It’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories Show tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2016’s pod-guests and asked them about the favorite book(s) they read in the past year, as well as the books or authors they’re hoping to read in 2017! More than 30 responded with a dizzying array of books. (I participated, too!) Just in time for you to make some Hanukkah and/or Christmas purchases, The Virtual Memories Show offers up a huge list of books that you’re going to want to read! Give it a listen, and get ready to update your wish lists!
This year’s Guest List episode features selections from more than 30 of our recent guests (and one bonus guest)! So go give it a listen, and then visit our special Guest List page where you can find links to the books and the guests who responded.
(painting of Scribners bookstore by Bob Eckstein from his new book, Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers)
About our Guests
The guests who participated in this year’s Guest List are Glen Baxter, Ross Benjamin, Harold Bloom, MK Brown, Nina Bunjevac, Hayley Campbell, David M. Carr, Myke Cole, Liza Donnelly, Bob Eckstein, Glynnis Fawkes, Rachel Hadas, Liz Hand, Glenn Head, Virginia Heffernan, Harry Katz, Ed Koren, David Leopold, Arthur Lubow, Michael Maslin, David Mikics, Ben Model, Christopher Nelson, Jim Ottaviani, Ann Patty, Burton Pike, Frank Sorce, Willard Spiegelman, Leslie Stein, Tom Tomorrow (a.k.a. Dan Perkins), Andrea Tsurumi, Carol Tyler, Jim Woodring, and me, Gil Roth! Check out their episodes at our archives!
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. Most of the episode was recorded 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. Myke Cole’s segment was recorded at a friend’s apartment in NYC on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC.
For Thanksgiving this year, I decided to eschew the regular interview-based podcast and ask all of my past guests what they’re thankful for. Since it’s a mere couple of weeks from the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, responses were all over the spectrum. Give it a listen by MP3 download or iTunes. Here’s everyone who participated (with links to their episodes of the podcast):
- Andrea Tsurumi • starts at 4:15
- Dmitry Samarov • starts at 4:30
- Chris Nelson • starts at 4:50
- Sheila Keenan • starts at 5:10
- Wallis Wilde-Menozzi • starts at 5:20
- Summer Pierre • starts at 6:45
- Glen Baxter • starts at 7:25
- Hayley Campbell • starts at 7:40
- Kathe Koja • starts at 7:50
- Charles Blackstone • starts at 8:00
- Elizabeth Hand • starts at 8:50
- David M. Carr • starts at 9:25
- David Jaher • starts at 9:45
- Zachary D. Martin • starts at 10:00
- Willard Spiegelman • starts at 10:15
- Roz Chast • starts at 10:25
- Mary Fleener • starts at 10:35
- Glynnis Fawkes • starts at 11:00
- Ed Hermance • starts at 11:30
- Josh Alan Friedman • starts at 11:40
- Jonathan C. Hyman • starts at 12:20 (more about Jonathan below)
- Liesl Schillinger • starts at 13:00
- Rachel Hadas • starts at 13:45
- Ron Hogan • starts at 14:10
- Scott Edelman • starts at 14:45
- Tom Spurgeon • starts at 16:55
- me • starts at 18:35
A few guests sent along material in addition to their written or recorded responses. Liz Hand sent a link to this video about Lincolnville, ME’s Move It! Project:
Jonathan C. Hyman’s contribution is the most involved, and requires a little unpacking. In the podcast, he says, “Despite the 2016 presidential election and the myriad social, environmental, and economic issues that have fractured our society, I am thankful that we are, and hopeful we will remain, a vibrant culture where people are free to speak openly and publicly.”
Background information and narrative: Known for his decade-long project which documents the vernacular public art, public speech, and memorial language that emerged across the United States in response to the 9/11 attacks, documentary photographer and past Virtual Memories guest Jonathan C. Hyman photographed the signage, displays, and public dialogue surrounding the 2016 presidential election.
His work on the election — including the seven images he contributed to this Thanksgiving podcast — is not meant to endorse or disparage Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or their supporters. As a photographer with an interest in public expression — visual and speech — and in “things by the side of the road,” Hyman traveled within an approximate 150-mile radius from his home in Sullivan County, NY to areas in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Here, Hyman presents a sampling of the images in this series as they appeared when he came upon them. He photographed each display keeping in mind his interest in handmade objects, the American flag, and the houses, buildings, and neighborhoods people live and work in. The majority of the signs he saw, many handmade, were supportive of Donald Trump. The large majority of the handmade signs he encountered were displayed by Trump supporters on their own property. Realizing that his findings are anecdotal, Hyman says, “I have no doubt others have seen things I have not and that there were signs supporting Hillary Clinton in areas I have both visited and not traveled to. Nonetheless, it was clear to me that where pro-Hillary Clinton signs did exist, they tended to be of the more pre-fabricated, generic lawn sort and generally less likely to be on front lawns.”
Photographs © 2016 Jonathan C. Hyman All rights Reserved
Click to enlarge each picture:
In addition to being featured on the PBS NewsHour, Hyman’s work has been featured in Time Magazine, The New York Times, the Journal of American History, and several well-known European newspapers and magazines in print and online. In the fall of 2008 Hyman toured Europe as a U.S. State Department Cultural Envoy (as part of a program organized by the American embassy in Vienna and the University of Graz, Austria.), lecturing at universities in Berlin and Tuebingen, Germany, Vienna and Graz Austria, Brno, Czech Republic, and Zagreb, Croatia about his 9/11 related photographs. In addition to lecturing publicly since 2002 at well known academic institutions, from 2008-2016 Hyman was Associate Director for Conflict and Visual Culture Initiatives at Bryn Mawr College’s Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, where he also supervised the Center’s online gallery.
For More Information:
Jonathan C. Hyman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Late addition! Glenn Head writes in:
I really apologize for the delay, I just got married (something I’m deeply thankful for!) there’s been a lot on the plate, but then isn’t that true for everyone? Anyway, sorry.
At the moment I’m more hopeful than thankful, but one hope is that the people who voted in Trump actually did it for the reasons that they say (the economy, basically) and that what we saw at the rallies was a more a raucous party and letting off of steam then a sign of future mayhem. I hope that maybe things will calm down. Trump was a pitchman and a loudmouth for professional wrestling. He’s always said crazy shit for effect. Maybe — just maybe — things won’t go to hell. The tone in today’s NYTimes showed a guy who wasn’t hell-bent on being a hell-raiser. Of course being hopeful isn’t easy at a time like this. But maybe — just maybe — we’ll survive all of this.
I’m really thankful to be married. I found a good woman who loves me and I love in return, we shared our vows in front of friends and family at a great ceremony in a Brooklyn hotel and restaurant (the Whythe). It was a great party and I’m grateful for all of it.
I’m thankful as a comic book artist to be doing what I believe is the best work of my career….and I’m 58 years old too, so that feels miraculous! Very much so…
And even though I don’t read comics much these days I’m grateful for the medium itself, specifically underground comics, and even more specifically their greatest progenitor: R. Crumb. By never selling out he paved the way for others to do the same, and to focus on the art itself. He raised the bar for everyone — all cartoonists (who aren’t hacks!) owe him for that — Big Time!
I’m also thankful for the comix project I’m deep into right now: another memoir about childhood. It’s entitled “Chartwell Manor, a memoir in comics”. It’s about a boarding school I attended in Mendham, NJ in the early 1970s and the effect it’s had on my life. It’s shaping up really well and should be done in hopefully another year!
The thing I’m most thankful for is having such wonderful guests who are willing to pitch in to projects like this (and otherwise help keep me sane)!
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The episode was recorded primarily at stately Virtual Memories Manor 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. Portions by Summer Pierre, Zachary D. Martin and Scott Edelman were recorded separately and shared by e-mail. All processing and editing was done in Adobe Audition CC. Cartoons by Bob Eckstein, photos by Jonathan C. Hyman.
“It’s an existential question, not a historical one: what kinds of places make you feel at home? Some people feel at home nowhere, and some feel at home everywhere. I’m myself, wherever I am.”
Willard Spiegelman returns to the show to talk about his wonderful new essay collection, Senior Moments: Looking Back, Looking Ahead (FSG). We get into the process of deaccessioning, Mark Strand’s advice on paring down to 100 books, Willard’s take on 45 years living in Dallas (and what he’ll miss about it now that he’s retired), the joy of getting lost in Italy, the best way to pick someone up in NYC, the contrast of his 50th high school and college reunions, and more. Give it a listen! And go buy Senior Moments!
“I’m enthusiastically looking forward to getting rid of everything.”
We also mix it up over the aesthetic sunk cost fallacy, ponder being alone in the middle of a crowd, compare Japan and Hungary relative to being linguistically uprooted (I argue that Hungary is tougher, because it looks like you should be able to piece together the language), examine the pharaonic idea of hoarding, and listen to time’s winged chariot hurrying near. Now go listen to the show!
“I’m much too old to write a memoir. That’s the province of 25-year-olds.”
- Willard Spiegelman (2013)
- Jonathan Galassi
- Burton Pike
- Rachel Hadas (2016)
- Ann Patty
- Langdon Hammer
- JD McClatchy
About our Guest
Willard Spiegelman is the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. From 1984 util 2016, he was also the editor in chief of Southwest Review. He had written many books and essays about English and American poetry. For more than a quarter century, he has been a regular contributor to the Leisure and Arts pages of The Wall Street Journal. In 2005, Willard won the PEN/Nora Magid award for literary editing. In addition to Senior Moments, he’s also written or edited Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness, How Poets See the World: The Art of Description in Contemporary Poetry, Wordsworth’s Heroes, Imaginative Transcripts: Selected Literary Essays, Majestic Indolence: English Romantic Poetry and the Work of Art, The Didactic Muse: Scenes of Instruction in Contemporary American Poetry, and Love, Amy: The Selected Letters of Amy Clampitt. Oh, and he’s quite dapper.
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 Mr. Spiegelman’s home 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 Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Photo of Mr. Spiegelman by me.
“I’ve never felt so happy, but I’ve never felt so mortal.”
Poet Rachel Hadas returns to the show to talk about her new books, Talking To The Dead (Spuyten Duyvil Press), and Questions in the Vestibule (Northwestern University Press). It’s been two years since we last talked (over here), so I had plenty of questions for her. How did she rebuild her life after losing her husband to early onset dementia? How did she wind up pals with James Merrill (and what’s her take on his Ouija poems)? What do we lose and gain in the act of translation? And how did she become a love poet after spending her career writing elegies? Listen in to find out!
“It’s like Forster said, there’s a sense that the great poets are sitting at a table, synchronically all writing at the same time.”
You should check out this extra material from our conversation: Backdrop: Merrill in Stonington, a video essay Rachel made with her husband, Shalom Gorewitz, and The Art of Empathy: Celebrating Literature in Translation, a collection of essays commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts. Also, here’s the blog post I wrote about translating Tolstoy.
“I’m at a point in my career where I feel fortunate to be able to publish what I’m writing.”
Also, if you want to find out who she’s reading nowadays and get a list of the books we talked about, join our Patreon and become a monthly contributor to The Virtual Memories Show! At the end of February, the new episode of our patron-only podcast, Fear of a Square Planet, will go up with a bonus segment about who Rachel’s reading lately and why.
About our Guest
Rachel Hadas’s book of selected prose pieces, Talking To The Dead, was published by Spuyten Duyvil Press in 2015. Her new book of poems, Questions in the Vestibule, is forthcoming (April 2016) from Northwestern University Press, which will also publish her verse translations of Euripides’ dramas Iphigenia in Aulis and Iphigenia Among the Taurians. The author of a score of books of poetry, essays, and translations, Hadas is Board of Governors Professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark. She and her husband, artist Shalom Gorewitz, have been working on marrying poetry and video; some of their collaborative work, including a piece about James Merrill, can be seen at www.rachelandshalomshow.com.
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. Hadas’ home 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. All photos of Ms. Hadas by Shalom Gorewitz.
Note: DG Myers died on Sept. 26, 2014, about 6 months after we recorded this episode. You can read my contribution to his festscrhift here.
“I would take an evil delight in asking my colleagues what they were reading, and watching the look of panic on their faces. Because everyone reads scholarship now, and very few primary materials. Our academic specialties are an inch wide and a mile deep.”
Literature professor and book critic DG Myers is dying of cancer, but that doesn’t mean he’s planning to go gentle into that good night. In a far-ranging conversation, we talk about why he believes university English departments will barely outlast him, how he made the move from Southern Baptist to Orthodox Judaism (getting recircumcised a few times along the way), what he’d like to be remembered for, why the idea of The Western Canon is a canard, which books and authors he’s trying to get to before he dies, who he regrets not reading before now, and the identity of the one author he’d like to hear from. Give it a listen!
“Every Shabbos I thank Hashem for my cancer, because it has focused me on what’s good and enabled me to ignore what’s not.”
We also talk about his plans to dispose of his library, the joys of studying under Stanley Elkin, the relation of books to moral life, the things that cease to matter in the face of a terminal diagnosis, the failure of English departments in the age of Theory, the thorny question of whether creative writing can be taught, and what writers and readers should do to save the humanities. Also, check out the list of books that came up in our conversation.
About our Guest
DG Myers is the author of The Elephants Teach: Creative Writing Since 1880, a work of literary scholarship. He has been a critic and literary historian for nearly a quarter of a century at Texas A&M and Ohio State universities, and was formerly the fiction critic for Commentary. He has written for Jewish Ideas Daily, the New York Times Book Review, the Weekly Standard, Philosophy and Literature, the Sewanee Review, First Things, the Daily Beast, the Barnes & Noble Review, the Journal of the History of Ideas, American Literary History, and other journals. He is working on a memoir, Life on Planet Cancer, and lives in Columbus, OH, with his wife Naomi and their four children: Dov, Saul, Isaac, and Miriam (“Mimi”). He writes at A Commonplace Blog.
Credits: This episode’s music is First We Take Manhattan by Jennifer Warnes. The conversation was recorded at Prof. Myers’ 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 Prof. Myers by me.
The year is over! I exceeded my podcast goal of getting a new episode out every other week! And rather than eke out one more interview for the final podcast of the year, I decided to make my life more difficult by hitting up this past year’s guests to find out the favorite books they read in 2013.
At the time, I thought this episode would make a nice companion to my Another Year, In the Books post, but now I realize it’s just another symptom of my Need To Create Giant Organization-Oriented Projects. Regardless, you get the fruits of my obsessive-compulsive labor! This year-end episode features selections from nearly 2 dozen of our recent guests! Go give it a listen! (And visit this cheat sheet if you’d like to see which guests responded and which books they picked.)
About our Guests
The guests who contributed their favorite book from the past year — and that’s “favorite book I read in 2013,” not “favorite book that came out in 2013” — are Charles Blackstone, Lisa Borders, Scott Edelman, Drew Friedman, Kipp Friedman, Craig Gidney, Ed Hermance, Nancy Hightower, Jonathan Hyman, Maxim Jakubowski, Ben Katchor, Ian Kelley, Roger Langridge, Philip Lopate, Hooman Majd, Zach Martin, Ron Rosenbaum, David Rothenberg, Willard Spiegelman, Peter Trachtenberg, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, and Matt Wuerker. Check out their episodes at our archives!
Credits: This episode’s music is Ho Renomo by Cluster/Brian Eno. Most of the episode was recorded at Virtual Memories Manor on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Some segments were recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. Some segments were recorded by the guests and e-mailed in (which is to say: don’t blame me!). Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band.
Merry Christmas! The podcast countdown continues! The 7th most downloaded episode from 2013 was my conversation with Willard Spiegelman, but it’s an episode that almost didn’t happen!
#7 – The Magnificent Seven – Reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming, and writing: these are the activities organizing the life of 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
Here’s the story of the one that (nearly) got away. I interviewed Willard on his birthday in late December 2012 at his apartment in NYC. He was going to head up to Connecticut earlier in the day, but stayed on to record our conversation. We had a great time talking about his recent book and all sorts of topics. About 20 minutes into the recording, I noticed that my backup recorder’s battery was dying and the recorder was about to shut off, but what did that matter? After all, the main recorder was going just fine.
It began to snow heavily while we talked, and my drive back to NJ was a bit of an adventure — largely because of the other drivers. Willard had a tougher go of it, as . . . well, here it is in his words:
It has been a memorable birthday. First you. Then, I got on a train at Grand Central. The plan was for Ken to pick me up at Old Saybrook and take me to a wonderful CT country restaurant. We ditched that. First, it started to snow. So we agreed to cancel the reservation. Instead he would pick me up and bring me home for a delicious dinner. He called when I was on the train to announce that the street had not been plowed and he wouldn’t be able to get me. So I got off at Old Saybrook. Fortunately, an Amtrak train was late, so I hopped on that for New London, 20 minutes away, where I planned to take a cab up to the house. No cabs. No buses. No nothing. So I did when any self-respecting child of the ’60s would do. (First I tried to walk, but that was too loony even for me.) I hitchhiked. First time in 40 years. Within three minutes a nice young man who works as an engineer at Electric Boat picked me up and dropped me off at the top of the hill. I walked down and found Ken who had lost his cell phone in the snow. We found it. Then we helped to push some hapless neighbors whose car had drifted into a snowbank. Now I am enjoying a martini and understanding why people move to Florida.
So you can imagine my embarrassment/humiliation when I had to tell him that the main recorder managed NOT TO RECORD OUR CONVERSATION. No, seriously. The memory card had no sign of that file anywhere. I spent $100 on a data recovery program to scan the crap out of that SD card, but it was to no avail. The conversation was lost. And, as I mentioned, my backup recorder conked out maybe 20 minutes into our 70-minute conversation.
And THAT news is what Willard got when he finally got to their home in CT that night. Happy birthday.
Lucky for me, he was a good sport about it, and willing to record another talk. But with the ephemeral nature of great conversation, many of the topics we touched on that first time could never be recreated. That’s Virtual Memories for ya!
Check back tomorrow for #6, Boxing Day fans! I give thanks to all my guests for the great conversations, and I thank you, dear listeners, for each and every download! Have a merry Christmas, if that’s your thing!
“Americans who come to Italy want to get its beauty, its art, its delicious food. They move very fast through Italy. They’ll see 8 or 10 cities in two weeks.”
Poet, novelist, memoirist and all-around wonderful writer Wallis Wilde-Menozzi joins us on this episode of The Virtual Memories Show to talk about her two new books, The Other Side of the Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italy and Toscanelli’s Ray: A Novel. It’s a great conversation about the American experience in Italy over 40 years. Ms. Wilde-Menozzi possesses both a poet’s sensibility for beautiful language and a keen eye that carefully observes the character of Italy, its populace, and its art. I highly recommend The Other Side of the Tiber; it’s a gorgeous, haunting book (I haven’t read Toscanelli yet, so I can’t vouch for it).
“I felt the enormous power of what Michelangelo was doing, but also this sense of process, the fact that we’re becoming, that nothing is quite finished.”
About our Guest
Wallis Wilde-Menozzi grew up in Wisconsin amid stability and quiet natural beauty. After graduating from the University of Michigan, she lived in Oxford, England, NYC, London, Rome, Palo Alto, California and finally, Parma, Italy. Her Midwestern accent has never been replaced, even by learning other languages. She teaches in Europe and the U.S., lectures widely, and is a founding member of the Ledig-Rowohlt International Writers Residence in Lavigny, Switzerland, where she has read the work of more than 500 writers from 65 countries. She is the author of Mother Tongue: An American Life in Italy.
She writes, “The decades I have lived in Italy brought me to the door of different ways of seeing. I knocked, not without trepidation, and have never gotten through half of the rooms. I write about our times in poetry, essays, memoir, nonfiction, and fiction.”
Credits: This episode’s music is Her Hollow Ways by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi. The conversation was recorded at Wallis’ New York pied-a-terre on a pair of AT2020 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB mic into Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo by Amy Roth.