Virtual Memories Show 400:
Michael Musto

“I learned you have to only interview people you love, really do your research so you’re not asking them obvious questions, and treat it like a conversation, so you can get something human out of them, something spontaneous.”

Legendary entertainment columnist Michael Musto joins the show to talk about the evolution of gossip, nightlife, New York City, celebrity, and queer representation over the years! We get into the origins of his La Dolce Musto column in The Village Voice (and what led to the magazine’s decline and death), the parallels and differences between the AIDS crisis and COVID-19, the highs and lows of ’80s NYC and how the city will bounce back post-pandemic, the impact of RuPaul on the culture, his Warhol story, the generational gaps in gay upbringing, the bridges he’s burned, the reason he never had the nerve to talk to Madonna face to face, the best gift-bag he ever received, how his folks came around about his being gay but were always worried about his being a journalist, why he only reads celebrity memoirs, and more. It’s a heck of a way to celebrate our 400th episode! Give it a listen!

“In the COVID era, celebrities have become extra-irrelevant, because they can’t do what they do: make films or do live performances.”

“I felt not only survivor’s guilt, but the need to live for everyone who couldn’t live.”

“I’d wave at a celebrity I was quote-friends-unquote with, but who I’d written something maybe not positive about, and they’d always give me the side-eye. I learned the valuable lesson: keep on writing the truth, because who cares if you’re friends with celebrities? My job wasn’t to be their friend.”

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

When I asked Michael for a bio, he wrote, “I wrote the La Dolce Musto column for The Village Voice, I have written four books, including Downtown and Manhattan on the Rocks, and I have long also been a TV commentator on pop culture topics.”

Follow Michael on Twitter and you’ll find so much great stuff, including these recent pieces on COVID’s effect on queer culture, and being a misfit gay.

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 Michael in red by Andrew Werner; in brocade by someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 397:
Daniel Mendelsohn

“Each of my four books is secretly exploring a genre: lyric, epic, novel, and I’m not even sure what this one is, but I wrote it entirely to please myself.”

With Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate (UVA Press), Daniel Mendelsohn has written one of my favorite books of 2020. We get into Homer’s use of Ring Composition and how it shapes Three Rings, how this book grew out of his experience writing An Odyssey, why he chose François Fénelon, Eric Auerbach, and WG Sebald as the three exiled subjects of his book, and how we understand the relationship between “what happened” and “the story of what happened” (that is, how narration changes the nature of facts). We also get into how he managed to compress and capture just about all of his major themes in his briefest book, why Auerbach disliked ring composition, and what it says about Homeric vs. Hebrew — or optimistic vs. pessimistic — styles of story, how every story has more stories embedded in it, and why Istanbul may serve as the fusion of Athens & Jerusalem. We also get into Daniel’s pandemic experience and coping mechanisms for anxiety and dread, his mom’s involvement in Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary about the Holocaust in America, why translation is like a crossword puzzle for him, the negatives of focusing on STEM to the detriment of the liberal arts, and how we can both relate to Auerbach’s comment, “If it had been possible for me to acquaint myself with all the work that has been done on so many subjects, I might have never reached the point of writing.” Give it a listen! And go read Three Rings! (& check out our previous conversation!)

“I was very attracted to the idea of the way in which their own wandering lives ended up being analogs for the narratives they ended up being interested in.”

“For the writer, anything is a subject. Even nothing is a subject, so to speak.”

“Colleges are going to abandon the humanities and go for more STEM stuff than ever, because it’s ’employable’. The irony is that NEVER have we needed the humanities more, because that’s the stuff that tells you how to deal with these crises.”

TUNEIN LINK 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

Daniel Mendelsohn teaches at Bard and is Editor-at-Large at The New York Review of Books. His books include An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic; The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million; How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays, and, from New York Review Books, Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture, and Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones. His new book is Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate

There’s a longer version at his website.

Follow Daniel on Twitter 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. Photos of Daniel by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 394:
Henri Cole

“My poems are a kind of transcript of life as it is lived.”

Poet Henri Cole joins the show to celebrate his brand-new collection, Blizzard: Poems (FSG). We get into his evolution as a poet over the 10 volumes he’s published to date, the transformative year he spent in Japan, how the closet compelled queer poets to develop original emblems and symbols to convey their private experience (and his transcendent experience of reading James Merrill’s Christmas Tree), and how a fan letter from Harold Bloom gave him a foundation during some tough times. We also get into his wonderful 2018 memoir, Orphic Paris (NYRB), whether he misses France or California more during the pandemic, his affinity for literary pilgrimage (and a recent one he took to Elizabeth Bishop’s grave), his use of the sonnet form and his enjoyment of the constraints and parameters of the physical page, how he knows (or thinks he knows) when a poem is done, our mutual love of Roger Federer, and more! Give it a listen! And go read Blizzard: Poems & Orphic Paris!

“The journey of my life as a writer has been toward more pellucidness, or transparency. But maybe that’s the journey of everybody’s life.”

“I think when I was a young man, I used nature as a mask for private matters. As the closet disintegrated, I became more directly autobiographical.”

“As I age, the thing that’s saddest to me is having fewer and fewer poets to look up to, because so many have died in recent years.”

“Being linear is the thing that bores me quicker than anything.”

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

Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1956. He has published nine previous collections of poetry, including Touch and Pierce the Skin; as well as a memoir, Orphic Paris; and he has received many awards for his work, including the Jackson Poetry Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award, the Rome Prize, the Berlin Prize, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and the Award of Merit Medal in Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches at Claremont McKenna College. His new collection is Blizzard: Poems.

Follow Henri on 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. Photos of Henri by someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 392:
David Mikics

“The thing about Kubrick is that the more you see the movies — they’re tantalizing, they entice you to come back to them again and again — the more you come back, the more you see.”

With his new book, Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker (Yale University Press), David Mikics explores the life and movies of one of cinema’s greatest directors. We talk about David’s intro to his work (seeing 2001 at the age of 12 (!)) and the research that went into this concise and wonderful biography, why Kubrick’s movies work as literary experiences, which of his movies speaks most to This Whole Situation we’re in, and Kubrick’s Jewishness and the holocaust movie he could never make. We get into the director’s perfectionism, right down to his movies’ newspaper advertising, how he balanced being control-freak in a collaborative medium like film, the role of masculinity and the lack of women in many of his movies, and the unmade projects we wish he had gotten around to (he wanted to adapt Chess Story, my favorite Stefan Zweig story!). We also get into David’s experiences with the late Harold Bloom, how he’s adapted to teaching via Zoom, whether Lolita (the novel, not Kubrick’s adaptation) survives the ‘cancel culture’ era, and why The Shining is his comfort movie, disturbing as that sounds. Give it a listen! And go read Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker!

“I was always inspired by how Harold Bloom combined his interest in books with his interest in people. He once said the reason we read books is that we don’t have enough time to meet all the interesting people.”

“His movies are a kind of excavation of the male psyche.”

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 Mikics is Moores Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Houston, as well as a columnist for Tablet magazine. His most recent books are Bellow’s People and Slow Reading in a Hurried Age. He also edited the Library of America edition of Harold Bloom’s essays, The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon. He lives in Brooklyn, NY and Houston, TX. His new book is Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker.

Follow David on Facebook and listen to our 2016 conversation.

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 David by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 391:
Christopher Brown

“Utopia is not a place; it’s a decision. It’s a decision to try to live a better life, to craft a more wholesome community.”

Can there be economic justice without environmental justice? With his new novel, FAILED STATE (Harper Voyager), Christopher Brown returns to the alternate America of Tropic of Kansas (2017) and Rule of Capture (2019) to explore the possibility of utopia and the catastrophe of man’s disconnect from the land. We talk about how he reprised his great character Donny Kimoe (causing Amazon to categorize this book as “Dystopian Lawyer”), the roots of the world he built in these novels and his drive to publish 3 books in 4 years, and how the pandemic is influencing the choice of his next project, and how he’s been coping since our COVID Check-In a few months ago. We also get into the culture of undocumented people in his area of Texas, the documentary TV episode about his home in east Austin, his current binge of Latin American horror by women writers, the role of resistance when the law is being subverted by politics, the future of his wonderful Field Notes weekly e-mail, and more! Give it a listen! And go read Failed State!

“Decisions about accountability are in the hands of politicians, and politicians are all very terrified of the idea of people being held criminally accountable for things that are at the margins of politics and power.”

“I live in a Hobbit house of the future. It’s about the idea of bringing back the wild in the heart of the city.”

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

Christopher Brown is the author of Tropic of Kansas, a finalist for the 2018 John W. Campbell Award for best science fiction novel of the year, and Rule of Capture, the beginning of a series of speculative legal thrillers. He was a World Fantasy Award nominee for the anthology Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic. His short fiction and criticism has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including MIT Technology Review, LitHib, Tor.com, and The Baffler. He lives in Austin, TX, where he also practices law. His new novel is Failed State, from Harper Voyager.

Follow Chris on Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to the weekly Field Notes e-mail.

(There’s a more comprehensive version at his website.)

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. Photos of Chris by me, from 2018. It’s on my instagram.