“I always like smart, rebellious young people who feel like the world has done them bad.”
Artist Molly Crabapple joins the show to talk about writing her new memoir, Drawing Blood (Harper), making illustrated journalism from Syria, Guantanamo and Abu Dhabi, translating Nizar Qabbani, growing into her parents’ legacy of art, Marxism and argumentation, finding her soul in the Damascus Room at the Met, balancing community and competition, stepping back from the idea that we’re in an “Age of Outrage” and more! Give it a listen!
“The world hates refugees. I’m convinced that if there was a major crisis in Canada and we had 10 million white refugees, we’d still think of some reason to keep them out. People hate impoverished people fleeing over borders.”
We also talk about Charlie Hebdo, the Occupy movement, Molly’s success at bypassing the gallery model and whether her path is replicable, the scariest place she’s ever visited as a journalist, her biggest artistic, literary and journalistic influences, and more! (And if you want to find out who she’s reading nowadays, join our Patreon and become a monthly contributor to The Virtual Memories Show!)
About our Guest
Molly Crabapple is an artist and writer in New York. She is a contributing editor for VICE, and has written for The New York Times, Paris Review, and the Guardian, among other publications. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Follow her on Twitter and Tumblr.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Crabapple’s studio 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. Photos of Ms. Crabapple by me.
“Artistically, LA’s a disaster. It’s full of amazing stories. But as a city, it’s not a city. Nobody but bus-drivers see the whole place.”
Singer-songwriter, musician, inventor, dad, reader, and writer David Baerwald joins the show to talk about the ups and downs of his career in the music biz, his crazy family history, the perils of grafting personalities onto up-and-coming musicians, and why he doesn’t trust happiness. We also talk about the Watchmen-like trail of destruction that followed Sheryl Crow’s breakthrough album, why the drug business is notoriously filled with short-tempered people, 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.
“You just want to do something decent when you make a record, but then it becomes a whole thing. It becomes an industry, and you’re always on display and people are tearing you apart psychologically, and you just feel like a buffoon.”
We also get into the difference between writing poems and writing songs, the writers who inspired his work on the David + David album, Boomtown, and why he thinks Thomas Pynchon understood things about the world that people are only now coming to grips with. (BONUS: I clean up some loose ends from last week’s podcast with Merrill Markoe)
About our Guest
David Baerwald was one half of David + David (along with David Ricketts), a band whose one album, Boomtown, scored a gold record. They split up and Baerwald put out several solo records — Bedtime Stories, Triage and Here Comes The New Folk Underground — between 1990 and 2002. He’s written songs for plenty of acts you know, and he wrote many of the songs on Sheryl Crow’s breakthrough album, which is a story he gets into in our conversation. He’s also done a lot of work in movies and TV, both scoring music and writing songs. David’s IMDB page lists many of his songwriting credits, including Come What May, the love song for Moulin Rouge, which was nominated for a Golden Globe award. He also wrote Supermodel, for the movie Clueless, which proves he’s not ALL grim and gloomy.
Credits: This episode’s music is Welcome to the Boomtown (David + David), Colette (David Baerwald), If (David Baerwald), and Heroes (David + David). The conversation was recorded in Mr. Baerwald’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Mr. Baerwald by me.
“The emotions are what interest me in writing erotica, rather than the hydraulics. . . . Essex House showed me that you could write erotica without pandering to the lowest common denominator”
Maxim Jakubowski has had an amazing multi-decade, multi-genre career as a writer, editor, translator and publisher. During Book Expo America in New York, we sat down to talk about how he feels about being The King of the Erotic Thriller, the silliness of genre labels, the perils of having a bad book habit (but not a “bad-book habit”), the story of publishing the first The Mammoth Book of Erotica, how e-books have amplified Sturgeon’s Law, how he managed to make a killing off the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon, and more!
“As a publisher, you have to accept that it’s a business. And genre was always accepted as solid, an area where you don’t lose money: crime, fantasy, science fiction, horror, thrillers.”
- Michael Dirda
- Phillip Lopate
- David Rothenberg/Clive Bennett
- Theodora Goss/Valya Lupescu/Nancy Hightower
- Jesse Sheidlower
About our Guest
Maxim Jakubowski worked for many years in book publishing as an editor (including titles by William Golding, Peter Ackroyd, Oliver Stone, Michael Moorcock, Peter Ustinov, Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Paul Ableman, Sophie Grigson, Marc Behm, and Cornell Woolrich) and launched the Murder One Bookshop, which he owned and ran for over 20 years. He now writes, edits and translates full-time in London. He was born in London and educated in France, and his books have been translated into many languages. From an early age, he was always fascinated by popular culture and his writing and editing has criss-crossed all areas, from science fiction & fantasy to thrillers and, inevitably, erotica.
He conceived one of the genre’s first major contemporary anthologies, The Mammoth Book of Erotica, which has been followed by 18 more volumes, as well as four books devoted to erotic photography. In addition to more than 80 collections in other genres, Maxim has also edited the Sex in the City series, and run the Eros Plus and Neon lists, alongside such crime imprints as Black Box Thrillers, Blue Murder and Maxcrime.
Credits: This episode’s music is Song for Bob by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The conversation was recorded in Mr. Jakubowski’s hotel room in Manhattan 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. Photos of Maxim Jakubowski by me.
Your humble(ish) host just made his annual Piraeus pilgrimage to St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, this time to participate in a four-day seminar about Moby Dick . . . and score a great interview! I managed to get legendary tutor Eva Brann (above) to take a break from her crazy schedule and sit down for a 45-minute conversation about the college’s Great Books program and how she’s seen it change (and stay the same) in her FIFTY-SEVEN YEARS at the school. We also talk about the value of a liberal arts education, the one novel she’d add to the St. John’s curriculum, the need professors have to profess (and why St. John’s has tutors instead of professors), her swoon for Odysseus, her desert island book, her one criterion for a great novel, where she sees the school going in the next fifty-seven years, the Dostoevsky-or-Tolstoy debate, and more, including a boatload of questions I solicited from alumni! It’s a fascinating conversation with one of the most learned people in the world.
And then Ian Kelley, a St. John’s student from 1993, talks about his experience at the college, what brought him there, what he learned about himself and the Great Books, and how his Annapolis experience influenced his decision to join the U.S. Navy. Ian’s a longtime pal and is the first guest to appear in the non-famous Virtual Memories Library (pictured, with dog, who occasionally sighs and grunts during the podcast).
About our Guests
Eva Brann has been a tutor at St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD since 1957 and served as dean there from 1990 to 1997. Ms. Brann is the author of Homeric Moments: Clues to Delight in Reading the Odyssey and the Iliad, The Music of the Republic: Essays on Socrates’ Conversations and Plato’s Writings, Open Secrets / Inward Prospects: Reflections on World and Soul, Feeling Our Feelings: What Philosophers Think and People Know, Homage to Americans: Mile-High Meditations, Close Readings, and Time-Spanning Speculations, and The Logos of Heraclitus, all of which are available from Paul Dry Books.
Ian Kelley is a proud 1997 graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, and an avid motorcyclist, traveler and reader. He trusts Gil Roth to keep him smart and honest. Ian and his wife, Jessica, live in Fallon, NV.
We previously interviewed St. John’s College tutors David Townsend and Tom May, so you should check those out! For more information about St. John’s College and the Great Books program, visit its site.
Credits: This episode’s music is Wonderful World by Sam Cooke. The conversation was recorded at the home of Eva Brann on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The conversation with Ian Kelley was recorded at my home on a pair AT2020 mics feeding into the Zoom H4n. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue enCORE 200 into the Zoom H4n. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo of Eva Brann by me, photo of Ian Kelley and me by Amy Roth.
David Carr has a good piece in the NYTimes today about the public’s lack of interest in the U.S. government’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to assassinate people. You should read it. Drone warfare came up in my podcast interview with Ron Rosenbaum, and will again in next week’s interview with Fred Kaplan. (ADDENDUM: Check out this New Yorker piece by Teju Cole on drone strikes and Obama’s literary habits.)
During the snowstorm this past Friday/Saturday, I watched all 6 hours of the BBC miniseries of John Le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which was remarkably good. It’s left me a bit averse to watching the 2011 remake, although it has a good cast.
Yesterday, I took an old issue of The Paris Review off my shelf, to read the Art of Fiction interview with Mr. Le Carre conducted by George Plimpton in 1997. Here’s a passage that jumped out at me:
INTERVIEWER: But is espionage not different since the end of the cold war? Do you still keep in touch with spies?
JOHN LE CARRE: I have a few people, Americans mainly, some Israelis. The Brits don’t talk to me. It’s necessary to understand what real intelligence work is. It will never cease. It’s absolutely essential that we have it. At its best, it is simply the left arm of healthy governmental curiosity. It brings to a strong government what it needs to know. It’s the collection of information, a journalistic job, if you will, but done in secret. All the rest of it — intervention, destabilization, assassination, all that junk — is in my view not only anticonstitutional but unproductive and silly. You can never foresee the consequences. But it’s a good job as long as intelligence services collect sensible information and report it to their governments, and as long as that intelligence is properly used, thought about and evaluated.
Then you come to the question of targets of intelligence: what are the proper targets of the CIA? That’s a policy problem. For me, they are much more widespread than you would suppose. I think they should be extended to the ecology, to the pollution of rivers and those things. There is, for example, one plant in northern Russia that disseminates more pollution than the whole of Scandinavia. One plant alone. I think things of that sort as so life-threatening that they should be included in the CIA’s brief. And counterterrorism: you cannot make a case for not spying on terrorist organizations. You’ve got to spy the hell out of them.
But countersubversion — that’s a really murky target. That is when a government defines what political thoughts are poisonous to the nation, and I find that a terribly dangerous area. And then of course the maverick weapons — they’ve been left all over the place, partly by us. I mean, where are the Stingers we gave to the Afghans? Also, if you meddle in people’s affairs, you then have to live with the consequences. Look at Afghanistan. We recruited the Muslim extremist movement to assist us in the fight against Russia, and we let loose a demon. Intervention is a very dangerous game, and it always has consequences, and they are almost always embarrassing.
—Paris Review, The Art of Fiction Interview CXLIX (issue 143, summer 1997)
The line from the last episode of the miniseries keeps swimming up in my head: “I still believe the secret services are the only real expression of a nation’s character.” Apparently, in the book, it reads, “The secret services were the only real measure of a nation’s political health, the only real expression of its subconscious.”
We have so much we fail to learn.