508 – Tom Gauld – Cartoonist and illustrator Tom Gauld rejoins the show to celebrate the publication of his new book, Revenge of the Librarians (Drawn & Quarterly), a collection of his weekly literary humor comics for The Guardian. We get into his comics’ three lives — in the paper, online, and in books — and the difference between seeing his work in print vs. onscreen, the decision to include lockdown-era strips in his new book, and how he manages to keep his comics fresh despite having two weekly deadlines (he also draws a comic for New Scientist). We also talk about his stylistic & structural experiments, how he grew more comfortable using color, the longform comics he’d love to make (if he could just find them halfway done before he got to work), and why Beckett & Austen are always great authors to fall back on for a gag. And we discuss what it’s like going on a book tour again (and meeting at least one librarian at every event), being more fearless about his work when he was younger and having higher standards now, why it was important to him to make a children’s book before his kids went to college, and more! (10/18/22) – mp3

#507 – W. David Marx – With his new book, STATUS AND CULTURE: How Our Desire for Social Rank Creates Taste, Identity, Art, Fashion, and Constant Change (Viking), W. David Marx explores the narrative structure of culture and fashion (not just clothing) and how status is the driver of cultural change. We get into his thesis and why he wasn’t satisfied with the “random walk” or vitality models for how culture changes (and why fashions and taste spread, or don’t), how status is conveyed to people, and why it’s a third rail in most conversations. We also talk about cultural progression and/or stagnation, the role of the internet in cultural change, how great art gets made and why the omnivore mindset may stymie that, and how understanding the relationship between status and culture may help us build a more equitable world. We also discuss what led him to leave America for Japan, and why Tokyo is one of the best places to live. (10/4/22) – mp3

#506 – George Prochnik – Author George Prochnik rejoins the show to celebrate his new book, I Dream With Open Eyes: A Memoir About Reimagining Home (Counterpoint Press). We get into his family’s decision after the 2016 election to leave America, how his book complements his wife Rebecca Mead’s memoir about their move to the UK, the performative & symbolic aspects of their decision, the work of culture, and how it felt to write about the present moment for the first time. We talk about American exceptionalism, the nature of exile & self-exile, the centrality of Freud to different branches of his family, and why he decided to write about the nature of working as a writer and trying to get by as an artist in NYC. We also discuss the apocalyptic nature of our era, how the power of ignorance is stronger than power of knowledge, how we can recuperate the unknown as a space of possibility, and the warnings of two of his past literary subjects, Stefan Zweig and Gershom Scholem. (9/27/22) – mp3

#505 – Richard Butner – Author Richard Butner joins the show to celebrate his marvelous first book, The Adventurists and Other Stories (Small Beer Press). We get into the F&SF story that started him on the writing path, his love of the fantastic in fiction, his background in engineering & how he has to throw it out the window when it comes to writing, and the theme of return that runs through his stories and the unfinished business it implies. We also talk about his history with Sycamore Hill Writers Workshop & how he ended up running it, how critiquing others’ stories can teach you more than having your own work critiqued, and his love of the short story as a form. Plus we discuss writing & performing theater and how he balances that collaborative art with the solo process of writing, his experience in immersive theater, my observation that changed the way he sees his stories, the impact of Kurt Cobain’s suicide on him & his friends, and a lot more. (9/20/22) – mp3

#504 – Eva Hagberg – Author & architecture writer (& secret agent of PR) Eva Hagberg rejoins the show to celebrate her new book, WHEN EERO MET HIS MATCH: Aline Louchheim Saarinen and the Making of an Architect (Princeton University Press). We get into how Aline built the narrative around Eero Saarinen’s greatest buildings, her pivotal role in shaping the way we — media, laypeople, and critics — talk about architecture, and how publicity has been intertwined to architecture ever since. We also talk about how Eva’s own career in architecture PR is woven through the book, why her original title was What Would Aline Do?, the moment she realized Aline & Eero’s correspondence was Ph.D. thesis-worthy, and the notion of legacy and the ego of architects. Plus, Eva being Eva, we get into oversharing, divorce, IVF, the VERY impending birth of her first child, and more! (9/13/22) – mp3

#503 – Jonathan Ames – Author & showrunner Jonathan Ames returns to the show to celebrate his new novel, The Wheel Of Doll (Mulholland Books)! We get into how Lee Child inadvertently led him into writing about a down-on-his-luck PI named Happy Doll, how this new book builds on 2021’s A Man Called Doll, his love of crime/mystery fiction and what he’s learned about the form from re-re-re-reading masters like Richard Stark/Donald Westlake. We also talk about the Buddhist influences in The Wheel Of Doll (& in Jonathan’s life), whether people can change, why he tweaked Happy’s LA setting to mess with reality a little, and what it means to set a character along a new path (if not the Eightfold Noble Path). Plus, we discuss his recent binge-watch of Vikings, the principle of Engagementism, his writing advice (set reasonable goals), and plenty more! (9/6/22) – mp3

#502 – Jerome Charyn – Author, critic and film scholar Jerome Charyn rejoins the show to celebrate his new book, BIG RED: A Novel Starring Rita Hayworth & Orson Welles (Liveright Books). We get into how Hollywood created Jerome’s childhood & youth, his fascination with the tragic life of Rita Hayworth and her triumph of Gilda, his love of Orson Welles and Citizen Kane, and why he couldn’t write this novel in either of their voices. We talk about genius in many guises, from Welles to Melville to Dickinson to Shakespeare to Robert Caro to LeBron, and what it means when genius dissipates. We also discuss Jerome’s years teaching film criticism and why it was his favorite job (hint: it’s about learning to look deeply), what the mirror scene in The Lady from Shanghai is really telling us, why Hank Quinlan in Touch of Evil may be Welles’ greatest role, why film noir was Hollywood’s great discovery/invention, how Hemingway was the best writer in the world when he was in Paris and the worst writer in the world when he left Paris, whether his book editor (past guest Robert Weil) was touchy about how a film editor is one of Big Red‘s antagonists, why Kane was really about Welles himself & not William Randolph Hearst, why LeBron should have left Hollywood this offseason, the revelation of interviewing Paul Newman, and more! (8/30/22) – mp3

#501 – William Deresiewicz – Author & critic William Deresiewicz joins the show to celebrate his new book, THE END OF SOLITUDE: Selected Essays on Culture and Society (Holt). We get into the selection process for more than 30 years’ worth of his pieces, what he noticed about the changes in his writing and viewpoints over that span, what real leadership is and why most institutions are terrified of it, and the house of cards of higher (especially elite) education. We also get into the progression of political correctness and identity politics at the expense of class solidarity, how one can (and should) criticize the illiberal left without becoming a right-wing fellow traveler, why his ideal Presidential candidate is Bernie Sanders, the way things that “can’t get any worse” somehow keep getting worse, the failures of academia, and why he sees teaching as a pastoral vocation. Plus, we discuss his most controversial position — or least the position that garnered the most vituperative response from readers — that food is not art. (8/23/22) – mp3

#500 – ALL The Guests!FIVE-HUNDRED EPISODES of The Virtual Memories Show?! Let’s celebrate this milestone episode with tributes, remembrances, jokes, congrats, non-sequiturs, and a couple of songs (!) from nearly 100 of my past guests, including Maria Alexander, Jonathan Ames, Glen Baxter, Jonathan Baylis, Zoe Beloff, Walter Bernard, Sven Birkerts, Charles Blackstone, RO Blechman, Phlip Boehm, MK Brown, Dan Cafaro, David Carr, Kyle Cassidy, Howard Chaykin, Joe Ciardiello, Gary Clark, John Crowley, Ellen Datlow, Paul Di Filippo, Joan Marans Dim, Liza Donnelly, Bob Eckstein, Scott Edelman, Barbara Epler, Glynnis Fawkes, Aaron Finkelstein, Mary Fleener, Shary Flenniken, Josh Alan Friedman, Kipp Friedman, Michael Gerber, Mort Gerberg, ES Glenn, Sophia Glock, Paul Gravett, Tom Hart, Dean Haspiel, Jennifer Hayden, Glenn Head, Ron Hogan, Kevin Huizenga, Jonathan Hyman, Andrew Jamieson, Ian Kelley, Jonah Kinigstein, Kathe Koja, Ken Krimstein, Anita Kunz, Peter Kuper, Glenn Kurtz, Kate Lacour, Roger Langridge, Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, John Leland, David Leopold, Sara Lippmann, David Lloyd, Whitney Matheson, Patrick McDonnell, Dave McKean, Scott Meslow, Barbara Nessim, Jeff Nunokawa, Jim Ottaviani, Celia Paul, Woodrow Phoenix, Darryl Pinckney, Weng Pixin, Eddy Portnoy, Virginia Postrel, Bram Presser, AL Price, Dawn Raffel, Boaz Roth, Hugh Ryan, Dmitry Samarov, Frank Santoro, JJ Sedelmaier, Nadine Sergejeff, Michael Shaw, R Sikoryak, Jen Silverman, Posy Simmonds, Vanessa Sinclair, David Small, Sebastian Smee, Ed Sorel, James Sturm, Mike Tisserand, Tom Tomorrow, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Kriota Willberg, Warren Woodfin, Jim Woodring, and Claudia Young. Plus, we look at back with segments from the guests we’ve lost over the years: Anthea Bell, Harold Bloom, Bruce Jay Friedman, Milton Glaser, Clive James, JD McClatchy, DG Myers, Tom Spurgeon, and Ed Ward. Here’s to another 500! (8/19/22) – mp3

#499 – Hayley Campbell – Author, broadcaster, and journalist Hayley Campbell returns to the show to celebrate her fantastic new book, ALL THE LIVING AND THE DEAD: From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life’s Work (St. Martin’s Press). We talk about Hayley’s lifelong fascination with death (& the pros/cons of growing up while her dad Eddie Campbell was illustrating a comic about the Jack the Ripper murders), how it led her into writing this book, and how that process changed her relation to life and death. We get into the importance of bringing attention to the people who handle the dead, why we should learn to separate death from grief (& why the first dead body one sees shouldn’t be that of a loved one), the reticence of some of her subjects to speak to her, the relationship between art & death and whether Warhol would have been different if he’d been willing to see his father’s body, the difference between being desensitized and being detached about death, how she weaved her own story into the book without falling into me-me-me-ism or the dreaded Millennial Memoir, the Tom Spurgeon anecdote she really wanted to include in the book, how she realized she was in too deep and how she got permission to step back, and plenty more. (8/16/22) – mp3

#498 – Jonah Kinigstein – At 99 years old, unrepentant artist Jonah Kinigstein rejoins the show to celebrate his new book, UNREPENTANT ARTIST (Fantagraphics Underground)! We talk about how it felt to bring decades’ worth of his paintings together for the book, how it captures his lifetime battle in the name of representational art, and how his paintings have changed since our 2015 conversation. We get into the inspiration of living near Coney Island, the fun of using Catholic imagery and making a circus out of religion in general, his love of the grotesque, the rage that fuels his political cartooning, the ways the Holocaust echoes in his work and whether he feels he has to be “careful” in his paintings of Jews, how he & his wife hope to celebrate his 100th birthday, and more! (8/9/22) – mp3

#497 – Dave McKean – What is art? Who (or what) is an artist? What is creativity, and can it be captured in a machine? Dave McKean‘s amazing new book, PROMPT: Conversations With Artificial Intelligence (Hourglass/ASFA), tries to tackle these questions, so Dave rejoins the show for a conversation about the challenges that Midjourney and other AI image-engines pose to the definitions of art and creativity, the nature of artistic intent, what it means for a machine to capture the look of drawing without an understanding of drawing, why it seems like second-rate creators are the ones trying to mechanize creativity, and what this all might mean for commercial art and illustration. We also talk about the nature of AI, how his Midjourney experience moved from Stalker to Solaris, why he introduced Gilgamesh, the world’s oldest known story into the AI prompt, and whether the use of computers in art is a slippery slope to “hand-free” art. We also get into his lockdown life, his other new book, RAPTOR (Dark Horse), the importance of edgelands and the lost language of different places, and a lot more. (8/2/22) – mp3

#496 – Noah Van Sciver – Cartoonist Noah Van Sciver joins the show to celebrate the release of two fantastic new books, Joseph Smith And The Mormons (Abrams ComicArts) and As A Cartoonist (Fantagraphics). We get into his history with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the challenges he had in making a graphic biography of the church’s founder (incl. the realization he’d need 200 more pages than he was planning to use), the visual modes he used to separate fact from myth and the influence of Chester Brown’s Louis Riel biography, and how the book affected Noah’s relationship to the church and faith. We also talk about the cartoonist life and the strips he chose for his new collection, his comics-origin story, the influence of Tom Spurgeon on his art & life, becoming a father in the past year, the advice Dan Clowes gave him about balancing parenthood and comics, and what it means to be present for his son’s life. Plus, we discuss his own comics-podcast, the stories he started making during the pandemic, his stance on paper vs. digital drawing, and what it’s like to live on the other side of his dreams. (7/26/22) – mp3

#495 – Ruth Scurr – With her wonderful new biography, Napoleon: A Life Told In Gardens And Shadows (Liveright Books), Ruth Scurr offers up a new approach to Napoleon and our shifting understanding of the natural world. We get into the image of Napoleon as gardener and how she marked his history through gardens, how her conception of him changed over the course of writing the book, the need to avoid “taking sides” with her book, her focus on how Napoleon affected the people around him, why we need to let go of the Great Man approach to history, and why the notion of a ‘Definitive Biography’ is a lie. We also talk about how she became a biographer without developing a ‘Scurr-doctrine,’ how she fell into her amazing auto/biography of John Aubrey, the similarities between how Aubrey & I collect lives, the constraints of contemporary/authorized biographies, what it meant to finish her Napoleon biography in the early pandemic days (which meant missing trips to Elba & Waterloo), whether she’ll ever visit St. Helena, what sort of garden she prefers, and more. (7/19/22) – (mp3)

#494 – Brian Doherty – Author Brian Doherty joins the show to celebrate his fantastic & important new book, Dirty Pictures: How an Underground Network of Nerds, Feminists, Misfits, Geniuses, Bikers, Potheads, Printers, Intellectuals, and Art School Rebels Revolutionized Art and Invented Comix (Abrams). We get into the history of underground comix, the twin poles of R. Crumb & Art Spiegelman, the long-lasting influence of the undergrounds on American (and global) culture, the importance of seeing the undergrounds in their historical context, and the question of whether these artists were “just in the right place & the right time”. We also talk about comics and libertarianism, the controversy over Crumb’s work today, how the pandemic curtailed his research for the book, who came up with that book title (& subtitle), the artist who he most enjoyed interviewing, the people he wishes he could have interviewed, and the one person he wishes hadn’t given up cartooning. (7/12/22) –  mp3

#493 – Joe Ciardiello LIVE! – It’s our first live episode since The Before Time! The great illustrator Joe Ciardiello rejoins the show for a conversation at ArtYard in Frenchtown, NJ! We talk about ArtYard’s exhibition of his art from A Fistful of Drawings (Fantagraphics), the conversation with his grandfather that led to that book, the new directions his art is taking beyond illustration (and how Beckett can turn into Andre the Giant), what westerns say about the times in which they’re made, why he still draws with a Rapidograph, and the joy of scarabocchio and exploring lines! Plus, the audience gets in on the fun, asking him about how he looks at faces, where he starts with his drawings, how the improv/jazz-like nature of his drawings evolved, and more. (7/5/22) – mp3

#492 – Howard Chaykin – Legendary comics creator Howard Chaykin rejoins the show for a WIDE-ranging talk to celebrate the conclusion of his Time2 opus, soon to be released in The Time2 Omnibus (Image Comics)! We talk about revisiting Time2 after a three-decade hiatus, his original intention for that world, the thrill & sleaze of NYC in his youth, and what he’s learned about comics storytelling over the years. We get into the influence of musical theater, jazz, and Cinemascope tableaux on his work, the enlightening experience of Gil Kane’s commentary/annotation of the movie Cover Girl, the parallels between fight scenes in superhero comics and people breaking into song in musicals, and how he’s carved out a half-century career in mainstream comics while pushing back against the toxicity and fan-expectations of that genre (while also fighting purity culture). We discuss the Bartlett Sher staging of Fiddler on the Roof that left him in tears (& made him cry again when he described it to me), whether he can afford to be happy, the ways he’s become more formalist as he came to understand the language & syntax of comics (as he teaches here), the musical he’d love to see, the joy of being an Outmander, why his neighbors still consider him “New Yorker on permanent leave” even though he’s been in CA more than half his life, and MUCH more! (6/28/22) – mp3

#491 – Andrew Jamieson – Psychotherapist Andrew Jamieson joins the show to talk about his new book, MIDLIFE: Humanity’s Secret Weapon (Notting Hill Editions/NYRB). We get into the history of midlife crises and the flowering that can result from that experience (while delving into our own respective midlife crises, as well as mankind’s), Jung’s theory of individuation & how it provides a path out of self-destructive behavior, the notion of therapy as applied philosophy, the gravitational field of authentic need, the importance of the Chinese Farmer story, his secret identity as a classical music concert promoter, why he chose to become a psychotherapist in his 50s and why he thinks I should become one. We also talk about why it’s important for therapists be married to someone who has no interest in therapy, how writing a book is like serial plagiarism, the concept of love (or devotion) between therapist and client, whether neuroses can be cured or only soothed, the Ancient Greek notion of Kairos, or ‘the right moment’, what it was like conducting therapy session in a cemetery during lockdown, and plenty more. (6/21/22) – mp3

#490 – Alexandra Lange – With her fantastic new book, Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of The Mall (Bloomsbury USA), architecture critic Alexandra Lange explores a subject near and dear to my NJ-native heart: The Mall! We talk about the evolving role of malls in modern America, the various snobberies that look down on malls and how she sidestepped them for her book, the social forces (suburbanization, car-centricity, racism & more) that led to the proliferation of malls, and what our relationships with malls say about us. We also get into the Mallwave phenomenon, the die-off of malls and what may come after, where kids congregate nowadays, her pandemic-cancelled trip to the Mall of America, and the jarring wrongness of the American Dream Mall. Plus we discuss her history as an architecture critic, what she’d love to see in a mall (& outside of one), my occasional dreams of malls that don’t exist, her favorite ’80s-era store, and more! (6/14/22) – mp3

#489 – Ira Nadel – Professor & biographer Ira Nadel joins the show to talk about PHILIP ROTH: A Counterlife (Oxford University Press). We get into Ira’s approach to literary biography, his history with Roth’s books, and what it was like publishing the other major Roth bio of 2021 (and whether the materials & records that Roth authorized for Blake Bailey’s biography will remain accessible, against Roth’s wishes). We also talk about how his understanding of Roth changed over the course of the project, Roth’s . . . disrespect for women, the major trends that emerged in Roth’s life through the books, letters and other documents Ira explored, Roth’s need to self-mythologize and his conflation of fact, fiction and metafiction in his work, Kafka’s influence on Roth’s involvement with Eastern Europe writers during the Cold War, the question of whether Roth was deluding himself when he insisted his writerly identity was his Americanness (as opposed to his Jewishness), his bad relationships with editors and publishers, the health woes that governed so much of his life, my key questions — “What’s your favorite Roth novel?” and “Does Roth’s work survive another 10-20 years?” — and plenty more! (6/7/22) – mp3

#488 – Andreas Kilcher & Judith Butler – To celebrate the publication of the groundbreaking Franz Kafka: The Drawings (Yale University Press), contributors Andreas Kilcher & Judith Butler join the show for a wide-ranging conversation about Kafka’s art & how it intersects — and diverges from — his writing. We get into their essays in the book (and Andreas’ role as co-editor), the humor & grotesqueness — and craft! — of K’s drawings, the legal battle over their ownership, and the ways in which the drawings help us approach Kafka in a new light. We talk about Kafka’s use of comic tension & comic relief, the ways in which the drawings liberated him from the horizontality of writing, his objections to using illustrations in his books, and Kafka’s ‘positive nihilism’ & the reason why neither Judith nor Andreas believe he really wanted Max Brod to destroy all his papers. Plus, we explore their own histories with Kafka, their personal favorites among the drawings, and how their students’ responses to Kafka have changed over the years. (5/31/22) – mp3

#487 – Alvin Eng – Playwright, performer and acoustic punk raconteur Alvin Eng joins the show to celebrate his new memoir, Our Laundry, Our Town: My Chinese American Life from Flushing to the Downtown Stage and Beyond (Fordham University Press). We get into his Chinese-American upbringing in the 1960s/70s, his evolution into musical theater and the education of ’70s rock shows, the heyday of NYC performance art, his exploration of his Chinese heritage and the sensation of being Other in America & China, writing for the page vs. the stage, his Portrait Plays and how they interrogate other art forms and artists, the solitude of creation & collaboration of performance, and how writing this memoir was sort of like making album. We also talk about his midlife crisis rock bad, How the song Chinese Rocks rocked his punk world, what he had to learn in order to teach playwriting, what it means to be Chinese-American today, how he grew more comfortable with words than music, and more. (5/24/22) – mp3

#486 – Charlie Porter – Fashion critic, journalist and author Charlie Porter joins the show to celebrate the US publication of WHAT ARTISTS WEAR (WW Norton). We talk about the Agnes Martin photo that inspired the book, the ways we look at artists’ clothes and what they say about our notions of art, culture, gender & society, Charlie’s history with fashion and with art, the liberating nature of writing fashion criticism, the notion of art as infiltration, his fashion-epiphany in Mexico City, and the reason he gave Picasso only one line in the book. We also get into his editor’s suggestion to emulate John Berger’s Way of Seeing when it came to integrating text and image, what’s REALLY going on in fashion criticism, the shift for artists’ clothing from utilitarian workwear to other garment choices as art shifted from painting and sculpture to other forms, the way jeans went from utility to luxury product and what Warhol’s preoccupation with jeans may have signaled, the first time Charlie saw someone with a tattoo of the book’s cover design, his experience donating his designer clothes to the V&A Museum, the glory of Tabboo!, what it takes for us to get away from the fashion industry and be happy with what we wear, and more! (5/17/22) – mp3

#485 – Kathe Koja – Storyteller Kathe Koja rejoins the show to celebrate the launch of her new project, Dark Factory (Meerkat Press)! We talk about how Dark Factory combines a fantastic new novel with immersive fiction elements to create a new world, and how — no matter what the innovation — it all begins with character. We get into her history of building immersive events and watching what the attendees do with the environment, how the process of writing this book differed from her past ones, the way readers bring their own resonances, what it means to have an immersive experience in the pandemic era, and the resonance of Alexander McQueen’s Inferno show. We also discuss the technology & fetishization of print books, the pressure of money, the metaverse & its implications, where identity REALLY resides, & more! (5/10/22) – mp3

#484 – Julie Phillips – Author & biographer Julie Phillips joins the show to celebrate her amazing new book, The Baby on the Fire Escape: Creativity, Motherhood, and the Mind-Baby Problem (WW Norton). We get into the tensions of being a mother & having a life in the arts and how that mirrors the Hero’s Journey, the definitions of motherhood and how women’s roles changed in the 20th century (and what’s different (and not) in the 21st century), how she chose the mother/artists she focused on in the book, like Alice Neel, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Angela Carter, and the challenges of writing about African-American subjects like Audre Lorde and Alice Walker. We also talk about what it means to consider motherhood as interrupted consciousness, which artist/mother she came to love more than she expected & which one frustrated her the most, how her bio of James Tiptree/Alice Sheldon led to her next book, a biography of Ursula K. Le Guin, why motherhood gets short shrift from most areas of theory, and more. (5/3/22) –  mp3

#483 – Celia Paul – Painter Celia Paul rejoins the show for the US debut of her new book, Letters To Gwen John (NYRB). We talk about how Celia found herself through corresponding with the late artist (d. 1938), the parallels between her life and Gwen John’s, especially their respective relationships with Lucian Freud and Rodin, the notion of aesthetic solitude and artistic sacrifices and the loneliness of pandemic life, why men aren’t great at sitting for artists, her new exhibition, Memory & Desire (Victoria Miro Gallery), how Hilton Als got her to finally come to America and how much she enjoyed Santa Monica, the ambiguity of her previous memoir, Self-Portrait, whether one should look for an artist’s biography in their art, how her paintings have grown more concise as she’s grown older, what letters and paintings have in common, and more. (Incl. my interminable intro; seriously, skip to 13:30 for the conversation itself.) (4/26/22) – mp3

#482 – John Crowley – Legendary author John Crowley rejoins the show to celebrate his new novel, Flint And Mirror (Tor Books), as well as his just-before-the-pandemic collections, And Go Like This and Reading Backwards. We get into the career-long gestation of this novel, the role of Hugh O’Neill in the English-Irish wars, the alchemy of melding history and the fantastic, the impact of John’s mild cognitive impairment (MCI) diagnosis, and why writing really is the ability to create minds at work. We also get into the decline of SFF conventions, the joy of returning to Borges’ essays, whether imaginative fiction writers feel inadequate in the face of the QAnon phenomenon, what he learned from reading Nabokov, the smaller pieces he’s been writing during the pandemic that may become “A Conway Miscellany”, and more. (4/19/22) –  mp3

#481 – Anneli Furmark – Swedish cartoonist (okay: serietecknare) Anneli Furmark joins the show to celebrate the publication of Walk Me To The Corner (Drawn & Quarterly, tr. Hanna Strömberg), her wonderful graphic novel about a woman in her mid-50s who falls in love with a woman at a party and tries to balance that relationship with the life she’s lived up to that moment. We get into Anneli’s evolution as a cartoonist, how she copes with winters in northern Sweden and why drawing in summer isn’t as fun, how Walk Me To The Corner flowed from life into story, and how the pandemic left so little room for chance. We also get intothe false split between fine art and comics, northern Sweden’s colonial history & culture, the importance of trusting your translator, the balance of the politics & the personal in her graphic novel Red Winter, her recent work adapting someone else’s prose, what she’s learned from teaching narrative drawing, my explanation of what a “May-December” romance is, and more. (4/12/22) – mp3

#480 – Nicholas Delbanco – Author & MFA teacher Nicholas Delbanco rejoins the show to celebrate Why Writing Matters (Yale University Press). We talk about the notion of literary greatness, the immense craft and revision involved in good writing, the pride of seeing his students achieve lofty heights, and the ways imitation and influence can give way to originality. We also get into how his present work revisits an early, failed novel (as inspired by a chapter in Why Writing Matters), his legacy and mortality and whether It Was Worth It, the literary influences he had to gorge/overdose on, the difficulty for writers to get better as they get older & the difficulty of watching a writer’s diminution (and his presence at Bernard Malamud’s home during the weekend that led Philip Roth to write The Ghost Writer), and how time has shrunk his writing community but also led him to make literary friends in recent years. We also discuss why the locus of the energy of writing no longer resides in novels, poems, or memoirs but in Netflix deals, his daughter‘s screenwriting career and why the collaborative environment isn’t for him, the joy of being a grandfather (& the signs that the grandkids may be going into the family business), and a lot more. (4/5/22) – mp3

#479 – Sebastian Smee – Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Sebastian Smee joins the show to talk about his career and the notions of artistic rivalry, influence and love, and how they came together in his 2017 book, The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals and Breakthroughs in Modern Art. We get into how he got his start in art criticism in Australia, his love for Matisse and Manet, his friendship with Lucian Freud, why American has the best museums, the importance of seeing art in the physical world and not just as images onscreen, the joy of writing for The Washington Post and why his wonderful Great Works, In Focus series needs a better name, and his new project about Berthe Morisot and the Siege of Paris. We also discuss the exhibitions he’d love to curate, why he’s jealous of my art-practice, the influence of Robert Hughes, the balance of color and line, the identities we gain and lose online, the one piece of art he’s really hoping to see before the end, why the Philip Guston controversy was so disturbing, and more! (3/29/22) – mp3

#478 – Rebecca Mead – New Yorker contributor Rebecca Mead joins the show to celebrate her wonderful new book, Home/Land: A Memoir of Departure and Return (Knopf)! We talk about the adventure of making a midlife leap — her departure from NYC after 30 years & her return to England —, the ways this memoir differs from My Life In Middlemarch, the moment she truly felt like she was a writer at The New Yorker, and The Book Cull, in which she and her husband — past guest George Prochnik (2014, 2017) — pared down to 170 boxes of books. We also talk about the mournfulness of moving house after 30 years, what she’s learned from profiling and interviewing cultural figures, the joy of reading about vikings for months on end for a big feature, what being an American means to her, what it was like growing up in a Morrissey song, and more! (3/22/22) – mp3

#477 – Anna Della Subin – With her fantastic new book, Accidental Gods: On Men Unwittingly Turned Divine (Metropolitan Books), Anna Della Subin explores how deification has been used for liberation and oppression. We talk religion, rationalism, colonialism, oppression, and mythmaking, and the strange ways in which cultures have collided in the past five centuries, as well as what it means to topple the statues of ‘white gods’. We also get into the long gestation of this book, the accidental gods who didn’t make the cut, her next projects on conversations with the dead, how our politics are refracted in our views of the afterlife, why QAnon is more mythology than conspiracy theory, what it was like going through childbirth & motherhood over the course of writing the book, how Anna wound up in a British tabloid for ‘canceling’ Captain Cook, and more! (3/15/22) – mp3

#476 – David Sipress – With his brand-new book What’s So Funny?: A Cartoonist’s Memoir (Mariner Books), New Yorker staff cartoonist David Sipress explores the family dynamics and antic sense of humor that shaped his life and career. We get into what it’s like to process much of one’s life through cartoons, what he’s learned about himself and his parents and sister through the process of writing (and drawing) a memoir, and the instant gratification of cartooning vs. the joy of writing a great piece of prose. We also talk about the slide shows and essays that led him into prose, the notion of giving himself permission to tell his story, the community & camaraderie of cartoonists and how different it is than the fine art world, his key influences in cartooning, the importance of John Le Carré’s memoir, the technical challenges of doing cartoons about the pandemic, his abandoned graduate work in Russian history and how it’s helping him parse the present, the joy of meeting some of his cartooning idols, and more! Plus, I celebrate the 10th anniversary (!) of the Virtual Memories Show! (3/8/22) – mp3

#475 – Mark Prins – With his debut novel, The Latinist (WW Norton), Mark Prins has created a fantastic, Highsmith-ian novel of Oxford intrigue. We talk about the failed novel that led to The Latinist, his background in classics & poetry (Latin/Roman & otherwise), metamorphoses (Ovidian & otherwise), the challenges of (& resources for) writing across gender, the Blake poem that transformed him, and why it’s important to Be Kind To Your Reader. We also get into Ovid’s telling of the myth of Daphne & Apollo & how/why he subverted it for The Latinist, the need to balance character & desire with plot, how he uses academic themes to illuminate his characters, the question of who decides what gets preserved and represented in history, the fun of creating a fictional Roman poet & writing their choliambic verses (& the joy of reciting Latin poetry), his literary influences, the importance of his time at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the one thing you should REALLY consider before entering an MFA program, his interest in the metaverse, synthetic realities, and capitalism, and more! (3/1/22) – mp3

#474 – Nicole Rudick – Author, critic and editor Nicole Rudick joins the show to celebrate the publication of her amazing book, What Is Now Known Was Once Only Imagined: An (Auto)Biography of Niki de Saint Phalle (Siglio Press). We get into Niki de Saint Phalle’s word-paintings & what they tell us about the arts of revelation and concealment, Nicole’s shifting concept of biography & the tyranny of the archives, the role of the audience/reader in art, and why Nicole’s first big post-pandemic trip will be to Niki’s Tarot Garden in Tuscany. We also talk about the role of women in biography and how women have to write themselves into history, Nicoles own history with art, how she found herself in NYC, the copy of Gary Panter’s Jimbo that blew her mind, why she kept Ruth Scurr’s book on John Aubrey beside her throughout the time she wrote the book, her post-lockdown aesthetic overload at the Art Institute of Chicago, and how Niki de Saint Phalle continues to reach us decades after her death. (2/22/22) – mp3

#473 – Darryl Cunningham – With Putin’s Russia: The Rise of a Dictator (Drawn & Quarterly), cartoonist Darryl Cunningham undertook the most intense and difficult process of all of his nonfiction books. We get into Putin’s postwar upbringing in Leningrad, his KGB career and the fall of the USSR, and how those key elements play into his strategy and tactics for Russia on the world stage. We talk about how this book was an outgrowth of his previous Billionaires, what it was like transitioning from the .01% to the REALLY wealthy, the ways in which money is weaponized, the challenges of visually representing Putin and of conveying some of his atrocities on the comic page, the need to push back against authoritarianism, and why he wants people to understand his book is not anti-Russian. We also discuss how he’s taking a break from nonfiction to work on his longform supernatural story, Far Beyond Midnight, on his Patreon, the influence of Dark Shadows on his young mind, what it’s like posting pages online as soon as they’re done and how it affects his creative process, and more! (2/15/22) – mp3

#472 – Scott Meslow – Let’s pre-celebrate Valentine’s Day with a conversation with Scott Meslow, author of the brand-new book, From Hollywood With Love: The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of the Romantic Comedy (Dey Street Books)! We get into how Scott defines RomComs, what inspired him to chronicle their history, what these movies say about audiences & audience expectations, the entertainment industry, criticism, gender, and diversity trends, and plenty more. We talk about how he winnowed down his mega-list of key RomComs to 15 (+1 unmade movie), the one movie he hated having to cut, what led to the aforementioned rise-fall-rise of the genre, which movies haven’t aged well and which have grown better, the ways in which self-aware subversion of RomCom tropes degenerated into self-conscious excuses for making the same old movie, our shared love for Judy Greer, and why he’s pulling for a Netflix RomCom Cinematic Universe to rival Marvel’s. We also discuss his accidental entry into journalism and his interest in culture writ large, my love for Hudson Hawk, how fandom has taken over the entertainment industry, the actor he thinks should have been a bigger hit, how he ended up with John Wick’s trunk, and more! (2/8/22) – mp3

#471 – Glenn Kurtz – With Bianca Stigter’s documentary, Three Minutes: A Lengthening, on the festival circuit, author and inadvertent historian Glenn Kurtz joins the show to for a conversation about his 2014 book, Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film (FSG). We talk about the vibrant prewar Jewish life in Nasielsk captured by his grandfather’s camera, the process of restoring the home movie, his Grail-like quest to find the few surviving Jews from the town to record their stories and find out what was really in that brief movie. We get into how long it took him to recover from writing Three Minutes in Poland, what it was like returning to it for the documentary, how the book changed his approach to memory, and the fearsome responsibility and wonderful gift of restoring to the survivors a few moments of their childhoods. We also discuss what interviewing Holocaust survivors taught him, how he learned to accept that there are so many stories he’ll never know, how it felt to visit Poland as part of his research, and some non-Holocaust topics, like how music led to Glenn’s literary career, what he learned from his interview series with writers about their writing practice, and more. (2/1/22) – mp3

#470 – David Thomson – With his new book Disaster Mon Amour (Yale University Press), legendary film critic & writer David Thomson explores the intersection of disaster-as-entertainment and disaster-as-real-life. We get into how the imminent destruction from catastrophes like the pandemic, climate change, and authoritarianism have made us more cynical, why we thrill to CGI’d destruction, how his book evolved from his 2019 pitch, and how it pairs with his previous Murder And The Movies. We also talk about what we lose when we stop seeing movies in theaters, why romantic/screwball comedies of the ’40s and not noir are the best American films, his Pauline Kael story, the decade he most adores, and whether after 45 years in the US he’s ever felt quite American. Plus, we discuss whether he’ll do another revision to The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, his upcoming essay about The Godfather and whether he’ll pretend the third one didn’t happen, his literary upbringing and the radio adaptations that set him on his literary path, my lightning-round questions of Dostoevsky vs. Tolstoy and Bleak House vs. Middlemarch, and much more! (1/25/22) – mp3

#469 – Raman Sehgal – With his new book, The Floundering Founder: 24 Lessons To Refocus Your Business and Better Yourself, marketing entrepreneur (& longtime pal) Raman Sehgal explores what it really means to learn from your mistakes. We talk about the failures and missteps that helped him build a successful marketing & design agency in ramarketing, what he learned from good (and bad) business books, the process of writing his first book, and whether he has anxiety over running a company with ~60 employees. We get into how easy it is to get lost in the day-to-day and not step back to see the big picture, the importance of having some big (and shareable) goals, what it’s like when there’s an external valuation put on your business, the value of schmoozing, and the realities of imposter syndrome. Plus, we discuss what he’s learned from hosting the Molecule to Market podcast, the importance of being/having a nemesis, his dream of taking his company & their families to see the northern lights, and more! (1/18/22) – mp3

#468 – Wallis Wilde-Menozzi – Author, poet and translator Wallis Wilde-Menozzi returns to the show to explore her new memoir/meditation, Silence & Silences (FSG). We talk about the uses and abuses of silence, the magic of herons, what it takes for the voiceless to find a voice, the nature of censorship (both external and self-driven), whether “home” is where you live or where you’re buried, and how she developed the mosaic mode of her new book. We also get into feminine writing vs. masculine writing, her distrust of the authority of words, the differences between American and Italian culture when she started exploring family history, her accidental career, and the experience of editing the “final” draft just as the pandemic began, and finding there was more to write. She also explains why she doesn’t keep out-takes of her writing, why some experiences are too personal for social media, and what it meant to be a woman writer when she was coming up. (1/11/22) – mp3

#467 – Ken Krimstein – With his new book, When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teens (Bloomsbury), cartoonist Ken Krimstein recreates a lost world, bringing to life the true stories of Jewish youth in 1930s Lithuania, preserved in anonymous submissions for a contest. We talk about the circuitous, perilous history of the stories he adapted, the role of the YIVO Institute in preserving Jewish & Yiddish culture, and how he tried to be faithful to the hopes & dreams of the anonymous writers while knowing that they & their world would perish in the Holocaust. We get into how he developed a visual storytelling language for this book, the new influences on his cartooning, the joy & spiciness of Yiddish language & culture, the research to recreate Vilnius and how uncomfortable he got when visiting Lithuania for the project. We also discuss the counterhistory that the Yiddish teens represent, the stories that didn’t make the cut, the out-of-body experience of getting interviewed by CBS’ Morning Show for the book, Hannah Arendt’s notion of contingency and what the pandemic experience means to artists, and plenty more! (1/4/22) – mp3

#466 – Gil Roth and Aaron Finkelstein – Our final guest of the year is . . . me! I invited my long-time pal Aaron Finkelstein to interview me as we close out 2021. We talk about my newfound sense of mortality and the invention of new distractions, what I’ve learned from doing remote podcasts during the pandemic, the ways repeat guests & I have changed over the years, why I avoid trying to do podcasts with “personalities” (as opposed to people), and the one person Aaron really wants me to record with. We get into making art, how I learned to love destruction (by which I mean drawing on paper and not a computer), what it means to commit to a line, and how drawing may actually be my way of undermining other artistic pursuits. I also tell a bunch of anecdotes about guests and a set of stories about the Society of Illustrators, and we discuss the culture of Like, my desire to slow things down, the advice I tried to give Graydon Carter, and my suspicion that you’re all bots, among a bazillion other topics. (12/28/21) – mp3

#465 – The Guest List – Thirty of this year’s Virtual Memories Show guests tell us about the favorite books they read in 2021 and the books they hope to get to in 2022! Guests include Jonathan Baylis, Zoe Beloff, Jacques Berlinerblau, Anne Cattaneo, Michael DeForge, Shary Flenniken, Sophia Glock, Heywood Gould, Glenn Head, Ron Hogan, Kate Lacour, Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, Matt Madden, Kate Maruyama, Robert McCrum, Robert Meagher, Anahid Nersessian, Scott Newstok, Weng Pixin, Alta Price, Keiler Roberts, Dmitry Samarov, Nadine Sergejeff, Dash Shaw, Jen Silverman, Edward Sorel, Rosemary Steinbaum, Karl Stevens, Andi Watson, and Heather Cass White (+ me)! (12/21/19) – mp3

#464 – Nora Krug – Artist, illustrator & author Nora Krug rejoins the show to talk about her work on the new Graphic Edition of Timothy Snyder’s ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Ten Speed Press). We get into how the project originated and how illustrating On Tyranny compelled her to live up to its lessons, her approach to illustrating the book and how a visual experience can create a new reading of it, her use of personal photographs from the Third Reich, and how this project serves as a companion to her award-winning graphic memoir BELONGING. We talk about her concerns about misread propaganda imagery, the assumptions she had to make about readers’ visual literacy and what illustrations and design could constitute “hijacking” Snyder’s text, the ways photographs can make people accountable, what it means when governments censor photos, and the contrasting perspectives she and Snyder brought to the book: an American facing Europe and a European facing America. We also discuss how the text was updated post-January 6 and which of its lessons are “nice” vs. “critical”, the optimism that lies in the midst of the book’s dire message, what she & Snyder have learned from each other during their virtual book tour, Nora’s realization that she has an artistic mission for the rest of her life, and more! (12/14/21) – mp3

#463 – Sophia Glock – With her wonderful new YA graphic memoir PASSPORT (Little, Brown Young Readers), Sophia Glock recounts a key moment from her teenage years: the discovery that her parents were intelligence officers for the CIA. We talk about the need to tell her story and that of the lives that touched her in the city of [REDACTED], the choice of writing for a YA audience, and what she learned to show vs. tell. We get into the challenge of maintaining the voice of adolescent Sophia without letting contemporary Sophia intrude, what embarrassed her most about revisiting those years, what it’s like to have created the only comic to be reviewed by the federal government for classified material, how her parents’ secret lives affected her, and how she managed to make the longest book of her career (and the most deeply personal one). We also discuss her love of the X-Men in the mid-90s and how it launched her into comics (and my own history with those Children of the Atom), how she’s balanced art, work, a newborn, & family mid-pandemic, some tradecraft her parents taught her & the other traits they instilled in her, our respective control issues, what it’s like talking to me without a festival table between us, and more! (12/7/21) – mp3

#462 – Edward Sorel – Legendary artist, illustrator, cartoonist, & author Ed Sorel joins the show to celebrate the publication of his memoir, Profusely Illustrated (Knopf). We get into his remarkable career (and “unremarkable life”), the rage that drove his political cartooning for more than a half-century, the illustrations that made him realize he had come into his own as an artist, the origins of Push Pin Studios & his stories of working with Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser, the terrible lessons in abstractionism that beat figurative drawing out of him for years, and his need to look at his past work to remind himself that he does know how to draw. We talk about whether political cartooning is intended to change minds or provide comfort, how writing is like a pastel drawing, how he balanced art, commentary, and commerce over his career, why he refused to sell his drawings to certain hated people, how he learned to harness the nervous energy of his line to create a unique style (and why he hates tracing), why this (secular) patron saint of late starters got around to a memoir at 92, and more! (11/30/21) – mp3

#461 – Matt Madden – With his new book, Ex Libris (Uncivilized Books), cartoonist Matt Madden takes readers on a post-modern, formalist dive into comics. We talk about the challenge of tinkering with story structure while still delivering an entertaining story, the work involved in jumping from style to style throughout Ex Libris (and in his past comics), the joy & terror of a notional library of potential books, and the inspiration of Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler, & all his literary, cinematic & comics influences. We get into his comics upbringing, his work teaching comics and developing comics textbooks, being in a two-cartoonist household — he’s married to Jessica Abel – and his kids’ attempts at keeping him (somewhat) culturally up to date, the perils & rewards of canonical thinking, and his use of Alison Bechdel’s comics-writing process. We also discuss the world that Factsheet Five opened up to him, his “welcome to comics” moment (courtesy of Bob Burden), Lewis Trondheim’s challenge to him to make a comic without formal commentary, the supply chain hiccup that postponed Ex Libris, and plenty more! (11/23/21) – mp3

#460 – Rutu Modan – With TUNNELS (Drawn & Quarterly, tr. Ishai Mishory), Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan has created a fantastic, thoughtful, wonderful, hilarious, complex, cinematic thrill-ride of a story about a search for the Ark of the Covenant in modern-day Israel and the West Bank. We get into the true-life origin of the story, the otherwise boring results of Israeli archeology, the research that went into TUNNELS, and what it taught Rutu about her own upbringing and how the Bible is taught to Israeli children. We talk about her cartooning and storytelling influences, her less obvious tributes to Herge, her use of actors in costume for drawing reference and how they influence the characters in her books, TUNNELS‘ use of location as protagonist, and what it was like to draw a book with so many outdoor scenes, instead of the urban settings of her previous books, Exit Wounds and The Property. We also get into the growth of the Israeli comics scene over the course of her ~30 years in comics, her time with the Actus Tragicus comics collective and her secret origin as a cartoonist (she comes from a family of doctors, so being an artist was not an easy path), whether she considers herself an Israeli cartoonist or a cartoonist who happens to be from Israel, why she tries not to think of her audience beyond one trusted reader, her first pandemic trip to . . .Siberia (!?), our flashback to when I interviewed her in 1998, and more! (11/16/21) – mp3

#459 – Tess Lewis & Alta L. Price – They were among the last people I recorded with before lockdown, and now translators Tess Lewis and Alta L. Price are back to talk about co-curating the Festival Neue Literatur 2021 (which runs from November 11 to 14, 2021), and how the theme they developed for the postponed 2020 edition, TURN AND FACE THE STRANGE, became even more appropriate for the pandemic era. We get into the cliffhanger of rescheduling FNL and the offsetting challenges of virtual vs. in-person author attendance, the rise of nationalism and closed borders, how literature from other languages can become the fallback to let us understand the world from another person’s perspective, and the act of translating when people refer to the pandemic in the past tense. We get into the German-language authors (and two American ones) who are participating in this year’s FNL — Anna Baar, Joshua Cohen, Isabel Fargo Cole, Judith Keller, Helen Phillips, Benjamin Quaderer, Sasha Marianna Salzmann, and Ivna Žic — and how their works approach questions of identity and belonging through strange means. We also get into what Tess and Alta have learned about the world and themselves over the past 20 months in Pandemia, why the seclusion of a translator’s life prepped them for some of the worst of it, what themes they’d love to curate for future FNLs, and whether Hölderlin would have used DoorDash. (Listen to my 2020 episodes with Tess and Alta.) mp3

#458 – Robert Emmet Meagher – With Albert Camus and the Human Crisis (Pegasus Books), professor Robert Emmet Meagher distills a half-century of reading and teaching Camus’ work to show us how the writer and thinker continues to resonate 60+ years after his untimely death. We get into his accidental origins with Camus and how Camus speaks to us today, the Human Crisis speech Camus gave in 1946 and how it remains relevant, why no one paid attention to Camus’ protests that he wasn’t an existentialist, Camus’ uneasy pacifism and Bob’s own antiwar activism (and how it affected his career). We also talk about why I was a dummy not to take Bob’s class on Camus when I was an undergrad at Hampshire (I did take his Sense & Spirit class in 1992), the Camus novel Bob had to grow into, his speculation on how Camus & his writing would have developed had he not died so young, and mortality, deathfulness, & how, as Camus put it, philosophy used to teach us how to die, but now teaches us how to think. In addition to Camus, we discuss Bob’s work with veterans and healing moral injury, why exactly Achilles in the Iliad is “swift-footed” and the moment my mythic/tragic view of him gets dashed on the rocks of Bob’s experience with soldiers, his draft-dodging conundrum and the deus ex machina that kept him out of Vietnam, his decision to teach & write about the subjects that interest him, rather than following academic trends, his status as a professor-in-waiting (but not retired!), how he’s been coping with the pandemic, and how this book was his melodramatic Final Class. (11/2/21) – mp3

#457 – Dash Shaw – Cartoonist and animator Dash Shaw joins the show to celebrate his new book, Discipline (New York Review Comics), a Civil War-era story about a Quaker who joins the Union army. We get into how Dash’s upbringing as a Quaker in Virginia led him to this book, the New York Public Library fellowship that exposed him to letters and diaries from the time, the artwork of the era and how it influenced the “floating” visual style of Discipline, and his urge to depict the moments that are left unchronicled. We also discuss the Quaker debate over paying a military tax during the Civil War, the sense of growing up in an area haunted by that period of history, the multi-year layering process of making this book and how it converged and diverged with the making of his amazing new animated movie, Cryptozoo (Magnolia Pictures), and how story dictates form & style. We also reminisce about a bookstore panel he did with Frank Santoro once upon a time, and how their tooth-and-nail arguments over the nature of comics gave him hope that there’s plenty of room for comics to grow. (10/26/21) – mp3

#456 – Zoe Beloff – With Parade Of The Old New, artist Zoe Beloff has created a panoramic history painting documenting the depths of the Trump years. We get into the impetus for that project, its enormous scale (140 feet long), its Brechtian roots, and its reproduction as a 19-foot accordion book (available only from Booklyn). We talk about notions of rights and responsibilities for artists, the debate over displaying Philip Guston‘s work, the angry e-mail Zoe received from a white male Marxist that critiqued her for “her own benefit”, and why Parade Of The Old New is getting exhibited in Europe & Russia but not America. We also dive into her fascination with artists and thinkers of the interwar era, like Bertolt Brecht & Walter Benjamin, her family’s refugee history and why it left her feeling like a Rootless Cosmpolitan, the ways she interweaves painting, film, installation, picture-storytelling (or cartooning) and other forms, the vision of NYC that brought her to the city in her 20s from Scotland, and why being a story-scavenger rather than an inventor means she gets to live in the worlds of her art. Also, we talk about her new multimedia project to celebrate essential workers, my no-fly list for pod-guests, why telling her mother and grandmother’s refugee story is the closest she’ll come to autobiography, and a LOT more. (10/19/21) – mp3

#455 – Charles Bivona – Writer, poet, professor, editor and old friend Charles Bivona returns to the show for a wide-ranging conversation about art, depression, anxiety, midlife health crises (his diabetes, my CLL), Buddhism, Vietnam & contagious trauma, writing his autobiography on Patreon, and more. Our 20+ years of friendship yield an intriguing conversation about how our lives have changed in response to and/or defiance of the world around us. We get into the heavy stuff this time, but don’t fret: there’s room for humor with my old pal, too. (10/12/21) – mp3

#454 – Anne CattaneoLincoln Center Theater‘s dramaturg Anne Cattaneo joins the show to celebrate her new book, The Art of Dramaturgy (Yale University Press). We answer the pivotal question, “What does a dramaturg DO, exactly?” and explore the tradition of dramaturgy in Europe and America, while diving into the phenomenon of good theater, and the existence of Theatrons, those mysterious particles that circulate from stage to audience and back when Good Theater Happens. We get into how a dramaturg can supplement the work of the actors and director, how plays change during rehearsal and over the course of production, the importance of intuition and collaboration (as well as a thick skin) for a dramaturg, the joy of discovering new plays (and lost plays, and out-of-fashion plays) and finding new ways to stage classics, and the treasures that can be found in archives. We also talk about the economics of regional theater and how it constrains what plays get produced, the deep research she did to help a pair of actors in Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia understand why their characters had an affair, the triumph of staging Mule Bone, a lost play by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, the impact of the pandemic on theater, the need to support older playwrights, and a LOT more. (10/5/21) – mp3

#453 – Nadine Sergejeff – It’s part 2 of a 2-part show about the new Philip Roth Personal Library at the Newark Public Library! This week, Supervising Librarian Nadine Sergejeff joins the show to talk about the process of going through 300+ boxes of Philip Roth’s books to figure out what should go on display in the PRPL. We talk about the challenges of documenting and organizing Roth’s notes and other ephemera, the discovery of his mother’s scrapbooks of his career in a box marked “PRINTER”, the edits and commentary Roth made in his own novels, and how she managed to organize the library without marking up any of the volumes. We also get into what it was like to assemble and open the PRPL during the pandemic, how Roth’s tweed jacket made it into the collection, Nadine’s path to becoming a librarian and how she wound up taking on this project, how archive researchers have changed over the years (and the problem with not being able to read cursive), what makes a good library, what NJ means to her and what Newark meant to Roth, and more! (Go check out part 1, feat. library trustee and Roth pal Rosemary Steinbaum!) (9/28/21) – mp3

#452 – Rosemary Steinbaum – It’s part 1 of a 2-part show about the new Philip Roth Personal Library at the Newark Public Library! This week, NPL trustee Rosemary Steinbaum talks about working with Philip Roth over the years and helping convince him to donate his books and belongings to the PRPL. We get into her friendship with Roth, her visits to his Connecticut home to figure out what would be in the personal library, her favorite discoveries in the collection, and the joy of reading his notes and marginalia. We also talk about her favorite literary pilgrimages, her love of The Counterlife, Roth’s funeral, the themes of Roth’s work that could become future exhibitions at the library, her Newark and how she helped Liz Del Tufo develop a Roth-tour of the city (which Roth once tagged along on), the donation of Roth’s letters from his teen sweetheart (including a reading list for her), and more! (Go check out part 2, feat. PRPL Supervising Librarian Nadine Sergejeff!)(9/21/21) – mp3

#451 – Jacques Berlinerblau – Professor Jacques Berlinerblau joins the show to celebrate his new book, The Philip Roth We Don’t Know: Sex, Race, and Autobiography (UVA Press)! We get into a deep dive on All Things Roth: #metoo, reverse-biography, metafiction, rage merchants, Rothian Path Dependency, literary legacy & reputation, the changing expectations and tolerances of readers, and the writer Roth cites more than any other in his books. We also talk about the scandal around Roth’s biographer and why I think it’s greatest metafictional novel Roth never wrote, the role of race & racism in Roth’s work (and in Jacques’ broader areas of study), why Jacques never wanted to meet Roth, his love of The Anatomy Lesson, the disillusionment he had upon reading Roth’s letters in the Library of Congress, why we should all read My Dark Vanessa, whether not winning the Nobel really burned Roth’s ass, and so much more! (9/14/21) – mp3

#450 – Robert McCrum – With his new book, Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption (Pegasus Books), author & literary editor Robert McCrum uses Shakespeare’s plays, poems, life and history to examine how Shakespeare is a mirror of human experience, and why his lines continue to resonate 400+ years after his death. We talk about Robert’s history with the plays (beginning with his role as First Fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the age of 13) and the 2017 performance of Julius Caesar in Central Park that inspired the book, the ways in which the Plays and the Sonnets complement each other, and how those works influence our understanding of the self and self-consciousness. We also get into the vicissitudes of literary reputation, the way Shakespearean fits as the capstone of Robert’s Disruption Trilogy, along with My Year Off and Every Third Thought, the first play Robert’s Shakespeare Club plans to see post-pandemic, the snobbery that drives Shakespeare denialism, how America became Shakespearean, and the urban myth that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during lockdown, as well as the ways plague influenced Shakespeare’s entire career. Plus: where I should begin with Wodehouse, what prompted Robert to finally finish Proust (and then re-read him), and the nightmare of interviewing Philip Roth! (9/7/21) – mp3

#449 – Scott Newstok – With How To Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education (Princeton University Press), Scott Newstok explores the Bard’s schooling, how it contrasts with the No Child Left Behind model of today, and how we’re failing both students and teachers. We get into Scott’s love of Shakespeare and the history of education, why the drive for “assessment” is inimical to real learning, the false oppositions about education today, the value of play & conversation, and how the pandemic may have put the nail in the coffin for distance learning. We also get into his new project on Montaigne, the importance of having a couple of key teachers in one’s youth, the importance of student evaluations, why he’ll opt for Marlowe over Shakespeare if he needs to turn students on to Elizabethan theater, his thoughts on translating Shakespeare into “modern English, the scaleability of a Renaissance education, and more! (8/24/21) – mp3

#448 – Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn – With Ars Vitae: The Fate of Inwardness and the Return of the Ancient Arts of Living (Notre Dame Press), Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn explores how different philosophies of the ancient Greeks and Romans continue to play out in our modern era. We talk about the interplay between antiquity & modernity, how we can learn to move beyond therapeutic culture, and why she’s a born Platonist (the book also gets into Gnosticism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Cynicism). We also get into why instrumentalizing people is one of the worst developments of our time, what it means to have an authentic outward-facing inwardness, rather than the inward-facing outwardness of our age, whether philosophy prepares us for death (and whether it should). Plus we discuss how students have & haven’t changed over her 30 years as a professor, the vale of WikiHow, the moment she was entranced by a philosophy seminar titled “Love”, and what virtue is & whether it can be taught. (8/17/21) – mp3

#447 – Peter Schjeldahl – I traveled up to the Catskills this weekend for a round of Rip Van Winkle-themed putt-putt golf, lunch, and some conversation with New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl. We get into Peter’s 2019 diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer and how he gained & then lost the persona of The Dying Man during his one piece of memoiristic writing about it. We also talk about his accidental transition from poet to art writer in the ’60s, why his two criteria for writing about art are quality & significance, his bias for authenticity over authority and sophistication over education, how HOWL changed his life, why he hates reproductions of paintings, why it took him years to come around on Rembrandt, his experience of revisiting Velazquez’ Las Meninas over the years, the piece of art he’d like to revisit when we can travel again, his love of (& aesthete’s approach to) fireworks, and plenty moreon the art of living! (8/10/21) – mp3

#446 – Heywood Gould – With his compulsively entertaining new book, Drafted: A Memoir of the ’60s (Tolmitch Press), author, screenwriter, and director Heywood Gould takes his reader on a rollicking tour of New York City in America’s most turbulent decade as he explores his draft-dodging days in the buildup of the Vietnam war. We get into how Drafted evolved from a screenplay into a novel into a memoir, what it was like being a reporter for the New York Post at 22 (when it was a pinko rag, rather than a right-wing rag) and working alongside Nora Ephron and Pete Hamill, his family’s tension between communist leanings & patriotism, and how his race to get out of the draft led him to Paris, civil rights protests, almost to the wedding altar, and Fort Dix. We also talk about Heywood’s career writing and directing movies and TV (like Cocktail, Fort Apache, The Bronx, One Good Cop, The Boys From Brazil and The Equalizer), his one Gabriel Byrne story, why he’ll take NYC over LA, and all the ways Hollywood has changed over the decades, especially in the streaming era. Plus we discuss why he reads the Torah daily (for the storytelling!), his stab at adapting Isaac Babel for the movies, how the Great American Novel has eluded him so far, how he learned Hemingway’s trick of writing fiction like a news story, why being a mortician’s assistant was his favorite non-writing job, and why his next book will be How Not To Be A Cancer Patient, a memoir of his 20 years (and counting) of experience with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. (8/3/21) – mp3

#445 – Heather Cass White – Author & professor Heather Cass White joins the show to celebrate her wonderful new book. Books Promiscuously Read: Reading as a Way of Life (FSG). We get into what reading does & doesn’t do for us, how we can lose ourselves & find ourselves in books, how this book gestated for decades while she was working on her scholarship of Marianne Moore, how she snagged the title from a line by Milton, and how promiscuously we should read the word “promiscuously”. We also talk about her read-to-bits childhood copy of Anne of Green Gables, the possibility of getting too much out of Henry James, the lessons she took from studying with Harold Bloom, why you shouldn’t read as if you’re going to die (prompted by my recent health issues), the importance of keeping a patient attitude toward poetry, why she decided not to do more reading about reading once she started to write a book about reading, and more! (7/27/21) – mp3

#444 – Jonathan Baylis – Writer Jonathan Baylis joins the show (in person!) to celebrate the latest issue of his autobio comics series, So Buttons (Tinto Press/Alchemy Comix). We talk about how he found a home in the Pekar mode, writing scripts for cartoonists to draw, and how he went all-Harvey for a strip with Noah Van Sciver. We get into his comics upbringing and his work experiences at a variety of comic companies, how his time at NYU film school informed his storytelling style, the artists he’s hoping to work with, and how his body of work has revealed meta-themes about his stories. We also discuss being a subject in his wife’s monologues (she’s comedian Ophira Eisenberg), our reminiscences of Tom Spurgeon, working with his cartooning idols, our weirdest Tarantino-moments, and more! (7/20/21) – mp3

#443 – Anita Kunz – With her new book, Another History of Art (Fantagraphics), legendary illustrator & artist Anita Kunz beautifully reimagines classic paintings from a female perspective, offering up homages to the works of Leona Da Vinci, Paola Picasso, Gertrude Klimt, and many more. We get into the origins of this project, what it meant when she flipped the gender pronouns and feminized the names of artists & critics across the centuries, and how important it is for her to make art with a purpose, whether it’s cultural, social or political. We get into how her career as an illustrator has evolved over 4+ decades, how she straddles the line between illustration & fine art, the importance of working with great art directors, and the old days when she had to race to an airport to make changes to a piece of art. We also get into how primatology explains politics, the joy of discovering that she has multiple books ahead (like this fall’s Original Sisters), why she’s been making a painting a day during the pandemic, why she volunteered at a monkey sanctuary & how she wound up collaborating with a Capuchin monkey named Pockets Warhol, and much more! (Plus, you get some news about my recent health issues.) (7/13/21) – mp3

#442 – Weng Pixin (aka Pix) – With her gorgeous new graphic memoir, Let’s Not Talk Anymore (Drawn & Quarterly), artist Weng Pixin (a.k.a. Pix) explores 5 generations of women in her family, from each one’s perspective at the age of 15. We got together to talk about how Pix built a multigenerational history of her family through silences, how she reverse-engineered her way into making comics, the challenges of growing up in an emotionally repressed environment and figuring out how to make art out of it, and how Singapore’s money-driven culture makes it difficult to build art communities. We get her history in the arts, the female cartoonists in Buenos Aires who changed her life, what she’s learned from teaching art to kids, whether it’s good to post in-progress art online, how cleaning up her Dropbox folder made her realize she had built a body of work in comics (leading to her first collection, Sweet Time), whether her mother is going to read her new book, and more! (7/6/21) – mp3

#441 – Andi Watson – With The Book Tour (Top Shelf Productions), cartoonist Andi Watson makes his triumphant return to ‘grown-up’ comics, spinning a tale more Waugh than Kafka about a midlist British author on a book tour from hell. We get into the book’s path to publication, the new drawing style he developed for this one, why he’s shifted genres & styles over the course of his career, and how this book’s visual setting was inspired by Atget’s early-morning photos of Paris. We talk about the YA and middle-reader comics he’s made in recent years, the quirks of writing for different age-tiers, how comics publishing has changed since he got into the field in the ’90s, how Love & Rockets bent his brain at 18 & sent him on this wayward path, and why he’s looking forward to going on a real book tour for The Book Tour someday! (6/29/21) – mp3

#440 – Ron Hogan – Practice makes person! With his new book, Our Endless and Proper Work: Starting (and Sticking to) Your Writing Practice (Belt Publishing), Ron Hogan explores how writing can be the process of becoming who you are, the importance of attention & focus and a regular writing practice, and why process is more important than product. We get into his sensation of receiving a Calling a few years ago and how he’s carried that experience in his day-to-day life, the challenge of making your day job feed your inner life, the ways we can try to carve out time for that writing practice (and the ways to keep from beating yourself up when you don’t stick to it), and why letting go of competitive goals can be a boon for a writer. We also talk about what he learned during the pandemic, how the realness of our virtual selves has evolved along with the internet, what he gets from returning to Robert Anton Wilson’s memoir over the years, the misuses of Stoicism, and why he didn’t use the title of his great writing e-mail, Destroy Your Safe & Happy Lives, for the book. (6/22/21) – mp3

#439 – Glenn Head – With his new graphic memoir, Chartwell Manor (Fantagraphics), cartoonist Glenn Head returns to the scene of the crime: the boarding school where he and his fellow students were sexually and emotionally abused in the 1970s. We talk about why the toughest challenges of the book were artistic and not emotional, why he was just as unsparing in depicting himself as an adult, why the trauma of his time at Chartwell doesn’t provide him a get-out-of-jail-free card, and why it wasn’t exactly cathartic but was definitely empowering to draw and tell this story. We also get into why memoir is like striptease, the influence of the Patrick Melrose novels on this book, Glenn’s lifelong debt to the great Underground Comix artists, his drive for personal exposure, why his wife is his best editor (and only reader), the next book he’s working on, and more. (6/15/21) – mp3

#438 – Will McPhail – Cartoonist and illustrator Will McPhail joins the show to celebrate his debut graphic novel, IN. We talk about weaponized self-awareness, the genesis of his poignant and hilarious tale of anhedonia, the value of real conversation, and how he stretched from single-panel cartoons to a long-form book. We also get into how finishing the book during the pandemic informed its earlier parts, what we’ll talk about when we can talk in person again, and how IN took him away from submitting gags to The New Yorker at an opportune moment. Plus we get into the problem with “mindfulness” apps and the real definition of meditation (which we happen to find in the same place), why I should pay more attention to Bill Watterson’s trees, and otters, stoats, and Will’s other favorite animals to draw. (6/8/21) – mp3

#437 – Keiler Roberts – Artist and cartoonist Keiler Roberts returns to the show to celebrate her new book, My Begging Chart (Drawn & Quarterly), and explain how she found a new mode for her wry comics about being a mother, daughter, wife, and artist. We get into how her multiple sclerosis diagnosis left her in lockdown mode a year before the rest of the world joined her, why she withdrew from comics for a while and why she returned to them, and how she short-circuits her anxiety about reader expectations. We discuss why she shredded some of her sketchbooks and journals to clear physical and mental clutter, her daughter’s role as her editor, why she’d keep making comics regarded of the business circumstances, her fixation on the smell of Cabbage Patch Kids, the impact of MS on her life & art, the joy of making a new discovery at the Art Institute Museum in Chicago, the weirdness of being the subject of a profile in the Chicago Tribune, and more! (6/1/21) – mp3

#436 – Dmitry Samarov – With his new book OLD STYLE, artist & author Dmitry Samarov moves from memoir into a (mostly) fictional mode, chronicling the lives and deaths of a pair of Chicago bars. We get into the liberations & responsibilities of fiction, the challenges of writing about bars while avoiding nostalgia, and how he put in the time to understand the bar patrons and their archetypes. We also talk about making art through the pandemic, turning his old art & writing into collage books, the need to change his palette, and what it was like for him to teach drawing for the first time (at 50!) and the curriculum he’d design if he had the opportunity. Plus, we get into his is recent NYC trip to see the Alice Neel retrospective, the next book he’s hoping to write, and his semi sorta envy at my taking up drawing at 50. (5/25/21) – mp3

#435 – Dorothy Gallagher – For my first in-person podcast since March 2020 (!), I talked with writer, memoirist & biographer Dorothy Gallagher about her beautiful new collection, Stories I Forgot To Tell You (NYRB). We get into the 2010 death of her husband, literary editor & raconteur Ben Sonnenberg, and how it took her five years before she could begin to write about him, the need to balance elegy and humor in her writing, and the importance of her early days working at Magazine Management (alongside the likes of Mario Puzo & Bruce Jay Friedman). We also discuss whether things are “only things” or evidence of a life, why it’s not good for a biographer to actively dislike her subject, the one biography she’d love to write, her atheist’s notion of an afterlife (less eternal punishment/reward, more eternal cocktail hour), her favorite time & place in NYC, why she misses flea markets, the impact/scars of her Communist upbringing, how she’s handled the pandemic, and why the isolation would have driven her late husband nuts. (5/18/21) – mp3

#434 – Karl Stevens – Cartoonist & illustrator Karl Stevens rejoins the show to celebrate his new book, Penny: A Graphic Memoir (Chronicle Books), in which Karl explores the inner life of his eponymous cat Penny. We get into the challenges of realistically drawing a tortoiseshell cat (and writing her existentialist thoughts), the book’s origins in his Village Voice strip, and how he avoided plenty of cartoon cat cliches while crafting a book that can appeal to non-comics readers. We also get into his new work adapting another writer’s script for a comic, the experiments he’s doing with different drawing styles, his productive pandemic, and how he’s trying to create book about his father’s Vietnam experience. And we talk about our respective running habits, the virtues of Transcendental Meditation, his learning curve with New Yorker comic submissions, and his deep-dive into back issues of Heavy Metal. (5/11/21) – mp3

Ed Ward Tribute Episode – On May 4, 2021, news came out that rock & roll journalist and historian Ed Ward was found dead in his home in Austin, TX. In honor of Ed’s work, I’ve collected our podcast conversations from 2016 and 2019. We were ostensibly there to discuss the first and second volumes of his History of Rock & Roll, but Ed can TALK, and we managed to go both wide & deep on a variety of subjects. I was hoping against hope for Vol. 3, so we could continue our conversation. (5/4/21) – mp3

#433 – Darryl Cunningham – With the new edition of Billionaires: The Lives of the Rich an Powerful (Drawn & Quarterly), cartoonist Darryl Cunningham explores the lives and businesses of Rupert Murdoch, the Koch Brothers, and Jeff Bezos to understand how they built their wealth and warped the lives of the rest of us in the process. Darryl talks about the genesis of Billionaires and its roots in his earlier work on the 2008 financial crisis, and why this book won’t (necessarily) turn you into a communist. We get into his roots as a cartoonist, how a failed branch of his career made him a better writer and researcher, why getting technically better creates its own set of problems, and the comics that first inspired him. We also discuss his upcoming book on Putin & Russia, and whether the trolls and bots that might come after him online will be tougher than the homeopaths and chiropractors who got mad at his book on science denial. Plus, we talk about his new work with the NHS and why he’s trying to avoid doing books on Brexit or Trump. (5/4/21) – mp3

#432 – Shary Flenniken – Legendary cartoonist & humorist Shary Flenniken joins the show to celebrate the long overdue collection of her amazing Trots & Bonnie comics (New York Review Comics). We get into her process of selecting the strips from Trots & Bonnie’s ~20-year run at National Lampoon, her realization of how funny her comics still are, the joy of seeing the restored artwork, and the fun of providing annotations for each of the strips. We talk about her time among the Air Pirates, the great advice she got from Charles Vess, what she learned during her stint as an editor at National Lampoon, the importance of Kermode’s The Sense Of An Ending and the challenge of a punchline, the impact of her comics on their intended and unintended audiences, and whether she considers her art’s place in the history of underground comics. We also discuss our dogs, her lifelong love of popular fiction, her new comics work, her favorite pen nib and her shift to digital art, and a whole lot more. (4/27/21) – mp3

#431 – Louis Menand – Pulitzer Prize-winning author and cultural critic Louis Menand joins the show to celebrate his phenomenal new book, THE FREE WORLD: Art And Thought In The Cold War (FSG). We get into his process for chronicling the artistic, cultural, intellectual, technological and literary movements of the postwar era, the stories of the lives behind those movements and how he threads them together, what we mean when we talk about freedom, why writing can be like kicking open a rolled-up carpet, and the toughest art form to write about. We talk about the influence of John Cage (whose work we both dislike), the amazing creative lineage of Black Mountain College, the ~75,000 words he had to cut (the book is plenty hefty as is) and why he would have liked to include a chapter on Japan’s art scene, the role of the CIA in funding movement and artistic venues, and the one person he regrets not interviewing for this project. We also discuss his pandemic life, the One More Book he wants to write, his father’s anti-anti-Communist stance, the book’s original title and why it had to change, and why his students at Harvard seem more interested in the ’50s than the ’60s. (4/20/21) – mp3

#430 – Jesse Sheidlower – Lexicographer, bartender and bon vivant Jesse Sheidlower rejoins the show to talk about his new project, the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction. We get into the 20-year-old origins of the project and the ways it mirrors the development of the internet over that span, the importance of fandom and community in science fiction, the fields into which he wants the dictionary to expand, how the culture transitioned away from treating SF & fanzines as ephemera, and his own history with the genre. We also discuss the ways in which the Oxford English Dictionary was the original crowdsourced project, how people misunderstand the mission & spirit of the OED, the variety of rabbit-holes a lexicographer can fall down, and my own experience creating a glossary for the pharma manufacturing industry. Plus, we talk about his pandemic life, the Threesome Tollbooth, and the post-COVID party he’s planning! (4/13/21) – mp3

#429 – Nate Powell – How will we remember (and recover from) the last 5 years? National Book Award-winning cartoonist Nate Powell‘s new collection, Save It For Later: Promises, Parenthood, and the Urgency of Protest (Abrams ComicArts) explores America’s fractures and its hopes for the future. We talk about the impetus of the book, how it follows his work adapting Rep. John Lewis‘ story in the MARCH trilogy, and how his conversations with the late congressman scared him even more about the impact of the previous presidential administration. We get into the Save It For Later‘s balancing act of memoir & essay, his decision to draw his kids as magical animals, what MARCH taught him about comics storytelling and how it influenced his recent work. We also discuss the irony of Gen X’s apolitical nature, Nate’s punk ethos, the combo of thrash metal & X-Men comics that instilled a social conscience in him, the delight of visiting the quarter bins in his childhood comic shop when he goes home, why not being an activist doesn’t equal being a defeatist, and a lot more. (4/6/21) – mp3

#428 – Michael DeForge – Cartoonist Michael DeForge joins the show to celebrate his amazing new graphic story collection, Heaven No Hell (Drawn & Quarterly). We get into his prolific comics career, his compulsion to jump genres, the ways we relitigate the traumas of our lives, and why he digs he self-imposed challenge of a daily comic strip (on top of his other comics and his illustration work). We get into how revolutionary politics permeates his art and how he engages in community activism, what it means to rethink our relationship to social media, why technology will always outpace his attempts at ridiculing it, and why Reading The Comments led him to explore a creative path when he was making Leaving Richard’s Valley. We also discuss the uses of absurdism & satire, how his dystopian stories have him rooting for utopian ideas, how he bullied his way into judging butter tart competitions, and more. (3/30/21) – mp3

#427 – Kate Lacour – It’s been a year since I started the COVID Check-In series of podcasts, so I decided to return to the very first guest in that series, artist Kate Lacour, to celebrate! (You know what I mean.) We talk about how her life has changed over the course of a year in Pandemia, and how the urge to document those first few months gave way to other outlets. In her case, Kate rediscovered herself through taxidermy. We get into how she taught herself the rudiments of that art through YouTube and online groups, her philosophy of animals and bodies, the question of realism vs. subjectivity, and why New Orleans is an awfully good place to make a living as a taxidermist. We go deeper into what comics mean to her and how she may return to them, the post-pandemic trip she wants to take, what progress looks like in the sequence of animals she’s preserved, and more. (3/25/21) – mp3

#426 – Laura Lindstedt – Finnish novelist Laura Lindstedt joins the show to celebrate the US publication of My Friend Natalia (Liveright, tr. David Hackston). We get into the challenges of translating a novel that’s all about the therapy sessions of an extremely literate and hypersexual patient, how the therapist’s method parallels Laura’s writing process, and my meta-theory of who’s actually narrating this amazing novel. We also talk about the influence of Nathalie Sarraute‘s poetics and the literary notion of Tropism (physical reaction of natural world), Helsinki’s book-life and how it’s changed in recent years, the joy of playing with the Finnish language and its etymologies, and the notion of gendered writing and why Laura chose to keep the narrator non-gendered (and why that made the audiobook a challenge). Plus, I get to founder over Finnish names, and Laura tells us the place she really wants to visit when we’re post-pandemic. (3/23/21) – mp3

#425 – Vivian Gornick – Literary and feminist legend Vivian Gornick joins the show to celebrate her new collection, Taking A Long Look: Essays on Culture, Literature, and Feminism in Our Time (Verso Press). We talk about the biggest shock of looking back at her work for this career-spanning collection, why she organized it from most recent to oldest, and the difference between being smart and being wise. We get into the process of discovering her voice and figuring out she’s a minimalist, how she got better at judging her own work, her criteria for culling books from her apartment (and her embarrassment when one showed up in an unexpected place), the importance of rereading (and why she wrote a book about it), and why the New York Review of Books recently said she “has long enjoyed an audience of literary depressives and feminists”. We also discuss her 1970s essays on feminism, the movement’s evolution in the past 50 years, how the Brilliant Exception became the rule, why political correctness if different than ideological splits, the New York she loves most, and why she’s dying to go to a movie theater again. (3/16/21) – mp3

#424 – Jen Silverman – What price fame? With her debut novel, We Play Ourselves (Random House), writer and playwright Jen Silverman tells a comedic tale of theater life gone wrong, internet humiliation, a teenage feminist fight club, queer absurdist puppetry, the boundaries of documentary filmmaking, and a lot more. We get into the roots of her novel, what writing for theater and TV/film taught her and what she had to unlearn for this book, how she balanced her love for absurdism with narrative realism, and how to figure out which stories belong in which medium. We talk about the difference between “theater” and “Broadway” and how the pandemic has wiped out the communal experience of theater (for now), how the economics of theater can perpetuate a lack of diversity and how it feels to be “the woman” playwright in a season, how she learned to navigate the heightened unreality of LA, the difference in searching for The Path and finding A Path, why the hunger for being seen can warp pretty much all human activities, why she draws sad pandas, and more! (3/9/21) – mp3

#423 – Leslie Stein – With her latest graphic memoir, I Know You Rider (Drawn & Quarterly), Leslie Stein reveals a piece of her life that she’d never shared with anyone: her decision to have an abortion. We talk about why she chose to tell that story, how her family reacted to the book, why she told the story in a direct, unmediated narrative, what it was like to have the book come out in the early days of the pandemic, and her one regret about the experience itself. We get into her pandemic life, and why her new comic (currently being serialized on her Instagram) portrays the exact opposite: touring the country in a van with a band and playing music in crowded bars. We also discuss her dream-book of a history of Green-Wood Cemetery, what it’s like to treat your life as content, and the one project that keeps making her run away into other projects. (3/2/21) mp3

#422 – Anahid Nersessian – Let’s commemorate the 200th anniversary of John Keats’ untimely death with a conversation with Anahid Nersessian, author of Keats’ Odes: A Lover’s Discourse (University of Chicago). We get into how she read Keats’ letters to Fanny Brawne at WAY too young an age, how she’s lived with his poems since childhood and how they’ve changed for her over the years, and why it kills her that no one has disinterred Fanny’s final letters to Keats (which he never read and are buried with him). We talk about her relationship to the western canon, the implicit (and explicit) sexual violence of Ode on a Grecian Urn, her harassment by a Latin teacher in high school and how it affected her career path, Keats’ radicalist, proto-Marxist tones and the benefits of reading The Communist Manifesto in funny voices as a 7th grader. We also discuss what it’s like to have a couple of strict old-school Freudians for parents, why she doesn’t have time for social media (and why she didn’t go overboard integrating her personal experiences into the book), the thread of Keats’ Odes that has led to her next book on the Cato Street Conspiracy, and more. (2/23/21) – mp3

#421 – Kate Maruyama – Author, editor and activist Kate Maruyama rejoins the show to celebrate the publication of her wonderfully creepy new novella, Family Solstice (Omnium Gatherum). We get into why she wrote a haunted house story at a time when everyone’s stuck in their homes, how she pushed herself to finish the book during the early months of the pandemic, and how Family Solstice celebrates the great (and maybe a little haunted) home she grew up in. We get into what Kate’s mother, the late, great Kit Reed, might have made of This Whole Situation we’re in, the positives of holding a virtual book tour (including the launch in a virtual version of her childhood home), what her and her students’ pandemic-era fiction looks like, the joy of getting her first Asimov’s publication last year, and more! (2/16/21) – mp3

#420 – John Porcellino – With Drawn & Quarterly publishing new editions of King-Cat Classix, Map of My Heart, and Perfect Example, what better time for John Porcellino to return to the podcast? We talk about how King-Cat Comics & Stories has evolved over the ~30 years (!) he’s been making it, how the refinement of his art and storytelling mirrors the battle of intuition vs. OCD, and how his newest comics (even those written before 2020) reflect life during the pandemic. We get into how Buddhism has helped him cope with life and aging, his lurking concern that he has an expiration date, what he wants to accomplish before then, and what it means to publish issue #80 and to look at reaching #100. We also discuss the joyfully awful band Flipper and what it’s like being Flipper for aspiring storytellers, the example Lynda Barry set for him, the influence John has had on my stories in recent years, his joy at seeing his name drawn by Robert Crumb, and why his new dog Arlo is A Good Boy even when he barks during podcasts. (2/9/20) – mp3

#419 – Nadia Owusu – With her debut memoir, Aftershocks (Simon & Schuster), Nadia Owusu explores the fault lines of identity, race, and justice, and the ways trauma and myths are transmitted through the generations. We talk about her upbringing in Europe (UK& Italy) and Africa (Ghana, Tanzania & Ethiopia), the meanings of skin color in different cultures, her social justice work, and what she had to learn about race in America. We get into what it’s like to live on high alert, how we reclaim our stories and reframe our world, how Aftershocks evolved from private project to public document, and how even thin soil can let us extend roots. (2/2/21) – mp3

#418 – Sven Birkerts – Is it unhip to search for a meaningful pattern in life? Sven Birkerts rejoins the show to talk about his new book, Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory: Bookmarked (IG Publishing), which explores time, memory, and those aforementioned meaningful patterns. We get into Sven’s history with Nabokov’s memoir, his own impulse toward memoir as he approached 50, and the challenge of writing about someone whose prose is as incandescent as Nabokov’s. We talk about larger questions of literary greatness, the nature of individuality in an age of distributed social networks, whether Nabokov’s best-known book will survive, and what other books and authors have become “unsafe” for undergrad readers. We also gab about packing one’s library, finding the perfect notebook, and what the post-pandemic world may look like. (1/26/21) – mp3

#417 – Mark Wunderlich – A series of deaths and personal losses in 2018 hang over Mark Wunderlich‘s poems in his new collection, God of Nothingness (Graywolf Press). We talk about that writing, how living through it unwittingly prepared him for the past year in Pandemia, and how the current situation compares with his arrival in NYC at the height of AIDS. We get into the uses of autobiography in poetry (his editor refers to his poems as “fiercely autobiographical”), Mark’s queerness being tied to his poetic-self, the inspiration of James Merrill and his mentorship by JD McClatchy, the notion of a poem as a created environment permitting freedom, why his poems go from longhand to typewriter to computer, his experience conducting a Rilke course by snail-mail in 2020, his pandemic-adjustments as director of the Bennington Writing Seminars MFA program, and more. (1/19/21) – mp3

#416 – Wendung – “At 50, everyone has the face he deserves,” said George Orwell, but he died at 47, so what does he know? To celebrate turning 50, I use an obscure Woody Allen movie to talk about why I can’t take stock of my life. Then the good part: I ask nearly 40 guests of the podcast one question, “What do you wish you’d done before the pandemic?” (You can skip right to that at 18:45.) Participants include Witold Rybczynski, Kathe Koja, John Holl, Emily Flake, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Ian Kelley, David Townsend, John Bertagnolli, Jennifer Hayden, Richard Kadrey, Joan Marans Dim, Liniers, Sven Birkerts, Barbara Nessim, David Leopold, Tess Lewis, Ken Krimstein, Michael Shaw, Dmitry Samarov, Maria Alexander, Paul C. Tumey, Kyle Cassidy, Henry Wessells, Warren Woodfin, ES Glenn, Philip Boehm, Woodrow Phoenix, Rian Hughes, Alta L. Price, Derf Backderf, Frank Santoro, Boaz Roth, Carol Tyler, David Mikics, Michael Gerber, Walter Bernard, Whitney Matheson and Dean Haspiel! (1/11/21) – mp3

#415 – Jerome Charyn – With his amazing new novel, Sergeant Salinger (Bellevue Literary Press), Jerome Charyn evokes and explores J.D. Salinger’s WWII experience in the Counter Intelligence Corps. We talk about Jerome’s history with Salinger’s work, his disdain for The Catcher in the Rye and his love of Nine Stories and their depiction of NYC of the 1940s and early ’50s, the range of meanings and misunderstandings of Salinger’s later silence, and Jerome’s own terror of writing. Along the way, we get into Jerome’s ventriloquism in his historical fiction, the limits of his artistic audacity, falling in love with Maria Callas, and whether he’d write a pastiche of Hemingway now that Hem’s in public domain. Jerome being Jerome, we also discuss ping-pong, professional basketball, the older Michael Jordan as a Shakespearean character, and why he’s writing a big essay about Mank. (1/5/21) – mp3

#414 – James Oseland – For the final episode of 2020, James Oseland rejoins the show to celebrate the launch of his World Food series of cookbooks, beginning with World Food: Mexico City (Ten Speed Press). We talk about his first experience with Mexico City, why he makes it his home, why he considers it North America’s version of Rome, what it was like to treat it as though he was visiting it anew for this book (here’s a video), and his love of capturing places through local cooks and the dishes that they make. We get into the food-writing he loves and his broader literary influences, the changes in the food magazine industry, his disinterest in food travel TV, and Mexican cuisine’s propensity for incorporating other culture’s ingredients and foods. We also discuss subtle flavor of chapulinas in guacamole, why James had a pretty good 2020, all things considered, and why I have to make his charred tomato salsa recipe (in hopes that it’ll release my inner cook). (12/29/20) – mp3

#413 – DW Young – With the wonderful documentary, The Booksellers (Greenwich Entertainment), director D.W. Young celebrates the world of antiquarian books and the personalities who trade in them. We talk about how The Booksellers came together, the need to celebrate book culture, and the experience of premiering the movie during the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair on the cusp of the pandemic. We also talk about each of our realizations that we’re not that obsessive about old books, the ways collectors help preserve history, and the changing nature of what’s antiquarian. We get into his move into filmmaking in his 30s (after working on a novel that didn’t quite work out), DW’s new project on the pandemic, the election, and New York artists, the thrill of the hunt and what we miss about the pre-digital world, the great experience of getting Fran Lebowitz in The Booksellers, a celebration of NYC’s long-gone Book Row, and why he’s optimistic about the next generation in book dealers and what they’ll collect. (12/22/20) – mp3

#412 – The Guest List – Thirty of this year’s Virtual Memories Show guests tell us about the favorite books they read in 2020 and the books they hope to get to in 2021! Guests include Derf Backderf, Philip Boehm, Ruben Bolling, Betsy Bonner, Henri Cole, Joan Marans Dim, Emily Flake, Jonathan W. Gray, Tom Hart, Arthur Hoyle, Rian Hughes, Richard Kadrey, Ben Katchor, Kathe Koja, Tess Lewis, Ellen Lindner, Margot Mifflin, David Mikics, Otto Penzler, Woodrow Phoenix, Darryl Pinckney, Alta Price, Steve Ronin, Dmitry Samarov, Michael Shaw, Stoya, Benjamin Taylor, Jeff Trexler, John Vercher, and Sheila Williams. (And me!) (12/15/20) – mp3

#411 – Lisa Kohn – In her debut memoir, To The Moon And Back: A Childhood Under The Influence (Heliotrope Books), Lisa Kohn tells the tale of how her mother brought her up in the Unification Church (that is, the Moonies), while her hippie dad exposed her to the drugs and decay of the East Village in the 1970s. We talk about how she survived both of those experiences to become a successful executive coach, and how the tools she used to heal herself turned out to be mighty useful for coaching others. We get into the allure of cults and how she managed to transition away from the Moonies, her work in the Second Gen community (people born or raised in a cult), what raising her own kids taught her about her parents’ behavior, the perils of telling her kids about her life story (including her extensive drug history), her reaction to the current crop of documentaries about cults, the influence of Mary Karr on her writing, and how long it took her to find out who she actually is. (12/8/20) – mp3

#410 – Phillip Lopate – Essayist and editor Phillip Lopate rejoins the show to celebrate the publication of The Glorious American Essay: One Hundred Essays From Colonial Times To The Present (Pantheon). We talk about the origins of this anthology & how it transformed into a three-part series (two more coming next year!), Phillip’s self-admitted megalomania about the essay form, how the essay both paralleled and helped change American thought over the centuries, and just what’s so Glorious about The Glorious American Essay. We get into the challenge of limiting the collection to 100 essays, the value of canons and the need to revise them, the postwar golden age of the essay, the challenge of compiling work from the 21st century, and Emerson’s role as the key to the American essay (and how Phillip came to understand him through reading his notebooks). We also get into how his pandemic is going, how his students’ essays about lockdown life are better than some of the ones he’s read from older writers, his take on the Mets’ new ownership and why he’s glad sports came back during COVID, and what it was like to read so deeply in the history of American essays and thought during the Trump presidency. (12/1/20) – mp3

#409 – Rian Hughes – With his amazing new book XX (Overlook Press), Rian Hughes gets to add “novelist” to his titles of graphic designer, typographer, illustrator, comics writer & artist, and photographer. We get into how he wrote a science fiction narrative using graphic design as a tool & mode of storytelling (& why more writers should consider graphic design as a part of their work), how technology had to catch up to his vision of the novel, his stab at going a step beyond Arthur C. Clarke, and why he’s so interested in semiotics and how ideas get into our heads. We talk about his childhood entré into type and graphic design, the boredom of illustration and marketing, the ways design involves defining problems and solutions and how that does and doesn’t apply to fiction, and his affection for science fiction pulps. We also discuss whether he can turn off his design eye, the new frontiers in technology and the plasticity of the digital realm, the perils of cultural conflict, how we grow into certain artists & genres, and why everything for him comes down to colors, shapes, actions and language and what they mean. (11/24/20) – mp3

#408 – Celia Paul – With her wonderful new memoir, SELF-PORTRAIT (NYRB), celebrated life-painter Celia Paul explores her life as an artist, the evolution of her portraiture, her need for a Virginia Woolf-ian Room of One’s Own, and her 10-year relationship with Lucian Freud (c.1978-88). We get into the influence she and Freud had on each other’s work, how she took control of her life and her art, the moral component of life-painting, the importance of being selfish, the conflict for women artists between being loved and following your own path, her affinity for the artist Gwen John, her antipathy toward the word “muse,” and how much she flat-out hates being called an artist “in her own right”. We talk about the influence of Collette & Duras on her writing, her decision to incorporate her journals in the memoir and the continuity of self they reveal, why she only paints portraits of people she knows well (and why her paintings of her sister Kate as self-portraits), the uses of stillness, how she re-evaluated her life after Lucian Freud’s death in 2011, why letters are like painting, and much more. (11/17/20) – mp3

#407 – Virginia Postrel – Journalist and scholar Virginia Postrel rejoins the show to celebrate her brand-new book, The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made The World (Basic Books). We get into how textiles intersect with technology, culture, commerce, politics, and more, the long gestation of this book & the dress that started it all, humanity’s textile-amnesia, and Virginia’s reversal of Arthur C. Clarke’s third law of technology. We talk about the textile skills she learned (or tried to learn) in prep for the book and how she’s now the owner of several looms, the extensive travel she undertook for research, how the book wouldn’t have been possible during the pandemic, the notion of civilization as both survival technology and a cumulative process, how social technologies were just as key as physical ones to our development, and more! (11/10/20) – mp3

#406 – David Shields – In 2018, essayist David Shields wrote Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention (Thought Catalog). For Election Day 2020, we decided to revisit that book, how he would write it differently now, and why Trump is the Bizarro World’s Personal Essayist #1. I prompt David with the adventitious sight of a car that bore the message, “Compassion Is Another Word For Control,” and we go off to the conversational races, talking politics, the superior messaging tactics of the right-wing, concerns about far-left cultural policies, faith in radical skeptical intelligence, the absence of reality hunger vis-a-vis the history of America, why rage isn’t a primary emotion but rather a cover for fear and pain, the lessons of Howard Stern, and why “An Intervention” is not for Trump but for the American people. (11/3/20) – mp3

#405 – Jeff Trexler – Lawyer, ethics advisor and comics nerd Jeff Trexler joins the show to talk about his new role as Interim Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. We get into his plans to help rebuild the CBLDF’s reputation and ethics code after the sexual harassment scandal of its previous director, his experiences helping people pursue their harassment claims and launching antiharassment campaigns in the fashion world, how the Fund’s role has changed over the decades, and why he’s comfortable with that interim title. We also get into his obsessions with comics and design, the broad meaning of First Amendment law (and why R Sikoryak‘s recent Constitution Illustrated should be required reading), how to learn from ethics disasters, how nonprofits can grow and how they can become sclerotic, his childhood McLuhan-inspired interpretation of the theme to the Batman TV show, how our mutual friend Tom Spurgeon was the hub of the comics industry, and what it’s been like to live without him. (10/29/20) – mp3

#404 – Michael Shaw – Got the election / pandemic / climate change / midlife / inexplicable rash blues? Then listen to me and cartoonist & humorist Michael Shaw talk about his new book, The Elements of Stress and the Pursuit of Happy-ish in this Current Sh*tstorm (co-authored by the great Bob Eckstein, from Weekly Humorist Press)! We get into how Michael and Bob managed to mash up Strunk & White with Thurber & White to create a prose & cartoons handbook to dealing with This Whole Situation, then explore Michael’s history in cartooning and humor, how he balances that with a day job in writing and editing, his discovery that if he drew cartoons any better he’d be terrible, and why he took a hiatus from submitting gags to The New Yorker (and whether they know he’s taken said hiatus). We also get into his literary loves, the perils of listening to William S. Burroughs audiobooks on late-night commutes, how his florid-rococo style balances with Eckstein’s Hemingway-on-valium approach, the lesson he learned from Milton Glaser about One Element of Dissonance, and more! 10/27/20 – mp3

#403 – Merrill Markoe (+ Emily Flake!) – Comedy legend Merrill Markoe returns to the show to celebrate her new graphic memoir, We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)! We talk about how it felt to spend time with her childhood self over the course of the book, the decision to illustrate it and what that process taught her about cartooning, what contemporary Merrill has to say to her younger self, and how she owns up to having a crush on a junior high boy who made Heil Hitler salutes at her. We also get into the influence of Lynda Barry on her work, why she’s considering leaving Malibu for the Pacific Northwest, her decision to auction off her Late Night with David Letterman gear to contribute to charities (like this one!), her love for Pen15, the joy of the Undo button, and how the world has changed for funny women. And speaking of, Emily Flake also joins the show to talk about the Kickstarter for St. Nell’s Humor Writing Residency for Ladies (expiring Oct. 30, so go check it out)! (10/20/20) – mp3

#402 – Darryl Pinckney – Writer and cultural critic Darryl Pinckney joins the show to celebrate the new edition of Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy (NYRB) and the paperback of Busted in New York and Other Essays (Picador). We talk about revisiting his Obama-era writings in the post-2016 world, the importance of the vote and the question of whether there’s a Black vote, or Black voters. We discuss his surprise at the persistence of makeup of the BLM protests, his place in the historical chain and the moment he felt out of touch, and his history at the New York Review of Books and its roots in the anti-Vietnam War movement. We also get into the fractured relationship between Jews and Blacks (following their close ties during the civil rights movement), the companionship of books during the pandemic, the commodification of the arts, the memoir he’s working on about Elizabeth Hardwick and 1970s NYC, and more, including an image I’ve pondered for years: Jesse Jackson’s tears the night of Obama’s election in 2008. (10/13/20) – mp3

#401 – John Keene – Author, translator, professor and MacArthur Fellow John Keene joins the show to talk about how voices are found and how they’re erased. We get into how Benedictine monks started him on the road to translation, which languages he wishes he had, the perils of knowing just enough of a language to get in trouble, and how translation trains one to let go of ego. We discuss his amazing but uncharacterizable fiction collection, Counternarratives (New Directions), along with his powerful essay, Translating Poetry, Translating Blackness, and how to explore Black representation across cultural boundaries. We also get into the performative aspects of BLM by corporations and institutions and would it would take to transform into real change, the impact of his MacArthur “genius” grant, why he’s trying to move away from Counternarratives’ narrative density in his new work, and more. (10/6/20) – mp3

#400 – Michael Musto – Legendary entertainment columnist Michael Musto joins the show to talk about the evolution of gossip, nightlife, New York City, celebrity, and queer representation over the years! We get into the origins of his La Dolce Musto column in The Village Voice (and what led to the magazine’s decline and death), the parallels and differences between the AIDS crisis and COVID-19, the highs and lows of ’80s NYC and how the city will bounce back post-pandemic, the impact of RuPaul on the culture, his Warhol story, the generational gaps in gay upbringing, the bridges he’s burned, the reason he never had the nerve to talk to Madonna face to face, the best gift-bag he ever received, how his folks came around about his being gay but were always worried about his being a journalist, why he only reads celebrity memoirs, and more. It’s a heck of a way to celebrate our 400th episode! (9/29/20) – mp3!

#399 – Sheila Williams – With her new fantastic short story anthology, Entanglements: Tomorrow’s Lovers, Families, and Friends (MIT Press), editor Sheila Williams brings together a panoply of voices to explore how technology and scientific advances have on the deepest human relationships. We talk about Sheila’s nearly 40 years editing science fiction stories at Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, how she manages to balance new and diverse voices with a foundation of SF’s history, how she copes with receiving ~800 stories a month (while only being able to buy 5-6), and technology’s greater role in day-to-day life and what that means for writers’ and readers’ imagination and expectations. We also get into her author freakouts (like going blank when she met Samuel R. Delany many years ago), how her philosophy background helps her as an editor, missing cons and festivals, the challenge of editing an author in translation (in this case Xia Jia), and more. (9/22/20) – mp3

#398 – R Sikoryak – Cartoonist R. Sikoryak rejoins the show to talk about his new book, Constitution Illustrated (Drawn & Quarterly), and how his mode of parodying other comics made a perfect complement to the founding document of the United States. We get into what surprised him about the Constitution as he read it for this project, the challenge of representing the Three-Fifths Compromise, as well as the other artistic and compositional challenges of the book (all those dense word balloons!). We also talk about his family’s immigrant history, how he’s coping with the pandemic after finishing this book, why we both miss SPX, the artists he had the most trouble parodying, the secondary reading that went into Constitution Illustrated, why he was glad to do a book without Trump in it, his devotion to the scratchy old newspaper style of comics, and why he had to use Peanuts to represent the First Amendment. (9/15/20) – mp3

#397 – Daniel Mendelsohn – With Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate (UVA Press), Daniel Mendelsohn has written one of my favorite books of 2020. We get into Homer’s use of Ring Composition and how it shapes Three Rings, how this book grew out of his experience writing An Odyssey, why he chose François Fénelon, Eric Auerbach, and WG Sebald as the three exiled subjects of his book, and how we understand the relationship between “what happened” and “the story of what happened” (that is, how narration changes the nature of facts). We also get into how he managed to compress and capture just about all of his major themes in his briefest book, why Auerbach disliked ring composition, and what it says about Homeric vs. Hebrew — or optimistic vs. pessimistic — styles of story, how every story has more stories embedded in it, and why Istanbul may serve as the fusion of Athens & Jerusalem. We also get into Daniel’s pandemic experience and coping mechanisms for anxiety and dread, his mom’s involvement in Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary about the Holocaust in America, why translation is like a crossword puzzle for him, the negatives of focusing on STEM to the detriment of the liberal arts, and how we can both relate to Auerbach’s comment, “If it had been possible for me to acquaint myself with all the work that has been done on so many subjects, I might have never reached the point of writing.” (9/10/20) – mp3

#396 – Keith Knight – To celebrate the launch of WOKE, his fantastic new comedy series on Hulu, Keith Knight rejoins the show! A lot has gone on since our 2015 conversation, so we get into how the country has changed, how his slideshows about police brutality and racial illiteracy are more in demand than ever (pandemic notwithstanding), and the reasons behind the surge in approval for BLM. We talk about how WOKE came together, the choice of Lamorne Morris to play Keef, why he wanted to be involved in producing WOKE, rather than selling the idea & walking off, what it was like to work in a collaborative environment after years as a solo artist, how different TV writing is than comics, the fun in casting the voices of the objects that come to life in the show, and how closely the lead character’s woke experience parallels his own. We also discuss his drive to keep making comics, the good fortune of finishing shooting the series right before the pandemic shut everything down, and why he sure wishes he & his family could have gotten out of NC for a few weeks this summer for their annual Schwarzwald trip to see the in-laws. (9/9/20) – mp3

#395 – Derf Backderf – With Kent State: Four Dead In Ohio (Abrams ComicArts), Derf Backderf not only creates a graphic history of one of America’s darkest chapters, he gives voice to the students killed by the National Guard 50 years ago and warns us about the times ahead. We talk about the legacy of the Kent State shootings, what Kent State taught America about the suppression of dissent and what we must learn from it as protests grow across the country, as well as the research and work that went into this book, the ways in which it challenged him as a comics artist, how he rendered the mundane aspects of life for both the students and the guardsmen, and his own childhood connection to the events leading up to the massacre. We also get into the unique power of comics to tell this story, how cartoons and other pop culture covered the Vietnam protests in that era, the international book tour that would have accompanied the originally planned release of this book last spring, and more. (9/8/20) – mp3

#394 – Henri Cole – Poet Henri Cole joins the show to celebrate his brand-new collection, Blizzard: Poems (FSG). We get into his evolution as a poet over the 10 volumes he’s published to date, the transformative year he spent in Japan, how the closet compelled queer poets to develop original emblems and symbols to convey their private experience (and his transcendent experience of reading James Merrill’s Christmas Tree), and how a fan letter from Harold Bloom gave him a foundation during some tough times. We also get into his wonderful 2018 memoir, Orphic Paris (NYRB), whether he misses France or California more during the pandemic, his affinity for literary pilgrimage (and a recent one he took to Elizabeth Bishop’s grave), his use of the sonnet form and his enjoyment of the constraints and parameters of the physical page, how he knows (or thinks he knows) when a poem is done, our mutual love of Roger Federer, and more! (9/1/20) –mp3

#393 – Betsy Bonner – With her new memoir The Book of Atlantis Black: The Search for a Sister Gone Missing (Tin House), author Betsy Bonner explores her sister’s mysterious death by overdose in a Tijuana hotel. We talk about how she knew she was ready to write this story, what it was like to look at her sister’s life like a detective rather than as a sibling, the history of trauma in her family and whether she considers herself a survivor, the process of rereleasing her sister’s music, and the ethics of writing a memoir with some shady characters and unreliable documents. We get into Betsy’s literary influences, the writers she plotzed over when she was Director at 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center, her pandemic life & what she misses about NYC, how her modes of writing differ from poetry to memoir to fiction, how the meaning of family changes over the course of The Book of Atlantis Black, and more. (8/25/20) – mp3

#392 – David Mikics – With his new book, Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker (Yale University Press), David Mikics explores the life and movies of one of cinema’s greatest directors. We talk about David’s intro to his work (seeing 2001 at the age of 12 (!)) and the research that went into this concise and wonderful biography, why Kubrick’s movies work as literary experiences, which of his movies speaks most to This Whole Situation we’re in, and Kubrick’s Jewishness and the holocaust movie he could never make. We get into the director’s perfectionism, right down to his movies’ newspaper advertising, how he balanced being control-freak in a collaborative medium like film, the role of masculinity and the lack of women in many of his movies, and the unmade projects we wish he had gotten around to (he wanted to adapt Chess Story, my favorite Stefan Zweig story!). We also get into David’s experiences with the late Harold Bloom, how he’s adapted to teaching via Zoom, whether Lolita (the novel, not Kubrick’s adaptation) survives the ‘cancel culture’ era, and why The Shining is his comfort movie, disturbing as that sounds. (8/18/20) – mp3

#391 – Christopher Brown – Can there be economic justice without environmental justice? With his new novel, FAILED STATE (Harper Voyager), Christopher Brown returns to the alternate America of Tropic of Kansas (2017) and Rule of Capture (2019) to explore the possibility of utopia and the catastrophe of man’s disconnect from the land. We talk about how he reprised his great character Donny Kimoe (causing Amazon to categorize this book as “Dystopian Lawyer”), the roots of the world he built in these novels and his drive to publish 3 books in 4 years, and how the pandemic is influencing the choice of his next project, and how he’s been coping since our COVID Check-In a few months ago. We also get into the culture of undocumented people in his area of Texas, the documentary TV episode about his home in east Austin, his current binge of Latin American horror by women writers, the role of resistance when the law is being subverted by politics, the future of his wonderful Field Notes weekly e-mail, and more! (8/13/20) – mp3

#390 – Kurt Andersen – With his fantastic new book, Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America (Random House), Kurt Andersen explores how rich conservatives responded to the 1960s by pushing America on a pro-business trajectory that has led to record income inequality and a nation unequipped to handle a pandemic. We get into the one-two punch of this book and Kurt’s previous history of America, Fantasyland, the over-exaggeration of individualism and how puts us on the precipice of disaster, post-’80s cultural stasis and nostalgia, the way “if it feels good, do it” led to “profits over all”, the long-term impact of the Occupy movement, and how his kids give him optimism that this can all be fixed. We also get into his first New York City moment, the lessons learned from his 20-year tenure hosting Studio 360 on PRI, pandemic life and his re-integration into NYC, how we both treat our interviews like first dates, why he wants to get back to writing novels, and plenty more. (8/11/20) – mp3

#389 – Woodrow Phoenix – Who’s driving whom? With Crash Course (Street Noise Books), British cartoonist, artist and designer Woodrow Phoenix examines what cars do to us: physically, mentally, and environmentally. We talk about the evolution of Crash Course, the stint in LA that inspired it, the visual and design choices that make it a haunting piece of art, and how he reconciles driving his Mini Cooper One. We also get into growing up in South London, what being Black means in the UK and US, his compulsion to experiment with styles, why he sticks with pencils and inks, and his typography and design background and how they inform the semiotics of Crash Course. Plus, he nerds out HARD for Carmine Infantino, we nerd out together for Al Hirschfeld, and we try to figure out why his recurring themes are duplication, language, perception and the shifting nature of reality. Oh, and I try to get him to spend a lot of money on bookshelves. (8/6/20) – mp3

#388 – Margot Mifflin – With her new book, Looking for Miss America: A Pageant’s 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood (Counterpoint), Margot Mifflin has written a compelling, thoughtful history and exploration of a uniquely American phenomenon. We got together to talk about the story of the Miss America Pageant — sorry, Competition — and its cultural significance (including its racist restrictions), how the pageant has evolved over a century, sometimes reflecting women’s roles in America, sometimes reflecting men’s perspectives of women, the pageant’s heyday of the 1950s and ’60s and its struggles since then, and the 2018 decision to get rid of the swimsuit portion. Along the way, we talk about feminist protests of the pageant, the great life-story of 1951 winner Yolande Betbeze, the history of Atlantic City and its decline, the common elements of most Miss America memoirs, the one winner she wishes she’d interviewed, Philip Roth’s thread throughout her book (!), and how she’d change Miss America for this era. (8/4/20) – mp3

#387 – Benjamin Taylor – Author, editor & memoirist Benjamin Taylor joins the show to talk about his wonderful new memoir, Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth (Penguin). We get into how his relationship with Roth evolved over 20 years, how it affected his own writing, and his notion that everything that happened is still happening. We talk about the nature of friendship and how it may differ from literary friendship, Benjamin’s fixation on older friends, why The Human Stain is his favorite of Roth’s novels, the notion of “literary lions” like Roth, Bellow, Oates, Updike, and Ozick, and why this era seems bereft of them. He also fills us in on how long walks with Vivian Gornick have helped him handle Pandemic World, why fiction isn’t the only worthwhile game in town, what it means to be an American and a heartbroken patriot, and plenty more. (7/30/20) –mp3

#386 – Judy Gold – Comedian, actress and Emmy-winning TV writer Judy Gold joins the show to celebrate her brand new book, Yes, I CAN Say That: When They Come for the Comedians, We Are All in Trouble (Dey St.). We get into the role of comedy in society, the perils of censorship (from the left and the right), and what living through the AIDS crisis taught her about the need to laugh. We get into her history in standup, how audiences have become more offendable, how she got into her IDGAF mode in her 40s, who can take a joke and who can’t (and who can tell a joke and who can’t), the crucible of hanging out with comedians after shows, how she’s dealing with pandemic life and how COVID-19 forced the longest break in her career, what she’s learned from hosting Kill Me Now for 5+ years and who some of her Mount Rushmore guests have been, and plenty more. (7/28/20) – mp3

#385 – Ellen Lindner – Batter up! Let’s celebrate Major League Baseball’s 2020 Opening Day by talking with cartoonist, illustrator and baseball fan Ellen Lindner. We get into Ellen’s great ‘zine about the role of women in the history of baseball, Cranklet’s Chronicle (1 & 2), her own history with baseball, why she’s a Mets fan, her theories about Aaron Judge’s mystery-injury, and what it’s like being in the narrow Venn overlap of comics-makers and sports fans. We also explore her comics upbringing, the education she got by volunteering at the Words and Pictures Museum of Sequential Art, the comics festivals she misses the most in Pandemic World, the time she impressed David B. with her French, how to tell family stories without alienating one’s family, her side-project of sewing masks and biking around NYC to deliver them, the cut-out figure she submitted to the Mets, and more. (7/23/20) – mp3

#384 – Adrian Tomine – Cartoonist and illustrator Adrian Tomine is in it for the long haul. With his new graphic memoir, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist (Drawn & Quarterly), he explores his lifelong connection to comics and the embarrassments & humiliations they’ve caused him. We get into the new book and talk about whether it was worth it, what brought him to the sketchbook style he adopted for this one, the differences between his comics and illustration work, being accepted by his cartooning heroes, and the importance of mindless time. We also talk about his ideal reader, the anxiety of influence and vice versa, what he misses about floppy comics (as opposed to bookstore graphic novels), the redactions he made in Loneliness to protect the douche-y, Adrian’s remembrances of the late Richard Sala, and much more. (7/21/20) – mp3

#383 – Everett Glenn – Artist, cartoonist, and clotheshorse Everett Glenn joins the show from Berlin to talk about how narrating his life as a story helped him make (some) sense of his fragmented, chaotic upbringing (he talks more about that upbringing in this great conversation with Noah Van Sciver). We get into his evolution and influences as a cartoonist through his Unsmooth graphic novel and his recent amazing achievement of the 20-page story The Gigs (which you HAVE to read), how he skipped the idol-worship phase of literature, how Cool World and Ralph Bakshi blew his mind at an impressionable age, and how he deals with the self-eating snake of racial identity from the perspective of a Black American living in Germany. We also talk about the importance of design, the origins of his ligne claire, where his fantastic clothing sense comes from, how he learned tailoring in an attempt to get a visa, how the confidence it takes to push the fashion envelope can feed into confidence in other parts of life, and more! (7/14/20) – mp3

#382 – John Vercher – With Three Fifths (Agora), debut author John Vercher explores race and representation in a taut crime novel. We get into Black identity and the notion of ‘passing’ in America, the origins of Three Fifths and its evolution over a two-decade span, and how John’s literary idols led him to the spare prose that carries the book’s tension. We also get into his roundabout writing career, how an MFA program doesn’t necessarily prepare one for the job-aspects of writing, the decision to place Three Fifths in 1995 (think Rodney King, OJ trial, and no cell phones or internet), John’s martial arts background and how it informs his writing, how he integrated his characters’ love of superhero comics into their psychologies, the need to pay it forward, and more. (7/9/20) – mp3

#381 – Zena Hitz – Author & St. John’s College tutor Zena Hitz joins the show to talk about her wonderful new book, Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life (Princeton University Press). We get into the nature of learning for its own sake, the corruption of academia and its potential reform, how St. John’s prepared us for the world by not preparing us, and why the Newton’s Principia is the toughest thing on the SJC curriculum. We also talk about the joy of autodidacts and our shared love of The Peregrine, why she disagrees with the notion that learning-for-its-own-sake is a privilege of the elite, the challenges of leading seminars by Zoom, and how bureaucracy creeps into every system. We also tackle my lightning round of questions for SJC tutors, what she’d add to the curriculum and what she’d subtract, and answer the long-standing question: What is virtue and can it be taught? (7/7/20) – mp3

#380 – Bill Campbell – Author & publisher Bill Campbell joins the show to talk about what he’s learned from running Rosarium Publishing (and how he accidentally became a publisher). We get into how having a diverse roster of authors and cartoonists is easy if you’re willing to look, how independent bookstores generally don’t support independent presses, and how work-life balance is something he doesn’t even consider. We also talk about the impact of Rosarium’s first book, Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond, the continued significance of their 2015 anthology, APB: Artists against Police Brutality, the cognitive dissonance of living in Washington, DC, his upcoming graphic novel about a Klan rally in Pittsburgh and why history equals horror, the challenges of continuing to publish during the pandemic, how lockdown taught him that he’s not as antisocial as he thought, and more. (6/30/20) – mp3

Milton Glaser Tribute Episode – The beyond-legendary designer Milton Glaser died on June 26, 2020, on his 91st birthday. To celebrate his life and world-changing career, I’ve re-posted our 2019 podcast, along with a new introduction. (6/27/20) – mp3

#379 – Jonathan W. Gray – I nerd out with author, English professor, and hardcore comics reader Jonathan W. Gray. We talk about how Blackness is represented in American comics (the subject of his next book), how Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing changed his life, and how he was teaching comics when there weren’t a lot of college courses on comics. We get into the perils and perks of academia, what it’s like teaching at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and protesting against police violence, the influence of Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner & John Lewis’ March on his work, the horrifying question of whether we’re actually in the best timeline right now, and plenty more. (6/25/20) – mp3

#378 – Ruben Bolling – Herblock Award-winning cartoonist Ruben Bolling joins the show to celebrate 30 years of his comic, Tom The Dancing Bug! We talk about his two new collections, Into the Trumpverse and The Super-Fun-Pak Comix Reader (Clove Press), and how pandemic-uncertainty means you’ll need to pre-order those books NOW (as in, before June 30, 2020) in order to get ’em. We also get into how Tom The Dancing Bug has evolved over the decades, why he’s never drawn himself in a strip (which I think is tied into his regret at using a pseudonym all these years), the benefits of using an open format without recurring characters (for the most part), how Bill Griffith‘s Zippy the Pinhead blew his mind when he was young, his embarrassment of riches when the blurbs for Into the Trumpverse started coming in, secretly being glad his kids are around so much during the pandemic, why he’d love to get back to making more of his EMU Club series of kids books, and plenty more! (6/23/20) – mp3

#377 – Keith Henry Brown – Designer, artist and writer Keith Henry Brown joins the show to talk about his new kids book, Birth of The Cool: How Miles Davis Found His Sound (Page Street Books, written by Kathleen Cornell Berman). We get into the twists and turns of his illustration career, exploring the balancing act of art & commerce in his main role as an art director, the role of jazz in his work, how he started off by achieving his childhood goal of drawing for Marvel Comics, but rapidly realized it wasn’t for him, the ongoing evolution of his style, how he discovered his place at the Society of Illustrators, the longform graphic novel he’s hoping to create, the issues of race in his career, and more. (6/19/20) – mp3

#376 – Calvin Reid – Through his work at Publishers Weekly, editor Calvin Reid has been an important advocate for comics and graphic novel publishing for decades. We get into his history with comics and making art, how he began writing about the book publishing world, and the weirdness of having to update the annual retailer survey to reflect the effect of the pandemic on booksellers. Calvin talks about the transformative nature of Black Lives Matter, the lack of diversity in publishing (which he wrote about 25 years ago), and how Black artists are represented in mainstream comics, as well as how wearing a mask helps protects him from COVID, satisfies his superhero fantasies, AND gets him likes on social media. (6/17/20) – mp3

#375 – Arthur Hoyle – Author Arthur Hoyle joins the show to talk about his new book, Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfits: Americans Against the Grain (Sunbury Press), in which profiles of American figures help illustrate the paradoxes and aspirations of a nation. We get into how the book grew out of the concept of the exemplar put forth by Henry Miller (the subject of Arthur’s first book), his vision of America and how the florid language of the founding fathers is like PR for a damaging product, and how his selection of biographical subjects in MM&M represents the diversity of America in its ethnicity and geographic spread. We also get into climate change and rampant capitalism, his practice of “first draft, best draft”, the fascist seed of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, how the pandemic scrambled his trip to Patagonia and led to an odyssey to get back to Southern California, his next book about the tension artists face between the muse & the mundane, our various ideas of how to treat Henry Miller in film & fiction, and more! (6/15/20) – mp3

#374 – Philip Boehm – Translator and director Philip Boehm joins the show fresh off winning his second Helen & Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize. We talk about his prize-winning translation of Christine Wunnicke’s The Fox & Dr. Shimamura (New Directions), and the research and challenges that went into bringing the eerie historical novel to life in English, then get into his time in Poland in the ’80s, how it shaped his ideas on the role of the arts in society, and how he had to smuggle his work out of the country, the differences between translating for the page vs. the stage, his role as Artistic Director of Upstream Theater, the time he pranked a publisher with a fake letter from Kafka to Milena, the pressure of translating canonical works and the joy of meeting & befriending authors he works on, the parallels between Iron Curtain countries in the ’80s & America today, how every theatrical staging is an act of translation, regardless of the source language, why German is like Lego while Polish is like autumnal rustling, how he’s dealing with Pandemic Life in Texas, and more! (6/12/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Dylan Horrocks – Cartoonist Dylan Horrocks checks in from Wellington, NZ. We celebrate his country’s success at overcoming the pandemic, but get into the darker lessons he learned during lockdown, and his shame at having to shrink his circle of concern during the depths of it. We get into making & reading comics during This Whole Situation, the grace of NZ’s prime minister and the dry wit of its director-general of health, the joy of getting back to the pub, the way scientist Siouxsie Wiles & cartoonist Toby Morris collaborated to educate NZ about COVID-19, how the BLM protests have translated to his country, the comics projects he’s working on, and plenty more. (6/11/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Steve Prue – Photographer Steve Prue checks in from Brooklyn. We talk about how he got started in (largely NSFW) photography and the origin of Teamrockstar Images, how he’s dealing with pandemic life (his roommate is yesterday’s guest, Stoya), figuring out how to coordinate remote shoots with models, his love of burlesque and people who have an aversion to clothes, how he melted down when he met Britney Spears, our mutual love of the work of Richard Kadrey, his obsessive, studio-level lighting for routine Zoom calls, and more. (6/10/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Stoya – Writer, actress, publisher and adult performer Stoya checks in from Brooklyn. We talk about social change and protests against police violence, why now isn’t the time for self-promotion and why it is the time to promote Black voices, what the next world may look like, and why the AVN Awards committee’s decision to eliminate the category of “interracial” is long overdue. We also get into her pandemic life, the ethical debate over being on OnlyFans, wanting to get back to her AEW Wednesdays, the value of friendship, the toothpaste she hoards when she’s in Serbia, and her relief at discovering that she & her roommate can handle the lockdown. (6/9/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Liza Donnelly – Cartoonist, activist and live-drawing pioneer Liza Donnelly checks in from Rhinebeck, NY. We talk about the rhythm of her daily live-drawing video sessions and how they’ve improved her drawing & maybe her mental health, the Zoom event she held for Society of Illustrations with Roz Chast & Liana Finck, the longform graphic novel she’s pondering, what she misses about NYC, her upcoming exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum, how she’s getting reacquainted with drawing on paper, the challenge of coming up with cartoons for The New Yorker nowadays, and more. (6/8/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Kipp Friedman – Author & photographer Kipp Friedman checks in from Milwaukee, hours after the death of his father, the great writer Bruce Jay Friedman. We trade stories about BJF, but first we talk about how Kipp has been coping with pandemic life, and how, with his bar/bat mitzvah photography business on hiatus, Kipp has returned to a novel he began a few yeas ago about his time as a newspaper reporter in FL in the ’80s. He also gets into how teaching tennis manages to keep him occupied while letting him keep appropriate social distance, the advantages of having a live-in chef (his son moved back in and loves to cook), the joy of bingeing on Eric Ambler novels and the Criterion Collection streaming service, and more. (6/5/20) – mp3

Bruce Jay Friedman Bonus Episode – After a long decline, legendary author Bruce Jay Friedman died on June 3, 2020, at the age of 90. He was the first pantheon-level writer I ever recorded with, and his work means the world to me, so please join me as we celebrate his life and work by revisiting our February 2014 conversation. I’ve recorded a brief new introduction and remastered the audio. (The conversation starts at 6:55.) (6/4/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Steven Heller – Design scholar, teacher, and author Steven Heller checks in from New York City. We talk about the anxiety & stress of pandemic life, and why he’s thinking of designing a watch that just tells you the day of the week. We also get into his upcoming 70th birthday, and why that number is a big rubicon for him, his reread & revised opinion of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, the relaunch of Print magazine (he and partners bought the title a few months ago) and the how he sustains his Daily Heller blog there, the weird comfort of walking through a protest this week, and his recent binge of Shtisel on Netflix, and more. (6/3/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with David Small – Caldecott Medal-winning author & illustrator David Small checks in from SW Michigan. We talk about the “what am I going to do next?” moment he’s fallen into, the bad timing of selling his papers to a university library last fall and how it means he has to recreate the opening of his next graphic novel from memory, whether his background as a kids book author & illustrator would help him explain This Whole Situation to kids, the upcoming sequel to one of her best-known books, Imogene’s Antlers (and how he gave this one a more evil ending than the one his publisher suggested), living with CLL and other aspects of being 75, how he learned to use the dilation of pandemic-time to his advantage, and more. (6/2/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with R Sikoryak – Cartoonist & illustrator Robert Sikoryak checks in from NYC. We talk about his just-completed new book, Constitution Illustrated (Drawn & Quarterly), what he learned about the US Constitution & America in the process of making that book, and how that deadline insulated him a little from the effects of sheltering in place. We get into remote teaching of his art classes at Parsons, finding his best Zoom angle, trying to adapt his Carousel live cartooning performances to the social distancing world, and the sequel to Masterpiece Comics he hopes to work on next. (6/1/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Eddie Campbell – Cartoonist & comics-historian Eddie Campbell checks in from Chicago. We talk Pandemic Hair, surviving with a pair of 2-month-old kittens (acquired by yesterday’s guest, Eddie’s wife Audrey Niffenegger), finishing his book on the great cartoonist and interviewer Kate Carew, the difference between imagining books and making them (I have no idea what he’s talking about), how the scribbly charm or half-assed-ness of his comics takes a lot of work, catching up on Gasoline Alley reprints, his appreciation of the interchangeable anonymity of Picasso & Braque’s unsigned cubist works, his belief that your bucket list should be enjoyment of the magic of the everyday, and more. (5/29/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Audrey Niffenegger – Author & artist Audrey Niffenegger checks in from Chicago. We talk about her decision to add a pair of 2-month-old kittens to her pandemic household, the progress she’s making on the sequel to The Time Traveler’s Wife, how she fortuitously incorporated 9/11 into that book and has found a place for the pandemic in this one, and why she continues to wear lipstick every day. We also get into writers’ tendency to keep fiddling with their books (especially and expensively in the case of Joyce with Ulysses), the bookstores she wants to visit after This Whole Situation, the question of positing a better world in fiction, Chicago’s inequality and how it’s exacerbating the health crisis, the nonprofit Artists Book House she helped launch, and why she’s enjoying the silence even as her house succumbs to entropy. (5/28/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Annie Koyama – Publisher Annie Koyama checks in from Toronto. We talk about whether the pandemic has affected her plans to close down Koyama Press in 2021, and the big farewell she had planned for this year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival. We get into her guerrilla charity/grant-program to help cartoonists and other creative people, her concerns for her 92-year-old mom, the increasing racism toward people of Asian descent, how “being good in emergencies” gets tested when the emergency never ends, why she delayed her dive into Animal Crossing, and the ongoing lesson of appreciating the mundane. (5/27/20) – mp3

#373 – Kathe Koja – Writer, performer, director and producer Kathe Koja rejoins the show to talk about her new story collection, VELOCITIES (Meerkat Press). We talk how she’s coping with the pandemic, the importance of having a good working relationship with chaos, and why Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker is more apropos than ever. She gets into her work in immersive theater and how it needs to be reimagined in this era of social distancing, while teasing out details of her new project, Dark Factory. We also get into the upcoming reissue of her cult novel The Cipher this September, why she’s bingeing on Babylon Berlin, the one thing she hoarded when things went sideways, why it’s important to be open to the messages the world sends us, and what to do when you find a pill lying on the floor in a hospital cafeteria. (5/26/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Jonathan Hyman – Documentary photographer Jonathan Hyman checks in from Bethel, NY. We talk about his travels from Maine to Maryland to photograph towns and “open the economy” rallies during the pandemic, the near-emptiness of New York City on St. Patrick’s Day, the parallels and divergences with post-9/11 America and his photography projects from that era, people coming at him during rallies because of their hostility toward media, how pointing a camera at someone is different than pointing a phone at them, and more. (5/22/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Peter Trachtenberg – Author and professor Peter Trachtenberg checks in from the Catskills. We talk about his surprise at how well he’s dealing with This Whole Situation, the essay he’s working on about Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider, the realization that Americans are more afraid of going broke than contracting COVID-19, and how this pandemic echoes and differs from the 1918 flu and the AIDS crisis. We get into the book he’s working on about living and dying in New York’s West Beth artists’ apartments, the value of art in society, his meditative practice of reading Levi’s Periodic Table in Italian, what it was like to preside over graduation-by-video at Pitt, and more. (5/21/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with David Leopold – Author, archivist and curator David Leopold checks in from Bucks County, PA. We talk about curating art in a quarantine and organizing the Socially Distant Theater virtual exhibition of Al Hirschfeld’s drawings of solo shows, how museum audiences are changing over the years and his concerns that we’ll continue to drive away from in-person experience, missing JazzFest in New Orleans, making a social-distancing garden, bingeing on The Leftovers and Saki’s short stories, researching minstrel shows for an exhibition an exhibition on race & identity in George Herriman’s work, and contextualizing them as commedia dell’arte (while being sensitive about the potential for offense inherent in the subject matter), working on a Frontera music virtual exhibition for Arhoolie, going 6 weeks without leaving the farm he lives on, and more. (5/20/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Glynnis Fawkes – Cartoonist, illustrator, archeologist, and teacher Glynnis Fawkes checks in from Burlington, VT. We get into how her knowledge with Ancient Greece & archeology informs her perspective on the current pandemic, and talk about how how she’s making a diary comic about her family, but setting it in 1347 during the Black Death semisorta so she can avoid drawing her kids using their iPads all the time. We get into how making Charlotte Bronte Before Jane Eyre led her to realize how much we think we’re excused from a lot of hazards, the Angouleme residency she’s missing out on, the inspiration of Natalia Ginzburg’s Family Lexicon, how she’s staying in touch with her comics-festival table-mates, Jennifer Hayden, Summer Pierre, and Ellen Lindner (who I really need to record with), how in-person contact has become a luxury, the joys of online yoga, and more. (5/19/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Gary Clark – Musician, producer, and just-about-Broadway songwriter Gary Clark checks in from Scotland to talk about the musical of Sing Street (he wrote the songs, based on the movie) and how its Broadway debut has been postponed by the pandemic. We get into the recent charity livestream of Sing Street, what he’s learned from the process of working on a musical and how that’s feeding into his next project, the Emma Thompson-led musical of Nanny McPhee, the dire prospects for clubs and theaters hurt by the quarantine, the importance of having routines and rhythms for work and life, the pros and cons of streaming music, practicing Transcendental Meditation, having to rewrite the Nanny McPhee song “Plague, Rickets, Scurvy & Spleen” in light of This Whole Situation, and (of course I had to ask) the (non-)prospects of a virtual Danny Wilson reunion. (5/18/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Witold Rybczynski – Architecture writer Witold Rybczynski checks in from Philadelphia. We talk about how his present circumstances — retired from teaching, helping his wife recover from a broken arm, and editing his next book — have enabled him to transition into shelter-in-place mode pretty smoothly. We also get into that upcoming book, The Story of Architecture, how working on it enables him to transport himself into the Renaissance and elsewhere/when, how it’s modeled after Gombrich’s The Story of Art, why he doesn’t want to theorize about the impact of the pandemic on architecture, the Mantel & Greene books he’s immersed in and the French TV series he’s bingeing on via Netflix, and his acceptance that there are wonderful historic buildings he’ll never visit. (5/16/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Nathaniel Popkin – Author & activist Nathaniel Popkin checks in from Philadelphia. We talk about the potential for creative moments in the midst of self-isolation, the inspiration of Elsa Morante’s novel History on his recent LitHub essay on the abuse of war imagery during the pandemic, the unique social aspects of Philadelphia, the dilation of time during self-isolation and how glad he was to take a social-distance walk with friends, the eternal search for justice and the battle against corporatization, the history of how the Lenape natives were defrauded of their land in the 1700s and how the language of destroying indigenous people hasn’t changed over the centuries, how literature helps him travel in time and space, and more. (5/15/20) – mp3

#372 – Tom Hart – Cartoonist and educator Tom Hart joins the show to talk about how the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW) is adapting to the pandemic era. We get into Tom’s comics upbringing and his formative years in the Seattle scene, how he managed to avoid superhero comics during his formative years, my discovery of his debut, Hutch Owen’s Working Hard, in 1994, the value of pretension and his drive to bring literary notions to his comics, the experience that led him to create SAW, the challenges of teaching students half his age (& younger), ow teaching his helped him as a cartoonist, the new form he’s seeking for his next book, and why he’s hoping to get out of Florida. (5/14/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Kate Maruyama – Author, teacher & activist Kate Maruyama checks in from LA. We talk about whether writers have a responsibility to write a positive future and how she helped organize the Writing Better Futures in Times of Crisis virtual event (happening 5/14/20!). We also get into how she self-shamed into finishing a novella but is averse to the myth of WFH productivity, teaching writing online nowadays, whether her F&SF & horror background prepared her for this scenario, the fragmentation of LA and the challenges that creates for keeping community, reading for the Shirley Jackson Awards, the theory that panicked brains focus on details rather than broad & deep thinking, and more. (5/13/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Ron Hogan – Writer and editor Ron Hogan checks in from Queens (near Elmhurst Hospital). We talk about why you don’t need to write King Lear while in quarantine (or finish War & Peace, although he’s hoping to do that), how to handle bad writing days regardless of whether there’s a pandemic on, keeping up with his writing-development e-mail, Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives, and a key lesson from Thomas Merton to find the core of one’s writing. We also get into how he officially joined a Quaker meeting via Zoom, his binge of season 3 of Castlevania, his deep-dive into the Psalms, having Korean baseball games as occasional TV-wallpaper, enjoying The Anarchist’s Tool Chest (as part of his goal of minimizing his engagement with capital), and more! (5/12/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Cassandra Khaw – Supernatural horror author & game writer Cassandra Khaw checks in from Montreal. We talk about her life in transit and her dread at seeing borders close, how horror writers are scaredy-cats and why she’s trying to write something bright & happy, how it’s driving her batty to not be able to go to the gym), the therapeutic aspects of playing Animal Crossing and how it deviates from a key rule of gaming by enforcing the need to slow down, her lament at missing Montreal’s mural festival, helping amplify other writers through Twitch-streamed readings, her undying love for Stephen Graham Jones’ Mongrels, her upcoming novella, and more. (5/11/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Sato Moughalian – Flutist and author Sato Moughalian was the last person with whom I recorded an in-person podcast, and the first guest of the show to turn up positive with COVID-19. She checks in from New York City to talk about her recovery and the time-warping delirium of going 35 days without leaving her apartment. We get into how she’s been able to return to the flute, how she knows her lungs well enough to rebuild their strength, her concerns about the future of live music, the communal nature of musicians and their way of being in the world, the joy of the very vibrations in the air that come from performing in close quarters with other players, losing herself in Call the Midwife and more. (5/9/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Brett Martin – James Beard Award-winning writer Brett Martin checks in from New Orleans. We talk about his brand-new Best New Restaurants In America feature in GQ, how the world’s changed since he finished this annual tour and how this edition helps celebrate restaurants both for what they are and what they do. We get into his last great meal, the communal & celebratory spirit of New Orleans, the way he misses all the things he used to gripe about (travel, hotel rooms, etc.), the uncertain future of our alma mater, Hampshire College, my envy at what a fantastic writer he is, why he’s not bingeing prestige TV despite writing a book on it, his regular Meal of Bretts at Crescent City Steakhouse, and more! (5/8/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Karl Stevens – Cartoonist Karl Stevens checks in from Boston, to talk about how his life hasn’t changed all that much during the pandemic (outside of one COVID case in his co-op). We get into how he’s trying to find unique humor for gag comics, and playing mix-and-match with The New Yorker‘s unofficial list of humor topics, his deep dive into Jack Kirby’s 1970s comics, having his new book postponed until next spring, the festivals and conventions he misses most, his reflexive morning click on almost 6 months after Tom Spurgeon‘s death, and more. (5/7/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Shachar Pinsker – Professor and author Shachar Pinsker checks in from Ann Arbor after a month-long walloping by COVID-19. We get into how his recent book, A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture (NYU Press), informed his understanding of the pandemic’s effect on people, how social isolation may affect the exchange of ideas, the post-COVID energy and inspiration he’s feeling for new writing projects like pieces on the nature & future of conviviality and the history of the feuilleton, how his family in Israel is coping, and whether he can taste coffee again. We also talk about how he had to learn online teaching on the fly, what it takes to develop a good asynchronous course, and why teaching during this experience helped him as much as it did his students. (5/6/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with David Baerwald – Musician, songwriter, producer, inventor and now novelist David Baerwald checks in from Kingston, NY. We talk about America conforming to the apocalyptic vision of his 1992 album, Triage, and his friends realizing he wasn’t as crazy as they thought. We get into the novel he’s writing about his family and its connections to 20th century history and the roots of the CIA, how working on the book lets him travel the world from his desk, why we should all Google Emily Hahn & Israel Epstein, why this is the most dangerous moment in human history, what it was like moving house in the middle of the pandemic, the fun of teaching guitar online, how he adapted a full-face snorkeling mask into PPE in lieu of an N95 mask, how his son and the college-age cohort views the future, how a bag of mushrooms is helping him get by, and more. (5/5/20) – mp3

#371 – Paul C. Tumey – Nov Shmoz Ka Pop? Writer & artist Paul C. Tumey joins the show to talk about his fantastic new book, Screwball: The Cartoonists Who Made The Funnies Funny (IDW Publishing). We get into where screwball cartooning began, how he selected the 15 cartoonists profiled in the book (like Herriman, Segar, Rube Goldberg, and Frederick Opper), the ways in which the book is an attempt at explaining the parentage of Mad Magazine, the nuances of biography and his work at humanizing his subjects, and how screwball cartooning intersected with with vaudeville & film (and how the Marx Bros. got their names) and how it’s the subject of his next book. We also talk about how we’re coping with pandemic-panic and his latest binge-reads & -shows. (5/4/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Keiler Roberts – Cartoonist Keiler Roberts checks in from Chicago. Even though she was one of the people I was most worried about during the pandemic, it turns out she’s doing better than anyone else I’ve talked to. We talk about what it’s like to see the rest of the world conform to her everyday life, her MS and how the lack of day-to-day errands has reduced its toll on her, the progress she’s making on her new book, why she chose to bail on comics festivals last year, shifting her coffee-dates with friends to Zoom, how she stays grateful for little things, and more. (5/2/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with David M. Carr – Biblical scholar David M. Carr checks in from Putnam Valley, NY. We get into how his book, Holy Resilience: The Bible’s Traumatic Origins, resonates with our current moment, how he was trapped in Mallorca when the European semisorta travel ban was announced, the ways Tiger King reflects our own cagedness, the work he’s doing on the book of Genesis and the nature of the myth of the Flood, the power of Jewish traditions (especially talking back to God), and how our relationship with our pets may disturbingly mirror the patterns and language people used to use about slaves. (5/1/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Michael GerberMichael Gerber, editor/publisher of The American Bystander, a.k.a., the last great humor magazine (subscribe today! & get their Quarantine Cavalcade e-mail!), checks in from Santa Monica, where he’s busier than ever. We talk about finding humor and sharing laughs during the pandemic, the Bystander‘s viability and how its distribution model is built to survive this sort of situation, his background in history and how it helps and hurts right now (including the lesson of the Rome’s Gracchi brothers), his upcoming binge of I, Claudius and the novel of ancient Rome he’s threatening to write, Dan Savage’s (non-sexual) advice about keeping perspective during the pandemic, and his realization that making The American Bystander may just be his calling (as opposed to CIA analyst, which he considered once upon a time). (4/30/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Scott Edelman – Author Scott Edelman checks in from West Virginia. We talk about how the pandemic has derailed his podcast, Eating the Fantastic, after 120 episodes, all the conventions that have been cancelled and how much he misses them (and why Readercon is his fave), the solace he takes from Middlemarch, the books he’s hoping to get to now that he’s not reading for pod-guests, whether his zombie fiction has prepared him for the current situation, the joys of light opera, and more. (4/29/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Ken Krimstein – Illustrator and cartoonist Ken Krimstein checks in from Chicago. We talk about how the process of finishing his next book helped him muscle through the early stages of social distancing and isolation, and how the content of the book — adaptations of anonymous autobiographies of Jewish teens in pre-war Lithuania — helped him with perspective on the trials people have gone through in the past. We also get into some utopian thinking, going on a Charles Portis binge, his amazement at Frank Santoro‘s graphic memoir Pittsburgh, how he’ll never escape Hannah Arendt, years after finishing his graphic biography of her, and more. (4/28/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Eddy Portnoy – Yiddish historian and author of Bad Rabbi: And Other Strange But True Stories from the Yiddish Press, Eddy Portnoy checks in from Harlem. We get into how he’s managing the work/home setup (his sofa has molded itself to his body), how the Yiddish papers covered the 1918 flu and the analogs that has for our present situation, the Displaced Persons exhibition he’s working on for 2021 at the UN (fingers crossed), his long-gestating project on a pair of Yiddish puppeteers, a 1970s novel he’s reading about the Black Death hitting NYC, why his Jewish tendency to comedy outweighs any tendency to utopian thinking, the soul food restaurant he’d love to visit again, and more. (4/27/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Maria Alexander – Author Maria Alexander checks in from Los Angeles, where we talk about finishing her Bloodlines of Yule trilogy with the upcoming Snowblind (and reworking the ending to be a little less downbeat, given the current moment). We also get into her pandemic-binges, like Bewitched and the Preston/Child Agent Pendergast novels, her social-media distancing, her experience with an emotional vampire (prompted by our mutual love for What We Do In The Shadows), and more. (4/26/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Kriota Willberg – Artist, teacher and graphic medicine practitioner Kriota Willberg checks in from Manhattan. We talk about the importance of building routines during home confinement (inspired by Ellen Forney), reaching domestic equilibrium in a 2-cartoonist, 1-bedroom apartment (they’re both working on new books), holding Netflix Sync parties with friends in lieu of having people over, volunteering at a food bank, missing comics festivals, and how her experience in the AIDS era as part of the Chicago arts community prepares her and compares to our pandemic moment. (4/25/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Sylvia Nickerson – Doug Wright Award-nominated cartoonist Sylvia Nickerson checks in from Hamilton, ON. We talk about her artist residency and how its postponement has led her to rethink her artistic direction, the fate of the invisible people she documented in her debut book, CREATION (Drawn & Quarterly), why it can be a good time for people to think about creating other worlds, the dual inspirations of Lynda Barry and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and more. (4/24/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Summer Pierre – Cartoonist, illustrator & writer Summer Pierre checks in from Highland Falls, NY. We talk about the importance of work & parenting routines, keeping sane with freelance work, making diary comics, diving into National Poetry Month, the joy of sending & receiving letters (and getting a recent letter from Seth), crying at the supermarket, having the impulse to drive down to New York City just to cruise around the empty streets, and more. (4/23/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Emily FlakeNew Yorker cartoonist Emily Flake checks in from Brooklyn. We talk about the challenges of making gag comics in the COVID era (and finding jokes outside of Zoom conferences and toilet-paper hoarding), adapting her Shitshow and Nightmares live events to an online audience, stocking up on art supplies but worrying about the pharma supply chain from India, conning her kid into a reading contest as a way to get some quiet time, missing even the awkward-est of hugs, and more. (4/22/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Kyle Cassidy – Photojournalist Kyle Cassidy checks in from Philadelphia. We talk about his new photo series, Between Us and Catastrophe (excerpted at Hidden City), where he’s photographing and interviewing (at a distance) the healthcare workers, essential personnel and volunteers who are keeping the world going during the pandemic. We talk about the awful choices that nurses have to make, the technical challenges of the series, his aggravation at neighbors holding porch parties, the book on Icelandic sweaters that he’d love to get back to, his decades-old flash that’s been waiting for this moment, his fundamental belief in the goodness of humanity, and more. (4/21/20) – mp3

#370 – Alta L. Price – It’s the last episode from The Before Time! Translator Alta L. Price joins the show to talk about co-curating the 2020 (now 2021) edition of Festival Neue Literatur with Tess Lewis. We talk about the bureaucratic snafu that led her into a life of translation, how she fights the urge to revise translations between editions, the differences between translating a classic vs. a contemporary work, her work to promote gender parity among translators and translated authors, and how editors serve as gatekeepers that inadvertently perpetuate disparities. We also get into how studying printmaking brought her an understanding of what a work of art is and does as it shifts media, her literary ambassadorship of Chicago, how she overcame perfection-paralysis, and plenty more. This episode was intended to promote the Festival Neue Literatur, which was to be held April 23-26, 2020 in NYC but has been postponed to 2021; I decided to retain the portions about that to remind us of The Before Time. (4/20/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Eva Hagberg part 2 (post-COVID!) – Last time Eva Hagberg checked in, she’d just gotten her positive COVID-19 test. Three weeks later, she fills us in on the most harrowing medical experience of a life filled with harrowing medical experiences (seriously, read her memoir). We talk about her attempts to cope with the virus without going to the hospital, the system-wide assault the virus conducts on body and mind, how the experience may change the pandemic novel she’d started writing in The Before Times, and more. (4/19/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Jane Borden – Essayist and journalist (and one of my very first pod-guests!) Jane Borden checks in from LA. We talk about memoir-metamorphosis, her recent Vanity Fair piece on the art of making art during a plague, the solace of deep time, working for Tom Wolfe, the Ishion Hutchinson essay that recently blew her mind, the intertwining of arts criticism and memoir, whether it’s healthy to try to interpret the pandemic through metaphor, rereading her Joseph Campbell books and reflecting on her marginalia from her 20s, and more. (4/18/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Whitney Matheson – Writer and critic Whitney Matheson checks in from Brooklyn, after a multi-week bout with COVID-19 (her doctor thinks she’s past it, but still dealing with after-effects). We talk about the irony of her being debilitated just when the world needs pop culture recommendations most, her best Zoom angles, the amount of good, bad and ugly art that will come out of this period, the restaurant she misses most, the TV show she’s meaning to catch up on, home-schooling a 7-year-old kid while trying not to pass out, and how happy she is to have a birthday coming up next week. (4/17/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Dean Haspiel – Cartoonist and playwright Dean Haspiel checks in from Brooklyn (home of his superhero, The Red Hook!). We talk about making art (good, bad or ugly) during the plague, finding yourself while putting your life on hold, how our social norms may change after the pandemic subsides, the virtue of online comics, bingeing on 1970s comics by Steve Gerber, feeling sad (but not self-pity) when his play, The War of Woo, had to be postponed last month, and more. (4/15/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Christopher Brown – Author Christopher Brown checks in from the edgelands of east Austin, TX. We talk about the final edits of his upcoming novel, Failed State (which is part of the universe of his previous novels, Tropic of Kansas and Rule of Capture), and how the border between dystopia and utopia are kinda permeable. We also get into his amazing weekly e-mail, Field Notes, nature’s reclamation projects, the potential inflection point of the current moment, why he’s trying to translate German and has taken up the lute, the midwest road trip he’s planning, and more. (4/14/20) – mp3

#369 – Matt Ruff – Author Matt Ruff checks in from Seattle and we talk about his brand-new novel, 88 Names. We get into what gaming and the internet reveal about human character(s), how he handles VR nausea and whether VR measures up to what Neuromancer semisorta promised us, the pros and cons of a virtual book tour (including an upcoming one on Altspace VR on 4/17/20), the fluidity of identity in the virtual landscape, the bookstores he can’t wait to get back to, post-pandemic, the origins of empathy, and more. (4/13/20) – mp3

#368 – Tess Lewis – Translator Tess Lewis joins the show to talk about co-curating the 2020 (now 2021) edition of Festival Neue Literatur, why editing a bad translation is much tougher than just translating it yourself, the book she’s proudest of translating (Maja Haderlap’s Angel of Oblivion), and the project that is the most difficult (Ludwig Hohl’s Notizen), how the business and culture has changed, her dream project of translating Montaigne (swoon!), and how literature — especially in translation — can disrupt the familiar and familiarize what seems strange. This episode was intended to promote the Festival Neue Literatur, which was to be held April 23-26, 2020 but has been postponed along with everything else; I decided to keep it all to remind us of The Before Time. (4/12/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Ilana Myer – Fantasy author Ilana Myer checks in from eastern PA. We talk about cancelled travel plans, the virtual tour for her new book, The Poet King, what she learned in the course of finishing her Harp and Ring trilogy, the difference between reading about the pandemic and living it, making the plunge into Wodehouse (and avoiding dystopian fiction), and more. (4/11/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Jennifer Hayden – Cartoonist Jennifer Hayden checks in from central NJ. We talk about the need to micro-vent during self-isolation with her family, the graphic memoir she finds herself immersed in (and which keeps growing in scale), her changing understanding of aspects of the Goddess, and how this situation is bringing her to terms with herself. (4/10/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Ben Model – Silent-film accompanist Ben Model checks in from the Upper West Side of NYC. We talk about how the pandemic and self-isolation led him and his partner Steve Massa to launch the Silent Comedy Watch Party, a livestream on YouTube that airs every Sunday at 3pm EDT. We also get into the ups and downs of Zoom teaching, the challenges of playing piano for a telepresent audience, how he can’t wait for New Yorkers to get pushy again, and more. (4/9/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Michael Tisserand – Author Michael Tisserand checks in from New Orleans. We talk about how his wife (a pediatrician) got through her recent bout with COVID-19, how the city has had to change its traditions and practices even when jazz funerals beckon, the Krazy Kat strips that are giving him solace, the comparisons with Katrina, and more. (4/8/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Henry Wessells – Writer, editor and rare book dealer Henry Wessells checks in from Montclair, NJ. We talk about the books he’s bingeing on, the big project of selling Ricky Jay’s collection, the joy of a walk in the woods, the one cooking ingredient he wishes he’d stocked up on before battening down the hatches, and more. (4/7/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with James Sturm – Cartoonist James Sturm checks in from Hartland, VT. We talk about how COVID-19 has affected learning at the Center for Cartoon Studies (he’s the founder and director of that institution), his weekly digital Sabbath, recording video-dispatches with cartoonists about this experience, missing Tom Spurgeon and how he would have helped us cope with this, and more. (4/6/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Richard Kadrey – Urban fantasy horror writer Richard Kadrey checks in from San Francisco. We talk about how self-isolation impacts his writing, the history of urban plagues, his stab at passing the time by learning to use Windows, Clive Barker as “comfort food” reading, why he doesn’t binge on TV series, risking his life for his favorite bourbon, the difference between folk horror and rural horror, and more. (4/5/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Dmitry Samarov – Artist & writer Dmitry Samarov checks in from Chicago to talk about self-isolating in a packed-up apartment (he’s supposed to move in a month). We talk about his paintings, the lack of social distancing in a neighborhood he visited, his current reading (Tropic of Cancer and Ben Katchor’s The Dairy Restaurant), and more. (4/4/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Boaz Roth – From St. Louis, my brother Boaz Roth checks in to talk about how his role as a teacher has changed in the COVID-19 era. We get into how this experience measures up with the time his house burned down and his family had to live in a rental for 9 months while they rebuilt, the books he’s reading, and the optimal size for an online seminar. (4/3/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Sven Birkerts – From Arlington, MA, essayist and AGNI co-editor Sven Birkerts checks in to let us know what books and poems provide him some degree of solace during the pandemic. We talk about what normal might look like in future and the way the recent past seems unreal, his daily challenge of taking an interesting photo for his amazing Instagram feed, the theme of ongoingness in literature, caring for his 92-year-old mom, and more. (4/2/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Samuel R. Delany – Happy birthday to legendary science fiction author Samuel R. Delany! Chip checks in from Philadelphia, where he’s found himself working on a new piece of fiction. We talk about comparisons with his AIDS-era experiences, his partner Dennis’s willingness to share him with Rachel Maddow, his recent binge of Tiger King on Netflix and his disappointment in Da Vinci’s Demons, his new website,, the advantages of turning into his grandmother, his virtual birthday plans, and more. (4/1/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Ellen Datlow – Horror fiction editor Ellen Datlow checks in from the West Village of NYC. She talks about the low-grade anxiety of day-to-day life, getting by when USPS services drops to 1-2x/week, turning down an assignment to recommend pandemic-novels for quarantined readers, how her Fantastic Fiction reading series is going virtual, and more. (3/31/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Eva Hagberg – On March 30, Eva Hagberg got the news that she tested positive for COVID-19. We talked that evening about her condition, her previous life-threatening health issues (chronicled in her memoir How To Be Loved) and how they shape her response to this, the impact of self-isolation on sobriety (she’s doing fine with that, but worries about others), and more. (3/30/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Tom Tomorrow – On Sunday, March 29, cartoonist Tom Tomorrow (a.k.a. Dan Perkins) checked in to let us know how he’s getting by in New York City during the pandemic. We talk about schlocky movies, the current challenge of being political satirist but the benefit of being a science fiction fan, the further collapse of alt-weeklies (and the need to support This Modern World via subscription!), and the last thing he left his apartment for. (3/29/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Peter Kuper – A few days ago, political cartoonist Peter Kuper returned from Oaxaca, Mexico to the Upper West Side of New York City. He joins the show to talk about why he & his wife made the decision to come back at a time that New York’s COVID-19 cases are blowing through the roof. We talk about the communal nature of life in Mexico, whether the situation here matches up with his decades of dystopian visions in World War III Illustrated, the good omen of raising monarch butterflies in his Oaxaca garden, the bad omen of giant scorpions in said garden, his unfortunate choice of reading material just before the pandemic started to spread, and more. (My most recent episode with Peter was at the end of 2019) (3/28/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Jim OttavianiJim Ottaviani, award-winning & best-selling author of graphic novels about scientists (think Hawking, Feynman, Fossey, Turing), provides a COVID check-in from Ann Arbor, MI. We talk about how he’s balancing his day job and comics writing with the compulsion to read the news and graph out infection rates. We also get into whether his science background has helped his perspective on the pandemic, how the university model might change when we’re past this, and what new books he has coming (fingers crossed). You also get a story from me about the limits of risk mitigation plans. (Listen to Jim’s 2016 appearance on the podcast) (3/27/20) – mp3

COVID Check-In with Kate Lacour – In our first Covid-Check-In podcast, artist Kate Lacour (Vivisectionary, Fantagraphics) calls in from New Orleans while her kids are asleep. We talk about how she’s coping — taking care of her kids & her garden, reading Cixin Liu, making diary comics, helping neighbors — and how she’s planning to celebrate her birthday tonight. (Listen to my full-length episode with Kate from CXC in 2019.) (3/25/20) – mp3

#367 – Whitney Matheson – It’s the end of the world as we know it, and we feel fine! A few weeks before the COVID-19 lockdowns began, pop culture writer and REM maniac Whitney Matheson joined the show to talk about how she managed to blaze her own journalistic trail by writing about the music, movies, TV and books that she loved. We get into how pop culture writing and blogging have changed since she launched Pop Candy at USA Today in 1999, why she left NYC and why she had to come back, the importance of having great content on her Patreon, what it’s like being defined by work in her early 20s, how a post about a KFC sandwich remains her most-read piece, and how she has to do triage to figure out what to keep up with. We also get into her upcoming kid’s book about the Loch Ness monster, her most recent celebrity freakout, how she taught interviewing skills to students who are unused to talking on the phone, the importance of having a career plan (and trying to stick to it), and how parenthood introduced her to a different world of pop. Oh, and because she’s all about lists, we find out her top three American rock bands (including REM, of course). (3/24/20) – mp3

#366 – Sato Moughalian – The phenomenal new book, Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian (SUP/Redwood Press), traces the history of an Armenian family from the mountainous woods of Anatolia to suburban NJ. Author Sato Moughalian joins the show to talk about her inspiration to write the life of her grandfather, ceramic tile artist David Ohannessian, the chronicle her family’s exodus through the Armenian Genocide, and how she had to prepare herself to visit Turkey as part of her research. We get into the multi-generational process of coping with trauma, the horrors of the Armenian Genocide and its ongoing denial, how her grandfather wound up helping retile the Dome of the Rock (while bringing Ottoman tile art to Jerusalem), and the way oral storytelling can capture styles that differ from family to family. We also talk through he music background (Sato’s an accomplished flutist), the creative community of NYC, her seven-year period of introspection and grief-work, and whether she’s considering another book, now that she’s got her first volume under her belt. (3/16/20) – mp3

COVID-19 Bonus Mini-Episode – No conversation this time. Instead it’s me rambling on about the effects & fallout of COVID-19, and what it means for the future of the podcast. (3/16/20) – mp3

#365 – Ben Katchor – The great cartoonist Ben Katchor rejoins the show to talk about his brand-new book, The Dairy Restaurant (Schocken), a 500-page illustrated history of, um, dairy restaurants! We get into what drew him to the milekhdike personality, the remnants of Eastern European Jewish culture that call to him, why this book had to be prose-with-pictures rather than comics, the decades of research and interviews he conducted, and why these restaurants came to represent the history of how Jews moved away from their parents’ professions. We also discuss just what went wrong with the world, why his favorite books are old Chicago Yellow Pages directories, why just studying Jewish history can constitute a sort of Judaism, his fascination with interwar Warsaw, his plea for a controlled economy, and why The Dairy Restaurant had to begin in the Garden of Eden. (Check out our past conversations from 2013 and 2016!) (3/11/20) – mp3

#364 – Stoya – Writer, actress and adult performer & producer Stoya joins the show to talk about her upcoming NYC theater appearance in Dean Haspiel‘s new play, The War of Woo (March 19-April 4, 2020). We get into how she’s grown as an actress, why porn is like sketch comedy, her joy in the surprises of live theater, publishing Philosophy, Pussycats & Porn, and the mental benefit of moving the decimal. We discuss her vision for her online erotic magazine, ZeroSpaces, the history of labor exploitation in adult entertainment, running a monthly Sex Lit book club, what she’s learned as the sex & relationship advice columnist at Slate, her interest in higher education and the next stage of her career, the learning curve of identifying and interacting with different segments of her audience, the unexpected obstacles to intimacy with people outside the adult industry, and why reading a novel is her favorite escape. (NOTE: The conversation begins at 9:00) (3/3/20) – mp3

#363 – Cassandra Khaw – In a murder hotel in Jersey City, author Cassandra Khaw joins the show to talk about her bad luck with AirBNBs, the root of her fixation on body horror, and how she settled on a cannibal chef for one of her main characters so she could (imaginatively) explore the concept of turning 180 or so pounds of human being into a fine meal. We get into her Food of the Gods series and her other supernatural horror books, her fascination with the aftereffects of violence, the influence of Lovecraft on her work, and the time she embarrassed herself in front of Frances Hardinge. We also talk about her work in the video-game industry and how she entered it by following the convention circuit, what writing games has taught her about storytelling, diversity in the gaming community, and the unique way that games can bring people into other lives and other modes of seeing. Oh, and we get into how she settled on her mythological name! (2/25/20) – mp3

#362 – Richard Kadrey – With his new novel, The Grand Dark (Harper Voyager), Richard Kadrey takes an artistic leap from his renowned Sandman Slim supernatural noir books. We sit down in a murder hotel to talk about mixing robots and genetic engineering with Weimar Germany, getting inspired by Mel Gordon’s Voluptuous Panic, David Bowie’s Low, and the Brothers Quay’s Street of Crocodiles, the impact of the 2016 election on his writing, and how he’s getting ready to end the Sandman Slim series. We also get into the gentrification of the east Village and the Bowery, the thin line between preservation and nostalgia, the moment his brain got warped by Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, our shared love of What We Do In The Shadows, the time he attended a screening of Cronenberg’s Crash with Kathy Acker, his LitReactor course on writing dark urban fantasy, the wonder of being edited by Ellen Datlow, the accretionary model of novel-writing, and why it’s okay to build your fantastic world by just looking out the window. (Check out our 2018 conversation!) (2/18/20) – mp3

#361 – Dmitry Samarov – With his new memoir, Soviet Stamps, artist & writer Dmitry Samarov explores his experience of emigrating from the USSR as a child, finding his way through late-’70s and ’80s America, and becoming an artist. We talk about the book’s winding path to self-publication, how his story does and doesn’t fit in to the history of Soviet Jewry, how he overcame the embarrassment of including his adolescent art in the book, his 4th grade autobiography and how it managed to predict much of his career, and the possible Dmitry-lives that could have resulted from decisions that were out of his hands. We also get into his notion that art requires disengagement, his gauge for the life and death of artworks, the value of the apprentice system over art school, why he’s writing fiction for his next book, and which self-promotional event he hates more: the book reading or the gallery opening. (Oh, and check out our previous conversations: 2014, 2015, and 2018!) (2/11/20) – mp3

#360 – Otto Penzler – The great publisher, editor, anthologizer, retailer and collector of crime fiction, Otto Penzler, joins the show to talk about his wonderful new book, Mysterious Obsession: Memoirs of a Compulsive Collector (Mysterious Bookshop), and his decision to auction off the world’s greatest collection of crime fiction (think ~60,000 first editions). We get into his instant regret about that decision, how it inspired this amazing memoir, and how he’s getting by without all those books (especially because he designed his house to accommodate an even larger collection). We discuss the changes in his Mysterious Bookshop and his other Mysterious pursuits (see links below) as the internet has warped book and retail culture, the camaraderie and friendships that he built over a lifetime of collecting, the mania that can strike during auctions, and the difference between collecting and reading. And we talk about how he learned to edit major writers for his anthologies (including a near-disaster with Joyce Carol Oates), the farthest he’s traveled to acquire a single book, the moment he realized he had a writing style and how that unlocked him as a writer, how he had to choose between Sherlock Holmes and the rest of crime fiction, the vagaries of fame and literary reputation as reflected in book collecting, and why he characterizes himself as a parasite in the mystery world (having done everything but writing a mystery novel of his own). (2/4/20) – mp3

#359 – Joan Marans Dim & Antonio Masi – In a time where immigration is under attack, Joan Marans Dim and Antonio Masi demonstrate the history and importance of immigration in America with Lady Liberty: An Illustrated History of America’s Most Storied Woman (Fordham University Press). We get into what drew the writer and watercolor painter to the Statue of Liberty, how they came to their previous collaboration on the bridges of New York City, the need to put landmarks into their social, political and economic context, how Emma Lazarus’ New Colossus poem invested the statue with purpose, and how the meaning of liberty has changed in America over the centuries. We also talk about the engineering marvel of the Statue of Liberty, how it was transported from France and assembled in America, the secrets of the hard-hat tour of Ellis Island, and the ways the meaning of liberty has changed in America. But there’s also room to talk about Joan and Antonio’s differences of approach to a topic, how differently writers and painters approach a topic, how the large scale of Masi’s watercolors helps him engage with the work, the E.L. Doctorow piece that Joan turns to before starting any writing project (the intro to this), and more! (1/28/20) – mp3

#358 – Daniel Mendelsohn – His wondrous new collection, Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones (NYRB), brings a dizzying array of Daniel Mendelsohn‘s critical-essayistic-memoir pieces together. We sat down to talk about the work of the critic and the drama that makes for a great critical piece, as well as the temptation to make a name by going after easy targets, his need to criscross genres and categories with personal writing and criticism, and why his negative review of Mad Men got him more pushback than anything else he’s written. We get into his amazing 2017 memoir, An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic, its gorgeous structure and its insight into Homer and our present day, while we try to suss out why the great Greek translators have either produced a great Iliad or a great Odyssey, but not both (he’s working on a new translation of The Odyssey). We also discuss the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the nature of contemporary mythmaking, my pet theory about the tragedy of Achilles in the Iliad, Emily Wilson’s question about Odysseus’ true homophrosyne, the role of erudition in criticism, how institutions like The New Yorker, New York Review of Books, Paris Review etc. handle succession, our love of the finale of The Americans, his one conversation with Philip Roth, and SO much more. (1/21/20) – mp3

#357 – Walter Bernard – Legendary designer Walter Bernard joins the show to talk about Mag Men: Fifty Years of Making Magazines (Columbia University Press), the new book he co-authored with Milton Glaser. We get into the art and necessity of collaboration, the relationship he and Milton developed over half a century of work, the pros and cons of doing redesigns for globally established institutions, and the decline of print in the digital age. We get into his stellar run of redesigns for Time, Fortune, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, the one magazine Walter would have loved to redesign, his design pet peeves, how he learned to learn the culture of newsrooms, how he came into his own and could feel like a true partner to Milton, and plenty more! (1/14/20) – mp3

#356 – Emily Flake – With her new book That Was Awkward (Viking Books), cartoonist and humorist Emily Flake explores the world of awkward hugs. We get into how that book landed in her lap, why she hates drawing other people’s jokes, and how she learned (and pushes the boundaries of) the New Yorker cartoonist’s voice. We talk about the massive influence of Shary Flenniken’s Trots & Bonnie comics on her work, the question of “age-appropriate” reading and her 7-year-old kid, performing stand-up cartooning and hosting the Nightmares and Shitshow series (and getting Robyn Hitchcock to guest on that evening’s Nightmares!), how making 4-beat comic strips taught her to write humor, the guilt she felt the first time she saw someone with a tattoo of one of her gags, building up immunity to editorial rejection, and more! (1/6/20) – mp3

#355 – The Guest List – More than two dozen of the year’s Virtual Memories Show guests tell us about the favorite books they read in 2019 and the books they hope to get to in 2020! Guests include Christopher Brown, Nina Bunjevac, Jerome Charyn, Caleb Crain, Joan Marans Dim, Boris Fishman, Katelan Foisy, Mort Gerberg, Eva Hagberg, Peter Kuper, Kate Lacour, Liniers, Kate Maruyama, Edie Nadelhaft, Sylvia Nickerson, James Oseland, Dawn Raffel, Witold Rybczynski, Frank Santoro, Ersi Sotiropoulos, Karl Stevens, James Sturm, Frederic Tuten, and Chris Ware! (And me!)(12/31/19) – mp3

Tom Spurgeon Memorial Service – This special episode of The Virtual Memories Show features the memorial service for Tom Spurgeon, held December 14, 2019, at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. The speakers (in sequence) were Whit Spurgeon, Sunny McFarren, Rob Eidson, Dan Wright (slideshow here), Fred Haring, Eric Reynolds, Jordan Raphael, me, Jeff Smith, Laurenn McCubbin, Rebecca Perry Damsen, Caitlin McGurk. The following people spoke during the open comments session: Bruce Chrislip, Christian Hoffer, Carol Tyler, Evan Dorkin, Darcie Hoffer, Shena Wolf, James Moore. To get a greater understanding of Tom’s life and his impact on the world around him, please listen to these heartfelt, emotional, and sometimes funny remembrances of our friend. (12/21/19) – mp3

#354 – Peter Kuper AGAIN?! – Political artist/illustrator Peter Kuper rejoins the show to talk about his new graphic adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (WW Norton). We get into the highwire act of addressing race without diluting the book or otherwise changing Conrad’s tale (that is, how do you balance adaptation and revisionism?), how Peter accidentally subjected himself to some of Marlow’s ill health while adapting the book, and how he used graphic storytelling to bring other perspectives to the story. We also discuss his trepidation about adapting a canonical book, his trepidation about drawing boats, and is trepidation about making an optimistic issue of World War 3 Illustrated. Oh, yeah, and he tells us about getting to hold Conrad’s diary from the river journey that inspired Heart of Darkness, his ongoing Spy Vs. Spy strips for Mad Magazine, and, on his 3rd appearance on the show, I finally ask him just where his progressivism started! (12/17/19) – mp3

Tom Spurgeon Birthday Memorial Episode – Today (Dec. 16) would have been Tom Spurgeon‘s birthday. To honor my best friend after his untimely death, this mini-episode has my remarks from his memorial service this past weekend at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum in Columbus, OH. (12/16/19) – mp3

#353 – Edie Nadelhaft – Artist and avid motorcyclist Edie Nadelhaft joins the show on the eve of her new gallery exhibition, Evening In America (at the Lyons Wier Gallery, Dec. 10, 2019 to Jan. 25, 2020)! We get into her unstructured approach to painting, how she tries to capture the immensity of America, her interest in what comes after the first impression, and how she got hooked on motorcycles. We also get into the multiple meanings of Evening in America, the notion of the road as character, the process of working through her artistic influences, the rampant sexism of the art world and how she short-circuited it, and the perils of a long ride when you don’t know where the next gas station is. And, of course, I ask her what she’s riding these days. (12/10/19) – mp3

#352 – Robb Armstrong – At Cartoon Crossroads Columbus – CXC, cartoonist Robb Armstrong joins the show to talk about celebrating 30 years of his nationally syndicated comic strip, JumpStart. We get into how he made the transition from gags to character-based humor, the early days of doing the comic strip while holding down a full-time job in advertising (and some absolutely crazy stories about how he used to get original art from Philadelphia up to the syndicate office in NYC), the pop culture references he regrets from the ’90s, and why believing in in his characters helps his readers believe in them, too. We also discuss the challenges of breaking into cartooning and the support he got from past African-American cartoonists like Morrie Turner and Buck Brown, the influence of Charles Schulz on his work and his character, the inescapability of Bill Watterson, how he learned to stop worrying about industry awards, and the move from Philly to LA and the lessons learned from going through the TV production process. We also get into his strong belief in helping other artists, why he thinks pencils and erasers are the devil’s tools, what he’d tell the Robb of 30 years ago about what he has to look forward to, and plenty more! (12/3/19) – mp3

Clive James Bonus Episode – After 10 years of illness, the great writer, poet, TV host, interviewer, translator (& more!) Clive James died on November 24, 2019. We recorded a conversation in February 2015, and it stands out as one of the greatest episodes of this podcast. I’ve recorded a new introduction and remastered the audio, so please join me in celebrating Clive’s life and work with our conversation. (The good stuff starts at 13:05.) (11/27/19) – mp3

#351 – Annie Koyama – Toronto-based small press comics publisher Annie Koyama joins the show to talk about her decision to shut down Koyama Press after 13 years, her thoughts on how artists should be treated (and how they should treat themselves), and how to make the most out of life after getting a terminal diagnosis. We get into what comes next in her support for the arts, how the publishing business has changed and what risks she can and can’t take, the near-death experience that led her to launch Koyama Press (and the accidental naming of the company), and the most surprising success in her backlist. We also discuss how her artists took the news, what she’ll miss the most, the importance of supporting artists throughout all stages of their careers, how not even her previous careers in film and advertising could prepared her for the world of art comics publishing, and more! (11/26/19) – mp3

#350 – Ed Ward – From the Sex Pistols’ last show to the backseat of Elvis’ gold Cadillac, Ed Ward has had a front-row seat to the history of rock & roll. He returns to the show to talk about The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 2: 1964–1977: The Beatles, the Stones, and the Rise of Classic Rock (Flatiron Books), and we get into the challenges of chronicling the form in that that era (both narratively and chronologically), his novelistic approach to history, the destructive nature of nostalgia, and how glad he was to get corroboration on the circumstances of Jim Morrison’s death. Along the way, we get into his oft-quoted but misunderstood review of the first Stooges record (and how Iggy validated him), how Woodstock predicted the collapse of the music industry, why he thought (incorrectly) that the ‘70s were a nostalgia-proof generation, why he doesn’t listen to music anymore, and his answer to the key question of the era: Beatles or Stones? (11/19/19) – mp3

Tom Spurgeon Bonus Episode – Following last week’s unexpected death of Tom Spurgeon, my best friend and an inveterate supporter of the show, I’ve re-posted our 2012 conversation, along with a new (and emotional) introduction. Skip to the 10:35 mark to bypass my tears. (11/18/19) – mp3

#349 – Pete Bagge Returns! – Third time’s the charm! Cartoonist Pete Bagge returns to talk about his new comic biography, Credo: The Rose Wilder Lane Story (Drawn & Quarterly), and we get into the thematic ties of his three biographies — Lane, Margaret Sanger, and Zora Neale Hurston — and how he learned the biographer’s art over the course of those works. We talk about how he discovered Rose Wilder Lane’s walk-the-walk libertarianism, her transition in and out of socialism, the likelihood that she co-wrote her mother’s Little House series of books, Pete’s own history with libertarianism and the uncomfortable questions he’d ask his parents, and why his own biography would be a lot less interesting than those of his subjects. We also discuss his writing and drawing process and how he structured these books, why he’d prefer to produce comics in installments and how economics mitigate against that model, how trying to write for TV made his comics writing more concise, and why he’s likely sticking to shorter biography comics for a while. Oh, and we talk about his ’80s/’90s editorship of the anthology Weirdo, how he followed R. Crumb, and the artists he pissed off as well as the ones to whom he gave their first shot, and the memoir he’s written but has yet to draw. (11/12/19) – mp3

#348 – Steven Heller – The Nazi swastika is a symbol of evil, but what about the pre-Nazi version of that symbol? With the publication of The Swastika and Symbols of Hate: Extremist Iconography Today (Allworth Press), Steven Heller returns to a topic he’s spent decades on: the power of graphic design and its abuses by Nazis and other totalitarian movements. He rejoins the show to talk about whether the swastika is redeemable to its original purpose as a Sanskrit Buddhist symbol, why it’s uniquely toxic in comparison to other national and religious symbols like the USSR’s hammer & sickle, and Steven’s biggest surprise when he began researching the swastika’s history. We get into how he teaches students about the ramifications of swastika-derived designs, how most Nazi, nationalist and white supremacist groups are variants of the Cross, his sadness about having to revise and reissue this book for our current era (but happiness about giving it a tighter, more effective layout), the ramifications of free speech vs. hate speech, and whether it’s okay to punch out a Nazi. We also tackle my experiences visiting Germany, the coding of modern-day white supremacists, the impact of graphic design and illustration on Resistance, Antifa’s unfortunate similarities to the SDS, and the question of whether he’s obsessed with hate imagery. (We also get into non-swastika stuff, like how he’s staying occupied while his Daily Heller blog is on hiatus, the role he played in giving a number of illustrators and cartoonists their first gigs, the memoir he’s working on, and why he’s not looking to be the subject of a documentary.) (11/4/19) – mp3

#347 – Kevin Huizenga – Cartoonist Kevin Huizenga joins the show to talk about his new graphic novel, Glenn Ganges in The River at Night (Drawn & Quarterly)! We get into late-night reveries and using a character’s sleepless night as a base camp for a 200-page book, the ways repetition leads to time travel, making an artistic breakthrough partway through his new work, his modular approach to storytelling and how it jibes with his midwestern comics style, and the risk of identifying too much with his stand-in, Glenn Ganges. We also talk about video-game sobriety, whether his favorite creators are spending too much time on Twitter, learning about indy comics before the internet, and our shared cyberpunk upbringing. And we do the math on how many books in our libraries we’ll actually get around to reading! (10/31/19) – mp3

#346 – Ho Che Anderson – Live from CXC – Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, it’s my Spotlight Session with Ho Che Anderson, cartoonist behind KING, Godhead (Fantagraphics) and plenty more! We get into the ups and downs of Ho’s career, his transition from “frustrated cartoonist” to “somewhat dissatisfied cartoonist”, his twin inspirations of Mister X and Black Kiss, and all the comic, writing and movie influences that went into his science fiction epic Godhead! We also talk about his being labeled an “openly black” cartoonist, how being Canadian gave him a different perspective on Martin Luther King when it came to tackling MLK’s biography, why he prefers writing a story to drawing it, the importance of world building in both his fiction and non-fiction work, and why you should never meet your heroes (unless your hero is Howard Chaykin)! (10/29/19) – mp3

#345 – Frank Santoro – A beautiful and subtle meditation on memory and his parents’ marriage and divorce, Frank Santoro‘s 200-page graphic novel, Pittsburgh (New York Review Comics), is one of my favorite books of 2019. Frank & I get into about Pittsburgh‘s unique visual style, in which he eschews black lines and works directly with color markers, how he solved the problem of word-balloons intruding on a comic page’s color harmony, and how the book’s design and style mirror the reconstruction of memory. We talk about how the book originated with his dad totally opening up to one of Frank’s friends about a story he never told Frank, how interviewing family members for the book brought him closer to them and to understanding them as people, and why I developed the belief that men are far less likely to know how their parents met than women are. We also discuss how his art-training influences his comics compositions, how working for painter Dorothea Rockburne taught him to see the page as music, why he prefers standalone projects to serial publishing, and plenty more. (10/22/19) – mp3

#344 – Liz Hand returns! – Transgression vs. transcendence: Elizabeth Hand‘s brand-new novel, Curious Toys (Mulholland Books), explores artistic and cultural taboos through the lens of a serial killer mystery set in the amusement parks of Progressive Era Chicago. We talk about her inspiration for making outsider artist/writer Henry Darger one of the lead characters of Curious Toys, how she first heard about Darger and the Vivian Girls mythology he created in his paintings and 15,000-page (!) novel, the striking similarities between Darger and Tolkien, the tragedy of outsider/visionary artists, and the challenge of casting a nonbinary character a century in the past (the novel’s other lead, not Darger). We also get into why writers have no control over the success of their books, the differences between writing on spec vs. on contract, some hints about her next Cass Neary novel, the time she outdrew Deepak Chopra at a bookstore signing, and more! (and check out our 2015, 2016, and 2017 episodes!) (10/15/19) – mp3

#343 – Kate Lacour – With her new book, Vivisectionary (Fantagraphics), artist Kate Lacour has created a work of repulsive beauty (or beautiful revulsion). We get into the theme of transformation in her work, her untraditional notion of comics, whether Vivisectionary should be considered “body horror”, the concentric narratives that comprise the book, and how nothing can prepare you for the insect life in New Orleans. Along the way, we talk about treating God like an art director, the twin joys of generation and decay, the symbology of her art, the wonders of going to the Art Students League in NYC for life drawing classes, her followup questions to the Gil Roth AMA episode, the intensely mixed attraction/repulsion reaction people have to her work, what made her most uncomfortable about doing a five-day journal comic, why she’s adapting the Song of Solomon for her next work, and more! (10/8/19) – mp3

#342 – Witold Rybczynski – The great architecture writer Witold Rybczynski rejoins the show (here’s our 2015 conversation) to talk about his wonderful new book, Charleston Fancy: Little Houses & Big Dreams in the Holy City (Yale University Press). We get into how he discovered the stories and characters behind the Byzantine homes in a neighborhood of Charleston, the city’s unique history and its role as a pioneer in historical zoning, the catastrophe that launched the book, and the value of local architects. We also talk about how computers have changed architecture and building, how an architecture student can graduate nowadays without actually making a set of architectural drawings, the loss of tradition and continuity in architecture, how moving into Philadelphia proper has changed his perspective on the city, why he disagrees with the modern notion that every age has to have its own architecture and what he’d like to see from the rebuilding of Notre-Dame, what he culled from his library before moving house, and what single building he’d like to not see anymore. (10/3/19) – mp3

#341 – Chris Ware – With the publication of part 1 of Rusty Brown (Pantheon), Chris Ware joins the show to talk about how he and his art changed over the 18 (on-and-off) years since he began the project. We talk about the nature of memory, the experience of time, and the purpose of empathy (or empathy as the purpose of human life). We get into art and its role in organizing consciousness, the give-and-take of self-doubt, his impact on comics and other cartoonists, the effect of parenthood on his work and life, his midwestern roots & the allure of The New Yorker, and books that changed his life (whether he read them or not). We also discuss that synthetic, sorta artificial style he’s known for and what it permits him to do in his comics, the comic strip diary he keeps and why it can’t be published, how cartooning compares to the origins of American architecture, the alchemical relationship between drawings and type size in his comics, why art schools should get back to teaching figure drawing, and plenty more! (10/1/19) – mp3

#340 – Sylvia Nickerson – With Creation (Drawn & Quarterly), Sylvia Nickerson explores the decay and renewal of the Rust Belt city of Hamilton, Ontario, tying the personal and political together in an extraordinarily graceful debut graphic novel. We get into her entré to comics, her dissatisfaction with traditional art education, the interplay of her academic and artistic careers, and the encounter that pulled her out of an artistic morass. We also talk about her experience living in Hamilton, how becoming a mother changed her understanding of the city and its citizens, the differences between gentrification and development, how both she and Hamilton have changed in the decade-plus that she’s lived there, the comics her dad drew for her mom when they were courting, and plenty more! (9/26/19) – mp3

#339 – Simon Critchley – In his amazing new book, Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us (Pantheon), Simon Critchley explores how Ancient Greek tragedy captures the eternal crises and tensions of human life, and how philosophy went wrong in trying to tame it. We dive into how Critchley learned to appreciate the drama of the tragedies, how it led to his critique of Plato and Aristotle and much of what comes after them, and how we continue to wrestle with the central question of the tragedies: “What shall I do?” Along the way, we talk about the perils of moral monotheism, Wallace Stevens’ philosophy-as-poetry, what it means to treat Plato’s dialogues as drama, the role of women in Greek tragedy, the allure of the antiquity’s lacunae, the difference between reading plays and being at the theater, why he thinks philosophy begins in disappointment, not wonder, and how he’s dealing with recently losing his heavily marked-up copy of The Peregrine. We also explore his various obsessions, including medieval cathedrals, the possibility of change, 19th century America, soccer, and most importantly, David Bowie! (9/24/19) – mp3

#338 – Simon Doonan – Author, fashionista, creative ambassador, and recovering window-dresser Simon Doonan takes us on a guided tour of gender non-conformity with his latest book, Drag: The Complete Story (Laurence King)! Simon & I talked through his personal history with drag, how drag has evolved over the millennia, how the current moment is pushing drag in new directions, and why male British comics were so comfortable performing in it (a long-standing question of mine). We also get into his love of craft and how dressing windows at Barneys New York was the perfect venue for him, the value of having a day job and not making art the center of one’s life, how a kid who failed his 11+ wound up writing a shelfload of books, the joy of his crafting reality show, Making It, why he didn’t get through the auditions for Queer Eye, the TV skill he had to learn, his love of history and his abhorrence at the idea of being anyone’s role model, why it’s life-affirming to wear some color, what sort of drag I’d be able to pull off, and plenty more! (9/17/19) – mp3

#337 – Amor Towles – After a 20-year sojourn in the investment world, Amor Towles returned to his first love by writing the bestselling novels Rules of Civility and A Gentleman In Moscow. We get into how he managed that jump, the lessons he learned from his first failed novel, and the advantages of making a later start in publishing (and whether he could’ve written either of his books when he was young). We talk about his intense outlining and planning process for novels and how it allows for more creativity within the writing itself, his relief at showing his writing teacher (Peter Matthiessen) his books before it was too late, the symphonic model he applies to novels, his best practices for book tours (writing short stories and getting out and seeing the cities he was visiting), the perpetual nostalgia that is New York, his use of recurring characters in his fiction and whether it means he’s creating a Towlesiverse, and more! (9/17/19) – mp3

#336 – Dawn Raffel – Baby incubators and boardwalk sideshows: not exactly a natural fit nowadays, but once upon a time, the best way to save premature babies in America was to bring them to Dr. Couney’s “INCUBATOR BABIES” exhibits in Coney Island, Atlantic City and other midways. Dawn Raffel untangled his story and tells the stories of the children he saved in her wonderful book, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies (Blue Rider Press, out now in paperback). We get into the mysteries of Dr. Couney’s past, Dawn’s fascinations with Coney Island and with interwar America, the flaws in social care in the first half of 20th century America, the offline research that fueled the book, her relationship with some Couney’s surviving babies (now in their 80s and 90s), the obstetrics field’s resistance to Couney’s work, the missing ledger that would have disclosed the fates of many of the babies Dr. Couney treated, and whether she would’ve brought a premature baby to Dr. Couney. We also get into Dawn’s writing life, the outsized influence of her 13-year-old discovery of War & Peace, her predilection for short chapters, how Topsy the Elephant really died, and plenty more! (BONUS: I prattle on for a few minutes about my first half-marathon.) (9/10/19) – mp3

#335 – David Shields – He’s just here so he won’t get fined: David Shields joined the show earlier this year to talk about his book-length essay, The Trouble With Men. Now he’s back to talk about his new documentary, Marshawn Lynch: A History (Amazon, iTunes and Vimeo). This time around, we get into the Awfulness of Greatness, whether human beings are capable of change, and the Deion Sanders interview with Marshawn that melted David’s brain and started him on this documentary project. We talk about the racial aspects of black athletes dealing with a white-dominated media, how Lynch made noise by keeping silent in press conferences, the one section of the documentary that led a Seattle audience to boo him, the challenges in structuring the documentary chronologically and thematically, what Pete Carroll was thinking on That Play, the split between “my truth” and “the truth”, the moment he got to meet Lynch after a screening of the movie in Oakland, and more! (9/3/19) – mp3

#334 – Caleb Crain – Occupy, telepathy, the surveillance state, and poetic treatment of reversion in 16th/17th century English poetry: Caleb Crain’s brand-new novel, Overthrow (Viking) has it all! Caleb & I talk about the image that evoked his new book, why this one is his “dark novel”, and how its writing was filled with a sense of inevitability (and maybe a little bit of prophecy). We get into the notion of self-surveillance and why he carries a dumb-phone (even though it almost led to his failure to show up for our podcast session), the way gay people have a theory of mind for straight people but not necessarily vice versa, the optimism of Occupy and the dreadful fate of Aaron Swartz, the difference between fiction and nonfiction editing, the importance of unscheduled nap-time, and the challenge of writing a novel about the weaponization of our relationships. (8/27/19) – mp3

#333 – Gil Roth AMA! – Because of a last-minute guest cancellation, I had no show lined up for this week! Rather than take a second week off this summer, I decided it was time for another Gil Roth AMA episode, since the last one was almost 5 years ago. Thirty-two past and upcoming guests and Patreon supporters came through with questions for me, including (in the order I answered them): Ken Krimstein, Hugh Ryan, Barry Corbett, Joe Ciardiello, Glynnis Fawkes, Kyle Cassidy, Ian Kelley, Kate Lacour, Dean Haspiel, Eddy Portnoy, Kate Maruyama, Tom Spurgeon, Jonathan Hyman, David Leopold, Paine Proffitt, David Townsend, Boaz Roth, Chris Reynolds, Liniers, Caleb Crain, Bob Eckstein, Ersi Sotiropoulos, Andrea Tsurumi, Henry Wessells, Vanessa Sinclair, Jim Ottaviani, Maria Alexander, Mary Fleener, Stephen Nadler, Charles Blackstone, Lauren Weinstein, and David Shields. We cover everything from creative lessons learned to “why so many cartoonists?”, from what books I re-read and why to who is on my Mount Rushmore list of dream guests, from the comics and GNs that have affected me most to what I think about the Peak TV era, from how running has affected my podcast-practices to who my most obstreperous guest has been, and plenty more! And it was all done in a single two-hour take! (8/20/19) – mp3

#332 – Christopher Brown – He wowed us last year with Tropic of Kansas, and now Christopher Brown is back to talk about his brand-new dystopian legal thriller, Rule of Capture (both from Harper Voyager)! We get into his grand jury stint a few years ago and how it brought home to him the inequality of the law and led to this new novel, why there are so few lawyers in science fiction (but so many in comic books), and the challenge of writing a novel about the law as opposed the facts of a legal case. Along the way, we get into his search for utopia and why he’s eschewing dystopia with this next novel, the phenomenon of Texan billboard-lawyers (like his novel’s protagonist, Donny Kimoe), his love of Njals saga, the Icelandic poem about a lawyer who’s ridiculed by other vikings because he can’t grow a beard, the little capitulations we make that lead to the domestication of evil, his unsung legal heroes, and what one should or shouldn’t do if one finds oneself on an escalator behind a certain Supreme Court Justice. (8/13/19) – mp3

#331 – Liniers – In a rollicking conversation at the Society of Illustrators’ 128 Bar & Bistro, Argentine comics star Liniers talks about making the jump from Buenos Aires to Vermont to teach at the Center for Cartoon Studies, the amazing US syndication launch of his comic strip Macanudo last year (and the origin of that strip in Argentina), the difference between drawing well and drawing funny, the mix of comic and comedic influences that melted his brain as a kid, the time he almost met Bill Watterson, and what it means to be a Latin American cartoonist. We also get into how he learned English from Mad Magazine, when he caught the live performance bug, why he eschews a regular set of characters in favor of a schizophrenic style of humor in Macanudo, how he felt the first time he saw a tattoo his work on a fan, why seeing his work pirated helped balance out his karma from downloading all those mp3s, and how his kids books help him press Pause on perfect moments from his children’s lives. (8/6/19) – mp3

#330 – Milton Glaser – He turned 90 a few weeks ago, but design legend Milton Glaser isn’t slowing down. We got together to talk about moving to a new studio after nearly 55 years and what he plans on doing with the 250,000 posters in the cellar. We get into art vs. design, why he painted “Art Is Work” on the transom of his building, how he’s working more actively and faster than he ever has, the first time he saw his work in public, how drawing makes us conscious of reality, the influence of Giorgio Morandi on his life, the joy of ~60 years of teaching, the decay of design into commodity and corporate metrics, and the overlooked role of Push Pin Studios in design history. Along the way, we also get into the worldwide phenomenon of his “I ? NY” design, what it’s like to live in an age of collage, where we find things instead of making things, how the computer can compel users into doing what it’s good at instead of what they’re good at, his marriage advice after 60+ years with Shirley Glaser, and his story about designing Trump Vodka. (7/30/19) – mp3

#329 – Kate Maruyama – Writer, teacher, and activist Kate Maruyama joins the show from Readercon 2019! We talk about her first novel, Harrowgate (47North), which managed to make new motherhood and domesticity even creepier than the ghost story that overlays it. We get into how her husband and kids reacted to that book (it’s about a woman who dies in childbirth), and when she got around to reading the work of her late mother, Kit Reed. We also talk about how she spent 20 years in Los Angeles before stumbling across its literary scene, and how she’s making up for lost time by promoting that diverse writing community. Along the way, we discuss the differences between screenwriting vs prose writing, how she teaches students to avoid using archetypes that demean an entire population (and why Baby Driver turns out to be a woke crime movie), the authors her parents hosted at Wesleyan University during her childhood and the embarrassing question she asked Ralph Ellison, the social justice mission of Antioch College, how she taught creative writing in South Central LA and what her students taught her, and why the fast-fail model of screenplay sales has a lot to recommend it. (7/16/19) – mp3

#328 – Emily Nussbaum – Look! Up in the sky! Is it really more like a novel? Is it more like a 10-hour movie? No, it’s TV! In her first book, I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution (Penguin Random House), Pulitzer-winning critic Emily Nussbaum celebrates TV as TV, exploring the unique aspects of the form and helping TV viewers get over status anxiety. We talk about the satisfying/horrifying experience of culling her past reviews and profiles for the book, the audience-oriented nature of TV storytelling, whether it’s important for a well-loved show to nail the finale, and the dual influences of The Sopranos and Buffy the Vampire Slayer on her work as a critic. We also get into her Peak TV moment, how technology has changed TV over the decades, the only time she predicted the upcoming season’s TV hits (Lost and Desperate Housewives), her theory that most workplace shows are actually about TV writing rooms, the difference between weekly and binge-released shows, the perils of writing profiles of the people she’s reviewed, and the challenge of being a funny writer who wants to make serious points. We also get into the question of how (whether?) to separate the artist from the art in the #metoo era, and how she deals with the fact that much of her sense of humor came from watching and reading Woody Allen throughout her youth. On the lighter side, she tells us her favorite songs from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and I reveal the ’90s show that I binged on 200+ episodes of last year! (7/9/19) – mp3

#327 – Karl Stevens – It may be a fine line between comics and art, but Karl Stevens‘ fine line crosses effortlessly between them. Karl & I talk about how his realistic drawing style and watercolors treat comics as fine art, and how that visual style complements his naturalist stories, especially in his recent collection, The Winner (Retrofit Comics). We get into his gateway from superheroes to art-comics, his recent commission to make comics that accompanied a Botticcelli exhibition at the Gardener Museum in Boston, his work as a guard in that same museum, the challenge of drawing his wife, the challenge of getting paid as a freelancer, and whether he regrets his his teenaged decision to devote his life to comics. We also talk about his upcoming book of cat comics, drawing gags for the New Yorker, being WAY too high to meet your idols, visiting the Words & Pictures Museum in ’90s Northampton (a.k.a. Comics-Mecca), his road not taken with Dave Sim, how short strips and gag panels have made it tougher for him to write longer stories, and plenty more! BONUS: You get the origin story of my friendship with Tom Spurgeon AND my recent crisis of faith! (7/2/19) mp3

#326 – Barbara Nessim – With a career in illustration and art stretching back to 1960, Barbara Nessim has been a trailblazer in multiple ways (albeit unintentionally). We talk about the 2013 retrospective of her work at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the process of seeing her oeuvre distilled by a curator, as well as her own 7-year project of archiving her work, and the role and rules of her decades-long sketchbook practice. We get into her pioneering work in computer art and her involvement in SIGGRAPH, her career drive and her “1 for them, 6 for myself” philosophy, her decision to take up pottery at 80, her Random Access Memories exhibition and its one-of-a-kind art-generator, what it was like working with Harvey Kurtzman for Esquire and on fumetto, her 65-year love affair with salsa and how she taught a bunch of illustration and design legends to dance, and how she may be the most well-adjusted, thankful and gracious artist I’ve ever met. Bonus: you get my oddball story of meeting Gary Panter in the ’90s! (6/25/19) – mp3

#325 – Boris Fishman – With his new memoir, Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (a Memoir with Recipes), author Boris Fishman explores his family’s Soviet Jewish legacy, his arc as a writer, and the glorious and varied meals that kept his family together from Minsk to Brighton Beach. We get into why creative nonfiction is his first passion (after publishing two novels), how he guaranteed his family’s disapproval by writing about them throughout his career, how he couldn’t leave Sovietness behind until he moved out of his parents’ home at 24 (despite emigrating from the USSR at 9), what he’d do if he quit the writing game, and why the recipes were the toughest part of Savage Feast. We also talk smack about certain books and authors, compare Malamud to Roth and Bellow, discuss the first (very not Jewish/not Russian) writer Boris became friends with, and explore the use of fiction to imagine alternate lives for oneself. Along the way, we make a life-changing pact, decide whether an MFA is worth pursuing, share book tour best practices, and conclude that Soviet Jewish guilt is exponentially more severe than Jewish guilt. It’s a whole lot of talk about books, food, and deracinated Jews! (6/18/19) – mp3

#324 – Bill Griffith – Who can top the memoir of his mother’s infidelity with the biography of a sideshow pinhead? Legendary cartoonist Bill Griffith, that’s who! Bill rejoins the show to talk about his new graphic biography, Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead (Abrams ComicArts), the empty nest syndrome that led him to dive into it right after finishing his first longform book, the challenges of separating fact from fiction in Schlitzie’s life, and how a 1963 viewing of Tod Browning’s movie Freaks changed Bill’s life forever and led him to create Zippy The Pinhead. We also get into Bill avoidance of cheap sentiment in the process of humanizing Schlitzie, the familial support network of sideshow folk, the decision by circus-owners to present to Schlitzie on stage as female, and how to answer the crucial question of whether sideshow work was exploitative. Along the way, we also get into Bill’s comics-making lessons, why Zippy is more about word-play (or word-jazz) than absurdity and non sequiturs, how that strip’s long stories fed into Bill’s book-length work, the biography of Nancy cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller he’s working on next (and why he’d like to do fiction for his 4th book), the riddle of his middle-of-the-night Post-Its, his dad’s very odd idea about keeping his son off skid row, and more! (6/11/19) – mp3

#323 – Hugh Ryan – Let’s celebrate Pride Month with a conversation with Hugh Ryan, author of When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History! We talk about Brooklyn’s untold queer history and how it reflects the story of Brooklyn itself, the challenge of relating 19th century views of sexuality’s spectrum to a modern audience, and why his history began with Walt Whitman and ended a few years before Stonewall. We also get into the toughest part of his research, the best story that didn’t make it into the book, the commercial challenge of pitching a popular queer history, the accidental scoops he made by being the first person to explore this history, and how he wrote such long hours he broke his wrist. Oh, yeah, and he cringes over Naomi Wolf’s demolition and we share a laugh over his great story of the Coney Island impresario who threw a male beauty pageant in 1929 but had no idea what was in store. (6/4/19) – mp3

#322 – Steven Guarnaccia – On the eve of its New York City debut, illustrator (and designer and author) Steven Guarnaccia joins the show to talk about his Fatherland exhibition! We get into how he made the leap from 2D to 3D, the moment he realized he was an illustrator and not an Artist, what it was like to come up in a golden age of magazine illustration, the balancing act of professional and personal projects, the strong influence of the Pop Art on his work, the anxiety of the first time he got a color illustration assignment (he’s been around a long time), getting his first NYT assignment from Steven Heller, and why Seymour Chwast & Milton Glaser may be the Lennon & McCartney of their field. We also get into his love of letterforms, his ingenious idea for my next podcast/documentary series, the process of learning illustration on the job, how he taps his unconscious drawing to break out of creative ruts, the benefits of a two-artist household (he’s married to Nora Krug), his lament for the American culture of specialization, becoming the accidental archivist for Rooster Ties, and our ongoing competition for best-dressed guy at Society of Illustrators events. (5/28/19) – mp3

#321 – Nina Bunjevac – Back from her Fool’s Journey in France, Nina Bunjevac returns to the show to celebrate her new book, Bezimena (Fantagraphics)! We talk about the graphic novel’s unique and weird structure, Nina’s abrupt decision to leave France and come back to Toronto after a year-long study of France’s BD publishing industry, and her upcoming tarot project and her explorations into the history of occult mysticism and esoteric philosophy. Along the way, we also get into fixing the financial model for comics-makers, the value of big publishers, her growth as a writer, how Bezimena helped her address past episodes of sexual assault, her joy that Canada legalized weed while she was away, the story of her collaboration with Antonio Moresco, how to make an Alchemical Kitchen, and plenty more! BONUS: I explain how to tip the housekeeping staff at hotels! (5/21/19) – mp3

#320 – Seth – After more than 20 years, Seth has completed Clyde Fans, his grand meditation on family, business, and art (Drawn & Quarterly), so let’s celebrate with a double-episode! First, Seth & I talk at a live event hosted by the Strand Bookstore, where we get into how his approach to art and storytelling evolved over that 20-year span, the one element he hated keeping consistent throughout the process, why serializing most of the work helped with revision, and how comics have become a subset of his studio process. Then we follow up with a one-on-one conversation during Toronto Comic Arts Festival, discussing his next project, whether he likes organic projects like his Nothing Lasts memoir or more fully formed stories, whether he owns a pair of sweatpants, the realization that he wasn’t writing about his father but about himself, the artist’s responsibility at the signing table, his decision never to research the real Clyde Fans business, the maddening acceleration of contemporary culture, the one character of his he feels affection for, his dream of writing a play, and plenty more! (5/14/19) – mp3

#319 – Katelan Foisy – Her first crush was Nosferatu, she started reading Burroughs at 12, she’s fused Roma and Santeria, and now Katelan Foisy joins the show to talk about making art, magic, and a personal mythology. We get into the course of her artistic career, the perils of a public persona, the experience of making art for Smashing Pumpkins and William Patrick Corgan (& the genesis of their friendship), understanding the tarot as storyboards, learning to paint mosaics to make the Sibyls Oraculum, the allure of old hotels, the duality of Al Capone, and why she traded the East River for Lake Michigan. Plus, the great advice she got from Molly Crabapple, forming a Third Mind with Vanessa Sinclair, her adherence to William Burroughs’ twin beliefs that you can write your way out of any problem and that photographs can change the future, and how her art tries to capture the Romany notion of the Stopping Place. (5/7/19) – mp3

#318 – Ersi Sotiropoulos – How does an artist make The Leap into greatness? In Ersi Sotiropoulos‘ wondrous new novel, What’s Left of the Night (New Vessel Press, tr. Karen Emmerich), we explore three days in the mid-life of the poet CP Cavafy and how they may have helped him become the most distinguished Greek poet of the 20th century. Ersi & I talk about how an off-the-cuff discovery of Cavafy’s 1897 trip to Paris led her to this novel over three decades, how she almost drowned in research before a poet browbeat her into writing the proemium of her novel, and how the book rebelled against itself until she had a dream of Cavafy that quelled the unrest. We also get into the universality of desire, her non-challenge of writing from the perspective of a gay man, the process of translation and Ersi’s tendency to over-edit translators when it’s a language she knows. Plus, she tells us why she considers me a pantophile (one who likes everything), and why she prefers hotels over being home in Greece, the Iliad over the Odyssey, and the daemon over the muses when it comes to the font of creativity. BONUS: You get to hear about the novel I never got around to writing, featuring Henry Miller and George Orwell! (4/30) – mp3

#317 – Frederic Tuten – With My Young Life (Simon & Schuster), Frederic Tuten had to get over his notion that memoir is a cheap shot in order to look back at the beginning of a career in writing, teaching, and art criticism in the New York of the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. We get into what started him on this book, how he’s haunted by his childhood in the Bronx, his emphasis on quality over quantity in literary output (while coping with the cautionary example of his writing teacher, Leonard Ehrlich, who only published a single, well-acclaimed novel), his mentorship by artist and convicted murderer John Resko, the joys of cafe culture (and his favorite haunt, Cafe Mogador), and how he got two-timed by “the Elizabeth Taylor of the Bronx” with Jerome Charyn. We also lament today’s celebration of the mundane, celebrate his friendships with Herge, Lichtenstein, Resnais and Queneau, and talk about the books he wants loaded in his casket when he dies, the great allure of Juan Rulfo’s sole book, Pedro Paramo, why future pod-guest Iris Smyles’ first novel is better than F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, how fact-checker Anne Stringfield corrected some virtual memories in My Young Life, how poverty shaped his later life, what he learned from sobriety, Gaugin and The Magic Mountain, and plenty more! (4/23/19) – mp3

#316 – Michael Carroll – The Village People tell us that Key West is the key to happiness, but is it also the key to a literary legacy? Michael Carroll joins the show to talk about his new collection, Stella Maris: And Other Key West Stories (Turtle Point Press), and the role Key West has played in his life. We get into the pros and cons of being married to a literary titan (Edmund White, in this case) and how they’re portrayed in each other’s work, the value of short stories in the short attention span era (and his lament that young gay men don’t read), growing up Southern Baptist and gay, whether his upbringing in Jacksonville means he is Florida Man (and whether Florida is The South or South-Ish), why he avoids hookup apps, the influence of Joy Williams on his writing and the sustenance he gets from Lana Del Rey, and how writing about gay sex helps him vent his political rage. (4/16/19) – mp3

#315 – David Shields – With his new book, The Trouble with Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power (Mad Creek Books), essayist David Shields applies the literary microscope to his own marriage and explores — through a collage of perspectives — the subtle psychological game of S/M it’s grown into over the decades. David & I get into the challenge of writing about his marriage without destroying it, what his family thinks of the book, whether he finds it funny to be blurbed as “the most honest writer alive”, his ‘nothing but epiphanies’ approach to the personal essay, the obsessive personae he adopts for his books and the influence of (twotime pod-guest) Phillip Lopate on his work. We also talk about the difference between vulnerability and weakness, the taboo about male submission, the limits of disclosure, the lessons of parenting, our mutual sports-fixation and our love for Ichiro, and plenty more! BONUS: My all-important advice about what not to do in your hotel room. (4/9/19) – mp3

#314 – Mark Alan Stamaty – To celebrate the new 40th anniversary edition of MacDoodle St. (New York Review Comics), Mark Alan Stamaty joins the show for a conversation about that comic strip/graphic novel and what it meant for him and his career. We get into how it felt to draw a coda for this collection and how looking back at this work affects the two graphic novels he’s working on. We also talk about the joy of drifting, what it means to be a New York flaneur after 50+ years in the big city, his lifelong lament over the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn, the Tom Robbins book that warped his brain and set him on the path to MacDoodle St., the meditative quality of Chinese scholar rocks, and the work he wished he did in his younger days, as well as what he would have pursued if he’d been more financially secure. Oh, yeah, and he also tells us about getting possessed by Elvis’ spirit, his coping mechanisms for having a pair of gag cartoonists for parents, and the importance of composition for conveying energy to his readers. BONUS but not really: The intro is 15 minutes long, because I get into some weird epiphany-stuff; just skip to 15:00 for the start of the conversation. (4/2/19) – mp3

#313 – Nathan Englander – On the eve of his fifth book, the wonderful A novel (Knopf), Nathan Englander looks back on 20 years of publishing. We get into how he wrote this novel at a breakneck pace compared to his previous work, the great advice he got from Philip Roth (I’m not jealous!), the chemistry of creativity, the importance of process, his need to push borders and examine boundaries, and making his bones on the sacred and the profane. Nathan also talks about the therapeutic aspects of teaching writing, being more appreciative of his yeshiva upbringing, treating books like religion, and getting into thrillers while working on his political novel Dinner at the Center of the Earth. We also discuss his foray into playwriting, how he knows when a story or book is done, and the challenges of being friends with other writers, among plenty of other topics. (3/26/19) – mp3

#312 – Bram Presser – What sort of person breaks into Auschwitz? An author — and semi-reformed punk rocker, recovering academic and occasional criminal lawyer — in search of answers. Bram Presser joins the show to talk about his award-winning, fantastic debut novel The Book of Dirt, a memoir-fiction hybrid about his family’s experience in the Shoah. We get into the myths of how his grandfather survived the concentration camps and what they meant for his family and his book, the years of detective work (and the lucky breaks) researching his grandparents’ stories and records and the limits of knowing anyone else’s life, the exceptionalist vibe of Czech Jews, the stories he was afraid to learn and the heroism that redeemed his great-grandmother and her family, the challenges of researching an unheard-of story of survival when archivists are already put off by your punk-rock appearance, and how Bram avoided Holocaust cliches while giving agency, dignity and social dynamics to the prisoners in the camps. We also get into Bram’s worries about feedback from his mentor Dasa Drndic, the value of documentary fiction, the aspects of his other careers that supported his ability to write The Book of Dirt, that Auschwitz break-in, and why Talmudkommando would have been a better name for his Jewish punk band than Yidcore. (3/19/19) – mp3

#311 – Martin Hägglund – What if we treated our finite lives as a feature instead of a bug? How would we revalue our time and how could that shape our society? In his new book, This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom (Pantheon Books), Professor Martin Hagglund explores how life becomes enriched when we discard the eternal in favor of seeing the lives we live together as the highest good. We talk about how the notion of an afterlife devalues the life we live, the ways our implicit experiences are rendered explicit by philosophy and literature, and how a rethinking of the value of our time can lead to a revaluing of labor and a critique of capital (no, really!). We get into my favorite topic — anxiety! — as well as the inextricability of existential and economic questions, the invisible labor that makes our lives possible/comfortable, the conceptions of time and memory captured by Proust and Knausgaard, the all-important difference between valuing socially necessary labor time and socially available free time, and how the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. embodies a lot of Martin’s arguments about finitude and a better world. (3/12/19) – mp3

#310 – James Sturm – Cartoonist and educator James Sturm joins the show to talk about his new graphic novel, Off Season (Drawn & Quarterly), the story of a disintegrating marriage set against the backdrop of the 2016 election. We get into his artistic choices for this amazing book: using anthropomorphics, designing it in a 2-panel-per-page layout, and writing a story so convincing that friends thought his own marriage was falling apart (it wasn’t). We also talk about James’ experience of starting the Center for Cartoon Studies up in Vermont and what it taught him about cartooning, finding joy in the studio, exploring visions of America in his comics (or not; it’s up for debate), treating the long VT winters as “cartooning season”, his mega-sized graphic novel that will never see the light of day and the liberation of throwing a big project overboard, the comic shops we both frequented in our youth, the revelatory experience of reading Mark Alan Stamaty‘s comics, the Indian ledger books that comprise the first American graphic novels, and a lot more (including a Brink’s heist). (3/5/19) – mp3

#309 – Joe Ciardiello – Illustrator/artist Joe Ciardiello returns to the show to talk about his brand-new book, A Fistful of Drawings (Fantagraphics Underground). We go into the project’s history, Joe’s exploration of the Italian-American experience, and how it’s reflected in Spaghetti Western cinema of Sergio Leone & his peers. We also talk about how Joe overcame his anxiety about writing to bring the book’s narrative together, how Buffalo Bill and Old West culture infected Italy, his visit to the street set of The Godfather as a kid in Staten Island, the book of his musician drawings he hopes to make, keeping up with new westerns, the actors and figures he didn’t have room for in A Fistful of Drawings (but maybe we’ll see in For A Few Drawings More!), a survey of his drawing heroes and more recent inspirations, and more! (2/26/19) – mp3

#308 – James Oseland – Before Saveur, before Top Chef Masters, before all the National Magazine and James Beard awards, James Oseland was Jimmy Neurosis. James and I talk about his brand-new book, Jimmy Neurosis: A Memoir (Ecco Press), about his life as a gay teen in the late ’70s. We get into how none of his previous artistic and literary pursuits prepared him for writing this book, the challenges of remove 50-something James’ perspective from the teen narration, the difficult relationship with his mother at the core of the book (which begins with his dad bailing on them), and what it was like to find comfort in the burgeoning punk-music scene of San Francisco. We get into the toughest parts of the book to write about (we both get choked up at different points of that), his growing concern as a teen that (superabundant) sex wasn’t the be-all and end-all, the diversity of the early punk scene and how it got overwhelmed by violent white guys, why he used ads and TV taglines as chapter titles for the book, the fate of his punk record collection, and the wonderful (but admittedly problematic) experience of living with a much older gay lover in NYC when he was 15/16. And I promise, we also talk about food writing and the new World Food book series he’s working on! (2/19/19) – mp3

#307 – Mort Gerberg – On the eve of his exhibition at the New-York Historical Society (Feb. 15 to May 5, 2019), legendary cartoonist Mort Gerberg reflects on more than five decades of cartooning and art. We talk about his new collection, Mort Gerberg On The Scene: A 50-Year Cartoon Chronicle (Fantagraphics Underground), and what he learned in the process of culling the selection of his work for the show. We get into the roots of his groundbreaking civil rights cartoons (and how he got away with making weed jokes in the Saturday Evening Post in 1965), his pioneering comics reportage, how his spontaneity and energy secretly come from laziness, the challenge of drawing people on NYC subways, his intense focus on the business side of cartooning (and how it might be tied into his late start as a cartoonist), and how he tied vacations and even his honeymoon into work assignments. (2/12/19) – mp3

#306 – Eva Hagberg Fisher – She got through brain surgery, heart surgery, and House-level chronic illness (oh, yeah, and addiction) and came out the other side with a brand-new memoir, but could Eva Hagberg Fisher make it through a podcast-session without catching a cold from her host? We tempt fate with a long conversation about How to Be Loved: A Memoir of Lifesaving Friendship (HMH), the unlikely friendship that saw her through this, the self-jinx of writing about her health, the perverse urge to see her tumor marker tests get worse because at least it would end the uncertainty of her diagnosis, and how pain taught her to balance sobriety with moralizing and martyrdom. We also get into the performative aspect of social media, her ongoing impulse to deception and secrecy and the act of performing vulnerability, the right and wrong way to process one’s emotions, her anxiety in the wake of her recent essay on being in debt, her problems with The Artist’s Way, her immense thanks that her editor cut 95 pages of relationship drama down to two paragraphs, and the stuff you really want to hear us talk about: her dissertation on the professionalization of architectural publicity via the letters of Eero Saarinen and Aline Bernstein Louchheim! (2/5/19) – mp3

#305 – Deborah Feingold – Legendary photographer Deborah Feingold joins the show to talk about the inspiration for her new personal project: photographing illustrators (which is how we fell into each other’s orbit)! We get into her approach to teaching ‘Portraiture and the Art of Imitation‘ at ICP, the process of learning through imitation and absorbing influence, how she moved from ‘professional girlfriend’ to ‘professional photographer’ in the ’70s while shooting pictures of jazz musicians. We also talk about how she made the transition to digital photography while hewing to her film-shooting techniques, how she boldly directs her subjects despite being an incredibly shy person, the unspoken pressure to ape Annie Leibowitz’ style when she shot for Rolling Stone, her stories of shooting early Madonna and pre-presidency Obama, finding the humanity in her subjects, and more! (1/29/19) – mp3

#304 – Edmund White – Novelist, memoirist, essayist and queer literary icon Edmund White joins the show to talk about his new memoir, The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading (Bloomsbury USA)! We get into how his implied reader has changed identities over the years, the differences between writing memoir, autofiction and imaginative fiction, the boom and bust of the “gay fiction” bookstore category, the challenges of his massive biography of Genet and how he navigated about French attitudes toward gossip, and having the gay version of a shotgun wedding. We also get into his HIV diagnosis in 1985, outliving what he thought was a two-year death sentence, and being crazy enough to take on a long-term writing project in the midst of it. In between, we get to his status as a blurb-slut, what it’s like for him to write on a computer for the first time, the pressure to write for a gay audience and how The Flaneur opened him up to a very different reader, and more! (1/22/19) – mp3

#303 – Peter Kuper – Political artist/illustrator Peter Kuper rejoins the show to talk about these Kafkaesque times and his new graphic novel, Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories (Norton)! We get into his decades-long interest in Kafka, the art of literary adaptation, why the constraints of working with an existing story can be liberating, how to talk about controversial artists in the present moment, the various translations of K he read before commissioning his own, and challenges of his adaptation-in-progress: Heart of Darkness. We also get into his post-2016-election mindset, the discovery of his New Yorker cartoonist line, his laborious process of breaking down a comic, what his dream adaptation project is, the time he got stranded in a village in Africa by an evil guide, and much more! (1/15/19) – mp3

#302 – Jerome Charyn – On the latest stop on his blog tour, author Jerome Charyn joins the show to talk about his new novel, The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King: A Novel of Teddy Roosevelt and His Times (Liveright Publishing). We get into the image that inspired the book, the challenges & rewards of historical fiction, and the quest to separate Teddy Roosevelt’s myth from his story. Along the way, we get into ping pong, whether LeBron James should have gone somewhere besides LA, the magic of Allegra Kent & Balanchine’s ballet, the loneliness of Van Gogh’s garret, the joy of collaborating on graphic novels, and the miracle of Jerome becoming a writer. (1/10/19) – mp3

#301 – Kriota Willberg Live at CXC – Recorded live at Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) in 2018, Kriota Willberg returns to the podcast to talk about the origins of her new book, Draw Stronger: Self-Care For Cartoonists & Visual Artists (Uncivilized Books). We get into her work in the Graphic Medicine field, learning to see beneath the skin, the graphic novel she’s working on about Galen and the process of stitching people up, her best practices for festivals and conventions, the myth of the wandering uterus, and why cartoonists need to think (and train) like athletes! Plus: My New Year’s Resolutions! (1/1/19) – mp3

#300 – Gary Clark – Singer-songwriter-producer Gary Clark is my super-special guest for episode #300! We talk about his career, from his ’80s band Danny Wilson (and their all-time great single Mary’s Prayer) to his songwriting for the wonderful movie Sing Street (and the great single Drive It Like You Stole It). We get into the twists-and-turns of his life in music, his transition from performer to producer, how he learned to write in another singer’s voice, the furious social media messages from strangers about the fact that he doesn’t sing anymore, the coincidence & blessing of getting tapped by John Carney to write music for Sing Street, how writing for musicals differs from pop songs, the ways the Infinite Jukebox changes how (young) people discover music and how he stays current, the time he avoided meeting one of his musical heroes, his work with the new act HYYTS, how a Danny Wilson reunion got derailed by Nanny McPhee, and much more! (12/18/18) – mp3

#299 – The Guest List 2018 & Bill Kartalopoulos – Comics scholar (and curator, and editor, and educator) Bill Kartalopoulos joins the show to talk about his role as the series editor of The Best American Comics (HMH)! We get into the process of winnowing down the year’s best, working with a new guest editor each year, Bill’s history in comics, the challenges of fitting everything to a standard page size, programming festivals and his tricks for getting a weird mix of panelists, his upcoming general history of North American comics, and plenty more! But first, it’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories Show tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2018’s pod-guests and asked them about the favorite book(s) they read in the past year, as well as the books or authors they’re hoping to read in 2019! Nearly 3 dozen responded with a dizzying array of books. (I participated, too!) Just in time for you to make some Christmas purchases (or a belated Hanukkah gift), The Virtual Memories Show offers up a huge list of books that you’re going to want to read! (12/11/18) – mp3

#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 LelandNew 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 MaslinMichael 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 CluteKathe 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 PierreJennifer 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 AfterJohn 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 RelevanceElizabeth 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 WordsLangdon 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 ApartJonathan 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 BelgiansEdward 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: PalimpsestMichael 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 NonsenseLevi 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 VituperationMary 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 LearnerJules 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 SwordMaria 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 DaySam 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 StampJohn 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 RememberDaniel 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 BombNina 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 ArtistSara 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 PoetCharles 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 PoetJonathan 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 HolidayJessa 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 HitlerRon 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 LAMerrill 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 BackSeth, 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, RhapsodicRupert 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 PracticeKatie 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, PainTova 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 PossibleBean 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 PullPaul 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 RestEmily 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