It’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories Show tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2017’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 2018! Three dozen 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 36 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 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 editions of The Guest List for more great book ideas!
The guests who participated in this year’s Guest List are Pete Bagge, Kathy Bidus, Sven Birkerts, RO Blechman, Kyle Cassidy, Graham Chaffee, Howard Chaykin, Joe Ciardiello, John Clute, John Crowley, John Cuneo, Ellen Datlow, Samuel R. Delany, Nicholas Delbanco, Barbara Epler, Joyce Farmer, Sarah Williams Goldhagen, Paul Gravett, Liz Hand, Vanda Krefft, Michael Meyer, Cullen Murphy, Jeff Nunokawa, Mimi Pond, Eddy Portnoy, Keiler Roberts, Martin Rowson, Matt Ruff, Ben Schwartz, Vanessa Sinclair, Ann Telnaes, Michael Tisserand, Gordon Van Gelder, Shannon Wheeler, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Matt Wuerker . . . and me, Gil Roth! Check out their episodes at our archives!
“The Yiddish press was this place where Jews could really talk about anything in ways you wouldn’t hear them talk in public.”
Yiddish scholar and raconteur Eddy Portnoy joins the show to talk about his new book, Bad Rabbi: And Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press (Stanford University Press). We get into the tabloid craziness of bigamist rabbis, fights over a Jewish beauty queen, 600-lb. wrestlers, and the déclassé Jews of Poland and New York from the heyday of Yiddish newspapers. We also talk about how Eddy taught himself to read & write Yiddish as a teen and then turned a really fun hobby into a low-paying career, the slip of the microfilm dial that led to this book, his embarrassing story about meeting (and lecturing) Ben Katchor, his resemblance to Geddy Lee, the good fortune that led to preservation of Yiddish newspapers in eastern Europe, and more. But what will his poor mother think? Give it a listen! And go buy Bad Rabbi!
“If you don’t understand basic Jewish texts — Bible, Talmud, Midrash — you cannot understand Yiddish cartoons, because that is their main form of metaphor.”
“My life and microfilm are intimately intertwined.”
An expert on Jewish popular culture Eddy Portnoy has an M.A. in Yiddish from Columbia and a Ph.D. in Jewish history from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He currently serves as Academic Advisor for the Max Weinreich Center and Exhibition Curator at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The exhibitions he has created for YIVO have won plaudits from The New York Times, VICE, The Forward, and others. His new book is Bad Rabbi: And Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press (Stanford University Press).
Eshkol Nevo is the author of five novels, all best sellers in Israel. Four have been published in English: Neuland, which was included in The Independent‘s list of Books of the Year in Translation; World Cup Wishes; Homesick, a finalist for the prestigious Independent Foreign Fiction Prize; and Three Floors Up. In 2008 Nevo was awarded membership in the Israel Cultural Excellence Foundation. He is the owner and co-manager of the largest private creative writing school in Israel and is mentor to many up-and-coming Israeli writers.
Paul Gravett is a London-based freelance journalist, curator, lecturer, writer and broadcaster, who has worked in comics publishing and promotion since 1981. After graduating with a Masters Degree in Law from Christ’s College, Cambridge, he spent a year and half in the USA, mainly in New Mexico, contributing to Albuquerque’s local public radio and television stations.
In the early 1980s, he started the Fast Fiction table at the bi-monthly comic marts and mail order distribution, inviting anybody to sell their homemade comics from it. Out of this came his first job in comics at pssst! magazine, a brave but misguided attempt at a British version of the sort of a luxurious monthly bande dessinée magazine popular in France. He worked in a variety of positions in 1982 and 1983 at pssst! – as promotions man, traffic manager, coordinating artwork and interviewing potential contributors.
In 1983 he launched Escape Magazine, which he co-edited/published with Peter Stanbury, showcasing the cream of the alternative cartoonists of the 1980s. Escape lasted for 19 issues before closing its doors in 1989. For six years, Escape helped to promote an evolving bunch of distinctive British creators, including now major names like Eddie Campbell, Jamie Hewlett, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean.
Between 1992 and 2001 he was the director of The Cartoon Art Trust, a UK charity established in 1988, dedicated to preserving and promoting the best of British cartoon art and caricature and to establish a museum of cartoon art with gallery, archives and reference library. As Project Director of The Cartoon Art Trust, he worked on numerous exhibitions, including tributes to Carl Giles and Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, and The 100 British Cartoonists of the Century.
Among the exhibitions of comics art he has curated in Britain and in Europe, ‘God Save The Comics!’, in 1990 was the first major survey of British comic art at the National Comics and Image Centre in Angoulême, France. In 2004, he curated the first exhibit devoted to British writer Alan Moore and his collaborators at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Charleroi, Belgium.
Paul has also organised retrospectives on Jack Kirby, Tove Jansson and Posy Simmonds. In 2008 he curated ‘Manhua: China Comics Now’, the first exhibition in Britain of contemporary Chinese comics at the London College of Communication. In 2010, he curated ‘Hypercomics: The Shapes of Comics to Come’, at the Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park.
Since 2003, Paul has been the director of Comica, the London International Comics Festival, instigated by him and John Harris Dunning at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Since 2011, Comica has been an independent not-for-profit organization running both the annual festival and other events and exhibitions throughout the year.
On television he has been a consultant and interview subject on The South Bank Show’s programme Manga Mania (2006) and BBC4’s documentary series Comics Britannia (2007). Also, he appeared as interview subject in the DVD documentary The Mindscape Of Alan Moore (2007). He is regularly interviewed for radio and television documentaries, discussions and review programmes. He also lectures in art schools, museums and galleries and is a judge for several prestigious prizes including the Embassy of Japan in London’s ‘Manga Jiman’ Award and The Observer / Jonathan Cape / Comica Graphic Short Story Prize.
He continues to write about comics for various periodicals, including The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Times Literary Supplement, ArtReview, ArtReview Asia, The Comics Journal, Comic Heroes, Time Out, Blueprint, Neo, The Bookseller, Dazed & Confused, New Internationalist, Third Text, 9eme Art and The Jewish Quarterly.
His recent books include Comics Art, published by Tate Publishing (2013) and Yale University Press (2014), and Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK (2014) with John Harris Dunning, published by The British Library. This accompanied the exhibition of the same name which Gravett and Dunning co-curated at The British Library, the largest exhibition of British comics ever held in the UK, which attracted some 60,000 visitors, almost half of them first-time visitors.
In 2016, Paul co-curated the exhibitions: Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics at House of Illustration, London; The Story of British Comics So Far…: Cor! By Gum! Zarjaz! at The Lightbox, Woking, Surrey; and Land Escapes: Contemporary Comics from the United Kingdom at Fondazione Benetton, Palazzo Bomben, Treviso, Italy.
For 2017, Paul completed a combination of a major new book for Thames & Hudson and a related exhibition for The Barbican Centre. Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics is the first exhibition to explore manga or Japanese comics in a wider Asian content and survey the comics cultures of nearly twenty Asian countries. Mangasia opens in Rome at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni and continues to other venues in 2018 including Le Lieu Unique in Nantes, France, followed by a further global tour of Europe, North and South America, Asia and elsewhere, for a maximum total period of five years.
He’s been blackening the blank page for more than 50 years, and now Nicholas Delbanco joins The Virtual Memories Show to talk about writing, teaching, and sleepwalking through life! We get into his new essay collection, Curiouser and Curiouser, the importance of establishing a writing routine or habit, the process of revising a decades-old trilogy in light of his growth as a writer, the art of faking spontaneity on the page, the value of a good MFA program, his refutation of his friends’ belief that language is a finite resource and not a renewable one, his assessment that he’s a minor writer (or, even worse, “a writer’s writer”), and the place the deracinated consider home. Plus: I fall back into the trap of Acquisitive Alchemy!Give it a listen! And go buy Curiouser and Curiouser: Essays!
“Writers probably don’t have more than two or three major topics, and the passage of time is one of mine.”
“It was nice to have been offered this retrospective book, but I wish it had just stopped there.”
Why is award-winning illustrator Barry Blitt so uncomfortable with the flap copy praise of his new decades-spanning compendium, Blitt (just out from Riverhead Books)? We spend an hour trying to get to the bottom of that, starting with his horror at looking back at his work (both from seeing rookie mistakes and from deciding he was better back then). We talk about how his New Yorkercovers shifted from observational to topical illustrations, how he’s become the de facto voice of that magazine, his Canadian roots (and how its attendant hockey fetish got him started as an illustrator), his first Mad magazine, his fear of overexposure, the difference between punching down and going for cheap laughs, and how he’s made smartassery as career asset. Also, I bust his balls about his uncanny resemblance to Bob Balaban. Give it a listen! And go buy Blitt!
“Playing piano is an antidote for drawing, where you put a line down and it’s there on the page. Here you play a note and it’s temporary, it drifts away. You make a mistake and it’s behind you in a second. If your next phrase is nice, that’s what’s happening now.”
“One of the great things about Francoise Mouly is that she insists on seeing everything I sketch in my sketchbook. ‘Please don’t self-edit’ is her credo.”
Barry Blitt was born in Montreal, schooled in Toronto, and burnished to a gleaming shine in London, New York, and Connecticut. He has been contributing fussy little drawings to countless publications for what seems like years. His hobbies include visiting the shops and keeping friends and loved ones at arm’s length.