Virtual Memories Show 358:
Daniel Mendelsohn

“Achilles is a hero who is mesmerizing without being penetrable, whereas Odysseus I think I understand (perhaps hubristic to say that).”

His wondrous new collection, Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones (NYRB), brings a dizzying array of Daniel Mendelsohn‘s critical-essayistic-memoir pieces together. We sat down to talk about the work of the critic and the drama that makes for a great critical piece, as well as the temptation to make a name by going after easy targets, his need to criscross genres and categories with personal writing and criticism, and why his negative review of Mad Men got him more pushback than anything else he’s written. We get into his amazing 2017 memoir, An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic, its gorgeous structure and its insight into Homer and our present day, while we try to suss out why the great Greek translators have either produced a great Iliad or a great Odyssey, but not both (he’s working on a new translation of The Odyssey). We also discuss the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the nature of contemporary mythmaking, my pet theory about the tragedy of Achilles in the Iliad, Emily Wilson’s question about Odysseus’ true homophrosyne, the role of erudition in criticism, how institutions like The New Yorker, New York Review of Books, Paris Review etc. handle succession, our love of the finale of The Americans, his one conversation with Philip Roth, and SO much more. Give it a listen! And go buy Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones and An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic!

“When you start as a critic, there’s a great drive to make your mark and be noticed.”

“You need to be bothered a little bit by something, in order to want to investigate it.”

“There is no act of intimacy in the world of literature that is greater than translating.”

“Identity becomes more interesting the more multiplex 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, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Daniel Mendelsohn teaches at Bard and is Editor-at-Large at The New York Review of Books. His books include An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic; The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million; How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays, and, from New York Review Books, Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture. His new book is Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones, also from NYRB.

There’s a longer version at his website.

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

Virtual Memories Show 356:
Emily Flake

“My personal brand tracks so well with physical awkwardness.”

With her new book That Was Awkward: The Art & Etiquette of the Awkward Hug (Viking Books), cartoonist and humorist Emily Flake explores the world of awkward hugs. We get into how that book landed in her lap, why she hates drawing other people’s jokes, and how she learned (and pushes the boundaries of) the New Yorker cartoonist’s voice. We talk about the massive influence of Shary Flenniken’s Trots & Bonnie comics on her work, the question of “age-appropriate” reading and her 7-year-old kid, performing stand-up cartooning and hosting the Nightmares and Shitshow series (and getting Robyn Hitchcock to guest on that evening’s Nightmares!), how making 4-beat comic strips taught her to write humor, the guilt she felt the first time she saw someone with a tattoo of one of her gags, building up immunity to editorial rejection, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy That Was Awkward: The Art and Etiquette of the Awkward Hug!

“Halfway through art school, I realized my work got better reception if it was funny.”

“I stopped going in for Look Day. Once you can e-mail things in, why wear pants?”

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

Emily Flake‘s cartoons and humorous essays run regularly in The New Yorker, The Nib, and many other publications. Her weekly strip, Lulu Eightball, ran in alt-weeklies for many years. She’s written and illustrated two books: These Things Ain’t Gonna Smoke Themselves and Mama Tried. Her illustrations and cartoons appear in publications all over the world, including the New York Times, Newsweek, the Globe and Mail, The Onion, The New Statesman, and Forbes. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, daughter, and a new cat. Her new book is That Was Awkward: The Art and Etiquette of the Awkward Hug (Viking Books). She’s on Twitter and Instagram.

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

Virtual Memories Show:
Tom Spurgeon
Memorial Service,
Dec. 14, 2019

“I had an amazing life, and my love for my family is unsurpassed, followed nearly as much as the love for my closest friends. Be kind to yourselves, and live in laughter as much as possible. I love you. Thanks for everything.”

This special episode of The Virtual Memories Show features the memorial service for Tom Spurgeon, held December 14, 2019, at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. The speakers (in sequence) were Whit Spurgeon, Sunny McFarren, Rob Eidson, Dan Wright (slideshow here), Fred Haring, Eric Reynolds, Jordan Raphael, me, Jeff Smith, Laurenn McCubbin, Rebecca Perry Damsen, Caitlin McGurk. The following people spoke during the open comments session: Bruce Chrislip, Christian Hoffer, Carol Tyler, Evan Dorkin, Darcie Hoffer, Shena Wolf, James Moore. To get a greater understanding of Tom’s life and his impact on the world around him, please listen to these heartfelt, emotional, and sometimes funny remembrances of our friend. If you’d like to make a donation in Tom’s name, he requested that your gifts go to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, but he also would have been happy to know you supported your favorite artist, writer, or creator, however you can. Give it a listen!

“You realize I don’t do anything I don’t want to, right?”

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

Tom’s obit by Andy Downing will tell you plenty.

Here are some pix I took of the speakers. I forgot to take one of Whit.

Credits: These remarks were recorded at Tom Spurgeon’s memorial service at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum on 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. Memorial pins were designed by Chris Pitzer of AdHouse Books, based on a caricature of Tom by Sam Henderson. You can get one here. Memorial card portrait of Tom by Julian Dessai, with lettering and scrollwork by Emi Gennis, and layout and color separations by Laurenn McCubbin.

Virtual Memories Show 354:
Peter Kuper

“Heart of Darkness deserves to be canonical because it addresses through art what it means to be civilized and what it means to be savage, and touches on things happening now in our world: the madness of power.”

Political artist/illustrator Peter Kuper rejoins the show to talk about his new graphic adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (WW Norton). We get into the highwire act of addressing race without diluting the book or otherwise changing Conrad’s tale (that is, how do you balance adaptation and revisionism?), how Peter accidentally subjected himself to some of Marlow’s ill health while adapting the book, and how he used graphic storytelling to bring other perspectives to the story. We also discuss his trepidation about adapting a canonical book, his trepidation about drawing boats, and is trepidation about making an optimistic issue of World War 3 Illustrated. Oh, yeah, and he tells us about getting to hold Conrad’s diary from the river journey that inspired Heart of Darkness, his ongoing Spy Vs. Spy strips for Mad Magazine, and, on his 3rd appearance on the show, I finally ask him just where his progressivism started! Give it a listen! And go buy Heart of Darkness!

“One of the great ironies of censorship is that Mad Magazine was the only thing left standing after the other EC comics had to shut down, because it was more subversive than any of the others.”

“Art can speak some kind of truth that even photography fails at.”

“My intention with almost any project is to demonstrate what you can do with comics.”

“Adaptation is like taking a graduate class.”

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

Peter Kuper’s work appears regularly in The New Yorker, The Nation, and Mad, where he has written and illustrated “Spy vs. Spy” every issue since 1997. He is the co-founder of World War 3 Illustrated, a political comix magazine now in its 40th year of publication. He has produced more than two dozen books, including Sticks and Stones, The System, Diario de Oaxaca, Ruins (which won the 2016 Eisner Award), and Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories. His new book is Heart of Darkness.

Peter has lectured extensively throughout the world and has taught comics and illustration courses at Parsons, The School of Visual Arts, and Harvard University’s first class dedicated to graphic novels. A frequent guest at literary festivals, Peter enjoys traveling the world, but will always call New York City his home.

He is on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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

Virtual Memories Show 352:
Robb Armstrong

“These marks that the artist makes are our signature, our footprint. They have to stay.”

At Cartoon Crossroads Columbus – CXC, cartoonist Robb Armstrong joins the show to talk about celebrating 30 years of his nationally syndicated comic strip, JumpStart. We get into how he made the transition from gags to character-based humor, the early days of doing the comic strip while holding down a full-time job in advertising (and some absolutely crazy stories about how he used to get original art from Philadelphia up to the syndicate office in NYC), the pop culture references he regrets from the ’90s, and why believing in in his characters helps his readers believe in them, too. We also discuss the challenges of breaking into cartooning and the support he got from past African-American cartoonists like Morrie Turner and Buck Brown, the influence of Charles Schulz on his work and his character, the inescapability of Bill Watterson, how he learned to stop worrying about industry awards, and the move from Philly to LA and the lessons learned from going through the TV production process. We also get into his strong belief in helping other artists, why he thinks pencils and erasers are the devil’s tools, what he’d tell the Robb of 30 years ago about what he has to look forward to, and plenty more! Give it a listen! And go read JumpStart daily at GoComics!

“If I could go back 30 years, I’d tell myself: ‘Pace yourself.’ ‘Be grateful.’ And, ‘You can do a good strip every day.’”

“Perfection is not necessary when you’re thinking, when you’re drawing, when you’re creating something.”

“As sexy as it would have been, I bet I dodged a bullet not getting a TV show. I don’t think the strip would have survived the cancellation of a show, and these shows have such a short life span.”

“Helping a young person solidify their belief in what they can do isn’t just a good deed, it’s extremely urgent. Without saying to a young person, ‘You’re special; you need to do this,’ you’re pulling up the ladder, and that’s not right.”

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

Robb Armstrong is the creator of the nationally syndicated comic strip JumpStart, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, and will see a retrospective collection in 2020. He is also the author of Fearless: A Cartoonist’s Guide to Life.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Hotel LeVeque during CXC – Cartoon Crossroads Columbus 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. Armstrong by me. It’s on my instagram.