“For years, my basic rejection letter would use ‘alas,’ and the SF community picked up on that and started calling them ‘alas-o-grams.'”
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! Give it a listen! And go buy his new anthology, Go Forth And Multiply: Twelve Tales of Repopulation (Ramble House)!
“The best stories transcend race and gender. . . . On the page, everyone is black and white.”
About our Guest
Gordon Van Gelder published his first story in 100 Great Fantasy Short, Short Stories in 1984 but the majority of his career has been spent as an editor. After a brief internship at Bluejay Books in 1986, he began working at St. Martin’s Press in July 1988. He worked there for 12 years, during which time he worked with such authors as J. G. Ballard, Jack Cady, Bradley Denton, George Pelecanos, and Kate Wilhelm. In 1997, he succeeded Kristine Kathryn Rusch as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. He spent 18 years as the magazine’s editor before handing the reins to C. C. Finlay at the start of 2015. He lives in New Jersey with his family and continues to publish F&SF.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Boston Marriott Quincy during Readercon weekend on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of GVG in a tie, by Leslie Howle, and photo of GVG in a blue Yankees t-shirt, by Al Bogdan, so they’re not on my instagram.
“There were times when I was transcribing the tapes and I’d catch my breath and say, ‘Oh, my God.’ I would stop the tape and just sit there, staring into space. Did I hear what I just heard? It was a shocking, dramatic experience.”
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 (and didn’t listen to for 30+ years). 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. Give it a listen! And go buy A Mother’s Tale (Mad River Books)! (And here’s our 2013 conversation.)
“I feel like all the values I grew up with were repudiated in one election.”
“”We carry this adolescent self in us for so long, we’re not prepared to see ourselves as older.”
About our Guest
Phillip Lopate is a central figure in the resurgence of the American essay, both through his best-selling anthology, The Art of the Personal Essay, and his collections: Getting Personal, Against Joie de Vivre, Portrait of My Body, Portrait Inside My Head, and To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction. He directs the nonfiction MFA program at Columbia University, where he is professor of writing. His new book is A Mother’s Tale.
(There’s a more extensive version at his website.)
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Lopate’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Lopate by me. It’s on my instagram.
“What connected Levine and Herblock was the fire in the belly, the outrage against people try to impose their power over the powerless, who try to disenfranchise people, who try to manipulate the laws for personal gain or prestige.”
Harry 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! Give it a listen!
“Baseball was a way for people to avoid talking about religion.”
We also talk about growing up Jewish in New England, why the 1840s and 1850s are (currently) his favorite era in American history, the Boston Atheneum’s post-Civil War project to collect Confederate material, the terrifying experience of seeing Feiffer’s “Munro” cartoon as a little kid, and why the famous and powerful enjoyed being caricatured! Go listen!
“People always see what they expect to see. I first look at face value, then I draw back to start fresh. What is it? What does it portray? What is it made of? If you do that, you’ve got an understanding that’s far richer.”
About our Guest
Author and curator Harry L. Katz was born in Lexington, MA and educated at Middlebury College and Tufts University, where he earned a M.A. in Art History. Between 1983 and 1991, he served as Assistant Curator of Prints and Photographs at the Boston Athenaeum. Between 1991 and 2004, Harry served as Head Curator within the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress (1991-2004). A specialist in American and European works on paper, he curated two dozen exhibitions at the Library of Congress and led the Library’s unparalleled initiative to collect pictorial works representing the events and aftermath of 9/11. Now an independent curator, he is the author of numerous books examining American art and culture including: Mark Twain’s America: A Celebration in Words and Images (Little, Brown and Library of Congress, 2014), Civil War Sketch Book: Drawings from the Battlefront (W.W. Norton, 2012), Herblock: The Life and Works of the Great Political Cartoonist (W.W. Norton and LC, 2009), Baseball Americana (HarperCollins and LC, 2009), Cartoon America: Comic Art in the Library of Congress (Abrams and LC, 2006), Life of the People: Realist Prints and Drawings from the Ben and Beatrice Goldstein Collection, 1912-1948 (Library of Congress, 1999), and Eyes of the Nation: A Visual History of the United States (Knopf and LC, 1997). His work has been featured in such magazines as American Heritage, National Geographic, Civilization and Smithsonian.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. Intro was recorded on the same setup. Photo of Mr. Katz by me.
“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!
About our Guest
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 was happy to see some of the 1996-2000 players there to celebrate (but no Brosius?).
“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.'”
About our Guest
Phillip Lopate is the author of numerous collections of personal and critical essays, including Bachelorhood, Notes on Sontag, Portrait of My Body, Against Joie de Vivre, and Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan,, as well as several novels and novellas, and three poetry collections, and has edited several anthologies, including The Art of the Personal Essay and Writing New York. His essays, fiction, poetry, film and architectural criticism have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Essays, several Pushcart Prize annuals, The Paris Review, Harper’s, Vogue, Esquire, Film Comment, Threepenny Review, Double Take, New York Times, Harvard Educational Review, Preservation, Cite, 7 Days, Metropolis, Conde Nast Traveler, and many other periodicals and anthologies. He is the director of the nonfiction graduate program at Columbia University, where he also teaches writing. His two most recent books are the personal essay collection Portrait Inside My Head and To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction.
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.