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Episode 130 – The Cult of Experience and the Tyranny of Relevance

Virtual Memories Show #130:
Elizabeth Samet –
The Cult of Experience and the Tyranny of Relevance

“How do you learn things? How do you acquire the patience to admit when you don’t know things? I think those are really important things for an Army officer to know.”

41X6zxtIM4L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Elizabeth D. Samet has been a professor of English at West Point since 1997. We talk about the tension between education and training at the military academy, the importance of books to soldiers and officers serving overseas, learning West Point’s unique argot, preparing her students to be unprepared, trying (and failing) to convince Robert Fagles that Hector is the moral center of the Iliad, why she doesn’t teach Henry V to plebes, how not to get caught up in the tyranny of relevance, why she balked at learning the fine art of parachuting, and more! Give it a listen!

“The question I’m endlessly fascinated with is, what do we call war and what do we call peace and can we draw these nice distinctions? It seems to me right now that we can’t.”

NOTE: The opinions Elizabeth Samet expresses in this interview are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of West Point, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense.

We also talk about teaching students who are both future Army officers and 18-year-old kids, how West Point and the student body changed after 9/11, her new anthology (Leadership) and her first two books (Soldier’s Heart and No Man’s Land), her house-on-fire list of books to save, her quarrel with Plato, and her adoration of Simeon’s Maigret novels. Bonus: I tell a long, awful and emotional story from last weekend (it starts around the 75:00 mark, so feel free to stop long before that).

“I have this idea about Plato: no one loves Plato who does not already think himself a guardian.”

We talk about a lot of 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):

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Samet_0044F PUB-Bachrach©Elizabeth D. Samet is the author of No Man’s Land: Preparing for War and Peace in Post-9/11 America (FSG). Her first book, Soldier’s Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point (Picador), won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest and was named one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times. Samet’s work has appeared in various publications, including the The New York Times, The New Republic, and Bloomberg View. She is also the editor of Leadership: Essential Writings by Our Greatest Thinkers, which is out this month from Norton. Samet won the 2012 Hiett Prize in the Humanities and is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is a professor of English at West Point.

Credits: This episode’s music is On, Brave Old Army Team by West Point Marching Band. The conversation was recorded at Prof. Samet’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 Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Formal photo of Prof. Samet by Bachrach; bookshelf photo of Prof. Samet by me.

Episode 120 – Laboratory of Imagination

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Virtual Memories Show:
Lorenzo Mattotti – Laboratory of Imagination

“In my work, I always try to arrive at a new level of capacity. To do that, you must be ready spiritually. When I arrive at that level, there is a fear. You have to break your knowledge to arrive at that level.”

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Lorenzo Mattotti is one of my favorite artists (and cartoonists and illustrators), so it was a thrill to sit down to record with him during Toronto Comic Arts Festival! We talked about his newest book, Hansel and Gretel, how a trip to Patagonia led to a new phase of his art, and why he decided to become a cartoonist instead of a painter (while making his rep in fashion illustration). Give it a listen!

“I’m always curious to look back at my early work, because sometimes I’m so depressed and so lost that I need to go back and say, ‘Look at this! You were able to do that! Go on!’ And sometimes I look at my work and think it was another person who did that.”

coloricataWe talk about the interaction between his comics, paintings, and commercial illustration work, the thread of transformation myths in his comics, how he’s learned to improvise after mastering a controlled style, why he prefers working with writers over writing stories by himself, what fashion taught him about technique and glamour, his “poor parents'” reaction to his comics, his need to find new artistic challenges, how he does those amazing New Yorker covers, who he’s reading, and more!

“[Pinocchio] became a laboratory of imagination. I see how I can return to it year after year and make new interpretations of it.”

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Lorenzo Mattotti17502664291_0d8121a8c7_z is a highly sought-after illustrator (with frequent appearances in and on The New Yorker) and acclaimed graphic novelist. His books include Fires, Murmur, Works, Pinocchio, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Stigmata, The Raven (with Lou Reed), The Crackle of the Frost, and his newest book, Hansel and Gretel (with Neil Gaiman). In addition to his comics and illustration work, Lorenzo Mattotti is a highly respected multi-disciplinary artist, from reinterpreting reinterpreting the models of the most famous fashion designers for “Vanity” magazine, to designing the title sequences for the film “Eros” by Wong Kar-wai, to directing an animated version of his work in the animation anthology “Fears of the Dark.” He lives in Paris, France with his wife Rina and their two children. His wife owns and runs Galerie Martel.

Credits: This episode’s music is Optical Sound by Human Expression. The conversation was recorded at the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville 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. Mattotti by me.

Podcast – Slow Learner

Virtual Memories Show:
Jules Feiffer –
Slow Learner

“There are certain things that come up when you age, the abandonment of some old things and the incredible opportunity to do new things. . . . I discovered at the age of 80 I could do what I couldn’t do at 16, 20 or 30.”

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Lynda Barry takes a selfie with Jules Feiffer at SPX 2014

Jules Feiffer’s professional cartooning career began in 1945 and he’s still going strong. He achieved Mt. Rushmore status as a cartoonist, satirist, playwright and screenwriter, and his new book, the 150-page graphic novel Kill My Mother: A Graphic Novel (Liveright/WW Norton), signals both a new phase in his body of work and a return to the films noir (and comics and romans noir) that first inspired him. We talked about the new book, why he left political satire behind, how it felt to ‘learn to draw’ in his 80s, why we both hate the term “graphic novel”, how Waiting for Godot made him reconsider the possibilities of a 6-panel comic strip, what he learned about storytelling while working on a long-form comic, and more! Give it a listen!

“People like Lenny Bruce and William Steig gave me permission. And once they give you permission you walk through that door that they opened and then it’s up to you to go further. If I’ve played a role doing that, that’s great.”

Feiffer sings!

Jules Feiffer and a page from his next book

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Jules Feiffer‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip ran for 42 years in the Village Voice and 100 other papers. He is the author of a wide range of additional creative work, including the Obie award-winning play Little Murders, the screenplay for Carnal Knowledge, and the Oscar-winning short animation Munro. Other words include the plays Knock Knock (a Tony award nominee), and Grown Ups; the novels Harry, The Rat with Women and Ackroyd; the screenplays Popeye and I Want To Go Home (winner of the best screenplay award at the Venice Film Festival); the memoir Backing Into Forward; the children’s books The Man in the Ceiling, Bark, George, and Rupert Can Dance; and the illustrations for Which Puppy? by his daughter Kate and the children’s classic The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. His latest book is Kill My Mother: A Graphic Novel (Liveright/WW Norton).

Credits: This episode’s music is Retrospective (Duke Ellington), Passionella Prelude, and I Yam What I Yam (Robin Williams). The conversation was recorded at Mr. Feiffer’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photos of Mr. Feiffer (and Lynda Barry) by me.

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