“What connected Levine and Herblock was the fire in the belly, the outrage against people try to impose their power over the powerless, who try to disenfranchise people, who try to manipulate the laws for personal gain or prestige.”
Harry L. Katz, former head curator of prints and photographs for the Library of Congress, joins the show to talk about his new project on David Levine, his love for Herblock, how his work on the Civil War and baseball differs from Ken Burns’ work on same, what it was like to assemble the LoC’s archive of 9/11 photography and pictures, the process of learning how to see images critically, the tragic story of Arthur Szyk, and more! Give it a listen!
“Baseball was a way for people to avoid talking about religion.”
We also talk about growing up Jewish in New England, why the 1840s and 1850s are (currently) his favorite era in American history, the Boston Atheneum’s post-Civil War project to collect Confederate material, the terrifying experience of seeing Feiffer’s “Munro” cartoon as a little kid, and why the famous and powerful enjoyed being caricatured! Go listen!
“People always see what they expect to see. I first look at face value, then I draw back to start fresh. What is it? What does it portray? What is it made of? If you do that, you’ve got an understanding that’s far richer.”
About our Guest
Author and curator Harry L. Katz was born in Lexington, MA and educated at Middlebury College and Tufts University, where he earned a M.A. in Art History. Between 1983 and 1991, he served as Assistant Curator of Prints and Photographs at the Boston Athenaeum. Between 1991 and 2004, Harry served as Head Curator within the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress (1991-2004). A specialist in American and European works on paper, he curated two dozen exhibitions at the Library of Congress and led the Library’s unparalleled initiative to collect pictorial works representing the events and aftermath of 9/11. Now an independent curator, he is the author of numerous books examining American art and culture including: Mark Twain’s America: A Celebration in Words and Images (Little, Brown and Library of Congress, 2014), Civil War Sketch Book: Drawings from the Battlefront (W.W. Norton, 2012), Herblock: The Life and Works of the Great Political Cartoonist (W.W. Norton and LC, 2009), Baseball Americana (HarperCollins and LC, 2009), Cartoon America: Comic Art in the Library of Congress (Abrams and LC, 2006), Life of the People: Realist Prints and Drawings from the Ben and Beatrice Goldstein Collection, 1912-1948 (Library of Congress, 1999), and Eyes of the Nation: A Visual History of the United States (Knopf and LC, 1997). His work has been featured in such magazines as American Heritage, National Geographic, Civilization and Smithsonian.
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 on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. Intro was recorded on the same setup. Photo of Mr. Katz by me.
“One thing I tell young cartoonists: a magazine is like going out on a date, and a book is like getting married. If you’re going out on a date, you don’t need a lawyer. If you’re doing a book, you get a lawyer.”
Sam Gross’ gag panels warped me at a young age (see above), so it was an honor to get him on mic to talk about his nearly six-decade cartooning career. We sat down in his studio to discuss the serious business of gags, how he went from drawing a Saul Steinberg nose to drawing a Sam Gross one, how he continues in his 80s to come up with a week’s worth of new gags for Look Day, how he once got a Vanishing New York tour from Charles Addams, how he revels in the “humor of the handicapped”, and the magazine he misses the most. Give it a listen!
“I don’t know where I’m gonna go next. I’m not a finished product.”
About our Guest
Sam Gross has been publishing cartoons since the 1950s. His cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker since 1969. He served as the cartoon editor of National Lampoon and Parents magazines, and was president of the Cartoonists Guild. He has published numerous collections, including I Am Blind and My Dog is Dead. You can buy reproductions of his art at the Conde Nast Store.
Credits: This episode’s music is Funny Little Frog by Belle & Sebastian. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Gross’ studio 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. Photo of Mr. Gross by me.
“My impulse is to break the windows of Starbucks, but I’d get arrested if I did that, so I make comics about people breaking the windows of Starbucks.”
Cartoonist and MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship winner Ben Katchor joins us for the first live episode of The Virtual Memories Show (in conjunction with the New York Comics & Picture-stories Symposium). Ben & host Gil Roth talk in front of — and take questions from — an audience of 50 or so about Ben’s career in cartooning, including his new book, Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories (Pantheon), which collects his monthly comic page from Metropolis magazine. During the episode, Ben even performs several of his comics. If you’d like to see the comics themselves, you can download Manumission Houses and Lossless Things.
“People ask about influences and where I get my ideas. A lot of people looked at all the stuff I looked at, and they’re doing something else. It’s not like there’s an equation, like you read Saul Bellow and you look at Poussin, and then you make my comics. It’s not an equation. It’s brute force.”
The conversation and Q&A also cover his work process (with a surprising revelation about how he draws!), how book publishing lost its identity, what he learned from working in other art forms (like musical theater), how he teaches cartooning, the allure of new technologies, his one critical audience demographic, the joy of imperfections, whether he has an ideal era for New York, what happened to his History of the Dairy Restaurant book, how fear of shame keeps him productive, how Google can help when you need to draw a Russian prostitute, what he picked up from the Yiddish humor strips he read as a child, which one book the Library of America should withdraw, and how to pronounce “Knipl”! He didn’t win a “Genius” grant for nothing!
“It’s a golden age of art comics. It didn’t exist when I started. Most bookstores wouldn’t carry a comic, or even something that looked like a comic, back then. I can’t imagine what it must be like for a young cartoonist now, when these things are taken seriously and there’s an audience for them.”
About our Guest
Ben Katchor’s picture-stories appear in Metropolis magazine. His most recent collection of monthly strips, Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories, was published in March 2013 by Pantheon Books. Up From the Stacks, his most recent music-theater collaboration with Mark Mulcahy, was commissioned in 2011 by the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library and Lincoln Center and was performed at both venues. He is an Associate Professor at Parsons, The New School for Design in New York City. For more information, visit www.katchor.com.
Credits: This episode’s music is Big City Blues by Sun Ra and his Arkestra. The conversation was recorded in the Bark Room at The New School in NYC on a pair of AT2020 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. Mr. Katchor’s readings and some of the questions from the audience were recorded on a second Zoom H4n. 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.
Our first guest of 2013 is Ron Rosenbaum, one of my favorite living writers! This episode of The Virtual Memories Show is The Bomb!
I’ve been a fan of Ron’s writing (let’s call it “literary journalism”) since reading Long Island, Babylon (originally titled The Devil in Long Island) in The New York Times Magazine nearly 20 years ago, so having him on the show is a big honor for me.
Our conversation focuses on his most recent book, How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III, and what he learned in the course of researching the present danger of nuclear conflict. (It’s a pretty harrowing — and very important — topic, folks.) From there, we discuss Ron’s body of work, his literary influences, Nixon’s final lie, what he thinks of Harold Bloom, his opinions about contemporary literary journalism, and more.
About our Guest
Born in Manhattan, Ron Rosenbaum grew up on Long Island, got a degree in English literature from Yale, and dropped out of Yale Graduate School to write. Ron’s other books include Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil, The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Public Fiascoes, Palace Coups, and The Secret Parts of Fortune: Three Decades of Intense Investigations and Edgy Enthusiasms, a collection of his essays and journalism from The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Esquire, The New Yorker, The New York Observer, and other publications. I highly recommend all of them; in fact, I have extra copies of The Secret Parts of Fortune at home and in my office, just in case I feel like reading one of what Errol Morris calls “metaphysical detective stories.” You can find Ron’s current work at Slate, where he’s a columnist, and Smithsonian Magazine, where he’s a National Correspondent. He’s currently at work on two new books.
Credits: This episode’s music is One of Our Submarines (extended mix) by Thomas Dolby. The conversation was recorded at the Inn on 23rd in New York City, on a pair of Blue Encore 100 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the other material on a Blue Yeti USB mic into Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo courtesy of the receptionist at the Inn on 23rd, whose name I didn’t catch.