Author Matt Ruff checks in from Seattle and we talk about his brand-new novel, 88 Names. We get into what gaming and the internet reveal about human character(s), how he handles VR nausea and whether VR measures up to what Neuromancer semisorta promised us, the pros and cons of a virtual book tour (including an upcoming one on Altspace VR on 4/17/20), the fluidity of identity in the virtual landscape, the bookstores he can’t wait to get back to, post-pandemic, the origins of empathy, and more. Give it a listen! And go buy 88 Names, and check out my 2017 podcast with Matt and the rest of The COVID-19 Sessions.
Translator Tess Lewis joins the show to talk about co-curating the 2020 (now 2021) edition of Festival Neue Literatur, why editing a bad translation is much tougher than just translating it yourself, the book she’s proudest of translating (Maja Haderlap’s Angel of Oblivion), and the project that is the most difficult (Ludwig Hohl’s Notizen), how the business and culture has changed, her dream project of translating Montaigne (swoon!), and how literature — especially in translation — can disrupt the familiar and familiarize what seems strange. This episode was intended to promote the Festival Neue Literatur, which was to be held April 23-26, 2020 but has been postponed along with everything else; I decided to keep it all to remind us of The Before Times.Give it a listen! And go check out some of Tess’ translations!
“A constant discussion among translators: what is the right tone, how close should you be, how much should you reinvent?”
“Montaigne is one of those writers who never ages, but his translations do.”
Tess Lewis is a writer and translator from French and German. Her translations include works by Peter Handke, Walter Benjamin, Klaus Merz, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Christine Angot, Pascal Bruckner and Jean-Luc Benoziglio. She has been awarded grants from PEN USA, PEN UK, and the NEA, a Max Geilinger Translation Grant for her translation of Philippe Jaccottet, the ACFNY Translation Prize and the 2017 PEN Translation Prize for her translation of the novel Angel of Oblivion by the Austrian writer Maja Haderlap, and most recently a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. She is Co-chair of the PEN Translation Committee and Advisory Editor for The Hudson Review. Her essays and reviews have appeared in a number of journals and newspapers including Bookforum, Partisan Review, The Hudson Review, World Literature Today, The Wall Street Journal and The American Scholar.
“Music, film, TV, books: those are the things that tell you when you’re a kid that there’s a world out there.”
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and we feel fine! A few weeks before the COVID-19 lockdowns began, pop culture writer and REM maniac Whitney Matheson joined the show to talk about how she managed to blaze her own journalistic trail by writing about the music, movies, TV and books that she loved. We get into how pop culture writing and blogging have changed since she launched Pop Candy at USA Today in 1999, why she left NYC and why she had to come back, the importance of having great content on her Patreon, what it’s like being defined by work in her early 20s, how a post about a KFC sandwich remains her most-read piece, and how she has to do triage to figure out what to keep up with. We also get into her upcoming kid’s book about the Loch Ness monster, her most recent celebrity freakout, how she taught interviewing skills to students who are unused to talking on the phone, the importance of having a career plan (and trying to stick to it), and how parenthood introduced her to a different world of pop. Oh, and because she’s all about lists, we find out her top three American rock bands (including REM, of course). Give it a listen! And go support Whitney via Patreon!
“I just wrote about the things that I loved, and the things that I loved happened to be very different from what was being covered in a very large, mainstream publication.”
“The comics industry has the most kindness and camaraderie of any entertainment-industry I’ve worked in.”
“I love the things that aren’t getting much attention.”
Whitney Matheson is a New York-based writer best known for creating Pop Candy (1999-2014), USA Today’s award-winning pop-culture blog. She has appeared on MSNBC, VH1, BBC America, E! and Turner Classic Movies, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Playboy, Mental Floss, Slate and The Hollywood Reporter. Her first children’s book, We Make Comics!, was released in May 2019. Subscribe to Whitney’s weekly pop-culture newsletter and get exclusive content like comics, short stories and more at patreon.com/whitneymatheson.
“I’m not a historian. I’m a musician who’s obsessed by cultural history, and environment, and filling in gaps.”
The phenomenal new book, Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian (SUP/Redwood Press), traces the history of an Armenian family from the mountainous woods of Anatolia to suburban NJ. Author Sato Moughalian joins the show to talk about her inspiration to write the life of her grandfather, ceramic tile artist David Ohannessian, the chronicle her family’s exodus through the Armenian Genocide, and how she had to prepare herself to visit Turkey as part of her research. We get into the multi-generational process of coping with trauma, the horrors of the Armenian Genocide and its ongoing denial, how her grandfather wound up helping retile the Dome of the Rock (while bringing Ottoman tile art to Jerusalem), and the way oral storytelling can capture styles that differ from family to family. We also talk through he music background (Sato’s an accomplished flutist), the creative community of NYC, her seven-year period of introspection and grief-work, and whether she’s considering another book, now that she’s got her first volume under her belt. Give it a listen! And go buy Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian!
“Grief and trauma were not the only things I inherited from my family.”
“In my family, oral storytelling was the way history was passed down from one generation to the next.”
“There’s an audience for music as a religious activity.”
Sato Moughalian is an award-winning flutist in New York City and Artistic Director of Perspectives Ensemble, founded in 1993 to explore and contextualize works of composers and visual artists. Since 2007, Ms. Moughalian has also traveled to Turkey, England, Israel, Palestine, and France to uncover the traces of her grandfather’s life and work, has published articles, and gives talks on the genesis of Jerusalem’s Armenian ceramic art. Her new book is Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian.