“The biggest thing I learned editing The Getaway Car is that a working writer’s work is never done.”
Let’s kick off 2015 with a podcast about one of the 20th century’s great America writers, Donald Westlake! Our guest, Levi Stahl, is the editor of The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany (University of Chicago Press). We talk about his history with Westlake’s crime novels, why Parker is Westlake’s greatest achievement, why the author wrote under so many pseudonyms, what it was like to be a working writer and how that concept may not exist nowadays, and what Westlake project he’d love to bring into print.
We also talk about Levi’s day job as publicity manager for U of Chicago Press, his advice for people looking to get into publishing, why he loves twitter, how the internet has helped and hurt book criticism, what makes him put a book down, what he’s learned about book marketing over the years, his favorite menswear store in NYC, how he can support both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, and more! Give it a listen!
Levi Stahl is the publicity manager for the University of Chicago Press. He has served as the poetry editor for the Quarterly Conversation, and has written for the Poetry Foundation, the Chicago Reader, the Second Pass, the Bloomsbury Review, the Front Table, the New-York Ghost, the New York Moon, and McSweeneys Internet Tendency. He tweets at @levistahl
Credits: This episode’s music is Life of Crime by The Triffids. The conversation was recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Stahl by me.
“I managed to go 43 issues before I hit the paralyzing grip of self-doubt and self-consciousness [from realizing that I had an audience]. I feel lucky that I had all those years to write comics in essentially a vacuum. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be 20 years old and trying to write comics in this world with the internet’s immediate response.”
John Porcellino has been publishing his King-Cat Comics & Stories mini-comics for 25 years, but I managed not to check them out until last month. BIG mistake on my part! Turns out the critics were right; John P.’s one of the best autobio cartoonists out there, as well as “a master at miniature poignance” (Entertainment Weekly). We sat down at SPX 2014 to talk about publishing his new work, The Hospital Suite, as a standalone book and developing the skill and courage to tackle longer stories, his disdain for “the culture of like”, overcoming the shame and stigma of his OCD, the process of discovering an audience for his work, the pitfalls of autobiographical comics, discovering the power of negative space, turning his life into a narrative, how comics enabled him to communicate with people, and, most importantly, being an NFL bigamist. Give it a listen!
“If things didn’t get better, I was going to be the guy wandering down an alley in my underwear with tinfoil wrapped around my arms.”
Credits: This episode’s music is Theater is the Life of You by The Minutement (John’s a fan). The conversation was recorded at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Mr. Porcellino by me.
“With my brothers, it was like ‘Resistance is futile! You will enjoy horror movies! You will go to comic book conventions! You will learn to love B-movies and worship Tor Johnson and Plan 9 from Outer Space! Shemp Howard must be worshipped!’”
Kipp Friedman is the latest member of a comedic dynasty (so says the subtitle of his new memoir, Barracuda in the Attic). The son of novelist, journalist, playwright and screenwriter Bruce Jay Friedman and brother of cartoonist Drew Friedman and writer/musician Josh Alan Friedman, Kipp has tossed his hat into the ring with a book filled with tales of New York City in the 1960’s and ‘70s, of pop culture education, of living with his divorced dad during his days writing “The Lonely Guy” columns, and more!
“My father was so prolific for so many years as a writer, people would wonder why he never seemed to be working. And yet his stuff kept on being published. I think making it seem effortless rubbed off on his kids. We agonize over everything.”
While in NYC for a series of book readings, Kipp sat down to talk with me about Barracuda in the Attic (Fantagraphics Books), the joys of “growing up Friedman,” hunting for comics and Mad magazines with his brothers, what he misses about New York, what he’ll never forgive the Knicks for, how he ended up with a “real job,” and what it felt like to add a volume to the bookshelf of works by his family. It’s a wonderful perspective on the most creative family any of us will likely ever see!
Kipp Friedman is a native New Yorker who holds B.A.s in history and journalism from the Universit of Wisconsin-Madison. He began his career as a reporter for several newspapers in south Florida before moving to Wisconsin, where he worked in PR for GE Medical Systems, as marketing and PR director at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, and as a PR consultant for Jewish Family Services of Milwaukee. He is also a professional photographer and has shot more than 300 bar and bat mitzvahs (despite not having been bar mitzvah’d himself). He currently resides in Milwaukee with his wife, Anne. They have a grown son, Max, who is studying to be an architect. Barracuda in the Attic is his first book.
Credits: This episode’s music is When I Write a Book by Rockpile. The conversation was recorded at a hotel in SoHo on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded at home on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Kipp Friedman by me.
“I was asking not to be taken seriously, but I was also getting annoyed that I wasn’t being taken seriously.”
Peter Bagge, the comics legend behind Hate!, Neat Stuff, Apocalypse Nerd and Everybody is Stupid Except for Me, joins us to talk about his new book, Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story. We have a great conversation about why he chose to write about the founder of Planned Parenthood, how he made the shift from fiction to nonfiction comics, who his favorite “pre-feminist feminists” are, why he decided to stick with comic books over paperback books (and why he came around on the latter), what the strangest sketchbook request he ever received is, and how he feels about being a comics convention prostitute.
We also talk about how he never got a word of approval from his dad or his editor, how his libertarian politics became ostracized after the 2008 election (and how some people seem to be coming around on that), why he doesn’t draw elbows, and what it felt like to be considered the “least insane of cartoonists” by R. Crumb.
Credits: This episode’s music is Hateful Notebook by the Descendents. The conversation was recorded at the Bethesda North Marriott during SPX 2013 on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 mics feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded in my home office on a Blue Yeti USB microphone. File-splitting is done on a Mac Mini using Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo by me.
“When you start out writing, you think, ‘Maybe I’ll become one of the great writers, like Dostoevsky or Goethe, Tolstoy.’ Then you quickly realize that that’s never going to happen. But I’ve been writing now for close to 50 years, and I’ve never really had writer’s block. I think success has been esteem in this particular world of the essay and nonfiction. When I go to conferences for the Association of Writing Programs, I’m treated like a demigod. But when I’m in the real world, I’m anonymous.”
Phillip Lopate, the finest personal essayist of our time, joins us to talk about finding his voice, the difference between memoir and essay, teaching students to use the self to fetch the world, why blogs remind him of Sei Shonagon’s pillow books, what’s too personal for a personal essay, and more!
“I had learned from the great essayists — Montaigne and Hazlitt and Lamb — that it wasn’t so much the subject matter as it was the voice and the display of consciousness that was intriguing. If you liked the essayist, you would read anything that they wrote.”
We discuss his five-decade-plus-long career (spanning 20 books and collections, including 2013’s Portrait Inside My Head and To Show and to Tell), the author who started him on his path, his balance between writing fiction and essays, how readers read and misread his work, his methods for fusing the personal and the critical, why students should read some of his essays before taking his classes, whether he considered going Hollywood, why and how he assembled The Art of the Personal Essay anthology, and who his favorite New York Met is. (I was surprised by his answer to that last one.)
“An editor once told me, ‘Phillip, your idea of a perfect assignment is one where you never have to leave the house.'”
Credits: This episode’s music is Sometimes The Truth Is All You Get by The Low and Sweet Orchestra. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Lopate’s home in Brooklyn on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 mics feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded in my home office on a Blue Yeti USB microphone. File-splitting is done on a Mac Mini using Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Top photo by me. Bottom photo by Cheryl Cipriani.
Here’s a short post to keep you apprised of things, dear reader/listener!
The Virtual Memories Show (VMS) podcast just had its most successful month yet, busting the previous monthly record for downloads by 13%. I don’t chase numbers, but I admit that it makes me happy to know that people are downloading (and maybe listening) to the show.
I wrote my first short story in 20+ years last week, after a trip to the Art Institute in Chicago. It’s called Loesser and the Six-Faced Conqueror of Death on a Buffalo. If you want to read it, make a donation of at least $1 in the tip jar! I added a Paypal “donate” button to the site; it’s also at the end of the Podcast Archive page.
I put that in place because it’d be nice to get a little money specifically for VMS-related stuff. My day job subsidizes the show (and gives me opportunities to travel and interview guests), and I don’t have any illusions about making a living based on the podcast, but it’d be nice to know if people put any monetary value on the work I do to bring out the show.
About Jason Collins: I’m very glad that he felt ready to come out. I was a Nets fan when he played for them, and in those days I was conflicted about cheering for Jason Kidd, despite the fact that Kidd’s arrival turned the team around and propelled them to two NBA Finals appearances. That’s because Kidd got traded to NJ because he beat his wife. But they won, so I rationalized.
It’s time for another month’s worth of my tweets from twitter! First the retweets (the ones that begin with RT) and then the marginally more original ones! Remember, you can get these regularly by following groth18!
In honor of July 4th, we’ll start off with a bang!