Virtual Memories Show 311:
Martin Hägglund

“Only a being who is finite and anxious about their finitude can lead a spiritual life.”

What if we treated our finite lives as a feature instead of a bug? How would we revalue our time and how could that shape our society? In his new book, This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom (Pantheon Books), Professor Martin Hagglund explores how life becomes enriched when we discard the eternal in favor of seeing the lives we live together as the highest good. We talk about how the notion of an afterlife devalues the life we live, the ways our implicit experiences are rendered explicit by philosophy and literature, and how a rethinking of the value of our time can lead to a revaluing of labor and a critique of capital (no, really!). We get into my favorite topic — anxiety! — as well as the inextricability of existential and economic questions, the invisible labor that makes our lives possible/comfortable, the conceptions of time and memory captured by Proust and Knausgaard, the all-important difference between valuing socially necessary labor time and socially available free time, and how the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. embodies a lot of Martin’s arguments about finitude and a better world. Give it a listen! And go buy This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom!

“If you’re really going to think about the relation of time and value, you’re going to end up in economics, but not in the modern sense, but the economy as intrinsic to social relations and spiritual life itself.”

“As a kid, I was interested in Bible exegeses, but for philosophical reasons.”

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

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Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Martin Hägglund is a professor of comparative literature and humanities at Yale University. A member of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, he is the author of three highly acclaimed books, and his work has been translated into eight languages. In his native Sweden, he published his first book, Chronophobia, at the age of twenty-five. His first book in English, Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life, was the subject of a conference at Cornell University and a colloquium at Oxford University. His most recent book, Dying for Time: Proust, Woolf, Nabokov, was hailed by the Los Angeles Review of Books as a “revolutionary” achievement. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2018. He lives in New York City. His new book is This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Penguin Random House 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. Nice photo of Prof Hägglund uncredited. Office photo of Prof. Hägglund by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 308:
James Oseland

“I think of myself as a journalist first and foremost, someone who’s always reporting, always trying to find out what’s beneath that layer that we think is the final one.”

Before Saveur, before Top Chef Masters, before all the National Magazine and James Beard awards, James Oseland was Jimmy Neurosis. James and I talk about his brand-new book, Jimmy Neurosis: A Memoir (Ecco Press), about his life as a gay teen in the late ’70s. We get into how none of his previous artistic and literary pursuits prepared him for writing this book, the challenges of remove 50-something James’ perspective from the teen narration, the difficult relationship with his mother at the core of the book (which begins with his dad bailing on them), and what it was like to find comfort in the burgeoning punk-music scene of San Francisco. We get into the toughest parts of the book to write about (we both get choked up at different points of that), his growing concern as a teen that (superabundant) sex wasn’t the be-all and end-all, the diversity of the early punk scene and how it got overwhelmed by violent white guys, why he used ads and TV taglines as chapter titles for the book, the fate of his punk record collection, and the wonderful (but admittedly problematic) experience of living with a much older gay lover in NYC when he was 15/16. And I promise, we also talk about food writing and the new World Food book series he’s working on! Give it a listen! And go buy Jimmy Neurosis!

“One of the key messages that I want to convey is that gay is normal; it’s not strange.”

“You can really appreciate the world by what it eats.”

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, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

James Oseland is the editor-in-chief of World Food, a book series launching from Penguin Random House in 2020. Prior to that, he was the editor-in-chief of Saveur, America’s most critically acclaimed food magazine. He has won multiple National Magazine and James Beard Foundation awards and has been a judge on Celebrity Apprentice, Iron Chef America, and all five seasons of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. He is also the author of Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, which was named one of the best books of 2006 by the New York Times and Good Morning America. He lives in Mexico City and New York City. His new book is Jimmy Neurosis: A Memoir

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at a hotel in midtown Manhattan 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. Oseland by me. It’s on my instagram. Author photo by James Roper.

Virtual Memories Show 306:
Eva Hagberg Fisher

“A thread in my book is that I never learn the lessons I want to learn.”

She got through brain surgery, heart surgery, and House-level chronic illness (oh, yeah, and addiction) and came out the other side with a brand-new memoir, but could Eva Hagberg Fisher make it through a podcast-session without catching a cold from her host? We tempt fate with a long conversation about How to Be Loved: A Memoir of Lifesaving Friendship (HMH), the unlikely friendship that saw her through this, the self-jinx of writing about her health, the perverse urge to see her tumor marker tests get worse because at least it would end the uncertainty of her diagnosis, and how pain taught her to balance sobriety with moralizing and martyrdom. We also get into the performative aspect of social media, her ongoing impulse to deception and secrecy and the act of performing vulnerability, the right and wrong way to process one’s emotions, her anxiety in the wake of her recent essay on being in debt, her problems with The Artist’s Way, her immense thanks that her editor cut 95 pages of relationship drama down to two paragraphs, and the stuff you really want to hear us talk about: her dissertation on the professionalization of architectural publicity via the letters of Eero Saarinen and Aline Bernstein Louchheim! Give it a listen! And go buy How to Be Loved!

“My core wound, my fundamental bad belief about myself, is that I’m a hysterical drama queen who’s making things up for attention.”

“I want to know what standard emotional response to a life event is, and then calibrate my response to that.”

“My book can have an ending even if my life is not ending.”

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, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Eva Hagberg Fisher’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Tin House, Wallpaper*, Wired, and Dwell, among other places. She holds degrees in architecture from UC Berkeley and Princeton, and a Ph.D. in Visual and Narrative Culture from UC Berkeley. Her new book is How to Be Loved: A Memoir of Lifesaving Friendship.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded in a workspace in Ms. Fisher’s apartment building 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 & Ms. Fisher by me. It’s on my instagram. Nicer photo of Eva by Sylvie Rosokoff.

Virtual Memories Show 304:
Edmund White

“Queerness has become less arty, less intellectual, less cultural, more physical, more gym-oriented, more commercial. Lady Gaga instead of Maria Callas.”

Novelist, memoirist, essayist and queer literary icon Edmund White joins the show to talk about his new memoir, The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading (Bloomsbury USA)! We get into how his implied reader has changed identities over the years, the differences between writing memoir, autofiction and imaginative fiction, the boom and bust of the “gay fiction” bookstore category, the challenges of his massive biography of Genet and how he navigated about French attitudes toward gossip, and having the gay version of a shotgun wedding. We also get into his HIV diagnosis in 1985, outliving what he thought was a two-year death sentence, and being crazy enough to take on a long-term writing project in the midst of it. In between, we get to his status as a blurb-slut, what it’s like for him to write on a computer for the first time, the pressure to write for a gay audience and how The Flaneur opened him up to a very different reader, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading!

“I hate the term ‘creative nonfiction,’ which always sounds to me like, you know, lying.”

“I felt my Genet biography was political. I wanted to remind people that gays had a history before AIDS and that it didn’t just involve disease.”

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, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Edmund White is the author of many novels, including A Boy’s Own Story: A Novel, The Beautiful Room Is Empty, The Farewell Symphony, and Our Young Man. His nonfiction includes City Boy, Inside a Pearl, and other memoirs; The Flaneur, about Paris; and literary biographies and essays, including Genet: A Biography and Marcel Proust: A Life. He was named winner of the 2018 PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. He lives in New York. His most recent book is The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading.

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

 Virtual Memories Show 302:
Jerome Charyn

“In most historical novels, you’re dealing with events, and I’m really dealing with trauma and wounds.”

On the latest stop on his blog tour, author Jerome Charyn joins the show to talk about his new novel, The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King: A Novel of Teddy Roosevelt and His Times (Liveright Publishing). We get into the image that inspired the book, the challenges & rewards of historical fiction, and the quest to separate Teddy Roosevelt’s myth from his story. Along the way, we get into ping pong, whether LeBron James should have gone somewhere besides LA, the magic of Allegra Kent & Balanchine’s ballet, the loneliness of Van Gogh’s garret, the joy of collaborating on graphic novels, and the miracle of Jerome becoming a writer. Leave a comment about this episode below to enter a raffle to win Jerome’s new book & a his earlier novel, I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War! Check out the rest of the blog tour in support of The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King! Give it a listen! And go buy The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King: A Novel of Teddy Roosevelt and His Times!

”I’m afraid of everything, but I’m fearless on the page. Everything frightens me, but writing doesn’t frighten me.”

“In America today, everything is monetized, and nothing has value.”


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, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Jerome Charyn is an award-winning American author. With more than 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life.

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.” New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,” and the Los Angeles Times described him as “absolutely unique among American writers.”

Since the 1964 release of Charyn’s first novel, Once Upon a Droshky, he has published thirty novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays, and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York TimesBook of the Year.

Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture. Charyn is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Film Studies at the American University of Paris.

In addition to writing and teaching, Charyn is a tournament table tennis player, once ranked in the top ten percent of players in France. Noted novelist Don DeLillo called Charyn’s book on table tennis, Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins, “The Sun Also Rises of ping-pong.”

Charyn’s most recent novel, Jerzy, was described by The New Yorker as a “fictional fantasia” about the life of Jerzy Kosinski, the controversial author of The Painted Bird.  In 2010, Charyn wrote The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, an imagined autobiography of the renowned poet, a book characterized by Joyce Carol Oates as a “fever-dream picaresque.”

Charyn lives in New York City.  He’s currently working with artists Asaf and Tomer Hanuka on an animated television series based on his Isaac Sidel crime novels.

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