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 320: Seth

“The drawing of the comic is where everything is discovered.”

After more than 20 years, Seth has completed Clyde Fans, his grand meditation on family, business, and art (Drawn & Quarterly), so let’s celebrate with a double-episode! First, Seth & I talk at a live event hosted by the Strand Bookstore, where we get into how his approach to art and storytelling evolved over that 20-year span, the one element he hated keeping consistent throughout the process, why serializing most of the work helped with revision, and how comics have become a subset of his studio process. Then we follow up with a one-on-one conversation during Toronto Comic Arts Festival, discussing his next project, whether he likes organic projects like his Nothing Lasts memoir or more fully formed stories, whether he owns a pair of sweatpants, the realization that he wasn’t writing about his father but about himself, the artist’s responsibility at the signing table, his decision never to research the real Clyde Fans business, the maddening acceleration of contemporary culture, the one character of his he feels affection for, his dream of writing a play, and plenty more! Give it a listen! And go buy Clyde Fans!

“When you’re in the studio, you think, ‘This is the real me’; you’re not seeing yourself reflected off of other people.”

“My wife is a barber, and she told me that being a barber isn’t about cutting hair, it’s about talking to people. People don’t come up to me at signings because they want a signature; they come up because they want to have a moment, an experience.”

“There’s a quality of keeping art private that represents a sort of power. I wonder, if I was independently wealthy, would I keep all my artwork to myself and not release any of it.”

“I’ve been writing about myself, when I thought I was writing about my dad. I should have realized that 10 years ago.”

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

Seth is the cartoonist behind the comic book series Palookaville, which started as a pamphlet and is now an occasional hardcover. His comics have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Best American Comics, and Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. His illustrations have appeared in numerous publications, including the cover of The New Yorker, The Walrus, and Canadian Notes & Queries. He is Lemony Snicket’s partner for the series All the Wrong Questions and he designs several classic comics reprint series, notably collections of work by Charles Schulz, John Stanley, and Doug Wright. His other comics include It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken: A Picture Novella, George Sprott: (1894-1975), and Wimbledon Green: The Greatest Comic Book Collector in the World. His new book is the collected Clyde Fans. All his books are available from Drawn and Quarterly.

He was the subject of the National Film Board documentary Seth’s Dominion. Seth lives in Guelph, Canada, with his wife, Tania, and two cats in a house he has named Inkwell’s End.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Strand Bookstore off of their sound board and at the Toronto Marriott Yorkville 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 & Seth by me. It’s on my instagram. Not sure who the fancy b/w pic is by. Oh, and here’s a bonus picture from our evening at the Strand Bookstore, of Seth with R. Sikoryak and Adrian Tomine!

Virtual Memories Show 317:
Frederic Tuten

“I told Jerome Charyn, ‘You escaped the Bronx by writing about it. I escaped by never going back.'”

With My Young Life (Simon & Schuster), Frederic Tuten had to get over his notion that memoir is a cheap shot in order to look back at the beginning of a career in writing, teaching, and art criticism in the New York of the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. We get into what started him on this book, how he’s haunted by his childhood in the Bronx, his emphasis on quality over quantity in literary output (while coping with the cautionary example of his writing teacher, Leonard Ehrlich, who only published a single, well-acclaimed novel), his mentorship by artist and convicted murderer John Resko, the joys of cafe culture (and his favorite haunt, Cafe Mogador), and how he got two-timed by “the Elizabeth Taylor of the Bronx” with Jerome Charyn. We also lament today’s celebration of the mundane, celebrate his friendships with Herge, Lichtenstein, Resnais and Queneau, and talk about the books he wants loaded in his casket when he dies, the great allure of Juan Rulfo’s sole book, Pedro Paramo, why future pod-guest Iris Smyles’ first novel is better than F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, how fact-checker Anne Stringfield corrected some virtual memories in My Young Life, how poverty shaped his later life, what he learned from sobriety, Gaugin and The Magic Mountain, and plenty more! Give it a listen! And go buy My Young Life!

“In my 80s I feel like I’m just beginning life. Beginning to learn how to live, and to work, and to enjoy.”

“Live in the dream of the work and rest easy. Something will come. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you’ve done it. And you can always fix it.”

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

Frederic Tuten grew up in the Bronx. At fifteen, he dropped out of High School to become a painter and live in Paris. He took odd jobs and studied briefly at the Art Students League, and eventually went back to school, continuing on to earn a Ph.D. in early 19th century American Literature from New York University.

He travelled through Latin and South America, studied pre-Columbian and Mexican mural painting at the University of Mexico, wrote about Braziliian Cinema Novo, and joined that circle of film makers, which included Glauber Rocha and Nelson Pereira dos Santos. Tuten finally did live in Paris, where he taught film and literature at the University of Paris 8. He acted in a short film by Alain Resnais, co-wrote the cult film Possession, and conducted summer writing workshops with Paul Bowles in Tangiers.

Tuten’s short stories, art and film criticism have appeared in such places as ArtForum, the New York Times, Vogue, Conjunctions, Granta and Harpers. In addition, he has written essays and fictions for artists’ catalogues including John Baldessari, Eric Fischl, Pierre Huyghe, Jeff Koons, David Salle and Roy Lichtenstein. He has published five novels: The Adventures of Mao on the Long March; Tallien: A Brief Romance; Tintin in the New World: A Romance; Van Gogh’s Bad Café: A Love Story; The Green Hour; and most recently, Self Portraits: Fictions, a collection of stories.

Tuten received a Guggenheim Fellowship for Fiction and was given the Award for Distinguished Writing from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His new book is the memoir My Young Life.

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

Virtual Memories Show 315: David Shields

“We’ll all be dead quite soon. This is our one chance to learn something about life on earth. I’m imbued with the question of, ‘Why all these masks?'”

With his new book, The Trouble with Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power (Mad Creek Books), essayist David Shields applies the literary microscope to his own marriage and explores — through a collage of perspectives — the subtle psychological game of S/M it’s grown into over the decades. David & I get into the challenge of writing about his marriage without destroying it, what his family thinks of the book, whether he finds it funny to be blurbed as “the most honest writer alive”, his ‘nothing but epiphanies’ approach to the personal essay, the obsessive personae he adopts for his books and the influence of (twotime pod-guest) Phillip Lopate on his work. We also talk about the difference between vulnerability and weakness, the taboo about male submission, the limits of disclosure, the lessons of parenting, our mutual sports-fixation and our love for Ichiro, and plenty more! BONUS: My all-important advice about what not to do in your hotel room. Give it a listen! And go buy The Trouble with Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power!

“I think a writer carves a swath through some part of their psyche, and phrases themselves as the whole world turning on this subject. That gives you a book.”

“Stripped-nakedness is my go-to, my writing strategy.”

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

David Shields is the internationally best-selling author of twenty-two books, including Reality Hunger: A Manifesto (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Other People: Takes & Mistakes (NYTBR Editors’ Choice selection). The film adaptation of I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel was released by First Pond Entertainment in 2017. A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships and a senior contributing editor of Conjunctions, Shields has published essays and stories in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Esquire, Yale Review, Salon, Slate, McSweeney’s, and Believer. His work has been translated into two dozen languages. His new book is The Trouble with Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power.

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

Virtual Memories Show 313:
Nathan Englander

“Why I like writing is: it always feels like the first book.”

On the eve of his fifth book, the wonderful kaddish.com: A novel (Knopf), Nathan Englander looks back on 20 years of publishing. We get into how he wrote this novel at a breakneck pace compared to his previous work, the great advice he got from Philip Roth (I’m not jealous!), the chemistry of creativity, the importance of process, his need to push borders and examine boundaries, and making his bones on the sacred and the profane. Nathan also talks about the therapeutic aspects of teaching writing, being more appreciative of his yeshiva upbringing, treating books like religion, and getting into thrillers while working on his political novel Dinner at the Center of the Earth. We also discuss his foray into playwriting, how he knows when a story or book is done, and the challenges of being friends with other writers, among plenty of other topics. Give it a listen! And go buy kaddish.com: A novel!

“It’s lovely to live in New York as a writer, but you have to avoid static, as both reader and writer.”

“I replaced therapy with teaching. I find it really nice to have to put things into words for students.”

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

Nathan Englander is the author of the story collections For the Relief of Unbearable Urges: Stories, an international best seller, and What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories, and the novels The Ministry of Special Cases and Dinner at the Center of the Earth. His books have been translated into twenty-two languages, and he is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a PEN/Malamud Award, the Frank O’Connor Award, the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2013. His play The Twenty-Seventh Man premiered at the Public Theater in 2012. He is Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and daughter. His new novel is kaddish.com: A novel

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. 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 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 Nathan by me. It’s on my instagram.