Episode 240 – John Crowley and Michael Meyer

Virtual Memories Show 240:
John Crowley & Michael Meyer

“Writing has made people feel unsafe and uncomfortable since, oh, the Bible.”

One of my favorite authors, John Crowley, returns to the show to talk about his “final dress novel,” the wonderful Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr (Saga Press). We talk about the sense of his various endings, writing a talking animal book that’s actually about an old man dying, the challenges of reaching a broader audience and why he returned to fantastika, his retirement from teaching at Yale and his thoughts on how students have changed, his Catholic upbringing and how it informed his writing, the pressure of new rules and norms on writers, the radical challenge of sympathy, and more. But first, I call Michael Meyer to talk about his new book, The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up (Bloomsbury). We get into what Americans really need to know about China, how the country has changed in the 20+ years that he’s been working and living there (on and off), and why Pittsburgh is the Beijing of the US. Give it a listen! And go buy Ka & The Road to Sleeping Dragon!

“We will figure out how to write exactly what we want to write, but within a coded system where we can speak to one another as adults, while people who want to check it against the present rules can read it that way, but we’ll know better.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guests

A two-time winner of a Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing, Michael Meyer is also the recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award for nonfiction and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His stories have appeared in The New York Times, Time, Smithsonian, Slate, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and on This American Life. The author of The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed and In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, Meyer teaches nonfiction writing at the University of Pittsburgh. His new book is The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up.

John Crowley was born in the appropriately liminal town of Presque Isle, Maine in 1942, his father then an officer in the US Army Air Corps. He grew up in Vermont, northeastern Kentucky and (for the longest stretch) Indiana, where he went to high school and college. He moved to New York City after college to make movies and found work in documentary films, an occupation he still pursues. He published his first novel The Deep in 1975, and his fifteenth volume of fiction, Four Freedoms, in 2009. Since 1993 he has taught creative writing at Yale University. In 1992 he received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 2006 he was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He finds it more gratifying that almost all his work is still in print.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation with Mr. Crowley was recorded at the Boston Marriott in Quincy 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.

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