Virtual Memories Show 216:
George Prochnik

“Scholem teaches us that the Jewish tradition is so capacious it could embrace its own subversion.”

George Prochnik returns to The Virtual Memories Show to talk about his new book, Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem (Other Press). (We talked about Stefan Zweig back in 2014.) We get into the life of Jewish mysticism’s greatest scholar, how the theories of Zionism butted up against the reality of Palestine and Israel, the alchemical friendship of Scholem and Walter Benjamin, the way Kabbalah serves as the hidden, subterranean layer of Judaism, Scholem’s example of a life lived in resistance, the great contrast of Scholem with Prochnik’s previous biographical subject, Stefan Zweig, our author’s addiction to Jerusalem and the books he hasn’t escaped in 30 years, and whether Walt Whitman was an intuitive American Kabbalist! Give it a listen! And go buy Stranger in a Strange Land (and The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World, both from Other Press)!

“Scholem explored the notion that Kabbalah is a meditation on Jewish history itself, not just an intra-theological discussion between rabbis, but a historically aware and subversive to struggle with the Jewish exile of 1492. If Jews suffered this extraordinary fate, how does redemption work against that? His interpretation of Kabbalah confers on the individual an enormous responsibility and capacity to participate in the healing of the universe.”

“Zweig had something like ‘Lot’s Wife Syndrome’; if you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter how fast you’re running, you’re always going to be looking over your shoulder.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes, like my previous conversation with George!

There are lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

George Prochnik’s previous book, The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World, received the National Jewish Book Award for Biography/Memoir in 2014 and was shortlisted for the Wingate Prize in the UK. Prochnik is also the author of In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise (2010), and Putnam Camp: Sigmund Freud, James Jackson Putnam and the Purpose of American Psychology (2006). He has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Bookforum and the LA Review of Books, and is editor-at-large for Cabinet magazine. His new book is Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem.

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. Prochnik’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. Prochnik and his family by me. The family one is on my instagram, and the solo pic (from our 2014 show) is on my flickr.

Virtual Memories Show 204: Phillip Lopate

“There were times when I was transcribing the tapes and I’d catch my breath and say, ‘Oh, my God.’ I would stop the tape and just sit there, staring into space. Did I hear what I just heard? It was a shocking, dramatic experience.”

Is wisdom possible? One of my favorite writers, Phillip Lopate, returns to The Virtual Memories Show to talk about his new book, A Mother’s Tale, where he revisits a series of taped conversations he had with his mother in the mid-’80s. We talk about listening to his mother’s voice years after her death, whether I should record with my parents, the way people try to be honest but back away in the face of their own mythologies, the one venue he’s always wanted to write for, the border traffic between fiction and nonfiction, the impact of the 2016 presidential election on his psyche, his prediction for the New York Mets, what it’s like for him to write a blog and the mistrust between mother and son that never goes away. Give it a listen! And go buy A Mother’s Tale (Mad River Books)! (And listen to our 2013 conversation!)

“I feel like all the values I grew up with were repudiated in one election.”

“”We carry this adolescent self in us for so long, we’re not prepared to see ourselves as older.”

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

There are lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Phillip Lopate is a central figure in the resurgence of the American essay, both through his best-selling anthology, The Art of the Personal Essay, and his collections: Getting Personal, Against Joie de Vivre, Portrait of My Body, Portrait Inside My Head, and To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction. He directs the nonfiction MFA program at Columbia University, where he is professor of writing. His new book is A Mother’s Tale.

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

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

Virtual Memories Show 202:
Karen Green

“My plan is to make this a research destination for comics studies, especially as they relate to comics in New York City.”

Karen Green, Curator of the Comics and Cartoons collection at Columbia University, joins the show to talk about her secret origin! How did she go from bartender to medieval scholar to comics librarian? We get into the evolution of the library and comics scholarship, her proudest acquisitions, her love of NYC and being a bartender there in the ’80s, reading Playboy for the cartoons, the experience of having a portrait done by Drew Friedman, her Venn diagram with Mimi Pond, and the one cartoonist she’s still speechless around. Give it a listen! And go buy Drew Friedman’s More Heroes Of The Comics: Portraits Of The Legends Of Comic Books; Karen wrote the intro!

“Things that were throwaway materials for the medieval or early modern period are now priceless artifacts in museums and libraries around the world. Who’s to say that the things we see as disposable culture today are not going to be given the same valence?”

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

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

About our Guest

Karen Green serves as Curator for Comics and Cartoons at Columbia University. She founded the graphic novels collection in the Columbia University Libraries, while working as the Ancient and Medieval History librarian. She has acquired the papers of Chris Claremont, Wendy and Richard Pini, Al Jaffee, and the Kitchen Sink Press for Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, as well as items from the estate of Jerry Robinson and research materials from Larry Tye’s history of Superman. A former bartender, Green holds graduate degrees from Columbia University and Rutgers University. For four-and-a-half years, she wrote the “Comic Adventures in Academia” column for Comixology. She served as a Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards judge in 2011, a member of the jury for the Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning in 2014, serves as vice-president of the board of directors of the Society of Illustrators–and former trustee of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, before its transfer to the Society–has taught and lectured on comics in academia, and curated the Fall 2014 exhibition, “Comics at Columbia: Past, Present, Future,” in Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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 in a meeting room in Columbia University’s Butler Library 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 Karen Green by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 201: Brad Gooch

“Rumi has the reputation of tinkling wind-chimes, but at the center is the pain of separation, both personally with Shams of Tabriz, and the human condition of separation with God.”

Brad Gooch returns to the show to talk about his new book, Rumi’s Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love (Harper). We dive right into Brad’s Orientalist fantasy of researching Rumi and the realpolitik that intruded on it (including getting detained at gunpoint), how he recreated the polyglot, multi-religious culture of 13th century Turkey (hint: it involved having to learn Farsi), the temptation to psychologize Rumi’s life, why the poet’s work has survived all these centuries (and what makes it so tweetable), what his own new fatherhood taught him about Rumi’s later years, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Rumi’s Secret!

“There’s a little method actor in me when it comes to biography writing.”

NOTE: We talk about a New Yorker article during the conversation. It’s “The Erasure of Islam form the Poetry of Rumi”, by Rozina Ali.

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

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

About our Guest

Brad Gooch is the author of the acclaimed biographies City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O’Hara and Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, as well as other nonfiction and three novels. The recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Guggenheim fellowships, he earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University and is professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

There’s a more extensive bio at Brad’s site.

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 Brad’s office 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 Brad Gooch by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show #197:
The Guest List 2016

It’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories Show tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2016’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 2017! More than 30 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 more than 30 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 2014 and 2015 editions of The Guest List for more great book ideas!

(painting of Scribners bookstore by Bob Eckstein from his new book, Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers)

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guests

The guests who participated in this year’s Guest List are Glen Baxter, Ross Benjamin, Harold Bloom, MK Brown, Nina Bunjevac, Hayley Campbell, David M. Carr, Myke Cole, Liza Donnelly, Bob Eckstein, Glynnis Fawkes, Rachel Hadas, Liz Hand, Glenn Head, Virginia Heffernan, Harry Katz, Ed Koren, David Leopold, Arthur Lubow, Michael Maslin, David Mikics, Ben Model, Christopher Nelson, Jim Ottaviani, Ann Patty, Burton Pike, Frank Sorce, Willard Spiegelman, Leslie Stein, Tom Tomorrow (a.k.a. Dan Perkins), Andrea Tsurumi, Carol Tyler, Jim Woodring, 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. Most of 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. Myke Cole’s segment was recorded at a friend’s apartment in NYC on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC.