Virtual Memories Show 277:
Nathaniel Popkin

“A city, like a book, can be read.”

For a guy who calls himself a master of nothing, Nathaniel Popkin does a pretty good job for himself as a novelist, literary editor, critic, journalist, and urban historian. Nathaniel joins the show to talk about his new novel, Everything Is Borrowed (New Door Books), as well as the new literary anthology he co-edited, Who Will Speak for America? (Temple University Press). We get into the fertile subject and setting of Philadelphia, the goal of building a literary hub for his adopted city, the process of writing a novel about anarchists and architects (which I sorta characterize as the anti-Fountainhead), the necessity of self-delusion for artists, his background in urban planning and how it informs his writing, the challenges and rewards of seeking diversity in art, the importance of the Writers Resist movement, how becoming a writer was his way of being Jewish in the world, and why he eschewed MFA vs NYC in favor of PHL! Give it a listen! And go buy Everything Is Borrowed, Who Will Speak for America?, and Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City!

“The question of who will speak for America is vital at this moment.”

“Philadelphia is an injured city. It wants to be something but never quite can achieve it.”

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, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Nathaniel Popkin is the author of five books, including the new novel Everything Is Borrowed (New Door Books), called “utterly absorbing” by the writer Robin Black, and the co-editor of Who Will Speak for America?, a literary anthology in response to the American political crisis, forthcoming in June 2018 (Temple University Press). He is the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine, as well as a prolific book critic—and National Book Critics Circle member—focusing on literary fiction and works in translation. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Rumpus, Tablet Magazine, LitHub, The Millions, and the Kenyon Review, among other publications.

As a keen observer of cities and lived places, Popkin has often turned his eye to the layers of history and life in his own city. He’s the founding co-editor of the Hidden City Daily, a web magazine that covers architecture, design, planning, and preservation in Philadelphia, and the co-author of the 2017 work of non-fiction, Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (Temple University Press). He’s also the senior writer and story editor of the multi-part documentary film series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment,” for which his work has been recognized with several Emmy awards. He was the guest architecture critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2011-12.

Popkin’s first novel, Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press), is a mediation on originality and influence in art. It reimagines the life and tragic death of the first great American genre painter, John Lewis Krimmel. Lion and Leopard was a finalist for the Foreword Reviews Indie Book of the Year Award, and novelist Ken Kalfus described it as “historical literary fiction at its most engaging.”

Lion and Leopard followed two books of literary non-fiction, the 2002 Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and the 2008 essay collection, The Possible City (Camino Books).

Popkin has been a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellow and a writer-in-residence at Philadelphia University and the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.

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 Philadelphia Athenaeum 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. Popkin by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 263:
Jonathan Ames

“For me, all writing — scripts, essays, novels — it comes down to enjoying writing a sentence.”

On the eve of the premiere of You Were Never Really Here, writer Jonathan Ames returns to his stomping grounds of northern NJ to talk about crime novels, the literary pilgrimages of his youth, getting laughs at AA meetings, and more. We get into the process of seeing his novella adapted into film, his decade-long fascination with Richard Stark’s Parker novels, the catharses and paradoxes of his confessional writing, learning on the fly to write for TV and working with a writers’ room for Bored to Death and Blunt Talk, the experience of studying creative writing at Princeton under Joyce Carol Oates, learning The Secret to stop being cheap with himself, his favorite writing form (given that he’s made novels, stories, columns, nonfiction, films, TV, and comics), the act of subsuming himself into fictional characters, the bizarre error on his IMDB page that left me totally flummoxed, and the amazing NJ coincidence of one of the locations used in the movie. Give it a listen! And go buy You Were Never Really Here and go catch the movie!

“With this movie being made of my book, it’s like I’m throwing a party, but I’m not invited.”

“In the novel, you can do everything. The reader is there, collaborating with you. You’re making that art together.”

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

Jonathan Ames is the author of the novels I Pass Like Night, The Extra Man, Wake Up, Sir!, the graphic novel The Alcoholic (illustrated by Dean Haspiel), the novella You Were Never Really Here, and the essay collections What’s Not to Love?, My Less Than Secret Life, I Love You More Than You Know, and The Double Life Is Twice as Good. He is the editor of Sexual Metamorphosis: An Anthology of Transsexual Memoirs, and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is also the creator of two television shows: the HBO series Bored to Death and the STARZ series Blunt Talk. His novel The Extra Man was made into a film starring Kevin Kline, and You Were Never Really Here has been adapted for the screen, starring Joaquin Phoenix.

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 my 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. Ames by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 261:
Robert Weil

“Translation editing is all about the idiom.”

Liveright Publishing editor-in-chief Robert Weil joins the show on the eve of this year’s Festival Neue Literatur to talk about editing translations, why great translators are heroes (and ought to get credited on book covers), and his admiration/adoration for Barbara Perlmutter, winner of this year’s Friedich Ulfers Prize. Along the way, we talk about the nuts-and-bolts of editing writers and why good writers want to be edited, the ongoing relevance of The Scarlet Letter and our Hawthorne vs. Melville takes, the most haunting line of Henry Roth (“The grave is a barrier to all amends, all redress”), and Robert’s incredible run of graphic novels (think Will Eisner, Robert Crumb, Jules Feiffer, and David Small). Plus, we bond over the fact that he edited one of my all-time favorite books: Clive James’ Cultural Amnesia! Give it a listen! And go to the Festival Neue Literatur this weekend (March 22-25 in NYC)!

“Barbara Perlmutter’s longevity, bridging German literature and American literature, is unrivaled.”

“The best writers really want to be edited.”

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

Robert Weil, born in Manhattan, was raised by a German-born father and a German-born mother who grew up in Sweden. He graduated from Yale University in 1977 with a degree in History. Mr. Weil lives in New York City and has lectured all over the United States as well as in Germany. He has worked in publishing since 1978, and, since 1998, at W. W. Norton & Company, the oldest independent and employee-owned publishing company in the United States. At Norton he served as an Executive Editor/V.P. until July of 2011, and since then has been the Editor-in-Chief and Publishing Director of Liveright. Over the course of 40 years in mainstream American publishing, Mr. Weil has acquired and edited approximately 500 books in a wide variety of fields.

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. Weil’s office on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro with the same equipment in a hotel in midtown Manhattan. Photo of Mr. Weil by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 258:
Willard Spiegelman

“When you review old pieces, you have a double-sided response: On the one hand, it’s ‘Gosh, how was I so smart? How could I write such a beautiful sentence?’ On the other hand, it’s ‘Gosh, what a piece of crap! How I could I be so banal, so jejune, so ignorant?’ The combination of legitimate pride and legitimate embarrassment is a standard one.”

Critic and essayist Willard Spiegelman returns to the show to talk about his new book, If You See Something, Say Something: A Writer Looks at Art (SMU Press), collecting his art reviews from the Wall Street Journal. We get into the notion of legacy after his retirement from 45 years of teaching, then tackle the process of learning to look at paintings, his favorite museums, the question of whether Hockney’s happiness makes him less of an artistic genius than grim/tormented artists, whether one should buy art to match one’s furniture, his love of Marfa, TX, the differences between being a pilgrim and a tourist, the role of curiosity as a remedy for boredom, the challenge of editing a literary magazine in this day and age, whether he’s a role model to younger gay people, the first time he had a student who was the child of one of his first students (that is, when he realized he was getting old), and more! Give it a listen! And go buy If You See Something, Say Something!

“One of the things I’m proud of is that, as a teacher, I’m still learning from teachers. Not university teachers, but dance teachers, swimming instructors, yoga teachers. When you hear somebody putting you through your paces, you learn how they teach.”

“Stoner is not a book to give to a man who has just retired from being an English teacher after 45 years. I was on the train, reading the last 30-40 pages, and I was in tears. I was so glad there were few people on the train with me to see me embarrassing myself.”

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

Willard Spiegelman recently retired from his role as the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where since 1971 he taught generations of students how to read, to write, and to think. From 1984 until 2016, he was also the editor in chief of Southwest Review. He has written many books and essays about English and American poetry. For more than thirty years, he has been a regular contributor to the Leisure and Arts pages of The Wall Street Journal. He has two previous appearances on The Virtual Memories Show in 2013 and 2016.

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 Willard’s NYC 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 Mr. Spiegelman by me. It’s on my instagram.

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.