Virtual Memories Show 253:
John Leland

“The wisdom of old age is something living with us right now.”

New York Times reporter John Leland joins the show to talk about his new book, Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old. We get into his year-long project of profiling 6 people aged 85+, how it blew up his preconceptions about old age and became an elderly version of The Real World, and what it taught him about living in the here and now. We also get into his history in journalism, his interest in The Beats, what it was like to arrive in NYC in 1977, the time he trained at a pro wrestling school, his decision to write a book treating On The Road as if it was a self-help book, which New York Times building he prefers, our shared love of David Gates’ fiction, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old!

“As I neared the end of profiling these six people, I started to suffer separation anxiety. I’d gotten to know them, I’d gotten involved in their lives. I’d gone with them to jazz clubs, and to the podiatrist.”

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

John Leland is a Metro reporter for The New York Times. Since joining the paper in 2000, he has covered topics ranging from the poetry of rock lyrics to the housing crisis. In 2015, he wrote a year-long series that became the basis for his new book, Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old.

He is the author of two previous books: Hip: The History (HarperCollins, 2004), and Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They’re Not What You Think) (Viking, 2007). Before joining The Times, Mr. Leland was a senior editor at Newsweek, editor in chief at Details, music critic at Newsday and an original columnist at SPIN magazine. Mr. Leland is a graduate of Columbia College and a dropout from the Monster Factory, a school for aspiring professional wrestlers. He did not last long, but he got a story.

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 New York Times offices 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. Leland and Helen Moses by Edu Bayer for The New York Times. It’s not on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 250:
Dave McKean

“Everything is in the words. Now matter how many pretty pictures I put in a comic, it’s never going to be worth anything without the words.”

Artist, writer, illustrator, cartoonist, designer, director, composer, and all-around creative force Dave McKean joins the show to talk about how the story dictates the medium, why comics-making shouldn’t be taught, the balancing act of collaborative and solo work, the missed opportunity of Tundra Publishing, his forays into theater and film with the WildWorks team and how they taught him to give up his control-freak nature, the influence of his jazz background, why it’s okay sometimes to judge a book by its cover, the problem-solving nature of a long walk, how the early loss of his father plays out in his work, his tendency to start every project with a complete failure of confidence, and the confluence of forces that led to his amazing new book, Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash! Give it a listen! And go buy Black Dog!

“Up until about 12 years old, I thought comics just arrived on the newsstand from heaven or somewhere. I didn’t realize people made a living from doing these things.”

And what the heck: here’s a load of quotes from the episode:

“I can’t do a half a life. I have to spend all my time doing the things that I feel passionate about.”

“I fell in love with the process of not being in control.”

“I think I went into art school in love with the surface of things, and then realized how limited that is.”

“Record covers were like a little art gallery in your own home.”

“I felt like whoever wrote the Photoshop manual was writing it directly for me!”

“There’s a degree of inspiration in art, but I’m very interested in paying attention to what provokes that inspiration.”

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

Dave McKean has illustrated many award-winning books and graphic novels, including The Magic of Reality (by Richard Dawkins), What’s Welsh for Zen: The Autobiography of John Cale, The Savage, Slog’s Dad, and Mouse Bird Snake Wolf (by David Almond), The Homecoming (by Ray Bradbury), Varjak Paw and Phoenix (by SF Said), The Fat Duck Cookbook and Historic Heston (by Heston Blumenthal), Rolling Stones: Voodoo lounge, Batman: Arkham Asylum (by Grant Morrison), and a series of works by Neil Gaiman, including Violent Cases, Signal to Noise, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and Mr. Punch. He also contributed all the cover illustrations and design for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series of graphic novels.

Dave wrote and illustrated Cages, which won the Harvey, Ignatz, International Alph-Art and La Pantera awards. His collection of short comics, Pictures That Tick, won the Victoria & Albert Museum Illustrated Book Of The Year Award, and many of his books are in the V&A Museum.

He has created hundreds of CD, book, and comic book covers, has created advertising campaigns for Kodak, Sony, Nike, BMW Mini, and Firetrap, and has produced conceptual design work for two of the Harry Potter films, Elton John & Bernie Taupin’s Lestat musical, and Lars von Trier’s House of Zoon.

Dave has written or cowritten, edited, designed and directed several short films and three feature films: MirrorMask, The Gospel Of Us, and Luna.

He created and performed a musical/narrative/film work called 9 Lives, which premiered at the Sydney Opera House, and has since collaborated on the multimedia works Wolf’s Child, and An Ape’s Progress.

He has exhibited in Europe, America and Japan, and is represented in private and public collections. He is currently acting as Director of Story for Heston Blumenthal’s three-star Fat Duck restaurant, finishing a collection of silent-movie-inspired paintings to be collected in a book called Nitrate, and working on Caligaro, a new graphic novel, as well as several other film and book projects. His most recent book is Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash.

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 Olympus Club in London 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. B/W photo of Mr. McKean by me. It’s on my instagram. Drawing-board photo of Mr. McKean by Clare Haythornthwaite.

Virtual Memories Show 247:
Vanda Krefft

“The most interesting question about Fox is, ‘What do you do when you realize you’re not going to be the person that you want to be?'”

Quick: Who is the “Fox” in 20th Century Fox? You’d know if you read Vanda Krefft‘s fantastic new book, The Man Who Made the Movies: The Meteoric Rise and Tragic Fall of William Fox (Harper)! Vanda joins the show to talk about William Fox’s contributions to the movies, why he’s virtually unknown today, and how she discovered his story. We also get into her decade-plus experience of researching and writing the book, Vanda’s transition from journalist to biographer, the limits of historical records, the damage Fox wrought on his extended family by supporting them, the biographer’s need to correct for hindsight, the influence of Nancy Drew on her writing career, the contrasts of her early life in Canada and her adult life in the US, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy The Man Who Made the Movies!

“One good source for the book was legal documents. Fortunately, William Fox loved to sue people, and people loved to sue him.”

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

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

About our Guest

Vanda Krefft is a former journalist who has covered the entertainment industry for publications such as Elle, Redbook, Woman’s Day, and The Los Angeles Times. In support of this book, she has received a Biography Fellowship from the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the City University of New York Graduate Center, a Senior Fellowship from the Dedalus Foundation, a Helm Fellowship from the Lilly Library at Indiana University, an Albert M. Greenfield Fellowship from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and other grants and residencies. Her new book is The Man Who Made the Movies: The Meteoric Rise and Tragic Fall of William Fox.

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 Roosevelt Hotel 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. I’m not sure who took the photo of her, nor the Theda Bara pic at the top. It’s not on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 245:
Eshkol Nevo & Paul Gravett

“I never think of writing as something where I have to achieve something or pass on a message.”

Israeli author Eshkol Nevo joins the show to talk about his new novel Three Floors Up (Other Press) and how he explained it to passport control on his visit to the US. We talk about how his fiction-writing career both integrates and rejects his past lives in advertising and psychology, explore the Robin Hood model of the creative writing school, and get into the background PTSD of daily life in Israel. Then comics scholar Paul Gravett rejoins the show to talk about his new exhibition, Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics, and the book that accompanies it (here’s a video about it. We get into the impact of manga across Asian culture (and beyond), his dream project of a Mexican comics retrospective, and how North Korea’s comics visually portray their glorious leader. Give it a listen! And go buy Three Floors Up and Mangasia: The Definitive Guide to Asian Comics!

“I imagine my deathbed scene being people bringing my silver platters of comics that I’ve never seen, right up until the very end.”

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

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

About our Guests

Eshkol Nevo is the author of five novels, all best sellers in Israel. Four have been published in English: Neuland, which was included in The Independent‘s list of Books of the Year in Translation; World Cup Wishes; Homesick, a finalist for the prestigious Independent Foreign Fiction Prize; and Three Floors Up. In 2008 Nevo was awarded membership in the Israel Cultural Excellence Foundation. He is the owner and co-manager of the largest private creative writing school in Israel and is mentor to many up-and-coming Israeli writers.

Paul Gravett is a London-based freelance journalist, curator, lecturer, writer and broadcaster, who has worked in comics publishing and promotion since 1981. After graduating with a Masters Degree in Law from Christ’s College, Cambridge, he spent a year and half in the USA, mainly in New Mexico, contributing to Albuquerque’s local public radio and television stations.

In the early 1980s, he started the Fast Fiction table at the bi-monthly comic marts and mail order distribution, inviting anybody to sell their homemade comics from it. Out of this came his first job in comics at pssst! magazine, a brave but misguided attempt at a British version of the sort of a luxurious monthly bande dessinée magazine popular in France. He worked in a variety of positions in 1982 and 1983 at pssst! – as promotions man, traffic manager, coordinating artwork and interviewing potential contributors.

In 1983 he launched Escape Magazine, which he co-edited/published with Peter Stanbury, showcasing the cream of the alternative cartoonists of the 1980s. Escape lasted for 19 issues before closing its doors in 1989. For six years, Escape helped to promote an evolving bunch of distinctive British creators, including now major names like Eddie Campbell, Jamie Hewlett, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean.

Between 1992 and 2001 he was the director of The Cartoon Art Trust, a UK charity established in 1988, dedicated to preserving and promoting the best of British cartoon art and caricature and to establish a museum of cartoon art with gallery, archives and reference library. As Project Director of The Cartoon Art Trust, he worked on numerous exhibitions, including tributes to Carl Giles and Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, and The 100 British Cartoonists of the Century.

Among the exhibitions of comics art he has curated in Britain and in Europe, ‘God Save The Comics!’, in 1990 was the first major survey of British comic art at the National Comics and Image Centre in Angoulême, France. In 2004, he curated the first exhibit devoted to British writer Alan Moore and his collaborators at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Charleroi, Belgium.

Paul has also organised retrospectives on Jack Kirby, Tove Jansson and Posy Simmonds. In 2008 he curated ‘Manhua: China Comics Now’, the first exhibition in Britain of contemporary Chinese comics at the London College of Communication. In 2010, he curated ‘Hypercomics: The Shapes of Comics to Come’, at the Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park.

Since 2003, Paul has been the director of Comica, the London International Comics Festival, instigated by him and John Harris Dunning at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Since 2011, Comica has been an independent not-for-profit organization running both the annual festival and other events and exhibitions throughout the year.

Paul is the author of the book Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics (2004), and co-author, with Peter Stanbury, of Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know (2005), Great British Comics: Celebrating a Century of Ripping Yarns and Wizard Wheezes (2006) and The Leather Nun & Other Incredibly Strange Comics (2008). He is also the editor of The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics (2008) and 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die (2011).

On television he has been a consultant and interview subject on The South Bank Show’s programme Manga Mania (2006) and BBC4’s documentary series Comics Britannia (2007). Also, he appeared as interview subject in the DVD documentary The Mindscape Of Alan Moore (2007). He is regularly interviewed for radio and television documentaries, discussions and review programmes. He also lectures in art schools, museums and galleries and is a judge for several prestigious prizes including the Embassy of Japan in London’s ‘Manga Jiman’ Award and The Observer / Jonathan Cape / Comica Graphic Short Story Prize.

He continues to write about comics for various periodicals, including The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Times Literary Supplement, ArtReview, ArtReview Asia, The Comics Journal, Comic Heroes, Time Out, Blueprint, Neo, The Bookseller, Dazed & Confused, New Internationalist, Third Text, 9eme Art and The Jewish Quarterly.

His recent books include Comics Art, published by Tate Publishing (2013) and Yale University Press (2014), and Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK (2014) with John Harris Dunning, published by The British Library. This accompanied the exhibition of the same name which Gravett and Dunning co-curated at The British Library, the largest exhibition of British comics ever held in the UK, which attracted some 60,000 visitors, almost half of them first-time visitors.

In 2016, Paul co-curated the exhibitions: Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics at House of Illustration, London; The Story of British Comics So Far…: Cor! By Gum! Zarjaz! at The Lightbox, Woking, Surrey; and Land Escapes: Contemporary Comics from the United Kingdom at Fondazione Benetton, Palazzo Bomben, Treviso, Italy.

For 2017, Paul completed a combination of a major new book for Thames & Hudson and a related exhibition for The Barbican Centre. Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics is the first exhibition to explore manga or Japanese comics in a wider Asian content and survey the comics cultures of nearly twenty Asian countries. Mangasia opens in Rome at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni and continues to other venues in 2018 including Le Lieu Unique in Nantes, France, followed by a further global tour of Europe, North and South America, Asia and elsewhere, for a maximum total period of five years.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation with Mr. Nevo was recorded at Rocking Horse Cafe in NYC and the one with Mr. Gravett was recorded at the home of John & Judith Clute in London 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. Nevo by I-don’t-know-whom. The one of Mr. Gravett by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 244:
Nicholas Delbanco

“It’s a rare day when I’m not at my desk by 6.”

He’s been blackening the blank page for more than 50 years, and now Nicholas Delbanco joins The Virtual Memories Show to talk about writing, teaching, and sleepwalking through life! We get into his new essay collection, Curiouser and Curiouser, the importance of establishing a writing routine or habit, the process of revising a decades-old trilogy in light of his growth as a writer, the art of faking spontaneity on the page, the value of a good MFA program, his refutation of his friends’ belief that language is a finite resource and not a renewable one, his assessment that he’s a minor writer (or, even worse, “a writer’s writer”), and the place the deracinated consider home. Plus: I fall back into the trap of Acquisitive Alchemy! Give it a listen! And go buy Curiouser and Curiouser: Essays!

“Writers probably don’t have more than two or three major topics, and the passage of time is one of mine.”

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

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

About our Guest

Nicholas Delbanco is the recently retired Robert Frost Distinguished University Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan. He has published thirty books of fiction and non-fiction. His most recent novels are The Years, and The Count of Concord; his most recent works of non-fiction Lastingness: The Art of Old Age and The Art of Youth: Crane, Carrington, Gershwin, and the Nature of First Acts. As editor he has compiled the work of, among others, John Gardner and Bernard Malamud. He was the long-term Director of the MFA Program as well as the Hopwood Awards Program at the University of Michigan, he has served as Chair of the Fiction Panel for the National Book Awards, received a Guggenheim Fellowship and, twice, a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship. His newest book is Curiouser and Curiouser: Essays.

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. Delbanco’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 Mr. Delbanco by me. It’s on my instagram.