Virtual Memories Show 297:
Shachar Pinsker

“This is the story of Jewish migration through the lens of coffeehouses.”

Jews have a long tradition with coffee (I can attest!). In A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture (NYU Press), Professor Shachar Pinsker explores the intersection of modernistic Hebrew literature and coffee. We get into the story of Jewish migration through Europe and into America and Israel, why coffeehouses were the silk road of secular Jewish creativity, the golden age of feuilletons, the semitic roots of coffee culture, the way A Rich Brew is about big cities as much as it is about coffeehouses, the importance of thirdspace to bridge the social and the private, and how Shachar narrowed the book down to 6 representative cities. We also get into how his Yeshiva education helped his secular literary studies, his night-and-day visits to Warsaw, and just how we define “modern Jewish culture”! Give it a listen! And go buy A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture!

“This topic and this book took me to places I never imagined I was going to go, both metaphorically and physically.”

“Some say that what characterizes modern Jewish culture is exactly asking the question of what 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, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Taken from Shachar’s faculty page:

As a specialist in modern Hebrew and Jewish literature and culture, I am interested in Hebrew literature  written in Palestine/Israel, Europe and America, as well as Jewish literature in Yiddish, English, German and other languages. I have a joint appointment at the department of Middle Eastern Studies and the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan.

I am the author of A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture (NYU Press, 2018), the award-winning book Literary Passports: The Making of Modernist Hebrew Fiction in Europe (Stanford, 2011). My third book (in progress) is A Silent Language? Yiddish in Israeli Literature.

I am the editor of Women’s Hebrew Poetry on American Shores: Poems by Anne Kleiman and Annabelle Farmelant (Wayne State University, 2016), and  the editor of In the Place where Sea and Sky Meet: Israeli Yiddish Stories (Magnes Press, forthcoming 2018), in Hebrew. I am also the co-editor of Hebrew, Gender and Modernity: Critical Responses to Dvora Baron’s Fiction (Maryland, 2007).

I publish articles in scholarly journals, as well as in Ha’aertz, The New Republic, The Jewish Week and other journals and newspapers.

I lecture widely around the world on all aspects of my research and writing, and as part of the AJS Distinguished Lectureship Program.

I teach a variety of courses in English and Hebrew for undergraduate and graduate students. I am also teaching a course abroad in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I integrate technology and Digital Humanities in my scholarship and teaching.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mykonos Blue Grill 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. Pinsker by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 296:
Cathy B. Graham

“The great thing about being heartbroken is I become very focused on my work.”

Who starts a career at an age when most people are looking at retirement? Coming off a divorce and a three-decade hiatus from professional life, award-winning illustrator Cathy B. Graham is having a second bloom. We sat down to talk about painting, fashion illustration, and floral design, as captured in Second Bloom: Cathy Graham’s Art of the Table (Vendome Press). We get into her artistic upbringing, her RISD education alongside Roz Chast & Dave Calver, the art of entertaining, her love of the Thorne Miniature Rooms and their influence on her life, her trepidation about returning to oil painting, the joy of Instagram, her New York and how she shifted from SoHo artist to Upper East Side culture maven. Most importantly, we talk about the regeneration and finding your new life. Give it a listen! And go buy Second Bloom: Cathy Graham’s Art of the Table!

“You can’t rewrite the script. You have to go forward.”

“When I was studying painting, I thought, ‘If I don’t have the facility to paint as well as John Singer Sargent, then why bother?’ I didn’t.”

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

Cathy Barancik Graham is an award-winning artist and fashion illustrator. Her editorial work has appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and New York Magazine, and she has been commissioned by Bergdorf Goodman, Estée Lauder, CBS Records, and HBO. In addition, she has been a contributing editor of Elle Decor and House Beautiful. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, from which she holds a BFA in Painting, and she studied Fashion Illustration at Parsons School of Design. For more than a decade, Cathy worked with the late floral designer and event planner Robert Isabell, noted for his unique lavish and innovative parties. Cathy resides in New York City, where she works to support cultural life by serving on the boards of Lincoln Center Theater, New York Restoration Project, and House of SpeakEasy.

Her first book, Second Bloom: Cathy Graham’s Art of the Table (Vendome Press), was published in Fall 2017 by Vendome Press. Cathy is also the designer of a line of paper products comprising fashion note cards, gift and holiday cards, notebooks, and wrapping paper. She has recently launched several collaborations, which include a line of pajamas and textiles with Charmajesty Ltd., a signature Second Bloom candle with NEST Fragrances, and a line of decoupage home accents with Scott Potter.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Graham’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 Ms. Graham by Quentin Bacon, so it’s not on my instagram.

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.