Virtual Memories Show 295:
Angela Himsel

“In the end, sometimes, your writing becomes what it wants to be, despite yourself.”

How did Angela Himsel make the transformation from rural Indiana and apocalyptic, fundamentalist Christianity to the Upper West Side of Manhattan and observant Judaism? Her new memoir, A River Could Be a Tree (Fig Tree Books) chronicles that process, bringing to life a story of family and discovery. I talk with the award-winning columnist about how she came to Judaism from the Worldwide Church of God, when she met Jews for the first time, what Israel means to her, and what she considers the weirdest aspect of Judaism. We get into the difference between seeing the world as the emanation of God and seeing it as the Devil’s playground, her conversion to Philip Roth-ism, the beautiful family secret she uncovered in the process of writing her book, the decision to include her terrible teenage poetry in the memoir, why God may need therapy, and the Rapture-based prank she and her siblings still pull on each other. Give it a listen! And go buy A River Could Be a Tree: A Memoir!

“The toughest part of making the decision to convert was saying, ‘I’m just going to leave the past behind, it’s really not working.'”

“It was hard for me to put my self in my own story, to be honest.”

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, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Angela Himsel’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Jewish Week, Forward, Lilith and elsewhere. Her column “Angetevka” ran on Zeek.net won two American Jewish Press Association Awards. Angela holds a BA from Indiana University, which included two years at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and an MFA from The City College of New York. She grew up the seventh of eleven children in rural southern Indiana in a fundamentalist, doomsday, Christian faith. She converted to Judaism and lives in New York City. A River Could Be a Tree traces that journey.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Angela’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. Photo of me & Ms. Himsel by me. It’s on my instagram. (Not sure who the main image is by.)

Virtual Memories Show 294:
Mark Dery

“I wanted to allow Gorey not only a degree of mystery . . . but also to convey his belief in the value of lacunae, of gaps.”

For his first biography, Mark Dery picked a doozy of a subject: the great, creepy, droll, mysterious artist and writer Edward Gorey. We talk about Mark’s brand-new book, Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey (Little, Brown), his one in-person encounter with Gorey, how Gorey’s sexuality did and didn’t inform his work, and the challenge of writing the biography of an artist whose work always invited the reader to fill in the gaps. We get into how Gotham Book Mart made a cottage industry out of Gorey, the long-range impact of Gorey on America’s pop culture, the queerness of children’s literature beginning in the ’50s, the influence of Asian art and philosophy on Gorey’s work, his devotion to ballet and Balanchine, why the epic catalog makes for a great biographical tool, and a lot more, like Mark’s lifelong one-sided relationship with Patti Smith! Give it a listen! And go buy Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey!

“One of the fascinating things about Gorey is how he problematizes and challenges some of the underlying assumptions about our age of identity politics.”

“Somehow I thought performance poetry was a growth industry.”

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, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Mark Dery is a cultural critic. He coined the term “Afrofuturism,” popularized the concept of “culture jamming,” taught at Yale and NYU, and has published widely on pop culture, the media, and on the mythologies (and pathologies) of American life. His books include Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture, a seminal anthology of writings on digital culture; Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century, The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink, and the essay collection, I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-by Essays on American Dread, American Dreams. Like Gorey, his mission in life “is to make everybody as uneasy as possible.” His new book is Born to Be Posthumous.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mark’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 Mark Dery by me and C. Taylor Crothers. The bookshelf one is on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 293:
Michael Gerber

“We’re trying to collect and broadcast this specific type of culture before the people who know how to do it properly all pass away.”

The American Bystander magazine is a print-only humor magazine, and while that may seem like an anachronism in this day and age, editor Michael Gerber joins the show to talk about why it’s the perfect vehicle for humor. I’ve been a fan of the Bystander since its (re-)inception in 2016, and it was a delight to talk with Michael about the magazine’s history, his background as “the world’s only expert on print humor magazines”, the decision to crowdfund the magazine and how it beats the days when “paper bag money” was necessary to get a magazine on the newsstand. We get into how he keeps the rhythm of the magazine flowing between prose pieces, gag panels, strips and other pieces, as well as the contributors who passed away before he could get them into The American Bystander, the ones he’s vowed to get, and the challenges of getting diverse voices in the magazine. We also discuss his vision for America, the politicization of history, the experience of reading National Lampoon when he was 4 years old, and finding his life’s purpose in trying to start a cult. Give it a listen! And go subscribe to The American Bystander fer chrissakes!!

Also, you should check out this BoingBoing article on how a printer refused to print the newest ish because “Christian owners” wanted to protect “the kids”, and this secret video of Operation Waterfall that Bystander staff smuggled out of Russia!

“Parody is protected speech until someone uses it.”

“One of the big reasons for the decay of magazine culture in America is that magazines aren’t for readers; they’re for advertisers.”

“Although the Bystander is financially ruinous, it’s wonderful to work with all these people.”

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, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Michael Gerber is Editor and Publisher of The American Bystander, the all-star comedy quarterly. Called “the world’s only expert on print humor magazines,” Gerber has spent 30 years as a comedy writer, editor, art director and magazine consultant. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, SNL, and many other venues; his novels have sold 1.25 million copies in 25 languages. In 2003, Barry Trotter and the Shameless Parody fried the brains of a generation of English teens, and now we have Brexit. Sorry.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Santa Monica Public Library 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. Photo of Michael by someone else. It’s not on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 292:
Eddie Campbell

“What if you could be employed just sitting in a pub telling stories? I think that’s where it began for me.”

Legendary cartoonist Eddie Campbell joins the show to talk about his first (sorta) prose book, The Goat Getters: Jack Johnson, the Fight of the Century, and How a Bunch of Raucous Cartoonists Reinvented Comics! We get into this forgotten piece of comics history, the challenge of offensive ethnic stereotypes in old cartoons, cartoonists’ blind spot toward sports, the other pieces of cartooning history he wants to chronicle, and the amazing, unsung career of Kate Carew. We also talk about the bookshelf of Eddie’s comics work, what took him away from autobiography, the challenge of coloring From Hell (and succumbing to the temptation to redraw some of it), his Bizarre Romance comics collaboration with his wife, Audrey Niffenegger, the lessons of age, the joy of telling shaggy-dog stories, and what it’s like to be known as “Hayley Campbell‘s dad”. Give it a listen! And go buy The Goat Getters and Bizarre Romance!

“I think Kate Carew is a greater cartoonist than most of the so-called ‘Masters of American Comics’, but they’ve defined it to keep women out.”

“The Goat-Getters is a book I’ve wanted to do since about 1980.”

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, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Eddie Campbell (born 10 August 1955) is a Scottish comics artist and writer now living in Chicago. Probably best known as the illustrator of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), Campbell is also the creator of the semi-autobiographical Alec stories collected in Alec: The Years Have Pants, and Bacchus, a wry adventure series about some of the Greek gods surviving to the present day (vols. 1 and 2). The Fate of the Artist, in which the author investigates his own murder, and The Lovely Horrible Stuff, an investigation of our relationship with money, are also among his graphic novels. A Disease Of Language is a collaboration with Alan Moore, The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains is with Neil Gaiman and in Bizarre Romance Eddie has turned the short stories of his wife, Audrey Niffenegger, into comics. Eddie is also a historian of cartooning and comics; The Goat Getters is his first large-scale work in this field.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Jesse Sheidlower’s apartment 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 Eddie Campbell & Audrey Niffenegger by me. They’re on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 291:
David Small

“It takes a while to learn what you don’t need.”

With a Caldecott Award-winning career in writing and illustrating kids books already under his belt, David Small made a huge splash in the comics field with his 2009 memoir Stitches. Now he’s back with the graphic novel Home After Dark (Liveright) and we got together at SPX to talk about how those careers mesh, how he got his start in illustration, how he approached his new book as fiction, and more. We get into his artistic, literary and cinematic influences, the struggles of studying representational art in the ’60s and ’70s, and the incredibly wrong geographic decision about a teaching gig that led him to the love of his life. We also discuss the elements of a good kids book and why so much of today’s market turns him off, the moment in Paris when he got over his fear of making comics, the memory palace he reverse-engineered to start his memoir, and the evolution Home After Dark took over 12 drafts (!) to tell the story David knew he had to tell. Give it a listen! And go buy Home After Dark and Stitches!

“Recent kids books are beautiful to look at . . . but the stories are lacking. It’s all concept books; they’re teachy.”

“‘Illustrative’ was used as an epithet when I was at Yale. They would always curl their lip when they said it.”

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, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

David Small, author of the #1 New York Times best-selling Stitches, is the recipient of the Caldecott Medal, the Christopher Medal, and the E. B. White Award. He and his wife, the writer Sarah Stewart, live in Michigan. His new book is Home After Dark

There’s a longer version at his site.

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