Episode 212 – Samuel R. Delany

Virtual Memories Show 212:
Samuel R. Delany

“The most important thing I thought students needed was the one thing you’re never allowed to teach.”

Legendary author (and longtime pal) Samuel R. Delany (a.k.a. Chip) joins the show to talk about the sex lives of older gay men, how he’s taken to Facebook, how losing his library was akin to lobotomization, the writers he misses, Star Wars, his attraction to homeless men, retiring from teaching, the one thing he wanted to teach students but was never allowed to, the split between good writing and award-winning writing, and his passive-aggressive technique for getting me to organize a breakfast brunch for him. (It worked; there are pictures on my Instagram feed.) Give it a listen! And go buy lots of Chip’s books!

“When you lose several thousand books and you’re a writer, that’s kind of like having a lobotomy. . . . I have the desire for exactitude but no method to achieve it unless I have texts in front of me.”

“Too many appalling writers have won the Nobel Prize for literature.”

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

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About our Guest

Samuel R. Delany is the author of dozens of books, including Dhalgren and The Mad Man, and the best-selling nonfiction study Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. He lives in Philadelphia and recently retired from teaching at Temple University. The Lambda Book Report chose Delany as one of the fifty most significant people of the past hundred years to change our concept of gayness, and he is a recipient of the William Whitehead Memorial Award for a lifetime’s contribution to lesbian and gay literature. Wesleyan University Press recently published In Search of Silence: The Journals of Samuel R. Delany, Volume I, 1957-1969.

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 Chip’s apartment in Philadelphia 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. Photo of Chip at his breakfast brunch by me. It’s on my instagram.

Podcast: From Billiards to Bach

Peter Kalkavage on The Virtual Memories Show

Virtual Memories: Peter Kalkavage – From Billiards to Bach

“No one can be deeply affected by this course of study and not want to go beyond it. It gets you excited about ideas, questions and authors. To read one author is to lead you to another.”

hegelshrunkHow 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, which offsets the question of “Luther or Calvin?”)

“In my time here, the one change that has irked me the most has been the shift from Luther to Calvin in the sophomore seminar. There were understandable problems with Luther . . . on the other hand, he deals in a blunt and powerful way with questions of freedom, secular authority, and faith-vs.-works. Calvin seems too relentlessly negative and too obsessed with the question of predestination.”

We also discuss his upbringing, The Big Lebowski, the teacher who got him to turn himself around, his favorite area to teach, how Dante taught him the possibilities of poetry, the question of whether we’re ever mature enough to read the curriculum, and the recent move to rebrand St. John’s College.

“We have to be very careful not to present ourselves in what we think might be an attractive way which misrepresents what we most have to offer our students, the country and the world: our curriculum. That’s the most important thing. Not our location, not our extracurricular activities, but the program. ‘The following teachers are returning to St. John’s next year. . . .'”

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

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About our Guest

Peter Kalkavage has been a tutor at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., since 1977. He is director of the St. John’s Chorus. Dr. Kalkavage is the author of The Logic of Desire: An Introduction to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, and has produced translations of Plato’s Timaeus and Statesman for Focus Philosophical Library. He is also author of two texts that have been used in the St. John’s music program, On the Measurement of Tones and Elements: A Workbook for Freshman Music.

Credits: This episode’s music is the opening credits to Miller’s Crossing by Carter Burwell. The conversation was recorded in Peter Kalkavage’s office during the St. John’s College 2014 Piraeus seminar 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 Peter Kalkavage by me.