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 452:
Rosemary Steinbaum

“His reading and his writing are intertwined. That’s the main theme of the Philip Roth Personal Library: a writer at work reading and a reader at work writing.”

It’s part 1 of a 2-part show about the new Philip Roth Personal Library at the Newark Public Library! This week, NPL trustee Rosemary Steinbaum talks about working with Philip Roth over the years and helping convince him to donate his books and belongings to the PRPL. We get into her friendship with Roth, her visits to his Connecticut home to figure out what would be in the personal library, her favorite discoveries in the collection, and the joy of reading his notes and marginalia. We also talk about her favorite literary pilgrimages, her love of The Counterlife, Roth’s funeral, the themes of Roth’s work that could become future exhibitions at the library, her Newark and how she helped Liz Del Tufo develop a Roth-tour of the city (which Roth once tagged along on), the donation of Roth’s letters from his teen sweetheart (including a reading list for her), and more! Give it a listen! And go visit the Philip Roth Personal Library!

“To have Philip Roth walk us through the logic of his library was very special.”

“If people were going to make a pilgrimage for Roth, it was going to be to see his work life and his reading life, not his living room.”

“As far as retirement goes, he did say to us that he was finding it difficult as he aged to hold a whole novel in his mind at the same time.”

“Knowing only the data of Roth’s experience leads to misunderstanding of Roth’s work. Newark is a fictive setting, like Yoknapatawpha County for Faulkner.”

“He said he wanted to be buried near Hannah Arendt so he’d have somebody to talk to.”

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

Rosemary Steinbaum recently retired from a career in education. She earned her doctorate mid-career from Columbia Teachers College. Before obtaining her degree, she taught high school English in independent schools. In the second part of her career she worked in the field of teacher education, directing the Rutgers-Newark undergraduate teacher education program and overseeing two grant funded teacher education programs at Montclair State University. Her not-for-profit commitments have centered on Newark, especially on The Newark Public Library, where she is a trustee. She was involved in the talks that led to Philip Roth’s bequest of his personal library and in its planning and build-out at the Newark Public Library.

Follow the Philip Roth Personal Library 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 at Rosemary’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 Rosemary by me. Photos of library by . . . someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 450:
Robert McCrum

“People should be free to do Shakespeare anyway they like: in 5 minutes, 5 seconds, 5 days, 5 hours, underwater, in a desert, on a mountain. It’ll always work; he’s indestructible, in that sense.”

With his new book, Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption (Pegasus Books), author & literary editor Robert McCrum uses Shakespeare’s plays, poems, life and history to examine how Shakespeare is a mirror of human experience, and why his lines continue to resonate 400+ years after his death. We talk about Robert’s history with the plays (beginning with his role as First Fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the age of 13) and the 2017 performance of Julius Caesar in Central Park that inspired the book, the ways in which the Plays and the Sonnets complement each other, and how those works influence our understanding of the self and self-consciousness. We also get into the vicissitudes of literary reputation, the way Shakespearean fits as the capstone of Robert’s Disruption Trilogy, along with My Year Off and Every Third Thought, the first play Robert’s Shakespeare Club plans to see post-pandemic, the snobbery that drives Shakespeare denialism, how America became Shakespearean, and the urban myth that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during lockdown, as well as the ways plague influenced Shakespeare’s entire career. Plus: where I should begin with Wodehouse, what prompted Robert to finally finish Proust (and then re-read him), and the nightmare of interviewing Philip Roth! Give it a listen! And go read Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption (as well as My Year Off and Every Third Thought)!

“Any writer can tell you: if you write things down, you begin to make sense of things. If you’re surrounded by chaos and you begin to make notes, you begin to make sense.”

“It seems that Shakespeare and his contemporaries got used to the plague, so the plague references in his work are comparatively few and far between, and they’re not striking. And yet there’s no doubt of a connection between then and now.”

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

Robert McCrum was born and educated in Cambridge. For nearly twenty years he was editor-in-chief of the publishers Faber & Faber, and then literary editor of the Observer from 1996 to 2008. He is now an associate editor of the Observer. He is the author of Every Third Thought, My Year Off, Wodehouse: A Life, six novels, and the co-author of the international bestseller, The Story of English. His new book is Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption.

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 Robert by Katherine Anne Rose for The Guardian. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 445:
Heather Cass White

“I’m sure that my obsessive focus on reading, as much as it is anything else, is a sign of a wound, or a lack.”

Author & professor Heather Cass White joins the show to celebrate her wonderful new book. Books Promiscuously Read: Reading as a Way of Life (FSG). We get into what reading does & doesn’t do for us, how we can lose ourselves & find ourselves in books, how this book gestated for decades while she was working on her scholarship of Marianne Moore, how she snagged the title from a line by Milton, and how promiscuously we should read the word “promiscuously”. We also talk about her read-to-bits childhood copy of Anne of Green Gables, the possibility of getting too much out of Henry James, the lessons she took from studying with Harold Bloom, why you shouldn’t read as if you’re going to die (prompted by my recent health issues), the importance of keeping a patient attitude toward poetry, why she decided not to do more reading about reading once she started to write a book about reading, and more! Give it a listen! And go read Books Promiscuously Read!

“My experience of reading is that it is a whole self experience. I can’t think of many part of myself that haven’t been engaged in some point in my life as a reader. So I liked that sense of ‘promiscuously’ as both unplanned, haphazard, random, but also as playful, contrarian and transgressive. I liked the word for every reason.”

“Once I started to investigate the files in my computer, I discovered ones going back 15 or 20 years. I realized that this book had been waiting for me.”

“There’s very little that happens throughout the day that doesn’t spark some little verbal association to a poem or a novel. A good half of what I think, I don’t know if I even think it, so much as these words are in my head and have taken up residence there.”

“In a funny way, this book is repaying a kind of debt. Reading has shaped my life in every way possible, it felt like I owed it something.”

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

Heather Cass White has edited several collections of Marianne Moore’s work: New Collected Poems; A-Quiver with Significance: Marianne Moore, 1932–1936; and Adversity & Grace: Marianne Moore, 1936–1941. She is a professor of English at the University of Alabama. Her new book is Books Promiscuously Read.

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 Heather by Crosby Thomley. It’s on my instagram.