J.D.McClatchy_NewBioImage_Credit-GeoffSpearVirtual Memories Show #136:
J.D. McClatchy – A Forest of Things

“I’m now older than the two most important men in my life were when they died: my father and James Merrill.”

The great poet, essayist, librettist and bon vivant J.D. McClatchy (Sandy, to his friends) joins the show to talk about outliving his idols, adapting my favorite novel (The Leopard!) to opera, having his life changed by a course with Harold Bloom, collecting letters from the likes of Proust and Housman, and marrying Chip Kidd! We also get into his friendship with James Merrill, pop culture’s triumph over high culture, his genetic inability to read comics, why he loathed Ezra Pound as a person and as an artist, how sexual politics has replaced social politics, the experience of teaching the first gay literature course at Yale in 1978 (and getting dropped from the university because of it), how a serious poet writes for the dead, not the living, and more! Give it a listen!

“I think the problem of all young poets — which I shared — was that at the age of 20, 25, I didn’t have anything to write about.”

We also talk about the unique challenges of his various genres (poetry, prose, libretti), the benefits of a career in academia, the notion that the great treasures of western civilization have created us and are needed to sustain us, the true stakes of writing poetry, his commonplace book (being published next spring), his Ouija experience with Anne Sexton, sailing the Atlantic for his 70th birthday, how three Ring cycles equals one San Diego Comic-Con, and why it took him four years to begin writing in a new home. This one’s a great conversation, so go listen!

“The experience of watching kids grow up imaginatively, and grow out of themselves — rather than into themselves — in the first shedding of a false skin, is something I take very seriously in my responsibility as a teacher.”

We mention a few books in this episode. Here they are:

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

Also, during the episode I promised to show you the official image of What Your Host Feels Like When He’s Reading Poetry, as illustrated by Roger Langridge. Whoomp, here it is:

19892824721_db60bcc056_o

About our Guest

J.D. McClatchy is the author Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems (Knopf, 2014), as well as seven previous collections of poetry and of three collections of prose. He has edited numerous other books, including The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry, and has written a number of opera libretti that have been performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, La Scala, and elsewhere. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, where he served as president from 2009 to 2012. McClatchy teaches at Yale University and is the editor of the Yale Review.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. McClatchy’s Stonington, CT home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. B/W photo of Mr. McClatchy by Geoff Spears; color photo by me.

a_decent_ride_book_cover_smallerVirtual Memories Show #135:
Irvine Welsh / Dmitry Samarov

“What would young, pre-Trainspotting Irvine Welsh think of you now?”

“He’d think I was a total wanker.”

Irvine Welsh has created unforgettable characters in his novels, beginning with the cast of Trainspotting in 1993. We caught up in his Chicago home and talked about writing, boxing, the art world, the White Sox, the creative flourish that’s seen him publish three novels in four years, the perils of success and exhausting your autobiography, the periods of life he’s interested in writing about, his first meeting with Iggy Pop, his childhood and the school-days’ balance of being a reader and being a jock, the narcissism of online living, Trainspotting over the years, Edinburgh’s failed gentrification, the ways that America’s friendlier than Scotland, and more! Give it a listen!

“I think it’s good for me as a writer not to be hanging out with writers all the time.”

We also talk about his critique of global capitalism, the problems with permanent austerity, American and UK tabloid culture, standing up David Bowie (twice), returning to Ulysses every few years, the ways William S. Burroughs helps rewire his brain, and the great anonymous allure of the first-time novelist.

“Instagram is like Methodone to Twitter’s heroin”

dmitrybookshelfThen Dmitry Samarov rejoins the show to talk about his memoir-in-progress, his paintings, his latest readings, and his decision to jump off the social network treadmill. This episode also includes my justification for being a New York Yankees fan, as well as my problematic relationship with superhero comics. Give it a listen!

We mention quite a few books in this episode. Here’s they are:

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guests

Irvine Welsh is the author of Trainspotting, Ecstasy, Filth (adapted for film in 2013), Glue, and Crime, among other works. His latest novel is A Decent Ride. Welsh is also producing movies and writing screenplays. A native of Edinburgh, he lives in Chicago and Miami. You can find a more extensive bio at his website.

Dmitry Samarov was born in Moscow, USSR, in 1970. He emigrated to the United States with his family in 1978. He got in trouble in first grade for doodling on his Lenin Red Star pin and hasn’t stopped doodling since. He graduated with a BFA in painting at printmaking from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1993. Upon graduation he promptly began driving a cab — first in Boston, then after a time, in Chicago. He is the author of two books, Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab, and Where To?: A Hack Memoir. Go check out his paintings, and maybe buy some.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald. The conversations were recorded in the homes of Irvine Welsh and Dmitry Samarov on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same equipment in a hotel room in Washington, DC. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro.

BenakiMuseumVirtual Memories Show #134:
Warren Woodfin – Angel, Lion, Ox, Eagle

“From my youth, I knew I wanted to be a medievalist of some sort or another. Byzantium was always lurking off to the side, and I thought, ‘There has to be something there.'”

Professor Warren Woodfin joins the show to talk about guest curating Liturgical Textiles of the Post-Byzantine World installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (running through Nov. 1 2015). We talk about how he became a medieval art historian, the great tragedy of his high school years (it involves a Byzantine fresco at the Menil Collection artwork in Houston), what it’s like working on a Ukrainian burial mound and dealing with Soviet methods of archeological excavation, the secret fear of every Ph.D. candidate, and more! Give it a listen!

“It was the beauty of Byzantine art that got me first, and then wanting to understand where this beauty came from.”

We also talk about why art history gets a bum rap from the STEM proponents, the problem with centuries-old textile samples turning terminally brown, why Queens is the most Hellenic of the five boroughs, how new technologies have affected his work, the schisms that exist in the field, how he used to lay out “improved” versions of medieval monuments as a kid, and what the benefits of an art history education really are.

“I’m afraid that we’re embracing the view that those who can afford to pay for a quality education can major in liberal arts, while those whose educations are supported by the public should be limited to studying things we deem to be for the good of society.”

We mention a few books in this episode. Here’s they are:

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Dr. Warren Woodfin’s research focuses on the art and archaeology of Byzantium and its cultural sphere in the 11th through 15th centuries. Since 2006, he has been collaborating with a research team of U.S.- and Ukraine-based scholars to study a medieval burial complex in the Black Sea steppe. The site, called the Chungul Kurgan, yielded a trove of medieval textiles, precious metalwork, and other artifacts interred with a nomadic leader of the thirteenth century. His recent article on the textiles from the burial (co-authored with Renata Holod and Yuriy Rassamakin) appeared in Ars Orientalis 38 (2010); a further article on a silver cup from the burial will appear in The Art Bulletin in 2016.

Warren has also published articles in the journals Gesta and Dumbarton Oaks Papers, and has contributed essays to various edited volumes. He is also the co-editor (with Mateusz Kapustka) of Clothing the Sacred: Medieval Textiles as Fabric, Form and Metaphor (Berlin: Edition Imorde, 2015). His book on Byzantine textiles and their role in ritual and hierarchy, The Embodied Icon: Liturgical Vestments and Sacramental Power in Byzantium, was published by Oxford University Press in 2012.

Prior to joining the faculty at Queens College as Kallinikeion Assistant Professor of Byzantine Studies, Warren held teaching and research posts at Duke, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, the Metropolitan Museum, and, most recently, a European Research Council-sponsored fellowship at the University of Zurich. In the spring semester of 2016, he will be a resident Fellow at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, which seems to have become our unofficial theme song. The conversation was recorded at Prof. Woodfin’s apartment on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Upper pic: Stephanos Tzangarolas (Greek, active 1688–1710). Lateral sanctuary door with Saint James the Brother of the Lord, 1688. From the Church of the Holy Trinity on Corfu. 2.03 x .81 m. Benaki Museum, Athens. Photo of Prof. Woodfin by me.

tumblr_noaa2szheD1u3hieto1_500Virtual Memories Show #132:
Christopher Bollen – Rootless People

“I wanted to be a writer since I knew that I couldn’t be a detective.”

We close out the summer of 2015 with a great summer novel, Orient (Harper) by Christopher Bollen! We talk about his new book, the difference between a “smart murder mystery” and a “literary thriller,” the perils of Male First Novel Syndrome (as evinced in Lightning People: A Novel), the challenges of writing about Long Island, how his years at Inteview magazine honed his ear for dialogue, his fascination with rootlessness, why it’s too easy to parody the contemporary art scene, and more! Give it a listen!

“Remember how you could totally judge a stranger by what they were reading? Now we’ve totally lost that cue, thanks to e-books.”

We also talk about Christopher’s impending 40th birthday, his reverse mid-life crisis, “kids today,” the people he now realizes he should’ve been nervous about interviewing when he was young, the allure of detective stories, why childhood bookish shut-ins have great skin when they get older, how I once nearly blew up a shopping mall back in my high school years, and whether the actual inhabitants of Orient were peeved about his new novel.

“You don’t interview Fran Lebowitz; you’re her audience.”

We talk about some books and movies in this episode. Here’s a list of ’em (Note: if I ever go to a Patreon crowdfunding model for the show, this is the first thing that goes subscriber-only):

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Portrait_Christopher-Bollen2Christopher Bollen is a writer who lives in New York City. He regularly writes about art, literature, and culture. His first novel, Lightning People, was published in 2011. His second novel, Orient, was published by Harper in May 2015. He is currently the Editor at Large at Interview Magazine.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, which seems to have become our unofficial theme song (I’ll ask DB if it’s okay to make it official). The conversation was recorded at Mr. Bollen’s apartment on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Good-looking photo of Mr. Bollen by Danko Steiner; not-as-good photo by me.

mademoiselle335Virtual Memories Show #128:
Rhonda K. Garelick – Impecunious Nobles

“Chanel was trying to gift herself to women, and give them something that would lend them an allure that would be useful.”

Rhonda K. Garelick, author of Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History, joins the show to talk about Chanel’s impact on women’s fashion and French national identity, how she managed not to get tried for collaboration after the war, the one figure from our age who compares to Chanel, what it’s like teaching the accordion-and-beret crowd, and more! Give it a listen!

“I remain certain that there is no one else who has had this sort of aesthetic influence.”

We also talk about Chanel’s pleasure in hiring fallen royalty to work in her boutiques and factories, the need for myth-making in fashion, the challenges of getting Chanel’s associates to talk to her, the psychological similarities of fashion and fascism, and the decision to structure Mademoiselle around Chanel’s relationships. Also, I make the major mistake of letting Rhonda ask me a question, which sends the conversation utterly off the rails. So start listening!

We talk about a couple of books in this episode. Here’s a list of ’em (Note: if I ever go to a Patreon crowdfunding model for the show, this is the first thing that goes subscriber-only):

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest


rhonda250Rhonda K. Garelick writes on fashion, design, performance, art, literature and cultural politics. Her books include Rising Star: Dandyism, Gender, and Performance in the Fin de Siècle (Princeton University Press, winner of the Kayden Award for outstanding manuscript in the humanities), Electric Salome: Loie Fuller’s Performance of Modernism (Princeton), and, as co-editor, Fabulous Harlequin: ORLAN and the Patchwork Self (University of Nebraska Press, winner of the 2011 award for book design from the American Alliance of Museums). Her new book is Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, New York Newsday, International Herald Tribune, and The Sydney Morning Herald, and numerous journals and museum catalogs in the United States and Europe.

She is a Guggenheim fellow and has also received awards from the NEA, the NEH, the Getty Research Institute, the Dedalus Foundation, the American Association of University Women, the Whiting Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Prof. Garelick received her B.A. and Ph.D. in comparative literature and French from Yale University. She splits her time between Lincoln, Nebraska and her hometown of New York City.

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she is Professor of Fine and Performing Arts and English, as well as the founder and director of the Interdisciplinary Arts Symposium. For the academic year 2015-2016, Rhonda will be the Stanley Kelly, Jr. Visiting Professor of Distinguished Teaching in Comparative Literature at Princeton University. She has also had a long career as an international business consultant, specializing in the fields of fashion, media, and journalism.

Credits: This episode’s music is Cri de Coeur by Edith Piaf. The conversation was recorded at an undisclosed location on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Inset photo of Prof. Garelick by Agaton Strom. Top photo of Prof. Garelick by Greg Nathan.