Virtual Memories Show 358:
Daniel Mendelsohn

“Achilles is a hero who is mesmerizing without being penetrable, whereas Odysseus I think I understand (perhaps hubristic to say that).”

His wondrous new collection, Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones (NYRB), brings a dizzying array of Daniel Mendelsohn‘s critical-essayistic-memoir pieces together. We sat down to talk about the work of the critic and the drama that makes for a great critical piece, as well as the temptation to make a name by going after easy targets, his need to criscross genres and categories with personal writing and criticism, and why his negative review of Mad Men got him more pushback than anything else he’s written. We get into his amazing 2017 memoir, An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic, its gorgeous structure and its insight into Homer and our present day, while we try to suss out why the great Greek translators have either produced a great Iliad or a great Odyssey, but not both (he’s working on a new translation of The Odyssey). We also discuss the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the nature of contemporary mythmaking, my pet theory about the tragedy of Achilles in the Iliad, Emily Wilson’s question about Odysseus’ true homophrosyne, the role of erudition in criticism, how institutions like The New Yorker, New York Review of Books, Paris Review etc. handle succession, our love of the finale of The Americans, his one conversation with Philip Roth, and SO much more. Give it a listen! And go buy Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones and An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic!

“When you start as a critic, there’s a great drive to make your mark and be noticed.”

“You need to be bothered a little bit by something, in order to want to investigate it.”

“There is no act of intimacy in the world of literature that is greater than translating.”

“Identity becomes more interesting the more multiplex 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, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Daniel Mendelsohn teaches at Bard and is Editor-at-Large at The New York Review of Books. His books include An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic; The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million; How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays, and, from New York Review Books, Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture. His new book is Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones, also from NYRB.

There’s a longer version at his website.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Mendelsohn’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. Photos of Mr. Mendelsohn by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 350:
Ed Ward

“I don’t like nostalgia. I consider it destructive to a rational understanding of history.”

From the Sex Pistols’ last show to the backseat of Elvis’ gold Cadillac, Ed Ward has had a front-row seat to the history of rock & roll. He returns to the show to talk about The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 2: 1964–1977: The Beatles, the Stones, and the Rise of Classic Rock (Flatiron Books), and we get into the challenges of chronicling the form in that that era (both narratively and chronologically), his novelistic approach to history, the destructive nature of nostalgia, and how glad he was to get corroboration on the circumstances of Jim Morrison’s death. Along the way, we get into his oft-quoted but misunderstood review of the first Stooges record (and how Iggy validated him), how Woodstock predicted the collapse of the music industry, why he thought (incorrectly) that the ‘70s were a nostalgia-proof generation, why he doesn’t listen to music anymore, and his answer to the key question of the era: Beatles or Stones? Give it a listen (and check out our 2016 podcast)! And go buy The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 2: 1964–1977!

“I was there and I know how the story of rock & roll ends.”

“Music is no longer central to youth culture.”

“Disco was rhythm & blues by other means.”

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

Ed Ward was the rock-and-roll historian on Fresh Air for more than thirty years, reaching fourteen million listeners. Currently he is the cohost of the Let It Roll podcast. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and countless music magazines. He is the author of The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1 and of Michael Bloomfield: The Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero. His new book is The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 2: 1964–1977: The Beatles, the Stones, and the Rise of Classic Rock. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Fairfield Inn near Penn Station in NYC 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. Photos of Mr. Ward by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show:
Tom Spurgeon Bonus Episode

“The danger isn’t in the limits of what you can do for someone. The danger is in withdrawing, and realizing you don’t have those relationships anymore. If you can be engaged in someone’s life . . . that’s what you have and that’s what you work with.”

Following the unexpected death of Tom Spurgeon, my best friend and an inveterate supporter of the show, I’ve re-posted our 2012 conversation, along with a new (and emotional) introduction. Give it a listen

“I was morphined up and looking out the back of an ambulance for about three hours. You get to see things as a beginning, middle and end. . . . My story might end in a couple of hours. What does that mean? What was that life like?”

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show: iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS

About our Guest

At the time of his death at the age of 50, Tom Spurgeon was the editor of The Comics Reporter and executive director of CXC – Cartoon Crossroads Columbus.

Credits: The conversation was recorded at Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD in 2012 on a pair of Blue enCORE 100 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H4 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. Photos of me & Tom by my wife. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 345:
Frank Santoro

“Memory rhymes with these little moments in time, and time folds in on itself in a remarkable way, and comics is a wonderful example of that, unlike film or prose.”

A beautiful and subtle meditation on memory and his parents’ marriage and divorce, Frank Santoro‘s 200-page graphic novel, Pittsburgh (New York Review Comics), is one of my favorite books of 2019. Frank & I get into about Pittsburgh‘s unique visual style, in which he eschews black lines and works directly with color markers, how he solved the problem of word-balloons intruding on a comic page’s color harmony, and how the book’s design and style mirror the reconstruction of memory. We talk about how the book originated with his dad totally opening up to one of Frank’s friends about a story he never told Frank, how interviewing family members for the book brought him closer to them and to understanding them as people, and why I developed the belief that men are far less likely to know how their parents met than women are. We also discuss how his art-training influences his comics compositions, how working for painter Dorothea Rockburne taught him to see the page as music, why he prefers standalone projects to serial publishing, and plenty more. Give it a listen! And go buy Pittsburgh!

“The breath of poetry has a measure; with comics, the measure is the left and right of the page.”

“Part of this story was learning to see my parents as people, and not just as my parents.”

“I had to learn to slow down to make this book, to listen to myself and not push the narrative.”

“When you make a 200-page comic at once — not as serials — you have to stay wide. You can’t put in all the detail, or it’ll become a 10-year project.”

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

Frank Santoro’s work has been exhibited at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City and at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy. He is the author of Storeyville and Pompeii, and has collaborated with Ben Jones, Dash Shaw, Gary Panter, and others. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His new book is Pittsburgh (NYRC).

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Hotel LeVeque during Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) 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. Photos of Mr. Santoro by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 331: Liniers

“In my mind, I thought, ‘Maybe if I can get my comic strip to Uruguay, my father will believe this is a real job.’ I’d be an international success. Montevideo was as far as my imagination could go.”

In a rollicking conversation at the Society of Illustrators 128 Bar & Bistro, Argentine comics star Liniers talks about making the jump from Buenos Aires to Vermont to teach at the Center for Cartoon Studies, the amazing US syndication launch of his comic strip Macanudo last year (and the origin of that strip in Argentina), the difference between drawing well and drawing funny, the mix of comic and comedic influences that melted his brain as a kid, the time he almost met Bill Watterson, and what it means to be a Latin American cartoonist. We also get into how he learned English from Mad Magazine, when he caught the live performance bug, why he eschews a regular set of characters in favor of a schizophrenic style of humor in Macanudo, how he felt the first time he saw a tattoo his work on a fan, why seeing his work pirated helped balance out his karma from downloading all those mp3s, and how his kids books help him press Pause on perfect moments from his children’s lives. Give it a listen! (conversation begins around 7:00) And go buy some of Liniers’ Macanudo collections and his TOON books!

“Every cartoonist, this life is their second choice. My first choice, I wanted to be Lou Reed, but that didn’t work out for some reason.”

“My job is not being very good at drawing. It’s making little doodles and somehow infusing them with soul.”

“Every cartoonist, this life is their second choice. My first choice, I wanted to be Lou Reed, but that didn’t work out for some reason.”

“The most difficult things for people to draw are horses and bikes, so I bet the most impossible drawing of all would be a horse riding a bike.”

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

Born in Argentina in 1973, Liniers began his artistic career when he realized he wasn’t cut out for law school and started making fanzines for friends. Since 2002, when his daily comic strip Macanudo began appearing in La Nación, Argentina’s most widely read newspaper, Liniers has become an international comics star, with many New Yorker covers to his name, among other accolades. Macanudo is published throughout the world, and Liniers’ social media reaches nearly a million followers. In the US, he is also the creator of wonderful children’s books, two of which are about one of the greatest characters in Macanudo: the wry, philosophical girl, Henrietta. Liniers also tours Latin America and Spain with musician Kevin Johansen, drawing on stage while Kevin’s band performs. Liniers currently lives in Vermont with his wife and three daughters.

(NOTE: I’m wearing my Argentina national basketball team jersey, in honor of Liniers’ pal Manu Ginobili.)

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Society of Illustrators’ 128 Bar & Bistro 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. Photos of Liniers by me. It’s on my instagram.