Episode 218 – RO Blechman

Virtual Memories Show 218: RO Blechman

“Time may have taught me things, but I don’t think I learned anything.”

Legendary cartoonist, illustrator, animator, ad-man, artist RO Blechman joins the show to talk about his work and life. We get into the importance of play, the development of his trademark squiggly line (and how he feels when he sees it in other people’s work), his literary upbringing, his News of the Weak series of painting/collages, why he counsels against going to art school, the fateful career decision that he rues 60+ years later, his Mad Men experience and what he learned about management from running his own animation studio, the mistake of turning down a Curious George movie, creating a fore-runner of the graphic novel, and being a 2-D character in a 3-D world. Give it a listen! And go buy all his books, including Dear James: Letters to a Young Illustrator, Amadeo & Maladeo: A Musical Duet, The Juggler of Our Lady, and Talking Lines!

“I really should have been a filmmaker. I really screwed up my life in a terrible way, because I had a chance to be a full-time filmmaker and I threw it away, and it just kills me.”

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

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About our Guest

Born Oscar Robert Blechman in 1930, RO Blechman‘s internationally acclaimed artwork spans decades, mediums, and industries. He is one of the first contemporary cartoonists to pen a full-length graphic novel with The Juggler of Our Lady in 1953, which he published after graduating from Oberlin College. His illustrations and comic strips have graced magazines, anthologies, and newspapers. He has created more than a dozen New Yorker covers. Blechman is also an animated filmmaker, and at one time owned his own animation studio, The Ink Tank. He has been awarded the Gold Medal from the Cannes Film Festival, numerous Emmy Awards, and has been nominated for a BAFTA. In 2002, the Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective of his films. He is also in the Art Directors Hall of Fame, has been an Adweek Illustrator of the Year, and is the creator of many notable advertising campaigns. Blechman is married, has two sons, and lives in Ancram, NY.

Here’s a bio of him that Edward Sorel wrote in 1999. His own version is at his site.

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. Blechman’s farm 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. Photos of Mr. Blechman and his wife by me. It’s on my instagram.

Episode 214 – Wallis Wilde-Menozzi

Virtual Memories Show 214: Wallis Wilde-Menozzi

“We’re shoulder to shoulder with a lot of people, and we assume we know them in a way that we don’t, but we don’t assume that we don’t know them in the way that we should.”

Poet, novelist and essayist Wallis Wilde-Menozzi returns to the show to talk about her novel, Toscanelli’s Ray, the ways Italy has changed in her four decades there, her recent work in narrative medicine, survival tips from living through the Berlusconi era, writing a polyphonic novel of Florence in the ’90s and hearing how those voices have changed, differences between her Italian and American students, balancing poetry and prose, her favorite book of the Divine Comedy (we also get into why I like a different one), accidentally winning a DAR award when she was a schoolgirl, what foods she misses when she’s in the US, thinking in Italian, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Toscanelli’s Ray and The Other Side of the Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italy!

“To be a writer, you have to write something that in a way no one else could write.”

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Poet and writer Wallis Wilde-Menozzi grew up in Wisconsin and resides in Parma, Italy, where she has participated in Italian life for more than 30 years. Her memoir, Mother Tongue: An American Life in Italy, was published by North Point Press to critical acclaim. In 2013, she published The Other Side of the Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italy, from Farrar Straus Giroux, and Toscanelli’s Ray, from Cadmus Editions. A collection of her prize-winning essays appeared in Italian in 2011: L’oceano e denture di not, Moratti e Vitalli. She’s a founding member of the international Ledig Rowohlt Writers Residence in Lavigny, Switzerland, and she is at work on a new book. (Here she is with her husband, Paolo.)

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 Ms. Wilde-Menozzi’s apartment 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. Photos of Ms. Wilde-Menozzi by me. It’s on my instagram.

Episode 127 – The Meandering Reflections of a Literary Sybarite

Virtual Memories Show #127:
Michael Dirda – The Meandering Reflections of a Literary Sybarite

“I enjoy going back to Lorain, Ohio because I’m reminded that the world of Washington and the East Coast literary establishment is a very narrow, special one that’s parochial in its own way. The rest of the world has other concerns: family, job and life in general. Whereas we get all up in arms about very minor things.”

browsingscoverPulitzer Prize-winning book reviewer Michael Dirda rejoins the show to talk about his new collection, Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books (Pegasus Books). We discuss 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! Give it a listen!

“The books that you don’t grasp immediately, the ones that leave you off-kilter . . . those are often the books that really last, and matter.”

Our first three-time guest also talks about the democratization of book reviewing, the problems of storing books in his basement, what he wants an author to think upon reading his book review of a book, his affinity for Clive James’ work, whether his reviews have a coded autobiographical element to them, how the limitations of the book review form shaped his style, why he disagrees with John Clute’s philosophy on spoilers, and more!

We talk about a lot of books in this episode. Here’s a list of ’em (Note: if I ever go to a Patreon crowdfunding model for the show, this is the first thing that goes subscriber-only):

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

dirdaheadMichael Dirda is a weekly book columnist for The Washington Post, and he received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. He is the author of the memoir, An Open Book: Chapters fom a Reader’s Life, and of four previous collections of essays: Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments, Bound to Please, Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life, and Classics for Pleasure, in addition to his newest collection, Browsings. His previous book, On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling, received a 2012 Edgar Award for best critical/biographical work of the year. Michael Dirda graduated with Highest Honors in English from Oberlin College and earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature (medieval studies and European romanticism) from Cornell University. He is a contributor to The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, the online Barnes & Noble Review, The American Spectator, and several other periodicals, as well as a frequent lecturer and an occasional college teacher.

Credits: This episode’s music is Ah, Putrefaction by Jaristo, from Hans Zimmer’s film music for Sherlock Holmes. The conversation was recorded at the Boston Marriott Burlington 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. Dirda by me.

Episode 124 – Don’t Fall

Virtual Memories Show #124:
Jonathan David Kranz – Don’t Fall

“I feel some frustration with contemporary literary fiction: there’s stuff that’s well written without really being good writing. Lovely prose, but stories that feel flat and empty.”

brotherssea Jonathan David Kranz joins the show to talk about his new novel, Our Brothers at the Bottom of the Bottom of the Sea (Henry Holt).We talk about what it means to miss New Jersey, what makes The Shore different from any other seaside amusement region, what he learned while writing for the YA category, what he unlearned from his copywriting day-job, the value of Grub Street writing courses vs. an MFA, and more! Give it a listen!

“New Jersey has two urban centers: New York and Philadelphia. And what they have in common is that neither one is in New Jersey.”

We also compare our New Jerseys (I go on at length; sorry), then talk about his history with the Society for Industrial Archeology, what it’s like to celebrate 20 years as a freelance commercial copywriter (and it is cause to celebrate), and what it was like when he came face to face with the Jungian nature of Tillie the clown.

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

On his blogTillie, Jonathan David Kranz writes, “I was born on an island, Manhattan, but grew up in New Jersey, where I did not go to the beach as often as I would have liked. I studied painting in college (Rutgers), then framed pictures, installed kitchen cabinets, and worked as a backstage theater go-fer before pursuing my MFA in creative writing. True to form, I bummed around again—this time with a family in tow, making my living as a marketing copywriter—before a vacation in Ocean City gave me the inspiration for my first novel, Our Brothers at the Bottom of the Bottom of the Sea. Today, I live with family (and an annoying little dog) in a suburb north of Boston.”

Credits: This episode’s music is 4th of July by Lori Carson. The conversation was recorded at the Virtual Memories 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.

Podcast: Readercon 2013 – Fairies and Zombies

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 15 –
Readercon – Fairies and Zombies

It’s time for a two-part mega-podcast! I visited the 24th annual Readercon, conference on literary fantasy & science fiction (or “imaginative literature,” as it’s known) in Burlington, MA in July, and came back with a ton of interviews! Readercon is a fantastic (ha-ha) event, with great programming, a good booksellers’ hall, and lots of fun conversation; you should make a point of attending it if your tastes run toward the authors who come up in this and the following episode.

I (not-so-wisely) conducted five interviews in one day so, rather than make a 3-hour episode, I decided to split them up between boys and girls. This time around you get interviews with authors John Crowley and Scott Edelman!

“The big books I’ve written have never had a genre at all. They were certain kinds of fictional possibilities that interested and intrigued me and that I wanted to try to achieve. I wouldn’t say there’s an awful lot in Little, Big that’s realistic, but there’s plenty that was based on my daily experiences of life in New York City.”

–John Crowley

John Crowley is the author of Little, Big (or, The Fairies’ Parliament), which I consider one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. I’d known about it for a long time, but only read it a few years ago, after learning that my wife has been re-reading it every year or two since it came out in paperback in 1983 or thereabouts. You should go read it now or wait for the deluxe edition from Incunabula Press! (He’s also written other amazing books, like the Aegypt cycle, Engine Summer, and more.)

I talked with Mr. Crowley about readers’ devotion Little, Big, the problems he faced in writing it and how surmounting them opened the doors to his subsequent books, how the fantasy genre developed during the course of his career, what his favorite imaginary books are, why I felt unprepared for our conversation despite having read six of his novels, and what it was like to write copy for Maidenform bras when he was starting out.

“One of the most amazing things about writing to me is that, even though you’ve read, and heard, and seen thousands of stories, when you sit down to write one, you have no idea how to begin!”

–John Crowley

Even if you haven’t read Little, Big, you’ll find this a fascinating conversation about the writing process, literary reputation, and what it means to tell a story!

Scott Edelman on The Virtual Memories Show

“You have to write the things you love. They have to be extremely important to you, to give you that tingle when you read them. Because if you’re not moved by it, I don’t see how anyone else is going to be moved by it. . . .”

–Scott Edelman

Then I talk with Scott Edelman, a longtime writer, editor and Con-goer, about his zombie-fiction, being an editor at Marvel Comics in the 1970s, his storytelling tips and his pros and cons of workshops, whether he pays attention to literary markets, what Readercon means to him, and what it was like to move from one side of the convention table to the other.

“Why zombies? Because zombies are the closest we’ll ever see to what we’ll really become. Because there’ll be that day when we’re all walking husks without memory.”

–Scott Edelman

Enjoy the conversations! Then listen to part 2 of our Readercon conversations with Theodora Goss, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, and Nancy Hightower. Meanwhile, check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guests

John Crowley lives in the hills above the Connecticut River in northern Massachusetts with his wife and twin daughters. He is the author of Little, Big, the four-volume Aegypt cycle, The Translator, Novelties & Souvenirs, Lord Byron’s Novel, and Four Freedoms. You can find out more about the special anniversary edition of Little, Big here.

Scott Edelman has published more than 75 short stories in magazines such as Postscripts, The Twilight Zone, Absolute Magnitude, Science Fiction Review and Fantasy Book, and in anthologies such as The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Crossroads, MetaHorror, Once Upon a Galaxy, Moon Shots, Mars Probes, Forbidden Planets. His poetry has appeared in Asimov’s, Amazing, Dreams and Nightmares, and others. What Will Come After, a collection of his zombie fiction, and What We Still Talk About, a collection of his science fiction stories, were both published in 2010. He has been a Stoker Award finalist five times, in the categories of both Short Story and Long Fiction. He is the editor of Blastr at the Syfy Channel. You can find more about him at his site.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fairy Tales by Style Council. Both conversations were recorded in a room at the Burlington Marriott on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 mics feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti into my Mac Mini, at my Ikeahack standing desk. File-splitting is done on a Mac Mini using Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photos by me.

Podcast: Highest Learning

Eva Brann on The Virtual Memories Show

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 12 – Highest Learning

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.

Ian Kelley (and Rufus T. Firefly) on The Virtual Memories Show

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).

Enjoy the conversations! Then check out the archives for more great talk!

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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

Podcast: Fire and Bleak House

Virtual Memories – season 2 episode 11
Boaz Roth – Fire and Bleak House

“I can’t be made to believe that they’re just things. Books are friends. And sometimes enemies.”

It’s time for a new episode of The Virtual Memories Show!

bopod

“I’m dumber now at 44 than I was at 24. But when I got to 74 I was hoping to see all the stupid things I thought I knew in my margin notes.”

In this one, my brother Boaz Roth talks about rebuilding his library after a house fire, the joys of Bleak House, the lasting influence of Orwell’s essay, 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.

“The Heart of Darkness is the one book I hate the most to read, and it’s the one indispensable book I think everyone needs to read.”

You’ll also find commentary on the recent spate of superhero movies, the wonders of Clive James’ Cultural Amnesia, being a bad friend to your books, the shock of actually learning something from a David Brooks column, and how Christopher Nolan ripped off his own movie for that new Batman flick, among a pretty wide range of topics.

“Is there an inflection point where we stop worrying about perfecting the things we do for ourselves and start thinking about how we can make things perfect for others? Not just the people we love, but the people we’re connected to by paycheck.”

Enjoy the conversation!

This is part 2 of The Bat Mitzvah Tapes, recorded during a trip to St. Louis in August for my niece’s bat mitzvah. Last week, I posted a conversation with Boaz’s mother-in-law, Lyn Ballard, about literary pilgrimages, what it’s like to read Huck Finn at the age of 5, and the books that made her who she is. Check that one out.

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Credits: This episode’s music is Thunder Road by the Boss. I recorded the intro on a Blue Yeti mic into Audacity, and the conversation with was recorded on a pair of Blue Encore 100 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4N recorder. All editing was done in Garage Band. Have mics, will travel!

Podcast: Four Quartets and Other Pilgrimages

Virtual Memories – season 2 episode 10
Lyn Ballard – Four Quartets and Other Pilgrimages

Lyn Ballard

It’s time for a new episode of The Virtual Memories Show!

In this one, guest 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!

This is part 1 of The Bat Mitzvah Tapes, recorded during our St. Louis trip in August for my niece’s bat mitzvah. Next week, I’ll post a pretty wide-ranging interview with her dad (my brother Boaz), in which I reveal the key to just about all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies.

The Virtual Memories Show is now on iTunes! If you’d like to subscribe, visit our iTunes page!

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Credits: This episode’s music is River of Bass by Underworld. I recorded the intro on a Blue Yeti mic into Audacity, and the conversation with was recorded on a pair of Blue Encore 100 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4N recorder. All editing was done in Garage Band. Have mics, will travel!

The Week that Was

Sorry I didn’t write more last week, dear readers. Last Sunday evening, I had to pick up my dad at Newark Airport, but his flight was delayed an hour or so, and my ensuing late arrival at home led to a short night of sleep heading into Monday (we get up at 5am to start the day). That sequence left me off-kilter for the rest of the week. Since most of my work-days were spent working on my conference and trying to write code for the web-edition of our Top Companies ish, I never got settled enough to start a-writin’.

If you’re interested in the highlights — brunch with a semi-famous author, a shoot-from-the-hip panel discussion at a media relations class, and a fancy dinner that led to the final-straw decision to buy a GPS unit — then click “More”!

Continue reading “The Week that Was”

What It Is: 5/26/08

What I’m reading: Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad, and vol. 1 of Cromartie High School, an incredibly funny manga.

What I’m listening to: That new Portishead album again.

What I’m watching: Kung Fu Hustle, which remains one of the most entertaining flicks of all time, and The Big Lebowski, which I need to write about.

What I’m drinking: Blue Point Brewing Co.’s Blueberry Ale (a gift from this weekend’s houseguests).

Where I’m going: Maybe out to see Iron Man today, but otherwise, nodarnwhere special this week.

What I’m happy about: Having a nice, long, relatively relaxing weekend. (“Relatively,” because Saturday involved a lot of cleaning and cooking, as we had those aforementioned houseguests. Also, I was a nervous nellie because one of the sets of guests had a 1-year-old child, and I was afraid Rufus would get overstimulated and eat the kid. Everything turned out fine.) Oh, and taking a vacation day on Tuesday, just to get a little extra time before diving into the big Top 20 Pharma and Top 10 Biopharma issue of my magazine.

What I’m sad about: Last night, Rufus appeared to have developed a case of Ringworm in Ringwood. Fortunately, we already had a vet appointment scheduled for tomorrow.

What I’m pondering: Why the Coen Brothers use voiceovers in some of their flicks and not in others. Also, how long the natives will let the new Mars probe transmit.

What I’m updating: Rufus’ status! The vet says that they’re just “mayfly” bites, nothing that requires any treatment! Wanna see all the gories? Glad to oblige!