Beauty_Cover_HomeVirtual Memories Show #129:
Amanda Filipacchi – Donkey Skin

“I love the notion of great beauty hidden in ugliness. Or vice versa.”

Amanda Filipacchi joins this week’s show to talk about her latest novel, The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty: A Novel (WW Norton), her solution to sexism in the publishing world, her misgivings about contributing to a website of authors’ 10 favorite books, her attraction to surrealism and fairy tales, her garden-of-forking-paths approach to fiction, and more! Give it a listen!

“My big life obsession is my lack of productivity and my constant struggle to be more productive. . . . In theory, I have a routine, but I don’t find myself sticking to it.”

Also, I make a pretty amazing bookstore discovery in the airport in Milwaukee, and give (as expected) heady praise to Clive James’ new essay collection, Latest Readings.

We talk about a bunch of books in this episode. Here’s a list of ’em (Note: if I ever go to a Patreon crowdfunding model for the show, this is the first thing that goes subscriber-only):

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Amanda Filipacchi is the author of four novels: Nude Men (Viking/Penguin 1993), Vapor (Carroll & Graf, 1999), Love Creeps (St. Martin’s Press, 2005), and The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty (W. W. Norton, Feb. 2015). Her fiction has been translated into fourteen languages and been anthologized in The Best American Humor 1994 (Simon & Schuster), Voices Of the X-iled (Doubleday), and The Good Parts: The Best Erotic Writing in Modern Fiction (Berkley Books). Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic.

Born in Paris, France, Amanda Filipacchi was educated in both France and the US, and has lived in New York since the age of seventeen. She earned a BA from Hamilton College and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. She lives in Manhattan with Richard Hine, also a novelist.

Credits: This episode’s music is Head in a Box by Lori Carson. The conversation was recorded at an undisclosed location on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Ms. Filipacchi by Marion Ettlinger.

browsingscoverVirtual Memories Show #127:
Michael Dirda –
The Meandering Reflections of a Literary Sybarite

“I enjoy going back to Lorain, Ohio because I’m reminded that the world of Washington and the East Coast literary establishment is a very narrow, special one that’s parochial in its own way. The rest of the world has other concerns: family, job and life in general. Whereas we get all up in arms about very minor things.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning book reviewer Michael Dirda rejoins the show to talk about his new collection, Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books (Pegasus Books). We discuss the importance of reading for pleasure, the difference between book-collecting and shopping, the role of the book reviewer (and how it differs from that of the critic), a recent negative review he didn’t want to write, why he doesn’t read reviews of his work, what his mother said when he won the Pulitzer Prize, and more! Give it a listen!

“The books that you don’t grasp immediately, the ones that leave you off-kilter . . . those are often the books that really last, and matter.”

Our first three-time guest also talks about the democratization of book reviewing, the problems of storing books in his basement, what he wants an author to think upon reading his book review of a book, his affinity for Clive James’ work, whether his reviews have a coded autobiographical element to them, how the limitations of the book review form shaped his style, why he disagrees with John Clute’s philosophy on spoilers, and more! Go listen!

We talk about a lot of books in this episode. Here’s a list of ’em (Note: if I ever go to a Patreon crowdfunding model for the show, this is the first thing that goes subscriber-only):

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

dirdaheadMichael Dirda is a weekly book columnist for The Washington Post, and he received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. He is the author of the memoir, An Open Book: Chapters fom a Reader’s Life, and of four previous collections of essays: Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments, Bound to Please, Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life, and Classics for Pleasure, in addition to his newest collection, Browsings. His previous book, On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling, received a 2012 Edgar Award for best critical/biographical work of the year. Michael Dirda graduated with Highest Honors in English from Oberlin College and earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature (medieval studies and European romanticism) from Cornell University. He is a contributor to The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, the online Barnes & Noble Review, The American Spectator, and several other periodicals, as well as a frequent lecturer and an occasional college teacher.

Credits: This episode’s music is Ah, Putrefaction by Jaristo, from Hans Zimmer’s film music for Sherlock Holmes. The conversation was recorded at the Boston Marriott Burlington on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Dirda by me.

512GaVsYlgL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_Virtual Memories Show #125:
Dan Perkins (Tom Tomorrow) – Signal Boost

“This Kickstarter, this is me, having seen my incredibly negative narrative and hopeless sense of the future just blasted out of the water. I feel like this week has changed my life.”

Dan Perkins (better known as Tom Tomorrow) is celebrating 25 years of his cartoon, This Modern World, with a kick-ass Kickstarter project to collect all of his strips in a two-volume, slipcased edition! Shockingly (to him, but not the rest of us), his fans hit his funding target in less than 24 hours, and more than doubled it by press time. (It’s open though August 4, 2015, so there’s time to make a contribution!) I caught up with a flabbergasted Perkins to talk about the resounding level of fan support for the project, the detective/archeologist work of compiling 25 years’ worth of his strips, the trepidation he had about looking at his early work, how This Modern World changed over the years, especially after the advent of the internet, how he fights against burnout on a weekly basis, how the validation of this Kickstarter experience has changed his view of the future, and more! Give it a listen!

“Charles Schulz said if he were a better writer, he’d be a novelist, and if he were a better artist, he’d be a painter, but he’s kinda good at both, so he’s a cartoonist. I’ve always held onto that.”

We also talk about his early attempt at doing a mainstream daily comic strip, his cartooning influences, his favorite contemporary political cartoonists (and his apologies for any influence he had on them), what he wants to do next, whether the cartoons work as a coded diary of his life, why having to make a comic about a terrible event is like sewer-work, why a Trump presidential candidacy is no fun for his comics, the way This Modern World once served as a pirate radio signal, and why Pearl Jam lent him a hand on his Kickstarter (which, as I mentioned, is open through August 4, if you want to take part)!

“The internet has given mankind low-grade telepathy. We are now in this low-grade hive-mind where we have access to the darkest and most disturbing thoughts of many of our fellow humans. I think it used to be easier to maintain illusions about humanity.”

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

18965063854_514aac0dd0_mTom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins) lives outside New Haven, CT with his wife (a professor of modern political history at Yale University) and their twelve year old son. His weekly cartoon, This Modern World, appears online at The Nation, and Daily Kos, and in approximately 80 papers across the country. His cartoons have also been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Nation, U.S. News & World Report, Esquire, The Economist, and numerous other publications.

He was the 2013 recipient of the Herblock Prize, and was awarded the first place Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Cartooning in 1998 and again in 2003. He was also a finalist for the Pulitze Prize in 2015. He has also been awarded the first place Media Alliance Meritorious Achievement Award for Excellence in Journalism, the first place Society of Professional Journalists’ James Madison Freedom of Information Award, the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, and the Association for Education in Journalism Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award. He is the author of 10 cartoon anthologies and one children’s book, and in 2009 collaborated with the band Pearl Jam to create the artwork for their Backspacer album.

Credits: This episode’s music is Just Breathe by Pearl Jam. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Perkins’ home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Perkins by me.

brothersseaVirtual Memories Show #124:
Jonathan David Kranz – Don’t Fall

“I feel some frustration with contemporary literary fiction: there’s stuff that’s well written without really being good writing. Lovely prose, but stories that feel flat and empty.”

Jonathan David Kranz joins the show to talk about his new novel, Our Brothers at the Bottom of the Bottom of the Sea (Henry Holt). We talk about what makes the Jersey Shore different from any other seaside amusement region, what he learned while writing for the YA category, the value of Grub Street writing courses vs. an MFA, and more! Give it a listen!

“New Jersey has two urban centers: New York and Philadelphia. And what they have in common is that neither one is in New Jersey.”

We also compare our New Jerseys (I go on at length; sorry), then talk about his history with the Society for Industrial Archeology, what it’s like to celebrate 20 years as a freelance commercial copywriter (and it is cause to celebrate), what he had to unlearn from that career in order to write fiction, and what it was like when he came face to face with the Jungian nature of Tilly the clown.

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

On his blog, Jonathan David Kranz writes, “I was born on an island, Manhattan, but grew up in New Jersey, where I did not go to the beach as often as I would have liked. I studied painting in college (Rutgers), then framed pictures, installed kitchen cabinets, and worked as a backstage theater go-fer before pursuing my MFA in creative writing. True to form, I bummed around again—this time with a family in tow, making my living as a marketing copywriter—before a vacation in Ocean City gave me the inspiration for my first novel, Our Brothers at the Bottom of the Bottom of the Sea. Today, I live with family (and an annoying little dog) in a suburb north of Boston.”

Credits: This episode’s music is 4th of July by Lori Carson. The conversation was recorded at the Virtual Memories Studio on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro.

merrillcoverVirtual Memories Show #123:
Langdon Hammer –
The Hidden Wish of Words

“What I really cared about most, what drew me, was the relationship between lives and work, between how we live and what we do, and what we do with it. And that’s one of James Merrill’s major subjects.”

Langdon Hammer, Chair of the Yale English department, joins the show to talk about his new biography, James Merrill: Life and Art (Knopf) (and one of the best books I’ve read this year). We discuss Merrill’s allure as a poet and the alchemy that allowed him to turn base wealth into artistic gold. He also talks about learning the art of literary biography on the fly, the challenge of recreating Merrill’s life in Greece, Merrill’s silence over AIDS, how we can understand the Ouija board-derived poems of Merrill’s masterwork, and more! Give it a listen!

“Alchemy is a theme in Merrill’s writing. How is he going to make his own gold, how is he going to transform the lead of his father’s money into a higher value?”

We also learn about Langdon’s decades at Yale and how students have changed during his time there, what the globalization of English poetry means for the form, why he considers The Book of Ephraim to be James Merrill’s greatest poem, and the farthest he traveled to research the book.

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

langdonpicLangdon Hammer is chair of the English Department at Yale and the poetry editor of The American Scholar. His books include Hart Crane and Allen Tate: Janus-Faced Modernism and, as editor for the Library of America, Hart Crane: Complete Poems and Selected Letters and May Swenson: Collected Poems. His lectures on modern poetry are available free online at Yale Open Courses. There’s a more extensive bio at JamesMerrillWeb, if you’d like to check that out. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

Credits: This episode’s music is Lust for Life by Iggy Pop. The conversation was recorded at Prof. Hammer’s office at Yale on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro.