Virtual Memories Show 325:
Boris Fishman

“Cooking is the only thing in my life that creates the same exalted transport that writing does.”

With his new memoir, Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (a Memoir with Recipes), author Boris Fishman explores his family’s Soviet Jewish legacy, his arc as a writer, and the glorious and varied meals that kept his family together from Minsk to Brighton Beach. We get into why creative nonfiction is his first passion (after publishing two novels), how he guaranteed his family’s disapproval by writing about them throughout his career, how he couldn’t leave Sovietness behind until he moved out of his parents’ home at 24 (despite emigrating from the USSR at 9), what he’d do if he quit the writing game, and why the recipes were the toughest part of Savage Feast. We also talk smack about certain books and authors, compare Malamud to Roth and Bellow, discuss the first (very not Jewish/not Russian) writer Boris became friends with, and explore the use of fiction to imagine alternate lives for oneself. Along the way, we make a life-changing pact, decide whether an MFA is worth pursuing, share book tour best practices, and conclude that Soviet Jewish guilt is exponentially more severe than Jewish guilt. It’s a whole lot of talk about books, food, and deracinated Jews! Give it a listen! And go buy Savage Feast!

“What makes me Soviet is not having spent my first 9 years in that country, but how many years I spent under my parents’ roof.”

“We read novels trying to sniff out what really happened, and we read memoirs what didn’t really happen.”

“I had this very smug idea that the recipes would be easy, because they didn’t involve creating sentences. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

“The finality of one’s self can be devastating.”

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Boris Fishman was born in Minsk, Belarus, and emigrated to the United States in 1988. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, Travel + Leisure, the London Review of Books, New York magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian, among other publications. He is the author of the novels A Replacement Life, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and winner of the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Medal, and Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo, which was also a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He teaches in Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and lives in New York City. His new book is the memoir, Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (a Memoir with Recipes).

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at my house 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 me & Boris and b/w photo of Boris by me. It’s on my instagram. Nicer pic with brick wall by Stephanie Kaltsas.

Virtual Memories Show 324:
Bill Griffith Returns!

“I remember coming back from that first viewing of Freaks to my Brooklyn apartment and thinking, ‘I have to make art out of this somehow, but I don’t know how.'”

Who can top the memoir of his mother’s infidelity with the biography of a sideshow pinhead? Legendary cartoonist Bill Griffith, that’s who! Bill rejoins the show to talk about his new graphic biography, Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead (Abrams ComicArts), the empty nest syndrome that led him to dive into it right after finishing his first longform book, the challenges of separating fact from fiction in Schlitzie’s life, and how a 1963 viewing of Tod Browning’s movie Freaks changed Bill’s life forever and led him to create Zippy The Pinhead. We also get into Bill avoidance of cheap sentiment in the process of humanizing Schlitzie, the familial support network of sideshow folk, the decision by circus-owners to present to Schlitzie on stage as female, and how to answer the crucial question of whether sideshow work was exploitative. Along the way, we also get into Bill’s comics-making lessons, why Zippy is more about word-play (or word-jazz) than absurdity and non sequiturs, how that strip’s long stories fed into Bill’s book-length work, the biography of Nancy cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller he’s working on next (and why he’d like to do fiction for his 4th book), the riddle of his middle-of-the-night Post-Its, his dad’s very odd idea about keeping his son off skid row, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead!

“Art with a capital A is about self-expression; Comics with a capital C is about communication.”

“Zippy speaks a little like he’s playing a musical instrument.”

“I guess I’m a late-life graphic novelist.”

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Bill Griffith is the creator of the syndicated daily comic strip Zippy. Griffith’s prolific output has been included in such publications as the Village Voice, National Lampoon, and the New Yorker. According to Bartlett, Griffith coined the popular phrase “Are we having fun yet?” He lives in Hadlyme, CT, and also Dingburg. His new book is Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at a Marriott in Toronto 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 Mr. Griffith by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 323:
Hugh Ryan

“I come to these stories in part because I’m trying to find myself.”

Let’s celebrate Pride Month with a conversation with Hugh Ryan, author of When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History! We talk about Brooklyn’s untold queer history and how it reflects the story of Brooklyn itself, the challenge of relating 19th century views of sexuality’s spectrum to a modern audience, and why his history began with Walt Whitman and ended a few years before Stonewall. We also get into the toughest part of his research, the best story that didn’t make it into the book, the commercial challenge of pitching a popular queer history, the accidental scoops he made by being the first person to explore this history, and how he wrote such long hours he broke his wrist. Oh, yeah, and he cringes over Naomi Wolf’s demolition and we share a laugh over his great story of the Coney Island impresario who threw a male beauty pageant in 1929 but had no idea what was in store. Give it a listen! And go buy When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History!

“One of the things I learned was how intimately connected queer history is with the history of prisons and policing in America.”

“I can’t write fiction because I have no imagination whatsoever. Everything has to have happened for me to write about it.”

“Having studied theory helped me understand what I was seeing, but having 20 years away from theory was more helpful for writing.”

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Hugh Ryan is a writer and curator based in Brooklyn. He is the Founder of the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, and sits on the boards of QED: A Journal in LGBTQ Worldmaking, and the Museum of Transgender Hirstory and Art. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, Buzzfeed, the LA Review of Books, Out, and many other venues. He is the author of When Brooklyn Was Queer, and is the recipient of the 2016-2017 Martin Duberman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, a 2017 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Nonfiction Literature, and a 2018 residency at The Watermill Center. He is on Twitter as hugh_ryan and on Patreon.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Ryan’s office 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 me & Mr. Ryan by me. It’s on my instagram. Solo/flannel photo by Jia Oak Baker.

Virtual Memories Show 322:
Steven Guarnaccia

“I’m an illustrator. It took me a while to realize I was born an illustrator.”

On the eve of its New York City debut, illustrator (and designer and author) Steven Guarnaccia joins the show to talk about his Fatherland exhibition! We get into how he made the leap from 2D to 3D, the moment he realized he was an illustrator and not an Artist, what it was like to come up in a golden age of magazine illustration, the balancing act of professional and personal projects, the strong influence of the Pop Art on his work, the anxiety of the first time he got a color illustration assignment (he’s been around a long time), getting his first NYT assignment from Steven Heller, and why Seymour Chwast & Milton Glaser may be the Lennon & McCartney of their field. We also get into his love of letterforms, his ingenious idea for my next podcast/documentary series, the process of learning illustration on the job, how he taps his unconscious drawing to break out of creative ruts, the benefits of a two-artist household (he’s married to Nora Krug), his lament for the American culture of specialization, becoming the accidental archivist for Rooster Ties, and our ongoing competition for best-dressed guy at Society of Illustrators events. Give it a listen! And go see the Fatherland exhibition at the YUI Gallery in NYC!

“My father is just as opaque to me now as he was in life, but making Fatherland has enabled me to talk to him in a different way.”

“Who would want to only be an editorial illustrator and have other people feed you somebody else’s text?”

“There are projects we make for ourselves, hoping that they get published, but we don’t stop making them.”

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Steven Guarnaccia is Associate Professor at Parsons School for Design. He is a former art director of the New York Times Op-Ed page, and his illustrations have appeared internationally in books and magazines, on greeting cards for the Museum of Modern Art, watches for Swatch, and as murals for Disney Cruise Lines. His books introducing children to modern architecture and design include Cinderella: A Fashionable Tale, The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears: A Tale Moderne, all published by Abrams. Steven has authored or co-authored numerous books on popular culture, including Black & White, A Stiff Drink & Close Shave: The Lost Arts of Manliness, and Hi-Fi’s and Hi-Balls: The Golden Age of the American Bachelor, all published by Chronicle, and he is the co-author with Steven Heller of School Days, and Designing for Children. He has had solo shows in New York, Milan, and Toronto, and his installation, Fatherland, has traveled to Bologna, Barcelona, London Berlin and Tabor, Czech Republic, and is now coming to the YUI Gallery in NYC. His drawings for the exhibition Achille Castiglioni: Design! at the Museum of Modern Art were published as a book by Corraini Editore. He has received numerous honors from AIGA, the New York Art Directors Club, the Society of Publication Designers, and other professional organizations, and was a Hallmark Fellow to the Aspen Design Conference.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Steven’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 Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Steven & our pants by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 321:
Nina Bunjevac returns!

“Making art is like an alchemical process for me. I want to take shit and make gold out of it, metaphorically speaking.”

Back from her Fool’s Journey in France, Nina Bunjevac returns to the show to celebrate her new book, Bezimena (Fantagraphics)! We talk about the graphic novel’s unique and weird structure, Nina’s abrupt decision to leave France and come back to Toronto after a year-long study of France’s BD publishing industry, and her upcoming tarot project and her explorations into the history of occult mysticism and esoteric philosophy. Along the way, we also get into fixing the financial model for comics-makers, the value of big publishers, her growth as a writer, how Bezimena helped her address past episodes of sexual assault, her joy that Canada legalized weed while she was away, the story of her collaboration with Antonio Moresco, how to make an Alchemical Kitchen, and plenty more! BONUS: I explain how to tip the housekeeping staff at hotels! Give it a listen! (our 2014 podcast is over here) And go buy Bezimena!

“I like small, intimate bookshops that smell like books, not yoga equipment.”

“I treat tarot the same way I treat my dreams, as symbolism.”

“I realized that my approach to writing is very poetic, and I now approach writing as poetry.”

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Nina Bunjevac is best known for her internationally acclaimed books Heartless (2012) and Fatherland: A Family History (2014). She lives in Toronto where she draws and teaches. Her new book is Bezimena.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at a Marriott in Toronto 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. Photos of Nina by me. It’s on my instagram.