Virtual Memories Show 255:
Henry Wessells

“This is either a project I’ve been working on for three years, or since I was seven years old.”

Antiquarian book dealer Henry Wessells joins the show to talk about his new exhibition at the Grolier Club and its accompanying book, A Conversation larger than the Universe: Readings in Science Fiction and the Fantastic, 1762-2017 (Oak Knoll). We get into his collecting impulse and why he’s not really a book collector, the childhood influence of Doc Savage and the adult influence of Robert Sheckley, Mary Shelley’s primary role in the invention of science fiction, the relevance of John Crowley’s Little, Big to our current moment, the ways the internet has changed book-collecting and casual reading, the vicarious thrill of book-dealing, our mutual teenaged meltdowns when we encountered Neuromancer, the unsung writers in his collection, the one book he wishes he owned, and a whole lot more. Give it a listen! And go buy A Conversation larger than the Universe!

“The good thing about going into real bookstores is the thing that no algorithm will ever be able to do: finding the book next to the book you thought you were looking for.”

NOTE: The exhibition for A Conversation larger than the Universe runs through March 10, 2018 at the Grolier Club in NYC. There’s also a panel on science fiction on March 6, featuring Mr. Wessells, Ellen Datlow, John Crowley and Samuel R. Delany and other authors. Visit the events page at the Grolier Club for more information.

“There’s nothing like writing a book about the history of science fiction to realize how little of it one has read.”


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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Henry Wessells is a Buddhist vegetarian polyglot and parent; lives in a house; is author of a collection of short stories, Another green world, a collection of poems, The Private Life of Books (with photographs by Paul Schütze), and A Conversation larger than the Universe; and publisher of Temporary Culture, whose titles include Hope-in-the-Mist by Michael Swanwick and Forever Peace. To Stop War by Joe Haldeman & Judith Clute; is a writer, translator, and antiquarian bookseller (see CV here); a baker of pies, peach, apple, & pumpkin; originator of the word electronym; a hand bookbinder; compiler of the Avram Davidson website; and a reader of books.

 

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Wessell’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 Mr. Wessells and of me and Mr. Wessells by me. They’re on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 254:
Ann Hulbert

“It’s so easy as a parent to project your own hopes and ambitions on your child, even when you think you’re not. Getting beyond that to see your kid as a person independent of you is the goal.”

Atlantic Monthly literary editor Ann Hulbert joins the show to talk about her new book, Off the Charts: The Hidden Lives and Lessons of American Child Prodigies (Knopf). We get into the history of child prodigies and what we can learn from the rest of their lives, how the prodigy experience can be a version of normal childhood writ large, and how to deal with the “race to nowhere” aspects of our high achievement culture. We also talk about Ann’s career as a literary editor (from The New Republic to Slate to The Atlantic), the advantages of living outside the New York publishing ecosystem, the challenges of assigning books for review, the perils of monomania, her father’s belief that children are “guests in the house”, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Off the Charts!

“Pursuing something without the expectation of being really good at it was one of the pleasures of my childhood.”

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Ann Hulbert is the author of Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About Children, The Interior Castle: The Art and Life of Jean Stafford, and Off the Charts: The Hidden Lives and Lessons of American Child Prodigies. Her articles and reviews have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, and The Atlantic, where she is the literary editor. She is a graduate of Harvard and spent a year at Cambridge University. She lives with her husband, Stephen Sestanovich, in Washington D.C.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Knopf offices 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. Photo of Ms. Hulbert by Nina Subin, so it’s not on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 253:
John Leland

“The wisdom of old age is something living with us right now.”

New York Times reporter John Leland joins the show to talk about his new book, Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old. We get into his year-long project of profiling 6 people aged 85+, how it blew up his preconceptions about old age and became an elderly version of The Real World, and what it taught him about living in the here and now. We also get into his history in journalism, his interest in The Beats, what it was like to arrive in NYC in 1977, the time he trained at a pro wrestling school, his decision to write a book treating On The Road as if it was a self-help book, which New York Times building he prefers, our shared love of David Gates’ fiction, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old!

“As I neared the end of profiling these six people, I started to suffer separation anxiety. I’d gotten to know them, I’d gotten involved in their lives. I’d gone with them to jazz clubs, and to the podiatrist.”

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

John Leland is a Metro reporter for The New York Times. Since joining the paper in 2000, he has covered topics ranging from the poetry of rock lyrics to the housing crisis. In 2015, he wrote a year-long series that became the basis for his new book, Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old.

He is the author of two previous books: Hip: The History (HarperCollins, 2004), and Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They’re Not What You Think) (Viking, 2007). Before joining The Times, Mr. Leland was a senior editor at Newsweek, editor in chief at Details, music critic at Newsday and an original columnist at SPIN magazine. Mr. Leland is a graduate of Columbia College and a dropout from the Monster Factory, a school for aspiring professional wrestlers. He did not last long, but he got a story.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the New York Times offices 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. Leland and Helen Moses by Edu Bayer for The New York Times. It’s not on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 252:
Seymour Chwast & Ann Rivera

“What’s easier now is that I know the approach I need to take. What’s harder is coming up with ideas.”

Legendary illustrator / designer / artist Seymour Chwast joins the show to talk about what it means to continue beyond “legendary” status. We get into his 60-plus-year career and why he can’t slow down (much less retire), the impact of Push Pin Studios, the (de-)evolution of commercial art, his mutant hybrid of typography and design, the process of overcoming the anxiety that Saul Steinberg made all the great work already, the immediate gratification of woodcuts, the reason he makes classic literary adaptations, his interest in different religions’ notions of Hell, how a gay dance instructor helped him avoid the draft for the Korean war, and more! Then, our very first Virtual Memories Show guest, Ann Rivera, drops in on the way home from MLA 2018 to talk about the future of the humanities, her love for Pete Bagge’s bio of Zora Neale Hurston, whether students should be seen as consumers or constituents, the success of the Yale history department’s revamp, the role of the public intellectual, the problems with academia’s insularity, and the novel she returns to every year. Give it a listen!

“We’re in a state of insecurity because we’ve forgotten our public function. And a big part of that public function is to serve the people we’re working WITH, not speaking TO.”

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guests

Seymour Chwast is an American graphic designer known for his diverse body of work, and lasting influence on visual culture. Born in 1931, in New York City, Chwast attended Abraham Lincoln High School, before studying illustration and design at the Cooper Union. He is a founding partner of the celebrated Push Pin Studios, whose revolutionary work altered the course of contemporary graphic communication in the 1960s, and continues to affect the field of design worldwide. In 1985, the studio’s name was changed to The Pushpin Group, of which Chwast is the director.

Developing and refining his innovative approach to design over the course of six decades, Chwast’s clients include the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and Print, as well as leading corporations, advertising agencies, and publishers both in the United States and abroad. His designs and illustrations have graced posters, packaging, record covers, advertisements, and animated films, as well as corporate and environmental graphics. He has created backgrounds for productions of Candide at New York’s Lincoln Center, and for The Magic Flute, performed by the Philadelphia Opera Company. Chwast is the author of over 30 children’s books, four graphic novels, and several typefaces. Pushpin Editions, the studio’s publishing arm, produces books on the arts and graphic design.

His work has been exhibited in major galleries and museums in the United States, Europe, Japan, Brazil, and Russia, including the influential “The Push Pin Style,” a two-month retrospective at the Louvre’s famed Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and several one-man shows of his paintings, sculptures, and prints. His posters reside in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Library of Congress; and the Gutenberg Museum, Mainz. In 2015, Washington University’s Modern Graphic History Library acquired a complete collection of Chwast’s posters, which will soon be available for study by students and the general public.

Over the years, the major monographs were published: Seymour Chwast: The Left-Handed Designer (Abrams, 1985); The Push Pin Graphic: A Quarter Century of Innovative Design and Illustration (Chronicle Books, 2004); Seymour: The Obsessive Images of Seymour Chwast (Chronicle Books, 2009).

A member of the Art Directors Hall of Fame, and a recipient of the AIGA Medal, Chwast also holds honorary Ph.D.s from Parsons School of Design and the Rhode Island School of Design. He is a frequent lecturer, with recent speaking engagements at Design Indaba, Offset, Point Design Conference, and the upcoming Typographics. Chwast resides in New York City with his wife, graphic designer and painter, Paula Scher.

Ann Rivera is an assistant professor of English at Villa Maria College in Buffalo, NY. She attended Hampshire College along with your humble podcast-host in the early ’90s, which may help explain our mutual wariness of postmodernism. She has made two previous appearances on The Virtual Memories Show, in 2013 and in our very first interview episode.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation with Mr. Chwast was recorded at his home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The conversation with Ms. Rivera was recorded at my home with the same equipment. 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. Chwast by me. They’re on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show:
The Guest List 2017

It’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories Show tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2017’s pod-guests and asked them about the favorite book(s) they read in the past year, as well as the books or authors they’re hoping to read in 2018! Three dozen responded with a dizzying array of books. (I participated, too!) Just in time for you to make some Hanukkah and/or Christmas purchases, The Virtual Memories Show offers up a huge list of books that you’re going to want to read! Give it a listen, and get ready to update your wish lists!

This year’s Guest List episode features selections from 36 of our recent guests (and one bonus guest)! So go give it a listen, and then visit our special Guest List page where you can find links to the books and the guests who responded.

Also, check out the 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 editions of The Guest List for more great book ideas!

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About our Guests

The guests who participated in this year’s Guest List are Pete Bagge, Kathy Bidus, Sven Birkerts, RO Blechman, Kyle Cassidy, Graham Chaffee, Howard Chaykin, Joe Ciardiello, John Clute, John Crowley, John Cuneo, Ellen Datlow, Samuel R. Delany, Nicholas Delbanco, Barbara Epler, Joyce Farmer, Sarah Williams Goldhagen, Paul Gravett, Liz Hand, Vanda Krefft, Michael Meyer, Cullen Murphy, Jeff Nunokawa, Mimi Pond, Eddy Portnoy, Keiler Roberts, Martin Rowson, Matt Ruff, Ben Schwartz, Vanessa Sinclair, Ann Telnaes, Michael Tisserand, Gordon Van Gelder, Shannon Wheeler, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Matt Wuerker . . . and me, Gil Roth! Check out their episodes at our archives!

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The episode was recorded 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.