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The Virtual Memories Show


A weekly conversation about books and life, not necessarily in that order.

A weekly conversation about books and life, not necessarily in that order.


United States


A weekly conversation about books and life, not necessarily in that order.








Episode 417 - Mark Wunderlich

A series of deaths and personal losses in 2018 hang over Mark Wunderlich's poems in his new collection, God of Nothingness (Graywolf Press). We talk about that writing, how living through it unwittingly prepared him for the past year in Pandemia, and how the current situation compares with his arrival in NYC at the height of AIDS. We get into the uses of autobiography in poetry (his editor refers to his poems as "fiercely autobiographical"), Mark's queerness being tied to his poetic-self,...


Episode 416 - Wendung

"At 50, everyone has the face he deserves," said George Orwell, but he died at 47, so what does he know? To celebrate turning 50, I use an obscure Woody Allen movie to talk about why I can't take stock of my life. Then the good part: I ask nearly 40 guests of the podcast one question, "What do you wish you'd done before the pandemic?" (You can skip right to that at 18:45.) Participants include Witold Rybczynski, Kathe Koja, John Holl, Emily Flake, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Ian Kelley, David...


Episode 415 - Jerome Charyn

With his amazing new novel, Sergeant Salinger (Bellevue Literary Press), Jerome Charyn evokes and explores J.D. Salinger's WWII experience in the Counter Intelligence Corps. We talk about Jerome's history with Salinger's work, his disdain for The Catcher in the Rye and his love of Nine Stories and their depiction of NYC of the 1940s and early '50s, the range of meanings and misunderstandings of Salinger's later silence, and Jerome's own terror of writing. Along the way, we get into Jerome's...


Episode 414 - James Oseland

For the final episode of 2020, James Oseland rejoins the show to celebrate the launch of his World Food series of cookbooks, beginning with World Food: Mexico City (Ten Speed Press). We talk about his first experience with Mexico City, why he makes it his home, why he considers it North America's version of Rome, what it was like to treat it as though he was visiting it anew for this book, and his love of capturing places through local cooks and the dishes that they make. We get into the...


Episode 413 - DW Young

With the wonderful documentary, The Booksellers (Greenwich Entertainment), director D.W. Young celebrates the world of antiquarian books and the personalities who trade in them. We talk about how The Booksellers came together, the need to celebrate book culture, and the experience of premiering the movie during the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair on the cusp of the pandemic. We also talk about each of our realizations that we're not that obsessive about old books, the ways...


Episode 412 - The Guest List 2020

It's the 8th annual Guest List episode! Thirty of this year's Virtual Memories Show guests tell us about the favorite books they read in 2020 and the books they hope to get to in 2021! Guests include Derf Backderf, Philip Boehm, Ruben Bolling, Betsy Bonner, Henri Cole, Joan Marans Dim, Emily Flake, Jonathan W. Gray, Tom Hart, Arthur Hoyle, Rian Hughes, Richard Kadrey, Ben Katchor, Kathe Koja, Tess Lewis, Ellen Lindner, Margot Mifflin, David Mikics, Otto Penzler, Woodrow Phoenix, Darryl...


Episode 411 - Lisa Kohn

In her debut memoir, To The Moon And Back: A Childhood Under The Influence (Heliotrope Books), Lisa Kohn tells the tale of how her mother brought her up in the Unification Church (that is, the Moonies), while her hippie dad exposed her to the drugs and decay of the East Village in the 1970s. We talk about how she survived both of those experiences to become a successful executive coach, and how the tools she used to heal herself turned out to be mighty useful for coaching others. We get into...


Episode 410 - Phillip Lopate

Essayist and editor Phillip Lopate rejoins the show to celebrate the publication of The Glorious American Essay: One Hundred Essays From Colonial Times To The Present (Pantheon). We talk about the origins of this anthology & how it transformed into a three-part series (two more coming next year!), Phillip's self-admitted megalomania about the essay form, how the essay both paralleled and helped change American thought over the centuries, and just what's so Glorious about The Glorious...


Episode 409 - Rian Hughes

With his amazing new book XX (Overlook Press), Rian Hughes gets to add "novelist" to his titles of graphic designer, typographer, illustrator, comics writer & artist, and photographer. We get into how he wrote a science fiction narrative using graphic design as a tool & mode of storytelling (& why more writers should consider graphic design as a part of their work), how technology had to catch up to his vision of the novel, and why he's so interested in semiotics and how ideas get into our...


Episode 408 - Celia Paul

With her wonderful new memoir, SELF-PORTRAIT (NYRB), celebrated life-painter Celia Paul explores her life as an artist, the evolution of her portraiture, her need for a Virginia Woolf-ian Room of One’s Own, and her 10-year relationship with Lucian Freud (c.1978-88). We get into the influence she and Freud had on each other's work, how she took control of her life and her art, the moral component of life-painting, the importance of being selfish, the conflict for women artists between being...


Episode 407 - Virginia Postrel

Journalist and scholar Virginia Postrel rejoins the show to talk about her brand-new book, The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made The World (Basic Books). We get into how textiles intersect with technology, culture, commerce, politics, and more, the long gestation of this book & the dress that started it all, humanity's textile-amnesia, and Virginia's reversal of Arthur C. Clarke's third law of technology. We discuss the textile skills she learned (or tried to learn) in prep for the...


Episode 406 - David Shields

In 2018, essayist David Shields wrote Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention (Thought Catalog). For Election Day 2020, we decided to revisit that book, how he would write it differently now, and why Trump is the Bizarro World's Personal Essayist #1. I prompt David with the adventitious sight of a car that bore the message, "Compassion Is Another Word For Control," and we go off to the conversational races, talking politics, the superior messaging tactics of the right-wing,...


Episode 405 - Jeff Trexler

Lawyer, ethics advisor and comics nerd Jeff Trexler joins the show to talk about his new role as Interim Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. We get into his plans to help rebuild the CBLDF's reputation and ethics code after the sexual harassment scandal of its previous director, his experiences helping people pursue their harassment claims and launching antiharassment campaigns in the fashion world, how the Fund's role has changed over the decades, and why he's...


Episode 404 - Michael Shaw

Got the election / pandemic / climate change / midlife / inexplicable rash blues? Then listen to me and cartoonist & humorist Michael Shaw talk about his new book, The Elements of Stress and the Pursuit of Happy-ish in this Current Sh*tstorm (co-authored by the great Bob Eckstein, from Weekly Humorist Press)! We get into how Michael and Bob managed to mash up Strunk & White with Thurber & White to create a prose & cartoons handbook to dealing with This Whole Situation, then explore Michael's...


Episode 403 - Merrill Markoe

Comedy legend Merrill Markoe returns to the show to celebrate her new graphic memoir, We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)! We talk about how it felt to spend time with her childhood self over the course of the book, the decision to illustrate it and what that process taught her about cartooning, what contemporary Merrill has to say to her younger self, and how she owns up to having a crush on a junior high boy who made Heil Hitler salutes at...


Episode 402 - Darryl Pinckney

Writer and cultural critic Darryl Pinckney joins the show to celebrate the new edition of Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy (NYRB) and the paperback of Busted in New York and Other Essays (Picador). We talk about revisiting his Obama-era writings in the post-2016 world, the importance of the vote and the question of whether there's a Black vote, or Black voters. We discuss his surprise at the persistence of makeup of the BLM protests, his place in the historical chain and the...


Episode 401 - John Keene

Author, translator, professor and MacArthur Fellow John Keene joins the show to talk about how voices are found and how they're erased. We get into how Benedictine monks started him on the road to translation, which languages he wishes he had, the perils of knowing just enough of a language to get in trouble, and how translation trains one to let go of ego. We discuss his amazing but uncharacterizable fiction collection, Counternarratives (New Directions), along with his powerful essay,...


Episode 400 - Michael Musto

Legendary entertainment columnist Michael Musto joins the show to talk about the evolution of gossip, nightlife, New York City, celebrity, and queer representation over the years! We get into the origins of his La Dolce Musto column in The Village Voice (and what led to the magazine's decline and death), the parallels and differences between the AIDS crisis and COVID-19, the highs and lows of '80s NYC and how the city will bounce back post-pandemic, the impact of RuPaul on the culture, his...


Episode 399 - Sheila Williams

With her new short story anthology, Entanglements: Tomorrow's Lovers, Families, and Friends (MIT Press), editor Sheila Williams brings together a panoply of voices to explore how technology and scientific advances have on the deepest human relationships. We talk about Sheila's nearly 40 years editing science fiction stories at Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, how she manages to balance new and diverse voices with a foundation of SF's history, how she copes with receiving ~800 stories a...


Episode 398 - R Sikoryak

Cartoonist R. Sikoryak rejoins the show to talk about his new book, Constitution Illustrated (Drawn & Quarterly), and how his mode of parodying other comics made a perfect complement to the founding document of the United States. We get into what surprised him about the Constitution as he read it for this project, the challenge of representing the Three-Fifths Compromise, as well as the other artistic and compositional challenges of the book (all those dense word balloons!). We also talk...