Virtual Memories Show 297:
Shachar Pinsker

“This is the story of Jewish migration through the lens of coffeehouses.”

Jews have a long tradition with coffee (I can attest!). In A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture (NYU Press), Professor Shachar Pinsker explores the intersection of modernistic Hebrew literature and coffee. We get into the story of Jewish migration through Europe and into America and Israel, why coffeehouses were the silk road of secular Jewish creativity, the golden age of feuilletons, the semitic roots of coffee culture, the way A Rich Brew is about big cities as much as it is about coffeehouses, the importance of thirdspace to bridge the social and the private, and how Shachar narrowed the book down to 6 representative cities. We also get into how his Yeshiva education helped his secular literary studies, his night-and-day visits to Warsaw, and just how we define “modern Jewish culture”! Give it a listen! And go buy A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture!

“This topic and this book took me to places I never imagined I was going to go, both metaphorically and physically.”

“Some say that what characterizes modern Jewish culture is exactly asking the question of what it is.”

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

Taken from Shachar’s faculty page:

As a specialist in modern Hebrew and Jewish literature and culture, I am interested in Hebrew literature  written in Palestine/Israel, Europe and America, as well as Jewish literature in Yiddish, English, German and other languages. I have a joint appointment at the department of Middle Eastern Studies and the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan.

I am the author of A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture (NYU Press, 2018), the award-winning book Literary Passports: The Making of Modernist Hebrew Fiction in Europe (Stanford, 2011). My third book (in progress) is A Silent Language? Yiddish in Israeli Literature.

I am the editor of Women’s Hebrew Poetry on American Shores: Poems by Anne Kleiman and Annabelle Farmelant (Wayne State University, 2016), and  the editor of In the Place where Sea and Sky Meet: Israeli Yiddish Stories (Magnes Press, forthcoming 2018), in Hebrew. I am also the co-editor of Hebrew, Gender and Modernity: Critical Responses to Dvora Baron’s Fiction (Maryland, 2007).

I publish articles in scholarly journals, as well as in Ha’aertz, The New Republic, The Jewish Week and other journals and newspapers.

I lecture widely around the world on all aspects of my research and writing, and as part of the AJS Distinguished Lectureship Program.

I teach a variety of courses in English and Hebrew for undergraduate and graduate students. I am also teaching a course abroad in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I integrate technology and Digital Humanities in my scholarship and teaching.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mykonos Blue Grill 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. Pinsker by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 295:
Angela Himsel

“In the end, sometimes, your writing becomes what it wants to be, despite yourself.”

How did Angela Himsel make the transformation from rural Indiana and apocalyptic, fundamentalist Christianity to the Upper West Side of Manhattan and observant Judaism? Her new memoir, A River Could Be a Tree (Fig Tree Books) chronicles that process, bringing to life a story of family and discovery. I talk with the award-winning columnist about how she came to Judaism from the Worldwide Church of God, when she met Jews for the first time, what Israel means to her, and what she considers the weirdest aspect of Judaism. We get into the difference between seeing the world as the emanation of God and seeing it as the Devil’s playground, her conversion to Philip Roth-ism, the beautiful family secret she uncovered in the process of writing her book, the decision to include her terrible teenage poetry in the memoir, why God may need therapy, and the Rapture-based prank she and her siblings still pull on each other. Give it a listen! And go buy A River Could Be a Tree: A Memoir!

“The toughest part of making the decision to convert was saying, ‘I’m just going to leave the past behind, it’s really not working.'”

“It was hard for me to put my self in my own story, to be honest.”

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

Angela Himsel’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Jewish Week, Forward, Lilith and elsewhere. Her column “Angetevka” ran on Zeek.net won two American Jewish Press Association Awards. Angela holds a BA from Indiana University, which included two years at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and an MFA from The City College of New York. She grew up the seventh of eleven children in rural southern Indiana in a fundamentalist, doomsday, Christian faith. She converted to Judaism and lives in New York City. A River Could Be a Tree traces that journey.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Angela’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 me & Ms. Himsel by me. It’s on my instagram. (Not sure who the main image is by.)

Virtual Memories Show 290: Jason Lutes

“Berlin was not a story that felt at arms’ length to me; there were many resonances with my life, and it’s all the most strange that the publication of this book coincides with a rise of nationalism in our own country.”

For the third installment in our ad hoc Germany/fascism triptych, Jason Lutes joins the show to talk about completing his 22-year opus, the 550-page graphic novel Berlin (Drawn & Quarterly)! We talk about the changes in his life, his art, and comics publishing over that course of this project, the ways Berlin evolved and changed over the years, Jason’s struggle not to re-draw panels or pages or full issues for the collected edition, what he learned about human nature and fascism in the course of making Berlin, and the imaginative benefit of not having Google Image search when he started doing research for it. We also get into his storytelling and cinematic influences, the balance of formalism with fluid storytelling, what he’s learned from teaching at the Center for Cartoon Studies, his epiphany at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum during CXC 2018, my inadvertent comparison of him to Britney Spears, and plenty more! Give it a listen! And go buy Berlin!

“Print comics are constraint-driven, and I learned to work within those constraints.”

“I tell my students: don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the functional.”

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

Jason Lutes was born in New Jersey in 1967 and grew up reading American superhero and Western comics. In the late 1970s he discovered Heavy Metal magazine and the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, both of which proved major influences on his creative development. Lutes graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in illustration, and in 1993 he began drawing a weekly comics page called Jar of Fools: A Picture Story for Seattle’s The Stranger. Lutes lives in Vermont with his partner and two children, where he teaches comics at the Center for Cartoon Studies. His new book is Berlin, from Drawn & Quarterly, completing a serial he began in 1996.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Cartoon Crossroads Columbus 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 Jason Lutes by . . . somebody. It’s not on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 289:
Nora Krug

“The decision to make this book was the excuse to finally ask questions of my family.”

With the brand-new visual memoir Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home (Scribner), writer/illustrator Nora Krug explores her family’s history in World War II and her own struggles with her identity as a German expat in America. We get into the meaning of Heimat and why her questions arose when she was living outside of Germany, the challenges of telling the story without devaluing the Holocaust itself (thanks, Jewish beta-readers, incl. Nora’s husband!), the pendulum swing of collective guilt, the failings of German’s education system to address the war, and whether certain books should be banned (and what happened the time she tried reading Mein Kampf on the subway). We also get into the process of editing her life and her discoveries into a narrative without eliding the truth, how Belonging/Heimat has been received in Germany, writing it in English, and the detective work that went into making the book. Plus, we talk about her visual storytelling style, teaching art at Parsons, why she doesn’t keep a sketchbook (but doesn’t tell her students that), and the German stereotypes she does and doesn’t live up to (she’s getting better at small talk!). Give it a listen! And go buy Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home!

“A lot of Germans in my generation feel like everything has already been said about the war. But in reality the war is so embedded in their consciousness.”

“The whole research process was an internal struggle of trying to test the limits of my empathy for the decisions that my grandfather made.”

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

Nora Krug is a German-American author and illustrator whose drawings and visual narratives have appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde diplomatique and A Public Space, and in anthologies published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Simon and Schuster and Chronicle Books. She is a recipient of fellowships from Fulbright, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Maurice Sendak Foundation, and the German Academic Exchange Service. Her books are included in the Library of Congress and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University. Her illustrations have been recognized with three gold medals from the Society of Illustrators and a silver cube from the New York Art Directors Club, while her visual biography, Kamikaze, about a surviving Japanese WWII pilot, was included in Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Comics and Best Non-Required Reading. Nora’s work has been exhibited internationally, and her animations were shown at the Sundance Film Festival. She is the author of the visual memoir Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home (foreign edition title Heimat), about WWII and her own German family history. She is an associate professor in the Illustration Program at the Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Krug’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. But we had an equipment failure, so I used the backup Zoom H2n 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 Ms. Krug by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 288:
Ken Krimstein

“I think philosophers are all frustrated cartoonists and cartoonists are all frustrated philosophers.”

With his new graphic biography The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth (Bloomsbury), Ken Krimstein combines his interests in comics, history and philosophy into a dream project. We talk about how he made the shift from “average NPR listener” to deep scholar of Hannah Arendt, teaching himself phenomenology in mid-life to balance story with philosophy, trying to understand the relationship between Arendt and Heidegger (and trying to understand Heidegger’s philosophy and whether it fed into his Nazism), seeing through Arendt’s eyes and taking solace from her philosophy, and how he got laughed at by other cartoonists when he told them he thought he could draw this 240-page book in 6-8 weeks. We also get into Ken’s history in comics and advertising, the alchemy of the New Yorker cartoon, how he learned about culture via Mad Magazine, his failed attempt to be Saul Bellow, the lesson that problem-finding is more important than problem-solving, the Chicago comics scene and the Evanston arts-mafia, what he misses about New York, and Saul Steinberg’s central role in art and comics for the 20th century and beyond. Give it a listen! And go buy The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt!

“When Walter Benjamin collects all the stuff for The Arcades Project, he’s just like all the collectors of old comic books. We look at the detritus, the scraps, and say, ‘This is what was really going on.'”

“You draw somebody 10,000 times, you get a sense for what their face is like, and their character.”

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

Ken Krimstein‘s cartoons have been published in the New Yorker, Barron’s, The Harvard Business Review, Prospect Magazine, Punch, The National Lampoon, the Wall Street Journal, Narrative Magazine, and three of S. Gross’s cartoon anthologies His humor writing has been in The New York Observer’s “New Yorker’s Diary” and humor websites, including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Yankee Pot Roast, and Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood. His series of graphic reporting appeared in The Chicago Tribune‘s “Printer’s Row” literary magazine. A book of his Jewish-themed cartoons, Kvetch As Kvetch Can, has been published by Random House/ Clarkson Potter. In addition to teaching at De Paul University and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he is also an advertising creative director. His new book is The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth (Bloomsbury).

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ken’s friend Kathy’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. Krimstein by me. It’s on my instagram.