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 44 years of dilettantism would have prepared him better.

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

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

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

The Host

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


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

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

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


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

“Well done.”
Clive James

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

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

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

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

“Sexist and patronizing.”
–anonymous guest

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thoughtful, smart.”
The Word Girl

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


Find out all the ways you can follow The Virtual Memories Show!

  • iTunes – Subscribe today so you never miss an episode!
  • VMSpod – our new site (only 2014-5 episodes)
  • Flickr – Check out pix of our guests
  • Facebook – Like us, and help me win my mom’s approval
  • Tumblr – same podcasts, but I infrequently post my Two Minutes’ GREAT! mini-podcasts
  • Twitter – news, jokes, links, etc.
  • E-mail list – Sign up at the bottom of this page
  • RSS – Just how much of a nerd are you?

UPCOMING GUESTS (alphabetically)

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

(and, boy, do I have a great list of guests I’m still trying to line up…)


Alphabetical list over here

Episode #137Bill Griffith, cartoonist behind Zippy the Pinhead and the new memoir Invisible Ink (coming 10/6/15)

Episode #136 – Poet, critic, librettist and bon vivant J.D. McClatchy (coming 9/29/15)

Episode #135Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, and return guest Dmitry Samarov (coming 9/22/15)

Episode #134Warren Woodfin, CUNY professor and guest curator of Liturgical Textiles of the Post-Byzantine World exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (coming 9/15/15)

Episode #133Stona Fitch, author of Senseless and publisher of Concord Free Press (coming 9/8/15)

Episode #132Christopher Bollen, author of Orient and editor-at-large of Interview. (coming 9/1/15)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

headly#100 – 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

Episode 48 – 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, Mark Feltskog, 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

submundo-desvirtuando-el-cartoonEpisode 47 – 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

Episode 46 – Success is EmbarrassingWayne-Whitemimi-pond – 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

Mary-Fleener_200Episode 45 – Our Lady of Organized Vituperation – Mary Fleener talks about her career in cartooning, her love/hate relationship with LA (mostly hate now, but there was a little love in the early days), the Zora Neale Hurston story that made a cartoonist out of her, the tale of how Matt Groening accidentally derailed her career, the roots of her Cubismo drawing style, the joys of simplifying her life, the new book she’s working on, the horrors of The Comics Journal‘s message board, and more! (11/25/14) – mp3

Episode 44 – Slow Learnerfeiffer by seth kushner – Jules Feiffer‘s career as a cartoonist has spanned eight decades (!) and he’s not slowing down! At 85, he just published his first comic noir, Kill My Mother, and is working on two more volumes. We sat down to talk about his career, what he learned about storytelling from this jump into long-form comics, why he left satire behind in the ’90s, how he survived the experience of making Popeye with Robert Altman, and how it feels to be in his 80s and finally able to draw like he wanted to when he was 16. (11/18/14) – mp3

Episode 43 – The Way of Pen and SwordmariaheadMaria 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

gehrheadEpisode 42 – 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

sam grossEpisode 41 – Look Day – Sam Gross, author of I Am Blind and My Dog is Dead, talks about his 60-year career in cartooning, keeping up his gag-panel work ethic & humor in his 80s, his enjoyment of “the humor of the handicapped,” missing National Lampoon, learning how to draw for himself and not for a specific editor, the  Vanishing New York tour he once got from Charles Addams, and more! (10/28/14) – mp3

portrait-ashtonEpisode 40 – 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

Episode 39 – 35 Cents & a Stampjohnporcellinoselfportrait – John Porcellino, author of King-Cat Comics and Stories and The Hospital Suite, talks about 25 years of producing mini-comics, developing the skill and courage to tell long-form stories, his disdain for “the culture of like”, overcoming the shame and stigma of his OCD, the process of discovering an audience for his work, the pitfalls of autobiographical comics, discovering the power of negative space, and, most importantly, reconciling NFL bigamy. (10/14/14) – mp3

Episode 38 – A Sense of Someplace To Gosamarovhead – 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

Hagen2-2671x2666Episode 37 – May God Remember – Daniel Goldhagen, author of The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism, discusses the evolution of antisemitism, why this prejudice is unique in human history, how Jews have managed to survive in the face of it, and how it feels to go into The Family Business! Bonus: I mourn the loss of D.G. Myers, a guest from earlier this year who recently died of prostate cancer. (9/30/14) – mp3 

in-nina-590Episode 36 – Time’s Bomb – Nina Bunjevac, Doug Wright award-winning cartoonist and author of the forthcoming Fatherland: A Family History, talks about her family history against the backdrop of Serbian independence. We also talk about her comics-epiphany, the joys of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and the respective perils of researching terrorist organizations and using too much stippling in her drawings. (9/23/14) – mp3

s-lippmann-apdrewpicEpisode 35 – Jewish Gothic and the Restless Artist – Sara Lippmann joins us to talk about her debut collection, Doll Palace (Dock Street Press), but first, Drew Friedman returns to the show for a conversation about his new book, Heroes Of The Comics: Portraits Of The Pioneering Legends Of Comic Books (Fantagraphics). One or the other discusses MFA vs. NYC, Sammy Petrillo vs. Jerry Lewis, and me vs. books by women. You’ll be surprised to discover which one is working on a project set in the Borscht Belt! (9/16/14) – mp3

RozChast_300x225Episode 34 – 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

njpoetEpisode 33 – The Peace Poet – Charles Bivona joins us to talk about his passage from a working-class, war-traumatized youth into his life as a writer, professor, social media guru, and NJPoet. We get into a pretty heavy conversation about the role of poetry in America today, his theory on the transmissibility of PTSD, the value of building a massive Twitter network, the lessons of growing up poor, how Walt Whitman saved him on one of the worst days of his life, and why getting bumped out of academia for blogging may have been the best thing for him. (9/2/14) – mp3

rosebwEpisode 32 – The War Poet – Jonathan Rose, author of The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor, joins us to talk about understanding Winston Churchill the statesmen via Winston Churchill the artist. Along the way, we talk about Churchill’s roots in Victorian melodrama, his no-brow approach to art, how Hitler was like a photo-negative of Churchill, the one book Prof. Rose wishes Churchill had read, and what it’s like teaching history to students who weren’t alive during the Cold War. (8/26/14) – mp3

fwilson Episode 31 – 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

jessaheadshot Episode 30 – Bookslut’s Holiday – Jessa Crispin, founder of Bookslut and Spolia, joins us to talk about 12 years of book-blogging, the advice she’d give her 23-year-old self, the downsides of learning to write online, her take on the state of book reviewing, her upcoming book, The Dead Ladies Project, how she learned to love Henry James while nursing a breakup, and more! (8/12/14) – mp3

MichaelDirda544[photo credit to Locus Publications -- Amelia Beamer]2009Episode 29 – 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

ronrosenbaumharrywalkerEpisode 28 – Re-Explaining Hitler Ron Rosenbaum returns to the show to talk about the new edition of his fantastic book, Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil. We talk Hitler, the meaning(s) of evil, determinism and free will, Hitler-as-artist vs. Hitler-as-suicide-bomber, “degenerate art,” the tendency to blame Jews for their misfortune, and how internet culture has warped the meaning of Hitler in the 16 years since Ron’s book was first published. (7/29/14) – mp3

246_Ron_Slate_photo_copyEpisode 27: 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

0627baerwaldEpisode 26: 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

Episode 25: Dogs of LAMerrill-Markoe_by_John-Dolan_jpg_627x325_crop_upscale_q85 – Merrill Markoe, Emmy award-winning TV writer, co-creator of Late Night with David Letterman, and author of eight books of essays and novels, including Cool, Calm & Contentious, joins us to talk about her career, the show she’d want to write for if she was starting out today, being too busy worrying about cancellation to notice that she was helping change the nature of TV comedy, her technique of sleepywriting, her love of dogs, her favorite Stooge, her literary influences, her favorite cartoonists, and more! (7/8/14) – mp3

Kalkavagearchive Episode 24: 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

June 24: I deserve a vacation, and I’m taking one

Episode 23: Haste Ye Backsi-seth_author-harbourfront – Seth, cartoonist/creator of Palookaville, George Sprott, Wimbledon Green, and The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists, joins us to talk about memory and time, his love of digression, being “Mr. Old-Timey”, what it means to be a Canadian cartoonist, and learning to let go of the finish and polish that used to characterize his work. (6/17/14) – mp3

391813753Episode 22: Wax, Rhapsodic – Rupert Thomson joins the show to talk about his new novel, Secrecy (Other Press), a 1690’s-based thriller about the Florentine wax-sculptor Zumbo, as well as the perils of researcher’s block, his 90-minute audience with James Salter, a great book of archaic Italian curses, the joys of visiting the graves and/or homes of his literary idols, why finding the psychological truth of a story is more important than the details and background, and why it always helps to know a good histopathologist. (6/10/14) – mp3

katieheadEpisode 21: Theory and Practice – Katie Skelly, cartoonist/creator of Operation Margarine, joins the show to talk about Edie Sedgwick, Roland Barthes, The Maxx, the juggling act of holding down a (respectable) full-time job while working on her art, her disdain for YA fiction, and how she was warped by reading Nabokov for all the wrong reasons. (6/3/14) – mp3

george-prochnik-f90364986f58f64bd895f6839173dace956ec45a-s6-c30_0Episode 20: 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

mimi-pondEpisode 19: 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

LU-Morgan-Norman-1-bwEpisode 18: 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

0406CHOEN-master180Episode 17: 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

ND3K0977-210Episode 16: 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

1966804_10100504781351285_194121416_nEpisode 15: 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

daniellevinephotocreditEpisode 14: 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

myerstwitEpisode 13: 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

Tova_Mirvis_5629-12-200x300Episode 12: Window, Pain – Tova Mirvis discusses her new novel, Visible City, and her 10-year odyssey to write it. We also cover the best writing advice she ever got, the ways that writing a book is like building a stained-glass window, why growing up an orthodox Jew in Memphis wasn’t just like Designing Women with better wigs, and the advantages of being offline for a week when the New York Times publishes your op-ed about getting divorced. BONUS! You also get my monologue/essay on Jews & Geordies! (4/1/14) – mp3

sarah1Episode 11: 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

maya-stein3Episode 10: 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

nfoxSheilaKeenan Episode 9: 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

bjfEpisode 8: 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

Episode 7: Removed at request of interviewee

d2c890a440c46f69b6103f6f0d47052cEpisode 6: The Realm of the Possible – Bean Gilsdorf talks about making the decision to be an artist, building a career without mass-marketing her art, escaping the tautology of process, the value of getting an MFA, the most asked question at her Help Desk column at the Daily Serving, the difference between the fictional and the imaginary, and more! (2/11/14) – mp3

paul-gravettEpisode 5: Feeling Gravett’s Pull – Paul Gravett, a.k.a. The Man at the Crossroads, talks about his new book, Comics Art, the Comics Unmasked exhibition he’s curating at the British Library, the reason manga took over the world (but mutated in the process), the history of the British comics scene and his history within it, and more. (2/4/14) – mp3

hqdefault Episode 4: 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

Rachel-Hadas-photoEpisode 3: The Consolation of Poetry Rachel 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

raboteauEpisode 2: A Place to Rest – Emily Raboteau, author of Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora, talks about the Promised Land, talks blackness, whiteness, and everydamnthing in between, as well as churchgoing in New York City, what it’s like to travel to Antarctica, why the story of Exodus is so pivotal in the black American experience, and why Jewish book reviewers may have thought she was pulling a bait-and-switch. (1/14/14) – mp3

brettmartinEpisode 1: 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

Episode 32: 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

8534145_origEpisode 31: 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

peterEpisode 30: On Cats and Calamities – Author Peter Trachtenberg joins The Virtual Memories Show to talk about his work, including The Book of Calamities and Another Insane Devotion! We discuss the tension between non-fiction and fiction, how to search for a lost cat, where the line is between the private and the public, how he stumbled into the lyric essay form, how the process of getting clean and sober influenced his writing, how marriages fall apart and how they (maybe) come back together, and more! (12/10/13) – mp3

NYRB-in-Dehanna-300x286Episode 29: War is a Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone – Zach Martin recently retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after 16 years in the service. But 25 years ago, he and your host were hyperliterate misfit high-school pals, trading Thomas Pynchon, Thomas Disch and Robert Anton Wilson novels. So how did he end up commanding Marine Recon forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as Maj. Zachary D. Martin? Let’s find out on The Virtual Memories Show! (12/3/13) – mp3

Lisa Borders Author Photo (Color)Episode 28: You Can’t Get There From Here – Our fifty-first interview is with Lisa Borders. author of The Fifty-First State! It’s a fine book about mismatched half-siblings brought together by calamity, set in an area of New Jersey overlooked by most everyone but its residents. We have a fun conversation about her work and influences, how her science background informs her writing process, why form has to rise from story, why she defends Jonathan Franzen’s novels, how a Michael Cunningham short story changed her life, and whether southern NJ should secede and become America’s fifty-first state. (11/26/13) – mp3

maximjakubowskiEpisode 27: Sex, Crime, and Other Arbitrary Genre Labels – Editor, writer and publisher Maxim Jakubowski talks about his lifetime in erotica, strategies for maneuvering through Book Expo America, the silliness of genre labels, the perils of having a bad book habit (that’s “bad book-habit”, not “bad-book habit”), how e-books have amplified Sturgeon’s Law, how he feels about being The King of the Erotic Thriller, and how he managed to make a killing off the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. (11/19/13) – mp3

virginia_postrelEpisode 26: Glamour Profession – Virginia Postrel talks about her new book, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion! We discuss the uses and abuses of glamour, the nerd fixation on space travel, the first known symbol of glamour, and how Barack Obama’s first election campaign was heaven-sent for Ms. Postrel’s book! (11/12/13) – mp3

F1Episode 25: The Land of the Big Sulk – Hooman Majd, author of The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran, talks about Iran and his family’s year-long stay there in 2011, the conflict of nationalism and religion, the nuclear issue, the possibility of becoming a modern state without liberal democracy, why Israel and Iran should be BFFs, whether there’s a word in Farsi for ‘sprezzatura’, and more! (11/5/13) – mp3

FredRoger_200x200Episode 24: The Show Must Go On – Roger Langridge, cartoonist/creator of Fred the Clown, talks about how he found that niche, his work on (and love of) The Muppets, Popeye, and Dr. Who, the responsibility of helping attract the next generation of comics readers, his lifetime love of vaudeville, his upbringing in New Zealand, how he accidentally became a pioneer in webcomics, why he decided not to work for Marvel or DC, and the one character from one of those companies that he’d love to work on. It’s a delightful conversation with one of the nicest guys in comics! (10/29/13) – mp3

blackstoneEpisode 23: Wine, Women and Novel-Writing – Charles Blackstone, managing editor of Bookslut, talks about his new novel, Vintage Attraction, as well as what he’s learned about book publicity, how the story dictates the form, what bottle of wine I should pick if I were to fall of the wagon, the similarities between deconstruction and molecular gastronomy, how to master the party-throwing art of taking a guest’s coat while handing them a beverage, and more. (10/22/13) – mp3

PeterBaggeEpisode 22: The Least Insane of Cartoonists – Peter Bagge, cartoonist/creator of Hate! joins us to talk about his new book, Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story. We have a great conversation about why he chose to write about the founder of Planned Parenthood, how he made the shift from fiction to nonfiction comics, who his favorite “pre-feminist feminists” are, why he stuck with comic books over paperback books for too long, what the strangest sketchbook request he ever received is, and why R. Crumb considered him the least insane of cartoonists. (10/15/13) – mp3

DrewFriedmanEpisode 21: The Guy Who Drew the Liver SpotsDrew Friedman, the Vermeer of the Borscht Belt, the great painter, cartoonist,  and chronicler of modern fame (and infamy), invited me out to 2nd Ave. Deli in NYC to record a conversation about art, show biz, R. Crumb, Joe Franklin, the Friars Club, Howard Stern, Abe Vigoda, the gallery show commemorating his books on Old Jewish Comedians, and more! It’s a fun conversation with someone who watched even more TV and read even more comic books as a kid than I did! (10/8/13) – mp3

phillip_lopateEpisode 20: Slipping the Noose of the Topical – Phillip Lopate, the finest personal essayist of our time, joins us to talk about finding his voice, the difference between memoir and essay, teaching students to use the self to fetch the world, why blogs remind him of Sei Shonagon’s pillow books, what’s too personal for a personal essay, how he balances writing fiction, creative nonfiction and essays, how readers read and misread his work, his methods for fusing the personal and the critical, whether he considered going Hollywood, why and how he assembled The Art of the Personal Essay anthology, who his favorite New York Met is, and more! (9/24/13) – mp3

ThaneRosenbaumBWEpisode 19: Great Vengeance and Furious Anger – In part 2 of our 9/11 special, author and law professor Thane Rosenbaum joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about his new book, Payback: The Case for Revenge. We discuss how the human mind is hard-wired for vengeance, how the American legal system has let down its victims, how Aeschylus devised the perfect (metaphorical) system for justice, how to get revenge after suicide attacks, and why Thane is easier on Germany than on Poland, when it comes to holding a grudge about their treatment of Jews. Bonus: I talk about the time I had to decide whether to have two guys killed! (9/10/13) – mp3

Hyman-flesh-_-metalEpisode 18: American Graffiti – Jonathan Hyman is the first guest of our two-part 9/11 special! Jonathan began photographing 9/11 murals, tattoos and other memorials immediately after the attacks and continued the project for 10 years, amassing a collection of 20,000 photos, as well as field notes and interviews. We talked about his new book, his decade-long project, mementos mori as American folk art, non-New Yorkers’ reticence to let him photograph them, his own 9/11 experience, and his struggle to keep this work from defining him as a person. (9/3/13) – mp3

David_Rothenberg_1cliveEpisode 17: Arts and Sciences and Bugs – Philosopher, musicologist and clarinetist David Rothenberg talks about his latest book and CD, Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise. Then pharma CEO Clive Bennett reveals himself through the contents of his Kindle and explains the fork-in-the-road moment that may have defined his life. (8/20/13) – mp3

gracesEpisode 16: Readercon – Monsters, Memories and Mythmaking – Part two of our Readercon special features conversations with a trio of writers: Theodora Goss, author of The Thorn and the Blossom: A Two-Sided Love Story, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, author of The Silence of Trees, and Nancy Hightower, author of the forthcoming Elementari Rising! We talk monsters, memories, nutty professors, and authors we’re afraid of freaking out around. (8/6/13) – mp3

crowley-john ScottMay2013MarylandUkeJamEpisode 15: Readercon – Fairies and Zombies – It’s the first of a two-part podcast recorded at Readercon 24! This time, John Crowley talks about his great novel Little, Big, how writing it opened the doors for his subsequent books, and how the fantasy genre has changed over the course of his career. Then longtime writer, editor and con-goer Scott Edelman talks about his zombie-fiction, his tenure at Marvel in the ’70’s, his 40-plus years of attending science fiction, comics and fantasy cons, and the pros and cons of writing workshops. (7/23/13) – mp3

gatesannscreenEpisode 14: The Wonders of the Audible World – David Gates, the author of Jernigan, Preston Falls, The Wonders of the Invisible World and an upcoming collection of stories talks about his writing career, owning his niche (once accurately described as “smart but self-destructive white American middle-class men in crisis”), teaching fiction, leaving the east coast for Montana, building a country/rock band of writers and critics, how he feels about the end of Newsweek, and the anxiety that drove him into writing his first novel. It’s a fun, rambling conversation with one of my favorite living writers. Then, our very first guest Ann Rivera rejoins us to talk about her recent reads and how she escaped the postmodern condition! (7/9/13) – mp3

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

brann-evaScreen Shot 2013-06-09 at 9.11.00 PMEpisode 12: Highest Learning – It’s a Great Books Double Feature! First, Eva Brann discusses her fifty-plus years teaching the Great Books curriculum at St. John’s College, how it’s changed (and how it hasn’t), her role as a female tutor at a time when virtually the entire faculty, student body, and curriculum was male, and more! Then we have a conversation with St. John’s alumnus and Virtual Memories pal Ian Kelley about his experiences in the program and how they informed his life ever since. (6/11/13) – mp3

loriEpisode 11 – Little Suicides, Little Fish – Singer-songwriter, member of the Golden Palominos, and debut novelist Lori Carson talks about her new book, The Original 1982, the blurring of fact and fiction, the differences between songwriting and prose-writing (and album vs. book launches), the transformation of the  music industry, her favorite authors and the books that sustained her through her first novel, and more! It’s a great conversation with one of my favorite musical artists. (5/28/13) mp3

wallisEpisode 10 – Eternity is Music that Plays – Poet, novelist, memoirist and all-around wonderful writer Wallis Wilde-Menozzi talks with about her two new books, The Other Side of the Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italy and Toscanelli’s Ray! It’s a great conversation about the nature of art, the joy of poetry, the American experience in Italy over a span of 40 years, and more. (5/14/13) – mp3

jestercaricatureEpisode 9 – Putting the “Pro” in Profanity – Jesse Sheidlower, editor-at-large for the Oxford English Dictionary and author/editor of The F-Word, talks about the shifting idea of “offensive” language, how one becomes a lexicographer, the OED’s digital challenge, the history of Jesse’s Word, and more! Bonus: you get to listen to me hesitate and trip over myself while trying not to make poor word choices! (4/30/13) – mp3

katchorEpisode 8 – Visible Cities: VMS Live with Ben Katchor – Ben Katchor is the guest for the first live recording (as in, in front of an audience of 50 people) of The Virtual Memories Show! Our conversation (and Q&A with the audience) covers Ben’s new collection of comics, Hand-Drying in America, his creative process, his relationship with technology, his non-nostalgic laments for lost urban totems, and more! This episode was recorded in conjunction with the New York Comics & Picture-stories Symposium. (4/16/13) – mp3

edhermancecraiggidneyEpisode 7: The Importance of Being Out – It’s our first double-episode of the year! First, Craig Gidney discusses his new YA/bullying novel, Bereft, and then Ed Hermance talks about the history of Giovanni’s Room, his queer bookstore that’s celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2013. Lots of great conversation about writing, publishing and bookselling in this episode. (4/2/13) – mp3

mattwuerker1Episode 6: Cartoon Character – Matt Wuerker, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, joins The Virtual Memories Show to talk about his career (including his fascinating non-comics work and his prescient move to the online world with POLITICO), the experience of winning “the Academy Award for cartoonists”, his artistic and political influences, what it takes to get on the NRA’s Enemies List, the opportunities for editorial cartoonists in a post-print world, how his parents felt about his decision to become a cartoonist, whether he had it easier during the Bush/Cheney era or the Tea Party era, and why he thinks the golden age of cartooning is still ahead of us! (3/19/13) – mp3

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

fredkaplanEpisode 4: God’s Way of Teaching Americans Geography – Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Fred Kaplan talks about his new book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War, how we fought the wrong war the wrong way for years in Iraq, why the Army threw out its training manuals after Vietnam, what our original sin in Afghanistan was, and why he got into war writing. Also, I connect war-waging with pharmaceutical clinical trials. (2/19/13) – mp3

scorpioheadEpisode 3: All Tomorrow’s Parties – Miss Scorpio, party planner extraordinaire and mistress of Gemini and Scorpio, talks about 10 years of throwing fabulous themed costume parties, curating one of New York City’s largest underground mailing lists of offbeat cultural events, how to build your own social network, and why you never want to do dinner and a movie for your internet first date. (2/5/13) – mp3

willardheadEpisode 2: The Magnificent Seven – Reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming, and writing: these are the activities organizing the life of this episode’s guest, Willard Spiegelman, author of Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness! We talk about his wonderful book (go read it!), his addiction to ballroom dancing, how to find joy in the day-to-day world, why he hates book clubs, how he turned me on to one of my favorite novels, who his Desert Island Poets are, and, again, Harold Bloom (sigh). (1/22/13) – mp3

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

Season 2

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

scotthoffmanEpisode 15: Hassling the HoffScott Hoffman, co-founder of Folio Literary Management, joins us to talk about his transition from Washington, DC lobbyist to New York literary agent, the future of book publishing (including What Publishers Want and What Readers Want), why zombies are hot, where e-publishing is going, the explosion of the YA market, and the diminishing relevance of publishing’s gatekeepers, and more. (12/11/12) – mp3

SikoryakEpisode 14: Classical PopR Sikoryak, creator of Masterpiece Comics and ringmaster of the Carousel Cartoon Slideshows, joins us to talk about his mashups of “high” literature and “low” comics, the 1980’s art scene in NYC, the sea change in the acceptance of comics as art and entertainment, the (un)importance of having an individual drawing style, and more. (Kindasorta sponsored by Out Of Print Clothing.) (11/26/12)- mp3

dirdaEpisode 13: The Correction of Taste – Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michael Dirda talks about his lifetime of reading and career in writing, the essence of book reviewing and the role of negative reviews, breaking free of genre ghettoes and the pretense of literary immortality, how the web has changed the reviewing ecosystem, and why Mao would have loved the collective wisdom of the internet. (Kindasorta sponsored by Out Of Print Clothing.) (10/16/12) – mp3

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

bogabeachEpisode 11: Fire and Bleak House – My brother, Boaz Roth, reflects on what it means to lose his library in house fire. Along the way, we also talk about the joys of Bleak House, the lasting influence of Orwell’s Inside the Whale, the Tolstoyan qualities of Lost, and what he’s learned over 18 years of teaching literature. Oh, and I offer up The Key To Quentin Tarantino’s Movies. (9/13/12) – mp3

lynballardEpisode 10: Four Quartets and Other Pilgrimages – Former literature professor Lyn Ballard talks about her gateway books, the metaphysical poets, reading Huck Finn at the age of 5, an embarrassing Stanley Elkin anecdote, the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, the importance of making literary pilgrimages, and more! (9/5/12) – mp3

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

pauldifilippodiana rennEpisode 8: Manga-loids and Steampunks! – Diana Renn discusses her new YA novel, Tokyo Heist, and science fiction writer/critic Paul Di Filippo discusses his 30 years as a freelance writer, what forces shape the SF market, what it’s like to be regarded as “King of Steampunk,” and how he would’ve handled a Before Watchmen offer. (7/5/12) – mp3

Episode 7: Part II of The Piraeus Tapes – Guest Tom May, a tutor at St. John’s College, about his path to the school, how the place has changed over the years, and how he had to get a note from his priest to read books from the Vatican’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum. (6/16/12) – mp3

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

Episode 5: Guest John B. talks about being dead for 10 minutes last year, and being alive since; Gil talks about Robert Caro and the publicity-industrial complex – mp3

Episode 4: Removed at request of interviewee

Episode 3: Guest Ann Rivera talks about Housekeeping in the first Secondhand Books conversation – mp3

Episode 2: Burning libraries, Geoff Dyer, and Norah Jones – mp3

Episode 1: Bach, Piers Anthony and the escapism of being a geek – mp3

Season 1

Episode 3: Ernesto Sabato, Clive James, and Borges’ library – mp3 / m4a

Not-quite-an-episode: Reading an old post about Proust, love and Hegel – mp3 only Not-quite-an-episode: Reading a passage from a William Gass essay on Proust – mp3

Episode 2: On Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and the high school teacher who turned me on to that book. Music by Telepopmusik – mp3 / m4a

Episode 1: Just a brief proof-of-concept introduction and a little Calvino reading. Music by Danny Wilson (covering Bowie) – mp3 / m4a


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Want to help pay for our hosting and equipment costs or otherwise show your appreciation for The Virtual Memories Show? To quote our podcast-idol Marc Maron, “Kick in a few shekels!” Make a donation to the tip-jar via PayPal! (Anyone who makes a donation above $1 gets a PDF of one of my short stories!)


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