Virtual Memories Show 398:
R. Sikoryak

“I really wanted to make a book where anyone could pick it up and say, ‘That’s something I know!’, whether it’s something from a bumper sticker or a comic that they avidly read.”

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 about his family’s immigrant history, how he’s coping with the pandemic after finishing this book, why we both miss SPX, the artists he had the most trouble parodying, the secondary reading that went into Constitution Illustrated, why he was glad to do a book without Trump in it, his devotion to the scratchy old newspaper style of comics, and why he had to use Peanuts to represent the First Amendment. Give it a listen! And go read Constitution Illustrated! (& check out our 2012 podcast)

“One thing that’s so great about Constitution is that it was written in the 18th century, but Amendments were continually added. Stuff happens. Things are decided in the beginning that are terrible ideas, but later on they’re replaced, eliminated, reconsidered.”

“I would love this book if I hadn’t made it. I can enjoy it abstractly, but maybe 20 years from now I’ll look back and it’ll surprise me.”

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

Cartoonist R. Sikoryak is the author of Masterpiece Comics, Terms and Conditions, and The Unquotable Trump (Drawn & Quarterly). He’s adapted the classics for various comics anthologies, including RAW, Drawn & Quarterly, The Graphic Canon, and more. His comics and illustrations have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, The Onion, MAD, and SpongeBob Comics, as well as on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He’s done storyboards and character designs for Augenblick Studios on various animated projects. Bob teaches in the illustration department at Parsons The New School for Design and at The Center for Cartoon Studies. Since 1997, he’s presented his live cartoon slide show series, Carousel, around the United States and Canada. He lives in New York City with his spouse, Kriota Willberg. His new book is Constitution Illustrated.

Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used 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 Bob by Kriota Willberg. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 397:
Daniel Mendelsohn

“Each of my four books is secretly exploring a genre: lyric, epic, novel, and I’m not even sure what this one is, but I wrote it entirely to please myself.”

With Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate (UVA Press), Daniel Mendelsohn has written one of my favorite books of 2020. We get into Homer’s use of Ring Composition and how it shapes Three Rings, how this book grew out of his experience writing An Odyssey, why he chose François Fénelon, Eric Auerbach, and WG Sebald as the three exiled subjects of his book, and how we understand the relationship between “what happened” and “the story of what happened” (that is, how narration changes the nature of facts). We also get into how he managed to compress and capture just about all of his major themes in his briefest book, why Auerbach disliked ring composition, and what it says about Homeric vs. Hebrew — or optimistic vs. pessimistic — styles of story, how every story has more stories embedded in it, and why Istanbul may serve as the fusion of Athens & Jerusalem. We also get into Daniel’s pandemic experience and coping mechanisms for anxiety and dread, his mom’s involvement in Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary about the Holocaust in America, why translation is like a crossword puzzle for him, the negatives of focusing on STEM to the detriment of the liberal arts, and how we can both relate to Auerbach’s comment, “If it had been possible for me to acquaint myself with all the work that has been done on so many subjects, I might have never reached the point of writing.” Give it a listen! And go read Three Rings! (& check out our previous conversation!)

“I was very attracted to the idea of the way in which their own wandering lives ended up being analogs for the narratives they ended up being interested in.”

“For the writer, anything is a subject. Even nothing is a subject, so to speak.”

“Colleges are going to abandon the humanities and go for more STEM stuff than ever, because it’s ’employable’. The irony is that NEVER have we needed the humanities more, because that’s the stuff that tells you how to deal with these crises.”

TUNEIN LINK TK

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

Daniel Mendelsohn teaches at Bard and is Editor-at-Large at The New York Review of Books. His books include An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic; The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million; How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays, and, from New York Review Books, Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture, and Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones. His new book is Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate

There’s a longer version at his website.

Follow Daniel on Twitter and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used 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 Daniel by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 396:
Keith Knight

“There have been plenty of woke moments throughout my life, but the police incident in San Francisco made me double and triple down the work I did about it.”

To celebrate the launch of WOKE, his fantastic new comedy series on Hulu, Keith Knight rejoins the show! A lot has gone on since our 2015 conversation, so we get into how the country has changed, how his slideshows about police brutality and racial illiteracy are more in demand than ever (pandemic notwithstanding), and the reasons behind the surge in approval for BLM. We talk about how WOKE came together, the choice of Lamorne Morris to play Keef, why he wanted to be involved in producing WOKE, rather than selling the idea & walking off, what it was like to work in a collaborative environment after years as a solo artist, how different TV writing is than comics, the fun in casting the voices of the objects that come to life in the show, and how closely the lead character’s woke experience parallels his own. We also discuss his drive to keep making comics, the good fortune of finishing shooting the series right before the pandemic shut everything down, and why he sure wishes he & his family could have gotten out of NC for a few weeks this summer for their annual Schwarzwald trip to see the in-laws. Give it a listen! And go watch WOKE on Hulu!

“We figured out a fine line of talking about serious issues but using humor and magical realism.”

“TV is a big learning curve, but it’s not rocket science. I had to remind myself when I got too stressed, ‘We’re just making television.'”

“As horrible this pandemic is, it’s revealed how untenable capitalism-over-everything society is. If you don’t ensure that everybody is doing okay, then that’s when you have problems.”

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

Keith Knight is an award-winning cartoonist whose “Knight Life Chronicles,” and “(th)ink” strips ran for more than a decade in such newspapers as the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Boston Herald. His funny yet hard-hitting cartoons fuel a comic strip slideshow he tours on America’s racial illiteracy called Red, White, Black and Blue. Combining cartoons, storytelling, historical facts, and humor, the slideshow scored him a Belle Foundation grant and a NAACP History Maker award. Knight is also the illustrator of the critically acclaimed tween book, Jake the Fake Keeps It Real. He will beat you at pinball.

Follow Keith on Twitter and Instagram, and show him some support on Patreon

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used 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 Keith by someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 395:
Derf Backderf

“There have been a lot of stories written about Kent State, but I was going to tell it through the eyes and the experiences of the four people we lost that day.”

With Kent State: Four Dead In Ohio (Abrams ComicArts), Derf Backderf not only creates a graphic history of one of America’s darkest chapters, he gives voice to the students killed by the National Guard 50 years ago and warns us about the times ahead. We talk about the legacy of the Kent State shootings, what Kent State taught America about the suppression of dissent and what we must learn from it as protests grow across the country, as well as the research and work that went into this book, the ways in which it challenged him as a comics artist, how he rendered the mundane aspects of life for both the students and the guardsmen, and his own childhood connection to the events leading up to the massacre. We also get into the unique power of comics to tell this story, how cartoons and other pop culture covered the Vietnam protests in that era, the international book tour that would have accompanied the originally planned release of this book last spring, and more. Give it a listen! And go read Kent State! (& check out our 2015 live podcast)

“We have spent 50 years developing and deploying this huge array of crowd control armaments to our police force, specifically to control civil unrest. It’s truly scary, the weapons that the government is willing to deploy against its own citizenry.”

“When you have some experience, you have a relationship with your work, and you always shoot for this: This is the best book I can do at this moment in time. That leaves you some leeway, some element of forgiveness, for when you get better a few books down the road.”

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

Derf Backderf is the bestselling author of My Friend Dahmer and the recipient of the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for political cartooning. His weekly comic strip, The City, appeared in more than one hundred newspapers over the past twenty-two years. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio. His new book is Kent State: Four Dead In Ohio.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used 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 Derf by someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 394:
Henri Cole

“My poems are a kind of transcript of life as it is lived.”

Poet Henri Cole joins the show to celebrate his brand-new collection, Blizzard: Poems (FSG). We get into his evolution as a poet over the 10 volumes he’s published to date, the transformative year he spent in Japan, how the closet compelled queer poets to develop original emblems and symbols to convey their private experience (and his transcendent experience of reading James Merrill’s Christmas Tree), and how a fan letter from Harold Bloom gave him a foundation during some tough times. We also get into his wonderful 2018 memoir, Orphic Paris (NYRB), whether he misses France or California more during the pandemic, his affinity for literary pilgrimage (and a recent one he took to Elizabeth Bishop’s grave), his use of the sonnet form and his enjoyment of the constraints and parameters of the physical page, how he knows (or thinks he knows) when a poem is done, our mutual love of Roger Federer, and more! Give it a listen! And go read Blizzard: Poems & Orphic Paris!

“The journey of my life as a writer has been toward more pellucidness, or transparency. But maybe that’s the journey of everybody’s life.”

“I think when I was a young man, I used nature as a mask for private matters. As the closet disintegrated, I became more directly autobiographical.”

“As I age, the thing that’s saddest to me is having fewer and fewer poets to look up to, because so many have died in recent years.”

“Being linear is the thing that bores me quicker than anything.”

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

Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1956. He has published nine previous collections of poetry, including Touch and Pierce the Skin; as well as a memoir, Orphic Paris; and he has received many awards for his work, including the Jackson Poetry Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award, the Rome Prize, the Berlin Prize, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and the Award of Merit Medal in Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches at Claremont McKenna College. His new collection is Blizzard: Poems.

Follow Henri on Twitter.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used 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 Henri by someone else. It’s on my instagram.