Virtual Memories Show 379:
Jonathan W. Gray

“Literature has a role to play at precisely this moment, because we have to dream and think big.”

I nerd out with author, English professor, and hardcore comics reader Jonathan W. Gray. We talk about how Blackness is represented in American comics (the subject of his next book), how Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing changed his life, and how he was teaching comics when there weren’t a lot of college courses on comics. We get into the perils and perks of academia, what it’s like teaching at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and protesting against police violence, the influence of Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner & John Lewis’ March on his work, the horrifying question of whether we’re actually in the best timeline right now, and plenty more. Give it a listen! And go read his first book, Civil Rights in the White Literary Imagination: Innocence by Association!

“Because police are in retreat, at least rhetorically, we’re finally having a conversation about their budget vs. the budget for social workers, for education, and housing.”

“You never know a thing until you have to teach that thing, and that was the case with teaching about comics.”

“The problem with professors is that professors overthink everything.”

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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

Jonathan W. Gray is Associate Professor of English at John Jay College-CUNY and the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the author of Civil Rights in the White Literary Imagination (University Press of Mississippi) and is currently working on the book project “Illustrating the Race: Representing Blackness in American Comics”, which traces depictions of African Americans in comics from 1966 to the present by investigating how the twin notions of illustration — the creative act of depiction and the political act of bringing forth for public consideration — function in these texts. Prof. Gray co-edited the essay collection “Disability in Comics and Graphic Novels” for Palgrave McMillian and formerly served as the founding editor of the Journal of Comics and Culture (Pace). Prof. Gray’s journalism on popular culture has appeared in The New Republic, Entertainment Weekly, Medium, and Salon.com.

Arpi Pap Studio Images

Follow Jonathan on Twitter.

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 Jonathan W. Gray by Arpi Pap Studio. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 377:
Keith Henry Brown

“I was shocked no one had done a kids picture book about Miles Davis. I didn’t even read the script; I just said yes!”

Designer, artist and writer Keith Henry Brown joins the show to talk about his new kids book, Birth of The Cool: How Miles Davis Found His Sound (Page Street Books, written by Kathleen Cornell Berman). We get into the twists and turns of his illustration career, exploring the balancing act of art & commerce in his main role as an art director, the role of jazz in his work, how he started off by achieving his childhood goal of drawing for Marvel Comics, but rapidly realized it wasn’t for him, the ongoing evolution of his style, how he discovered his place at the Society of Illustrators, the longform graphic novel he’s hoping to create, the issues of race in his career, and more. Give it a listen! And go read Birth of The Cool!

“Part of my intense love for jazz is because it’s an incredibly brilliant art form that requires an incredible amount of talent, skill, practice, and intellectualism, and it’s a high art. And Black people had a lot to do with the creation of it.”

“I live in this weird balance of life where I’ve been treated incredibly well, and there’s another part where people don’t know me and they cross the street because they feel threatened.”

“Once I had my own style, I realized I had my own language.”

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

Keith Henry Brown got his start drawing superheroes, but music has always been his true inspiration. He has worked as a designer for advertising agencies and high profile music-related projects, including creating posters for Jazz Appreciation Month and The Newport Jazz Festival, and creating jazz album covers for artists such as Christian McBride, Kevin Eubanks, and Wynton Marsalis. Keith’s first children’s book, Birth of The Cool: How Miles Davis Found His Sound, was published by Page Street Books in 2019 and received a Starred Review from Kirkus.

Born and raised in Staten Island, Keith is father to two magnificent boys (whom he affectionately calls his “two knuckleheads”) and lives and works in Brooklyn, surrounded by his favorite Spider-man, Batman and Black Panther action figures.

Follow Keith on Twitter, Facebook 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 Keith supplied by him (illustrations are by him, too). It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 375:
Arthur Hoyle

“What really was hammered home by the stories in my book was the persistence of injustice in our society, the ongoing struggle make this country live up to its ideals.”

Author Arthur Hoyle joins the show to talk about his new book, Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfits: Americans Against the Grain (Sunbury Press), in which profiles of American figures help illustrate the paradoxes and aspirations of a nation. We get into how the book grew out of the concept of the exemplar put forth by Henry Miller (the subject of Arthur’s first book), his vision of America and how the florid language of the founding fathers is like PR for a damaging product, and how his selection of biographical subjects in MM&M represents the diversity of America in its ethnicity and geographic spread. We also get into climate change and rampant capitalism, his practice of “first draft, best draft”, the fascist seed of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, how the pandemic scrambled his trip to Patagonia and led to an odyssey to get back to Southern California, his next book about the tension artists face between the muse & the mundane, our various ideas of how to treat Henry Miller in film & fiction, and more! Give it a listen! And go read Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfits!

“To Henry Miller, exemplars were larger-than-life figures who lived well, pushed their potential, challenged the circumstances they were born into, and stood out as models.”

“What makes good prose nonfiction writing is extreme clarity and finding the true relationship between the subject of your sentence and the words you use to make that subject. Then I look for a verb that will bring that subject to life, that will put it in motion, animate it.”

“You find that all mystical traditions, if you follow them to the core, take you to the same place. They all lead to the same conclusion of what God is, and how one can experience that God, contact with which we’re closed off by because of our ego.”

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

Arthur Hoyle is a writer, educator, and independent filmmaker. His documentary films have won numerous awards and have aired on PBS, and he received a media grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Before becoming an author, he produced corporate communications materials in print and video for a broad array of clients. He received Bachelors and Masters Degrees in English from the University of California, Los Angeles, and taught English, coached tennis, and served as an administrator in independent schools. He currently volunteers as a naturalist in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, leading interpretive walks on Chumash Indian culture. His biography of Henry Miller, The Unknown Henry Miller: A Seeker in Big Sur, was published in March 2014 by Skyhorse/Arcade. He has also published essays in Huffington Post, Empty Mirror, Across the Margin, Counterpunch, and AIOTB: As It Ought To Be. He lives in Pacific Palisades, California. His new book is Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfits: Americans Against the Grain, from Sunbury Press.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at remotely. I was using 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 Arthur by Peter Register (the portrait) and Arthur’s wife (the piano). It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 373:
Kathe Koja

“Chaos is its own engine.”

Writer, performer, director and producer Kathe Koja rejoins the show to talk about her new story collection, VELOCITIES (Meerkat Press). We talk how she’s coping with the pandemic, the importance of having a good working relationship with chaos, and why Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker is more apropos than ever. She gets into her work in immersive theater and how it needs to be reimagined in this era of social distancing, while teasing out details of her new project, Dark Factory. We also get into the upcoming reissue of her cult novel The Cipher this September, why she’s bingeing on Babylon Berlin, the one thing she hoarded when things went sideways, why it’s important to be open to the messages the world sends us, and what to do when you find a pill lying on the floor in a hospital cafeteria. Give it a listen! And go buy VELOCITIES!

“If writing is not a conversation, it’s really nothing.”

“It’s like trying to argue with a river. If you learn to swim, or better yet float, you’re better off.”

“Dark Factory is about how we open up to the world, see what’s really happening, see how strange life really 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

Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates and produces immersive fiction performances, both solo and with a rotating ensemble of artists. Her work crosses and combines genres, and her books have won awards, been translated, and optioned for film and performance. She is based in Detroit and thinks globally. Her most recent book is VELOCITIES, from Meerkat Press.

Follow Kathe on Twitter and Facebook, contribute to her Patreon, and listen to our previous conversation.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely 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 Kathe by Rick Lieder. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 367:
Whitney Matheson

“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.”

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

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.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at a cartooning studio in Gowanus 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 Whitney by me. It’s on my instagram. Except for the one in the Automatic For The People T-shirt. That’s probably by her.