Virtual Memories Show 339:
Simon Critchley

“What are the plays telling us that philosophy is not telling us, and that we need to attend to?”

In his amazing new book, Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us (Pantheon), Simon Critchley explores how Ancient Greek tragedy captures the eternal crises and tensions of human life, and how philosophy went wrong in trying to tame it. We dive into how Critchley learned to appreciate the drama of the tragedies, how it led to his critique of Plato and Aristotle and much of what comes after them, and how we continue to wrestle with the central question of the tragedies: “What shall I do?” Along the way, we talk about the perils of moral monotheism, Wallace Stevens’ philosophy-as-poetry, what it means to treat Plato’s dialogues as drama, the role of women in Greek tragedy, the allure of the antiquity’s lacunae, the difference between reading plays and being at the theater, why he thinks philosophy begins in disappointment, not wonder, and how he’s dealing with recently losing his heavily marked-up copy of The Peregrine. We also explore his various obsessions, including medieval cathedrals, the possibility of change, 19th century America, soccer, and most importantly, David Bowie! Give it a listen! And go buy Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us!

“This book is my quiet — or maybe not so quiet — critique of the profession that I’ve been associated with my whole career: philosophy.”

“I’ve always been attracted to the idea of thought being articulated in non-propositional, non-philosophical forms: music, poetry, even soccer.”

“You always felt like David Bowie was talking to you, and you alone.”

“I’m really grateful to get paid to think. It’s great!”

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

Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research. His many books include Very Little . . . Almost Nothing: Death, Philosophy and Literature, The Book of Dead Philosophers, The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments In Political Theology, and Memory Theater: A Novel. He is the series moderator of The Stone, a philosophy column in The New York Times, to which he is a frequent contributor. His new book is Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Simon’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. Critchley by me. It’s on my instagram. Photo of bust of Euripides by Marie-Lan Nguyen.

Virtual Memories Show 338:
Simon Doonan

“Drag has been the wallpaper in my life forever.”

Author, fashionista, creative ambassador, and recovering window-dresser Simon Doonan takes us on a guided tour of gender non-conformity with his latest book, Drag: The Complete Story (Laurence King)! Simon & I talked through his personal history with drag, how drag has evolved over the millennia, how the current moment is pushing drag in new directions, and why male British comics were so comfortable performing in it (a long-standing question of mine). We also get into his love of craft and how dressing windows at Barneys New York was the perfect venue for him, the value of having a day job and not making art the center of one’s life, how a kid who failed his 11+ wound up writing a shelfload of books, the joy of his crafting reality show, Making It, why he didn’t get through the auditions for Queer Eye, the TV skill he had to learn, his love of history and his abhorrence at the idea of being anyone’s role model, why it’s life-affirming to wear some color, what sort of drag I’d be able to pull off, and plenty more! Give it a listen (conversation begins at 7:35)! And go buy Drag: The Complete Story!

(NOTE: All of Simon’s proceeds from this book go to the Ali Forney Center for LGBTQ youth at risk for homelessness)

“I think it’s good for writers to get out and work. Like Simone Weil: she used to work in a car factory.”

“The message I got from my parents was that life’s just not that complicated. The idea that they’d have been involved in my college application is absurd!”

“I have the ability get very interested in things that are outside of myself. My windows were often based around that.”

“I thought about being an Artist, but realized how much more fun it was to be a window-display designer.”

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

Writer, Fashionista and Author Simon Doonan is the Creative Ambassador for Barneys New York. His books include Saturday Night Fever Pitch: The Magic and Madness of Football Style, Eccentric Glamour: Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You, Confessions of a Window Dresser, and Gay Men Don’t Get Fat. Simon appears as a judge on the NBC television show, Making It, co-hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. His new book is Drag: The Complete Story.

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. Photos of Mr. Doonan by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 337:
Amor Towles

“In the back of my mind I knew that if I didn’t write a book that I felt proud of by the time I was 50, I’d probably end up bitter in my old age.”

After a 20-year sojourn in the investment world, Amor Towles returned to his first love by writing the bestselling novels Rules of Civility and A Gentleman In Moscow. We get into how he managed that jump, the lessons he learned from his first failed novel, and the advantages of making a later start in publishing (and whether he could’ve written either of his books when he was young). We talk about his intense outlining and planning process for novels and how it allows for more creativity within the writing itself, his relief at showing his writing teacher (Peter Matthiessen) his books before it was too late, the symphonic model he applies to novels, his best practices for book tours (writing short stories and getting out and seeing the cities he was visiting), the perpetual nostalgia that is New York, his use of recurring characters in his fiction and whether it means he’s creating a Towlesiverse, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy A Gentleman In Moscow and Rules of Civility!

“For a young artist, you don’t need a chorus of support; you need one person.”

“History is not very good at capturing all that is of quality in art. However, history is very good at filtering out all that is mediocre in art.”

“People are always attracted to a New York that’s gone.”

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

Born and raised in the Boston area, Amor Towles graduated from Yale College and received an MA in English from Stanford University. Mr. Towles’s first novel, Rules of Civility, which was published in 2011, was a New York Times bestseller and was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the best books of 2011. The book has been translated into over 20 languages, its French translation receiving the 2012 Prix Fitzgerald.

Mr. Towles’s second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, which was published in 2016, was on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year in hardcover and was named one of the best books of 2016 by the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and NPR. The book has been translated into over thirty languages including Russian. In the summer of 2017, the novel was optioned by EOne and the British director, Tom Harper, to be made into a 6-8 hour miniseries starring Kenneth Branagh.

Having worked as an investment professional for over twenty years, Mr. Towles now devotes himself full time to writing in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and two children.

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

Virtual Memories Show 334:
Caleb Crain

“My first novel was about growth and integration, and this one’s more about death and disintegration in the face of technological change.”

Occupy, telepathy, the surveillance state, and poetic treatment of reversion in 16th/17th century English poetry: Caleb Crain’s brand-new novel, Overthrow (Viking) has it all! Caleb & I talk about the image that evoked his new book, why this one is his “dark novel”, and how its writing was filled with a sense of inevitability (and maybe a little bit of prophecy). We get into the notion of self-surveillance and why he carries a dumb-phone (even though it almost led to his failure to show up for our podcast session), the way gay people have a theory of mind for straight people but not necessarily vice versa, the optimism of Occupy and the dreadful fate of Aaron Swartz, the difference between fiction and nonfiction editing, the importance of unscheduled nap-time, and the challenge of writing a novel about the weaponization of our relationships. Give it a listen! And go buy Overthrow!

“There are these moments now when it feels like the existing governance structure fractures and can’t handle things.”

“Gay life is different than straight life, and it’s different across a wide spectrum of experience, not just in bed.”

“To write, I have to be alone. And if I had a smartphone, I would never be alone.”

“Why should human communication be the exclusive property of one corporation that’s making ethically dubious choices?”

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

Caleb Crain has written for The New Yorker, Harper’s, the Paris Review, The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, n+1, and The New York Times Book Review. He is the author of the novel Necessary Errors and the critical work American Sympathy: Men, Friendship, and Literature in the New Nation. He was born in Texas, raised in Massachusetts, and lives in Brooklyn, New York. His new novel is Overthrow.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at stately Virtual Memories Manor 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. Crain by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 333:
Gil Roth AMA

Because of a last-minute guest cancellation, I had no show lined up for this week! Rather than take a second week off this summer, I decided it was time for another Gil Roth AMA episode, since the last one was almost 5 years ago. Thirty-two past and upcoming guests and Patreon supporters came through with questions for me, including (in the order I answered them): Ken Krimstein, Hugh Ryan, Barry Corbett, Joe Ciardiello, Glynnis Fawkes, Kyle Cassidy, Ian Kelley, Kate Lacour, Dean Haspiel, Eddy Portnoy, Kate Maruyama, Tom Spurgeon, Jonathan Hyman, David Leopold, Paine Proffitt, David Townsend, Boaz Roth, Chris Reynolds, Liniers, Caleb Crain, Bob Eckstein, Ersi Sotiropoulos, Andrea Tsurumi, Henry Wessells, Vanessa Sinclair, Jim Ottaviani, Maria Alexander, Mary Fleener, Stephen Nadler, Charles Blackstone, Lauren Weinstein, and David Shields. We cover everything from creative lessons learned from my guests to “why so many cartoonists?”, from what books I re-read and why to who is on my Mount Rushmore list of dream guests, from the comics and GNs that have affected me most to what I think about the Peak TV era, from how running has affected my podcast-practices to who my most obstreperous guest has been, and plenty more! And it was all done in a single two-hour take, so give it a listen!

NOTES:

  • Chris Reynolds’ question included a couple of links, so here’s what he wrote: I’ve been carrying on with “Comics as Radio”, influenced by the KCRW Organist podcast. My friend Alan Jackson did a performance of my Comics as Radio story “Sexton Blake and the 64th Floor” at the Train of Thought Gallery in Worthing, and we discuss it here with John Parke, whose idea it was. So my question is: What do you think of ‘Comics as Radio’?
  • Pre-order Dean Haspiel’s forthcoming collection of The Red Hook: WAR CRY, from Image Comics (comes out Oct. 9)
  • Barry Corbett has started a fundraiser for The Food Pantry, so contribute! You can find his graphic memoir, Terminal Velocity, here
  • Maria Alexander has a new short story collection, 12 Tales Lie | 1 Tells True from Cemetery Dance

BONUS: I’ve got a belated answer to Maria Alexander’s question, “What’s the spookiest thing that’s ever happened to you?” In high school, my English teacher was driving me and another classmate to a creative writing conference in New Brunswick. Somehow, the topic of birthdays came up and — swear to the Unifactor — it turned out that all three of us had the same birthday. I know that’s not ghost-possessed ventriloquist spooky, but it’s still spooky, so I’m going with that one.

SECOND BONUS: When I talked about the movie Magic during the episode, I meant Anthony Hopkins, not Anthony Perkins. If that’s the only mistake I made during the show, I’ll be amazed.

Enjoy the monologue! 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

Gil Roth is the host of The Virtual Memories Show, a weekly literary-cultural conversation podcast. He’s also the founder and president of the Pharma & Biopharma Outsourcing Association, a nonprofit trade group representing contract manufacturing organizations and other service providers in the bio/pharma sector. His wife is a photographer, he runs for recreation and reads a lot, and their greyhound is named after the prince’s hunting dog in The Leopard.

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 Blue enCORE 200 Microphone 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 & Yorick by me at Cathy B. Graham‘s studio. Header photo is a chapter title card from an episode of Frasier, so it’s not on my instagram.