Virtual Memories Show 461:
Matt Madden

“One of the things I love and value about comics is the plasticity of it and the elasticity of visual representation.”

With his new book, Ex Libris (Uncivilized Books), cartoonist Matt Madden takes readers on a post-modern, formalist dive into comics. We talk about the challenge of tinkering with story structure while still delivering an entertaining story, the work involved in jumping from style to style throughout Ex Libris (and in his past comics), the joy & terror of a notional library of potential books, and the inspiration of Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler, & all his literary, cinematic & comics influences. We get into his comics upbringing, his work teaching comics and developing comics textbooks, being in a two-cartoonist household — he’s married to Jessica Abel – and his kids’ attempts at keeping him (somewhat) culturally up to date, the perils & rewards of canonical thinking, and his use of Alison Bechdel’s comics-writing process. We also discuss the world that Factsheet Five opened up to him, his “welcome to comics” moment (courtesy of Bob Burden), Lewis Trondheim’s challenge to him to make a comic without formal commentary, the supply chain hiccup that postponed Ex Libris, and plenty more! Give it a listen! And go read Ex Libris!

“The comics world has become larger and more diverse, but also more diffuse. The comics culture that we grew up in was defined by a struggle between mainstream superhero comics and Weirdo, Arcade, and RAW. . . . But the kids that are growing up now have a whole other visual narrative world that blends into what was previously that walled-off comic-book world.”

“I think about register a lot. Not high/low art, but a different kind of brain-space and a different kind of intent when you’re drawing for a comic vs. drawing from life or drawing to hang something in a gallery.”

TUNEIN PLAYER 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

Matt Madden is a cartoonist, teacher, and translator. His best-known book is 99 Ways To Tell A Story: Exercises in Style, a comics adaptation of Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style. His recent work includes the comic books Drawn Onward and Bridge. He has been living in Philadelphia since 2016. His new book is Ex Libris.

Follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook 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 Matt by Alain François. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 460:
Rutu Modan

“I don’t feel that I finished everything I want to say with comics. I feel like comics are my way to express myself and tell my stories.”

With TUNNELS (Drawn & Quarterly, tr. Ishai Mishory), Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan has created a fantastic, thoughtful, wonderful, hilarious, complex, cinematic thrill-ride of a story about a search for the Ark of the Covenant in modern-day Israel and the West Bank. We get into the true-life origin of the story, the otherwise boring results of Israeli archeology, the research that went into TUNNELS, and what it taught Rutu about her own upbringing and how the Bible is taught to Israeli children. We talk about her cartooning and storytelling influences, her less obvious tributes to Herge, her use of actors in costume for drawing reference and how they influence the characters in her books, TUNNELS‘ use of location as protagonist, and what it was like to draw a book with so many outdoor scenes, instead of the urban settings of her previous books, Exit Wounds and The Property. We also get into the growth of the Israeli comics scene over the course of her ~30 years in comics, her time with the Actus Tragicus comics collective and her secret origin as a cartoonist (she comes from a family of doctors, so being an artist was not an easy path), whether she considers herself an Israeli cartoonist or a cartoonist who happens to be from Israel, why she tries not to think of her audience beyond one trusted reader, her first pandemic trip to . . .Siberia (!?), our flashback to when I interviewed her in 1998, and more! Give it a listen! And go read TUNNELS!

“Do you ever feel like you belong anywhere? In Angouleme, I feel like I’m in the right place, that I want to be part of this world.”

“People from the outside Israel tell me my work is Israeli, but being Israeli means I’m open to all kinds of influences, because you’re not committed to a long tradition.”

“Drawing is like music; you have to rehearse a lot.”

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

Rutu Modan is an illustrator, comics artist, and associate professor at the Bezalel Academy of Art & Design in Jerusalem. After publishing several comic strips in the Israeli media, she co-founded the Actus Comics group. In 2008 her book Exit Wounds won the Eisner Award. Her 2013 graphic novel The Property won the Eisner Award for Best Graphic Novel, the Special Jury Prize in the International Comics Festival in Angouleme, France, and the first prize for best book of the year in Lucca Comics & Games Festival, Italy. Rutu’s comics and children’s books have been translated into 15 languages. In 2013 she cofounded an independent publishing house specializing in comics for young children. Her new book is TUNNELS, from Drawn & Quarterly.

Follow Rutu on 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 Rutu by Hanan Assor. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 459:
Tess Lewis & Alta L. Price

“‘Turn And Face The Strange’ is a pretty ideal theme not just for the era we’re living, but the particular books we chose for the festival.”

They were among the last people I recorded with before lockdown, and now translators Tess Lewis and Alta L. Price are back to talk about co-curating the Festival Neue Literatur 2021 (which runs from November 11 to 14, 2021), and how the theme they developed for the postponed 2020 edition, TURN AND FACE THE STRANGE, became even more appropriate for the pandemic era. We get into the cliffhanger of rescheduling FNL and the offsetting challenges of virtual vs. in-person author attendance, the rise of nationalism and closed borders, how literature from other languages can become the fallback to let us understand the world from another person’s perspective, and the act of translating when people refer to the pandemic in the past tense. We get into the German-language authors (and two American ones) who are participating in this year’s FNL — Anna Baar, Joshua Cohen, Isabel Fargo Cole, Judith Keller, Helen Phillips, Benjamin Quaderer, Sasha Marianna Salzmann, and Ivna Žic — and how their works approach questions of identity and belonging through strange means. We also get into what Tess and Alta have learned about the world and themselves over the past 20 months in Pandemia, why the seclusion of a translator’s life prepped them for some of the worst of it, what themes they’d love to curate for future FNLs, and whether Hölderlin would have used DoorDash. (Listen to my 2020 episodes with Tess and Alta.) Give it a listen! And go check out the Festival Neue Literatur!

“What is life if you’re living in one room, or if you’re not interacting with people?”

“As with translation, there are multiple interpretations of the theme of ‘Turn And Face The Strange’.”

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 Guests

Tess Lewis’s translations from French and German include works by Peter Handke, Walter Benjamin, Anselm Kiefer, Maja Haderlap, Philippe Jaccottet, and Christine Angot. She has been awarded grants from PEN and the NEA, the Austrian Cultural Forum NY Translation Prize, the PEN Translation Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is Co-chair of the PEN Translation Committee and an Advisory Editor for The Hudson Review. She has written essays on European Literature for a number of journals and newspapers including The Hudson Review, World Literature Today, Partisan Review, The American Scholar, The Wall Street Journal and Bookforum. She is delighted to be back with FNL, having curated the festival in 2014 and 2015.

Alta L. Price runs a publishing consultancy specialized in literature and nonfiction texts on art, architecture, design, and culture. A recipient of the Gutekunst Prize, she translates from Italian and German into English. Her latest publications include books by Martin Mosebach and Dana Grigorcea. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, 3 Quarks Daily, Maharam Stories, Trafika Europe, Words Without Borders, and elsewhere. She is a member of PEN, the Authors Guild, the American Literary Translators Association, the Third Coast Translators Collective, and Cedilla & Co.

Listen to my 2020 episodes with Tess and Alta.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Tess’ home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones and a Blue enCORE 100 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 Tess and Alta by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 458:
Robert Emmet Meagher

“As I grew as a thinker, as a scholar, as a teacher, I took Camus with me, and my appreciation of him grew as I did.”

With Albert Camus and the Human Crisis (Pegasus Books), professor Robert Emmet Meagher distills a half-century of reading and teaching Camus’ work to show us how the writer and thinker continues to resonate 60+ years after his untimely death. We get into his accidental origins with Camus and how Camus speaks to us today, the Human Crisis speech Camus gave in 1946 and how it remains relevant, why no one paid attention to Camus’ protests that he wasn’t an existentialist, Camus’ uneasy pacifism and Bob’s own antiwar activism (and how it affected his career). We also talk about why I was a dummy not to take Bob’s class on Camus when I was an undergrad at Hampshire (I did take his Sense & Spirit class in 1992), the Camus novel Bob had to grow into, his speculation on how Camus & his writing would have developed had he not died so young, and mortality, deathfulness, & how, as Camus put it, philosophy used to teach us how to die, but now teaches us how to think. In addition to Camus, we discuss Bob’s work with veterans and healing moral injury, why exactly Achilles in the Iliad is “swift-footed” and the moment my mythic/tragic view of him gets dashed on the rocks of Bob’s experience with soldiers, his draft-dodging conundrum and the deus ex machina that kept him out of Vietnam, his decision to teach & write about the subjects that interest him, rather than following academic trends, his status as a professor-in-waiting (but not retired!), how he’s been coping with the pandemic, and how this book was his melodramatic Final Class. Give it a listen! And go read Albert Camus and the Human Crisis!

“One of the remarkable things about Camus is that he wasn’t embarrassed when he changed his mind. And when he did change his mind, even over very strong public statements he had made, he would own up to it publicly. If he had embraced a position he now rejected, he wanted others to reject it too.”

“It was 1970, and I had spent two hours on a beach reading The Stranger when I was young, but now I had 6 weeks to give a lecture to a conference of noted Camus scholars from around the world.”

“My objection to philosophy is that, by the time I was studying it, it had become a parlor game. My study of classics — as a discipline, not the works themselves — followed the same path.”

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

Robert Emmet Meagher is Emeritus Professor of Humanities at Hampshire College, Amherst. Before Hampshire, he held faculty positions at Indiana University and Notre Dame. Across his 52 years of teaching he also held numerous visiting chairs and professorships in the U.S. and abroad, including at Trinity College Dublin, and Yale. His publishing career includes over 20 books, translations, and original plays, most recently Herakles Gone Mad: Rethinking Heroism in an Age of Endless War, Killing from the Inside Out, War and Moral Injury, and his latest book, Albert Camus and the Human Crisis. He has offered workshops on the translation and contemporary production of ancient drama at colleges and universities in the US and abroad, and has himself directed productions at such venues as the Samuel Beckett Centre, Dublin and the Nandan Centre for the Performing Arts in Kolkota, India. In recent years he has directed and participated in a range of events and programs concerned with healing the spiritual wounds of war in combat veterans, their families, and their communities.

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

Virtual Memories Show 457:
Dash Shaw

“With all of the things that I do, the form and the content have to feel like they’re perfectly synced, that they’re each boosting each other up. It also has to be connected with how they’re made.”

Cartoonist and animator Dash Shaw joins the show to celebrate his new book, Discipline (New York Review Comics), a Civil War-era story about a Quaker who joins the Union army. We get into how Dash’s upbringing as a Quaker in Virginia led him to this book, the New York Public Library fellowship that exposed him to letters and diaries from the time, the artwork of the era and how it influenced the “floating” visual style of Discipline, and his urge to depict the moments that are left unchronicled. We also discuss the Quaker debate over paying a military tax during the Civil War, the sense of growing up in an area haunted by that period of history, the multi-year layering process of making this book and how it converged and diverged with the making of his amazing new animated movie, Cryptozoo (Magnolia Pictures), and how story dictates form & style. We also reminisce about a bookstore panel he did with Frank Santoro once upon a time, and how their tooth-and-nail arguments over the nature of comics gave him hope that there’s plenty of room for comics to grow. Give it a listen! And go read Discipline!

“I’ve made other books and animated movies, but nothing has been as hard as this book. Nothing was as picked over and fraught with indecision.”

“How much does it matter what I’m thinking, or my motivations for anything? Maybe all that matters is what my body is actually doing. Or maybe what matters is what I’m thinking, and how I’m passing along these thoughts. It’s a bizarre thing to try to articulate, but I think it’s the content of this book.”

“There are so few books or media about Quakers, that I feared I was going to disappoint people by not giving them information.”

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

Dash Shaw was raised Quaker in Richmond, VA, where he currently lives. He is the cartoonist of many graphic novels and wrote and directed two animated feature films, the most recent of which, Cryptozoo, won the 2021 Sundance Film Festival’s NEXT Innovator Prize and is distributed by Magnolia Pictures. He began working on Discipline in 2014, and it was drawn over the course of six years.

Follow Dash on Instagram and 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. Photo of Dash by someone else. It’s on my instagram.