bjfriedmanSeason 4 episode 8
The Slippery Animal

“I’m always in the middle of a struggle with a short story. You’d think I’d have the hang of it by now. It’s a slippery animal.”

Literary legend Bruce Jay Friedman joins the Virtual Memories Show for a fun conversation about his literary career, which encompasses six decades of short stories, novels, plays and Oscar®-nominated screenwriting. We talk about his newest projects, how both the writing and the sale of short stories have changed over the course of his career, and why he’s happier in that form than the novel. Why was he successful in Hollywood when F. Scott Fitzgerald and Anthony Powell crapped out there? Listen in to find out!

“Hollywood to me was fun. Like a boy being let loose in a candy store. I was offended when I’d get called in off the tennis court to write a few scenes. I can tell you: there is no one who had more fun than I did in Hollywood.”

We also talk about how stories begin, where he sees himself in the continuum of Jewish American writers, why Dustin Hoffman hates him, how he found his home at Elaine’s, whether he’s ever been tempted to write The Big Novel, why he’s getting more Jewish as he gets older, why he prefers the Franco-Prussian war over other wars, and how to find the right kind of pistachio nuts.

“I always feel guilty about being entertained. I feel like I should be reading Suetonius.”

Bonus: I rant about leaving my job and ask you for money!

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

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About our Guest

Novelist, playwright, short story writer and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Bruce Jay Friedman was born in New York City. Friedman published his first novel Stern in 1962 and established himself as a writer and playwright, most famously known for his off-Broadway hit Steambath (1973) (TV) and his 1978 novel The Lonely Guy’s Book of Life. In addition to short stories and plays, Mr. Friedman has also published seven other novels, and has written numerous screenplays, including the Oscar-nominated Splash (1984). His memoir, Lucky Bruce, came out in 2011. He resides in New York City with his second wife, educator Patricia J. O’Donohue. Check out his Amazon page for info on his books and plays.

Credits: This episode’s music is Frenesi by Artie Shaw. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Friedman’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Mr. Friedman by me.

beangilsdorfSeason 4 episode 6
The Realm of the Possible

“Being an artist and talking about being an artist is a lot about trying to suss out your audience: how much do they know about art, how much do they care, is a casual question, or are they deeply invested in the answer?”

How did Bean Gilsdorf go from studying linguistics to becoming an artist, critic and curator? While in NYC for the opening of her three-person show, Dead Ringer, Bean joined us to talk about making the decision to be an artist, building a career without mass-marketing her art, escaping the tautology of process, the value of getting an MFA, the most asked question at her Help Desk column at the Daily Serving, the difference between the fictional and the imaginary, and more!

“I want to be the kind of artist who amuses myself. . . . I reserve the right to have the last laugh.”

We also talk about her current work — including her Borgesian Exhibition That Might Exist (in Portland), and the Bean Gilsdorf Living History Museum (in San Francisco), which has transformed her apartment into the world’s smallest living history museum — as well as her process of understanding her audience(s), her discovery that sometimes the problem is you and not your materials, and how she reconciles all of her past selves and muses over her future ones.

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

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About our Guest

Bean Gilsdorf is an artist and writer. Her recent art projects compare systems of history that appear as both individual accounts and as unified public narratives. Her performances explore history through appropriation and improvisation, while more material works — objects, videos, and installations — investigate archived historical records by manipulating images from mass-market history books. Her projects have been supported by grants from the Puffin Foundation and the NW Film Center of the Portland Art Museum, and included in exhibitions at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, the American Textile History Museum, and the Holter Museum of Art, as well as exhibition spaces in Poland, England, Italy, China, and South Africa. She is the Managing Editor of Daily Serving, an international publication for the contemporary fine arts, and her critical writing and interviews have also been published in online and print magazines such as Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture, Fiberarts Magazine (2007-2011), and Art Practical. Bean received her MFA from the California College of the Arts in 2011 and was a 2011-2012 Fellowship Resident at the Headlands Center for the Arts. She currently lives in San Francisco, where she operates the Bean Gilsdorf Living History Museum.

Credits: This episode’s music is Blues for Art by Chick Corea. The conversation was recorded at the home of friends of Bean in Brooklyn on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Bean Gilsdorf by A. Discenza.

joshalanfriedmanSeason 4 episode 4
Crackers and Bagels

“Among the many things that writing does, it gives you the chance for revenge, clarification; there are a lot of basic human emotions that you can address by being able to write about them.”

Josh Alan Friedman, author of Black Cracker, is the third Friedman brother I’ve interviewed, as part of my “Capturing the (Other) Friedmans” series of podcasts. (I really gotta rename that.) Josh is an accomplished author and guitarist, and has plenty of stories of New York at its most sordid. We met up at a cafe in Times Square to talk about his old days writing for Al Goldstein’s Screw magazine, why it took him more than 30 years to write Black Cracker, his “Lewis & Martin” theory about his estrangement from his brother Drew, his parents’ successful divorce, and more!

“I want my list of works to be lean and mean and everything was urgent and had to be done. Nothing to play the market. My family’s had to suffer for that, that I haven’t done commercial jobs just to bring home the bacon.”

Along the way, we also develop an idea for a high-concept movie, talk lewdly in front of some tourists, pay homage to his literary idols, and figure out that therapy just gets in the way of making good art. If you’ve got a problem with any of that (especially the coarse language) then you should skip this episode.

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

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About our Guest

In 1987, writer-guitarist Josh Alan Friedman sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads (the Crossroads of the World: Broadway & 42nd Street) and moved to Texas. He’d just written Tales of Times Square, a cult classic. Josh’s latest book is Black Cracker, the story of his tumultuous childhood as the only white boy at Long Island’s last segregated school. In 2008, he wrote Tell the Truth Until They Bleed: Coming Clean in the Dirty World of Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll. He has also written When Sex Was Dirty, and I, Goldstein: My Screwed Life (with Al Goldstein), and co-edited Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern, 1950-1995. Josh also set off satirical fires and lawsuits as writer-half of the Friedman Bros, the most feared cartooning duo of the late ’70s and ’80s. Two anthologies remain in print, featuring the art of Josh’s brother, Drew Friedman: Warts and All, and Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Purely Coincidental (Two). On the music front, as “Josh Alan,” he barnstormed the state of Texas for 20 years, rocking whole arenas with his Guild D-40. Copping three Dallas Observer Music Awards for Best Acoustic Act, he released four albums: Famous & Poor, The Worst!, Blacks ‘N’ Jews (the title of which became a documentary on Josh’s life) and Josh Alan Band.

Credits: This episode’s music is Jeff’s Boogie by Josh Alan (Friedman). The conversation was recorded at the Cafe Edison on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded in a hotel room in London on the same gear. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Josh Alan Friedman by me.

rachelhadasSeason 4 episode 3
The Consolation of Poetry

“Poetry chose me at an early age. I think it was connected to the fact that poetry is emotional, pretty, and short.”

Rachel Hadas, author of Strange Relation: A Memoir of Marriage, Dementia and Poetry (Paul Dry Books), lost her husband to early onset dementia. We talk about how poetry — hers and others’ — gave her solace during this years-long process. We also talk about poetry is a way for the poet to both release and identify emotions, why it was easier to publish collections of poetry in the 1980s and 1990s, the benefits of poetry memorization, and why the Furies looked the other way when Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia.

“Writing helps us to live through something and then it helps us remember it, if we want to.”

BONUS: You get to hear me record an intro after 35 hours with no sleep, and find out about the huge, life-changing thing I did last week!

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

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About our Guest

Rachel Hadas studied classics at Harvard, poetry at Johns Hopkins, and comparative literature at Princeton. Between college and graduate school she spent four years in Greece, an experience that surfaces variously in much of her work. Since 1981 she has taught in the English Department of the Newark (NJ) campus of Rutgers University, and has also taught courses in literature and writing at Columbia and Princeton, as well as serving on the poetry faculty of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the West Chester Poetry Conference. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, an Ingram Merrill Foundation grant in poetry, and an award in literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Rachel Hadas is the author of many books of poetry, prose, and translations. Most recently, she her memoir about her husband’s illness, Strange Relation, was published by Paul Dry Books (2011) and a new book of her poems, The Golden Road, was published by Northwestern University Press (2012).

Credits: This episode’s music is Strange Conversation by Ted Hawkins. The conversation was recorded at the home of Ms. Hadas on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded in a hotel room in London on the same gear. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Rachel Hadas by me.

emilyraboteauSeason 4 episode 2
A Place To Rest

“We reach for stories to be able to take risks.”

Emily Raboteau, author of Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora (Atlantic Monthly Press), joins the Virtual Memories Show to show to talk about the many notions of “home” for black people. Along the way, we talk about the many notions of what constitutes a black person. As Ms. Raboteau discovered in the travels chronicled in her book — encompassing Israel, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Ghana and America’s deep south — there are a lot of ideas about who’s black and what blackness means.

“As my husband told me, ‘You can’t valorize the oppressed just because they were oppressed. It doesn’t make them saintly; more often than not, it makes them want to step on someone else to elevate themselves.'”

We also talk about churchgoing in New York City, what it’s like to travel to Antarctica, why the story of Exodus is so pivotal in the black American experience, why Jewish book reviewers thought she was pulling a bait-and-switch, why she chose to explore her black roots instead of her white ones for this book, what motherhood means, and what it was like to give a talk about faith on behalf of Bobby McFerrin.

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

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About our Guest

Emily Raboteau is the author of a novel, The Professor’s Daughter (Henry Holt, Picador), and a work of creative nonfiction, Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora (Grove/Atlantic), named one of the “Best Books of 2013” by The Huffington Post and the grand prize winner of the New York Book Festival. She recently visited Antarctica and Cuba to research her next novel, Endurance, about a shipbuilder and his autistic son. Her fiction and essays have been widely published and anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Best American Non-required Reading, Tin House, The Oxford American, The Guardian, Guernica, The Believer and elsewhere. Honors include a Pushcart Prize, The Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation and the Howard Foundation. An avid world traveler, she resides in New York City and teaches creative writing in Harlem at City College, once known as “the poor man’s Harvard.”

Credits: This episode’s music is Promised Land by Johnnie Allan. The conversation was recorded at the home of a friend of Emily’s on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded at home on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Emily Raboteau by me.