Virtual Memories Show 425:
Vivian Gornick

“I’m a writer who developed around the practice of lucid, simple, compact writing. I turned out to be something of a minimalist. . . . but for a long time I felt myself a negligible writer because I couldn’t write big.”

Literary and feminist legend Vivian Gornick joins the show to celebrate her new collection, Taking A Long Look: Essays on Culture, Literature, and Feminism in Our Time (Verso Press). We talk about the biggest shock of looking back at her work for this career-spanning collection, why she organized it from most recent to oldest, and the difference between being smart and being wise. We get into the process of discovering her voice and figuring out she’s a minimalist, how she got better at judging her own work, her criteria for culling books from her apartment (and her embarrassment when one showed up in an unexpected place), the importance of rereading (and why she wrote a book about it), and why the New York Review of Books recently said she “has long enjoyed an audience of literary depressives and feminists”. We also discuss her 1970s essays on feminism, the movement’s evolution in the past 50 years, how the Brilliant Exception became the rule, why political correctness if different than ideological splits, the New York she loves most, and why she’s dying to go to a movie theater again. Give it a listen! And go read Taking a Long Look and Unfinished Business, and sheesh, all her other books, like Fierce Attachments!

“Our generation of feminists was unusual, not historically, but in terms of the lives we’re living now. Ours is the generation that raised it all over again. The generations that follow are somehow ground down because they don’t have that revolutionary excitement and energy.”

“If the thinking is sloppy, if it doesn’t justify itself, that’s the biggest shock in reading your own stuff.”

“Every year I go through my books and I ask, ‘Are you going to read this again? Are you EVER going to read this? Is this something I emotionally have to keep on the shelf?’

“If you have the talent and the drive — which are the least part of accomplishment — then if you live long enough and are privileged enough to become more and more yourself, then that’s the way the work should fulfill itself.”

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

Vivian Gornick is a writer and critic whose work has received two National Book Critics Circle Award nominations and been collected in The Best American Essays 2014. Growing up in the Bronx amongst communists and socialists, Gornick became a legendary writer for Village Voice, chronicling the emergence of the feminist movement in the 1970s. Her works include the memoirs Fierce Attachments — ranked the best memoir of the last fifty years by The New York Times — and The Odd Woman and the City, and Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader, as well as the classic text on writing, The Situation and the Story.

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 Vivian by someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 424:
Jen Silverman

“What strikes me is how our culture has evolved such that if we’re not being witnessed we feel like we don’t exist. The desire for fame is really just the desire to be witnessed to such a degree that you feel like you HAVE to exist.”

What price fame? With her debut novel, We Play Ourselves (Random House), writer and playwright Jen Silverman tells a comedic tale of theater life gone wrong, internet humiliation, a teenage feminist fight club, queer absurdist puppetry, the boundaries of documentary filmmaking, and a lot more. We get into the roots of her novel, what writing for theater and TV/film taught her and what she had to unlearn for this book, how she balanced her love for absurdism with narrative realism, and how to figure out which stories belong in which medium. We talk about the difference between “theater” and “Broadway” and how the pandemic has wiped out the communal experience of theater (for now), how the economics of theater can perpetuate a lack of diversity and how it feels to be “the woman” playwright in a season, how she learned to navigate the heightened unreality of LA, the difference in searching for The Path and finding A Path, why the hunger for being seen can warp pretty much all human activities, why she draws sad pandas, and more! Give it a listen! And go read We Play Ourselves!

“I’m really interested in art forms that reflect us back to ourselves in unexpected ways.”

“In theater what I’m doing revolves around the question, ‘What is the invitation that I’m extending to my audience?’ How am I inviting them into this space, this live gathering that can only happen in a theater? A novel is not theater, and it felt like a couple lifetimes of me asking, ‘What is a novel?'”

“Absurdist theater is a very specific tool for thinking about power dynamics, about politics, about human relations inside communities.”

“Since the pandemic, the more plays I’ve read on the page the more I found myself able to engage with the art form as a form that I love, as opposed to the absence of theater in my life.”

“Each play is a new interrogation. In my process, form and content and the way they talk to each other is very important, so each play by necessity takes on a different form than the last play or the next play.”

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

Jen Silverman is a New York–based writer and playwright. She is the author of the story collection The Island Dwellers, which was longlisted for a PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for debut fiction. Her plays have been produced across the United States and internationally, and she also writes for television and film. She is a two-time MacDowell Colony fellow, a member of New Dramatists, and the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts grant, a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Fellowship, the Yale Drama Series Award, and a Playwrights of New York Fellowship. Her new novel is We Play Ourselves.

Follow Jen on Twitter and Instagram. She draws sad pandas.

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 Jen by Zackary Canepari.

Virtual Memories Show 422:
Anahid Nersessian

“I’ve never had a period of separation from Keats, like I’ve had with other authors or bands that I love.”

Let’s commemorate the 200th anniversary of John Keats’ untimely death with a conversation with Anahid Nersessian, author of Keats’ Odes: A Lover’s Discourse (University of Chicago). We get into how she read Keats’ letters to Fanny Brawne at WAY too young an age, how she’s lived with his poems since childhood and how they’ve changed for her over the years, and why it kills her that no one has disinterred Fanny’s final letters to Keats (which he never read and are buried with him). We talk about her relationship to the western canon, the implicit (and explicit) sexual violence of Ode on a Grecian Urn, her harassment by a Latin teacher in high school and how it affected her career path, Keats’ radicalist, proto-Marxist tones and the benefits of reading The Communist Manifesto in funny voices as a 7th grader. We also discuss what it’s like to have a couple of strict old-school Freudians for parents, why she doesn’t have time for social media (and why she didn’t go overboard integrating her personal experiences into the book), the thread of Keats’ Odes that has led to her next book on the Cato Street Conspiracy, and more. Give it a listen! And go read Keats’ Odes: A Lover’s Discourse!

“Keats and Marx share a horizon or an ambition for human beings, a horizon of freedom realized in social life.”

“For the personal material in the book, I told myself I wouldn’t self-censor, if something came up that seemed relevant to a particular poem or to an understanding of Keats’ life, but I also wouldn’t push myself to be more explicit about aspects of my life.”

“In the Romantic period, things were intensely partisan and politicized. We think that our public world of the arts is politicized, but you should’ve seen the Regency period.”

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

Anahid Nersessian was born and raised in New York City. She attended Yale University as an undergraduate and got her Ph.D in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago. After spending three years at Columbia University, she moved to Los Angeles, where she currently teaches in the English Department at UCLA on the unceded territory of the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples. She is the author of three books, Keats’s Odes: A Lover’s Discourse (Chicago, 2021), The Calamity Form: On Poetry and Social Life (Chicago, 2020), and Utopia, Limited: Romanticism and Adjustment (Harvard, 2015), and has published widely in top scholarly journals as well as in the Los Angeles Review of Books and Public Books. She also founded and co-edits the Thinking Literature series at the University of Chicago Press.

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 Anahid by someone else. It’s on my instagram. Portrait of Keats by William Hilton.

Virtual Memories Show 421:
Kate Maruyama

“We’re all dealing with this, but I think we’re all processing what this new reality means, how it’s changing everything.”

Author, editor and activist Kate Maruyama rejoins the show to celebrate the publication of her wonderfully creepy new novella, Family Solstice (Omnium Gatherum). We get into why she wrote a haunted house story at a time when everyone’s stuck in their homes, how she pushed herself to finish the book during the early months of the pandemic, and how Family Solstice celebrates the great (and maybe a little haunted) home she grew up in. We get into what Kate’s mother, the late, great Kit Reed, might have made of This Whole Situation we’re in, the positives of holding a virtual book tour (including the launch in a virtual version of her childhood home), what her and her students’ pandemic-era fiction looks like, the joy of getting her first Asimov’s publication last year, and more! Give it a listen! And go read Family Solstice!

(And go listen to my 2019 conversation with Kate and our COVID Check-In podcast from May 2020)

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

Kate Maruyama‘s first novel was Harrowgate. Her short works have appeared in Asimov’s, Controlled Burn, and Stoneboat; on Salon, Duende, Entropy, The Rumpus, and other journals; as well as in numerous anthologies, including Winter Horror Days and Halloween Carnival 3.

Kate edited Nicole Sconiers’s speculative short fiction collection, Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage, has been a jury chair for the Bram Stoker Awards and was twice a juror for the Shirley Jackson Awards. She is on the Diverse Works Inclusion Committee for the HWA. She teaches at Antioch University Los Angeles in the BA program, as well as for inspiration2publication.com and Los Angeles Writing Classes. She writes, teaches, cooks, and eats in Los Angeles, where she lives with her family.

Follow Kate on Twitter and Instagram.

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 Kate by her. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 420:
John Porcellino

“I’m very content with my little corner of the world. I started this ‘zine when I was 20 years old, it’s become my life’s work, it’s allowed me to meet and interact with the most amazing people on the planet, it’s allowed me to share my thoughts and experiences with people, and that’s pretty great.”

With Drawn & Quarterly publishing new editions of King-Cat Classix, Map of My Heart, and Perfect Example, what better time for John Porcellino to return to the podcast? We talk about how King-Cat Comics & Stories has evolved over the ~30 years (!) he’s been making it, how the refinement of his art and storytelling mirrors the battle of intuition vs. OCD, and how his newest comics (even those written before 2020) reflect life during the pandemic. We get into how Buddhism has helped him cope with life and aging, his lurking concern that he has an expiration date, what he wants to accomplish before then, and what it means to publish issue #80 and to look at reaching #100. We also discuss the joyfully awful band Flipper and what it’s like being Flipper for aspiring storytellers, the example Lynda Barry set for him, the influence John has had on my stories in recent years, his joy at seeing his name drawn by Robert Crumb, and why his new dog Arlo is A Good Boy even when he barks during podcasts. Give it a listen! And go read King-Cat Classix, Map of My Heart, Perfect Example, and the latest King-Cat!

“There are two different things that happen to us in life. I think it’s a little harder to face the long, slow decline. From a Buddhist perspective, all life is change, and one of the major sources of suffering is trying to hold onto things.”

“OCD is a disease of doubt. It casts doubt on everything in life. It became tricky to separate the artistic process of making comics with this mental illness.”

“In the last 3-4 issues, I’ve gotten to the point where the spontaneity is present again, but I’ve got it on the fishing line, more conscious control over what I’m doing.”

“Crumb drew my name for a cover of Mineshaft, and I had this moments of, ‘I guess I can die happy now, because Robert Crumb took a pen to paper and inscribed my name on a piece of art.'”

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

John Porcellino was born in Chicago, IL, in 1968. He wrote and photocopied his first zine in 1982, at the age of fourteen. In 1989, Porcellino began writing his celebrated King-Cat mini-comic series, which has been ongoing for more than thirty years, winning acclaim from Time, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, Punk Planet, and the Globe & Mail. His work in King-Cat has been translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish.

He is the author of Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man, King-Cat Classix, Map of My Heart, Perfect Example, Thoreau at Walden, and The Hospital Suite. He lives in Beloit, WI, with his wife and two cats and two dogs, and continues to produce new issues of King-Cat on a regular basis.

Follow John on Twitter and Instagram, and support his work via Patreon and listen to our 2014 podcast.

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. Photos of John & Arlo by him. It’s on my instagram.