Virtual Memories Show 277:
Nathaniel Popkin

“A city, like a book, can be read.”

For a guy who calls himself a master of nothing, Nathaniel Popkin does a pretty good job for himself as a novelist, literary editor, critic, journalist, and urban historian. Nathaniel joins the show to talk about his new novel, Everything Is Borrowed (New Door Books), as well as the new literary anthology he co-edited, Who Will Speak for America? (Temple University Press). We get into the fertile subject and setting of Philadelphia, the goal of building a literary hub for his adopted city, the process of writing a novel about anarchists and architects (which I sorta characterize as the anti-Fountainhead), the necessity of self-delusion for artists, his background in urban planning and how it informs his writing, the challenges and rewards of seeking diversity in art, the importance of the Writers Resist movement, how becoming a writer was his way of being Jewish in the world, and why he eschewed MFA vs NYC in favor of PHL! Give it a listen! And go buy Everything Is Borrowed, Who Will Speak for America?, and Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City!

“The question of who will speak for America is vital at this moment.”

“Philadelphia is an injured city. It wants to be something but never quite can achieve 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

Nathaniel Popkin is the author of five books, including the new novel Everything Is Borrowed (New Door Books), called “utterly absorbing” by the writer Robin Black, and the co-editor of Who Will Speak for America?, a literary anthology in response to the American political crisis, forthcoming in June 2018 (Temple University Press). He is the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine, as well as a prolific book critic—and National Book Critics Circle member—focusing on literary fiction and works in translation. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Rumpus, Tablet Magazine, LitHub, The Millions, and the Kenyon Review, among other publications.

As a keen observer of cities and lived places, Popkin has often turned his eye to the layers of history and life in his own city. He’s the founding co-editor of the Hidden City Daily, a web magazine that covers architecture, design, planning, and preservation in Philadelphia, and the co-author of the 2017 work of non-fiction, Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (Temple University Press). He’s also the senior writer and story editor of the multi-part documentary film series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment,” for which his work has been recognized with several Emmy awards. He was the guest architecture critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2011-12.

Popkin’s first novel, Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press), is a mediation on originality and influence in art. It reimagines the life and tragic death of the first great American genre painter, John Lewis Krimmel. Lion and Leopard was a finalist for the Foreword Reviews Indie Book of the Year Award, and novelist Ken Kalfus described it as “historical literary fiction at its most engaging.”

Lion and Leopard followed two books of literary non-fiction, the 2002 Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and the 2008 essay collection, The Possible City (Camino Books).

Popkin has been a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellow and a writer-in-residence at Philadelphia University and the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Philadelphia Athenaeum 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. Popkin by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 273:
Alberto Manguel

“I don’t know how people survive in the world without reading.”

Author, editor, translator, and (most crucially) reader Alberto Manguel joins the show to talk about his new book, Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions (Yale University Press). We discuss the lifelong act of building a library and how he deals with having no access to it, now that he’s had to pack up ~35,000 books (but he also tells us about the 3 books he took with him on his travels). We get into his new gig as director of Argentina’s National Library, our schism on whether to cull one’s book collection, his experience in his teens reading to a blind Borges, the book-fetish, our mutual preference for The Iliad over The Odyssey, the embarrassment of receiving an award that was previously given to Borges and Beckett, why translating a book takes more effort than writing one, how he deals with Argentina’s dirty war and the phenomenon of awful people liking great books, the book he still hopes to write, why Canada is home for this world traveler, and the problem with the problem with canons. BONUS: Our listeners weigh in on the books they’d bring with them for a 2-week hospital stay! Give it a listen! And go buy Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions!

“If you can reduce a piece of literature to a slogan, then it’s proof that it’s not a great piece of literature.”

“Literature can be defined as Before and After Borges, or rather ‘Before and After Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote‘.”

“Culling books would be equivalent to euthanasia.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Alberto Manguel is a writer, translator, editor, and critic, but would rather define himself as a reader and a lover of books. Born in Buenos Aires, he has since resided in Israel, Argentina, Europe, the South Pacific, and Canada. He is now the director of the National Library of Argentina. His most recent book is Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions. Here’s a list of his 100 favorite books (PDF).

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Manguel’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. Photo of Mr. Manguel by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 270:
Ilana C. Myer

“The writing has a plan, and it does whatever it wants with me.”

Fresh from her book tour, Ilana C. Myer joins the show to talk about her new novel, Fire Dance (Tor). We get into the jump she made for her second book, the process of crossing Celtic poets with troubadours and Mediterranean aesthetics and mythology as part of her world-building, the challenge of seducing the reader, why she writes fantasy instead of history, and her fixation on “books with magic in them” as a kid. We also get into how she balances life in Israel and the US, her process of self-discovery and her religious epiphany in a college astronomy class, the challenge of shutting out social media voices while keeping up a strong Twitter presence, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Fire Dance (and Ilana’s first novel Last Song Before Night)!

“Without our history, without our traditions, who are we? I refuse to be someone who doesn’t have an identity.”

“You can’t predict how people will respond to the work. To retain my sanity and creative integrity, I had to not pay attention to the responses, even the positive ones.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Ilana C. Myer has worked as a journalist in Jerusalem and a cultural critic for various publications. As Ilana Teitelbaum she has written book reviews and critical essays for The Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Last Song Before Night was her first novel, followed by Fire Dance. She lives in New York.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ilana’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. Myer by Ezra Butler, so it’s not on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 261:
Robert Weil

“Translation editing is all about the idiom.”

Liveright Publishing editor-in-chief Robert Weil joins the show on the eve of this year’s Festival Neue Literatur to talk about editing translations, why great translators are heroes (and ought to get credited on book covers), and his admiration/adoration for Barbara Perlmutter, winner of this year’s Friedich Ulfers Prize. Along the way, we talk about the nuts-and-bolts of editing writers and why good writers want to be edited, the ongoing relevance of The Scarlet Letter and our Hawthorne vs. Melville takes, the most haunting line of Henry Roth (“The grave is a barrier to all amends, all redress”), and Robert’s incredible run of graphic novels (think Will Eisner, Robert Crumb, Jules Feiffer, and David Small). Plus, we bond over the fact that he edited one of my all-time favorite books: Clive James’ Cultural Amnesia! Give it a listen! And go to the Festival Neue Literatur this weekend (March 22-25 in NYC)!

“Barbara Perlmutter’s longevity, bridging German literature and American literature, is unrivaled.”

“The best writers really want to be edited.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Robert Weil, born in Manhattan, was raised by a German-born father and a German-born mother who grew up in Sweden. He graduated from Yale University in 1977 with a degree in History. Mr. Weil lives in New York City and has lectured all over the United States as well as in Germany. He has worked in publishing since 1978, and, since 1998, at W. W. Norton & Company, the oldest independent and employee-owned publishing company in the United States. At Norton he served as an Executive Editor/V.P. until July of 2011, and since then has been the Editor-in-Chief and Publishing Director of Liveright. Over the course of 40 years in mainstream American publishing, Mr. Weil has acquired and edited approximately 500 books in a wide variety of fields.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Weil’s office on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro with the same equipment in a hotel in midtown Manhattan. Photo of Mr. Weil by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 259:
Lavie Tidhar

“You must be doing something right if you’re pissing people off. I just wish it was easier to piss people off.”

Science fiction author Lavie Tidhar joins the show to talk about the five topics that Israeli novelists are allowed to write about, his affinity for pulp fiction tropes, when it’s okay to make fun of Hitler (which he does at great length in A Man Lies Dreaming), why he finds utopias sinister (hint: he was raised on a kibbutz), how to build a career on ambitious failure, the eye-opening experience of editing world anthologies of SF, the difference between having fans and having readers, the distracting joy of Twitter, why not getting published in Israel felt like a reverse-BDS movement, and what it’s like never knowing which shelf a bookstore will decide to put his books. Give it a listen! And go buy A Man Lies Dreaming (among other works of his)!

“No one is doing what I’m doing, looking at big historical processes — like the Holocaust and 9/11 — but doing it through this particular pulp lens and through alternate history.”

“England keeps you thin because you don’t want to eat anything here.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Lavie Tidhar is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of Osama (2011), of The Violent Century (2013) and of the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize winning A Man Lies Dreaming (2014), in addition to many other works and several awards. His latest novel is the Campbell Award-winning and Clarke Award nominated Central Station (2016). He works across genres, combining detective and thriller modes with poetry, science fiction and historical and autobiographical material. His work has been compared to that of Philip K. Dick by the Guardian and the Financial Times, and to Kurt Vonnegut’s by Locus. He’s also co-editor and co-founder of The Jewish Mexican Literary Review.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the home of John & Judith Clute 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. Tidhar by me. It’s on my instagram.