For a guy who calls himself a master of nothing, Nathaniel Popkin does a pretty good job for himself as a novelist, literary editor, critic, journalist, and urban historian. Nathaniel joins the show to talk about his new novel, Everything Is Borrowed (New Door Books), as well as the new literary anthology he co-edited, Who Will Speak for America? (Temple University Press). We get into the fertile subject and setting of Philadelphia, the goal of building a literary hub for his adopted city, the process of writing a novel about anarchists and architects (which I sorta characterize as the anti-Fountainhead), the necessity of self-delusion for artists, his background in urban planning and how it informs his writing, the challenges and rewards of seeking diversity in art, the importance of the Writers Resist movement, how becoming a writer was his way of being Jewish in the world, and why he eschewed MFA vs NYC in favor of PHL! Give it a listen! And go buy Everything Is Borrowed, Who Will Speak for America?, and Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City!
“The question of who will speak for America is vital at this moment.”
“Philadelphia is an injured city. It wants to be something but never quite can achieve it.”
Nathaniel Popkin is the author of five books, including the new novel Everything Is Borrowed (New Door Books), called “utterly absorbing” by the writer Robin Black, and the co-editor of Who Will Speak for America?, a literary anthology in response to the American political crisis, forthcoming in June 2018 (Temple University Press). He is the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine, as well as a prolific book critic—and National Book Critics Circle member—focusing on literary fiction and works in translation. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Rumpus, Tablet Magazine, LitHub, The Millions, and the Kenyon Review, among other publications.
As a keen observer of cities and lived places, Popkin has often turned his eye to the layers of history and life in his own city. He’s the founding co-editor of the Hidden City Daily, a web magazine that covers architecture, design, planning, and preservation in Philadelphia, and the co-author of the 2017 work of non-fiction, Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (Temple University Press). He’s also the senior writer and story editor of the multi-part documentary film series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment,” for which his work has been recognized with several Emmy awards. He was the guest architecture critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2011-12.
Popkin’s first novel, Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press), is a mediation on originality and influence in art. It reimagines the life and tragic death of the first great American genre painter, John Lewis Krimmel. Lion and Leopard was a finalist for the Foreword Reviews Indie Book of the Year Award, and novelist Ken Kalfus described it as “historical literary fiction at its most engaging.”
Lion and Leopard followed two books of literary non-fiction, the 2002 Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and the 2008 essay collection, The Possible City (Camino Books).
Popkin has been a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellow and a writer-in-residence at Philadelphia University and the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.
“When I went on my own, I gave myself two goals: I want to do work that I like and I’m proud of, and I want to earn the respect of my peers. I have control over the first and not the second, but I think I got ’em.”
His art has graced the cover of The New Yorker 60 times (!), and now award-winning artist/illustrator Mark Ulriksen joins The Virtual Memories Show! We talk about how he got his start in illustration at 37 (and compare mid-life crises) and how his previous career as an art director affected him, explore his upbringing and how it taught him to read (and render) body language, get into his paintings of dogs and why he likes painting them more than people, and issue our judgement on Barry Bonds’ MLB Hall of Fame chances. We also get into the ice-cream machine that changed his life, the good aspects of being typecast, the pros and cons of not going to art school, how he developed his “gracefully awkward” style, his love of sports (and the new gallery show of his sports-related work!), his artistic epiphany inspired by The Third Man (our mutual just-about-favorite movie), the graphic memoir he wants to make, why he loves drawing on an iPad, and how he’s managed to work around his idiopathic obliterative perifoveal retinal vasculopathy (it’s a bad eye disease). Give it a listen! And go check out Mark’s gallery show, and buy Mark’s great book, Dogs Rule Nonchalantly!
“I learned composition from graphic design. I’m always confident I can rearrange a rectangle in a way that’s interesting.”
“I look at some of my earlier stuff and think, why did anyone hire me?”
Mark Ulriksen is a San Francisco-based artist and illustrator whose instantly recognizable portraits and whimsical take on life have led to projects for a variety of major clients. After initially working for 13 years as a graphic designer and magazine art director Mark went through a relatively early mid-life crisis and gave up a world of monthly deadlines for a world of weekly ones, pursuing a new career as a freelance illustrator and artist. His editorial illustration work began in the mid-nineties, and since then his paintings have appeared in many of America’s leading magazines and newspapers. Ulriksen is best known for his work for The New Yorker, where he has been a regular contributor since 1993, with 60 magazine covers to his credit.
“I wanted a combination of organic, monster-y kind of things mixed with things with more pop sensibility.”
Artist & illustrator Dave Calver joins the show to talk about Limbo Lounge (Yoe! Books), his first graphic novel! We discuss the ups and downs of his 40-year career in illustration, his pop-surrealism-lowbrow vibe, life in a vintage trailer park, and how he manages to draw macabre without being gross. We also get into his ’70s/’80s NYC experience (including witnessing collateral damage at a women’s wrestling match at Club 57), his time at RISD with Roz Chast and her club-days at Danceteria (!), the movie he’s writing and its Munchkinland-Goth scenery, the loss of era-specific styles, perfecting “nicotine-stained jewel tones” for Limbo Lounge, and how it all started with the image of flowers behaving badly! Give it a listen! And go buy Limbo Lounge!
“Things have moved faster and faster to the point where I think each decade has a little less of an identity. For me, the ’80s had a really specific feel to it.”
Dave Calver‘s rich, evocative, surreal work has been featured in Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and The New York Times. Other clients include the New York Rangers, Random House, and United Airlines. Taschen chose him as one of their favorite 100 illustrators in the world. In the Huffington Post’s review of Taschen’s 100 Illustrators, they singled out Dave as their #1 top favorite. Limbo Lounge is Dave’s first graphic novel.
“I once had this idea that anything that was already in the world when you were born was okay, but anything that was invented or came up after you were born, you weren’t quite sure.”
The New World: Comics from Mauretania collects what artist Chris Reynolds describes as “Strange Adventure Stories About Dreams”. During TCAF 2018, we get into Chris’ amazing body of comics work, the roles of intuition and reason in his storytelling, his panic when another artist (Seth) uncannily identified themes and threads throughout his work, and his sense of letting go of his stories now that they’ve been collected by New York Review Comics. We also talk about nostalgia for a time before he was born, the notion of writing after the big event instead of the event itself, the allure of Cordwainer Smith’s stories, and the phenomenon of having a distinctly cult following for his work. Give it a listen! And go buy The New World: Comics from Mauretania!
Chris Reynolds was born in Wales in 1960 and studied fine art at the North Staffordshire Polytechnic. He has worked as a filmmaker, publicist, and art teacher but now devotes his time to drawing comics. He lives in Poole in the United Kingdom. His new collection is The New World: Comics from Mauretania (NYRC). You can follow him on Twitter as MauretaniaComic.