how-architecture-worksVirtual Memories Show:
Witold Rybczynski –
Thru’ These Architect’s Eyes

“An architect doesn’t build something just because he wants to build it. But as a writer, you can say, ‘I have an idea for a book.'”

Witold Rybczynski joins the show to talk about architecture! The renowned writer, scholar, and former architect discusses his newest book, How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit, and talks about that humanist approach to buildings, the problems with Brutalist architecture, the importance of having a canon of great buildings, the ways that digital technology are changing the practice of architecture, why there’s no such thing as a ‘theory of architecture’, the reasons Philadelphia has such marvelous buildings, what it means to ‘review’ a building, why the ‘Starchitect’ phenomenon doesn’t make for better buildings, and whether it’s possible to improve the appearance of malls. Give it a listen!

“There was an enormous excitement about concrete in the early 20th century.”

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We also talk about the joys of architecture school, why he got out of the practice, the farthest he’s ever traveled to see a building, how he got started as a writer, his favorite period for American architecture, and how architectural criticism differs from that of other forms (and why it’s a pointless exercise)!

“[The impact of digital technology on teaching and practicing architecture] is like reinventing the English language. You know what a disaster Esperanto was.”

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

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About our Guest

Witold Rybczynski was born in Edinburgh, of Polish parentage, raised in London, and attended Jesuit schools in England and Canada. He studied architecture at McGill University in Montreal, where he also taught for twenty years. He is Emeritus Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Rybczynski has designed and built houses as a registered architect, as well as doing practical experiments in low-cost housing, which took him to Mexico, Nigeria, India, the Philippines, and China. He has written for the Atlantic, New Yorker, New York Review of Books, and the New York Times, and has been architecture critic for Saturday Night, Wigwag, and Slate. From 2004 to 2012 he served on the U. S. Commission of Fine Arts. His most recent book is How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit, and he is the author of many other books, including, Home: A Short History of an Idea, The Most Beautiful House in the World, A Clearing In The Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century, Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture, and My Two Polish Grandfathers: And Other Essays on the Imaginative Life.

He lives with his wife Shirley Hallam in an old stone house, the Icehouse, in Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia. He says, “I don’t think of myself as someone with hobbies — I garden under pressure — but the artifacts I’ve owned for longest are well-used hand-tools. I don’t collect anything, but I have a lot of books.” He is on Twitter at @witoldr.

Credits: This episode’s music is I’m Goin’ Home by The Rolling Stones (because Witold wrote the book, Home, and because this song shuffled up on my iPod while I was driving to his home). The conversation was recorded at Mr. Rybczynski’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 Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Rybczynski by me.

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Virtual Memories Show:
Walter Kirn – The Confidence Man

“He could not imagine what went on in other people’s hearts and minds any more than you and I could imagine what it’s like to live on Jupiter.”

Author and journalist Walter Kirn joins the show to discuss his latest book, Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade (Liveright Press), which chronicles his relationship with con artist/sociopath “Clark Rockefeller”. We talk about how Clark hacked the social software, how attending Princeton and Oxford prepared Walt to be fooled by Clark’s lies, why he thinks Clark was actually a progenitor of the social media age, whether writing his best book was worth losing his faith in humanity, what it felt like to be the Nick Carraway to Rockefeller’s Gatsby, and more! Give it a listen!

“One thing I learned is that I might never have found out about Clark’s lies if he hadn’t made a mistake.”

16481866937_cfb3fbe682_zWe also talk about the three things that are most often smuggled into California prisons, what (if anything) can be done to pre-empt sociopaths, the experience of getting trolled by a convicted murderer, the advice he gleaned from Joan Didion before starting up his Great American Novel, what he thinks of New York under DeBlasio, what brought him to Montana and what keeps him there, and where the name “Virtual Memories” comes from!

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

Walter Kirn is the author of eight books and an e-book. His most recent is Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade, a memoir of his friendship with the con artist and murderer, Clark Rockefeller. His other books include Up in the Air, Thumbsucker (both of which have been made in to feature films), Mission to America, My Mother’s Bible (e-book), The Unbinding, She Needed Me, My Hard Bargain, and Lost in the Meritocracy. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, GQ, New York, and Esquire, among other publications.

Credits: This episode’s music is The Secret Silken World by David Baerwald. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Kirn’s apartment on a Zoom H2n digital recorder, because the XLR cables I bought from Monoprice turned out to be crap. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photos of Mr. Kirn by me.

ronhoganVirtual Memories Show:
Ron Hogan & Josh Alan Friedman – It Came From Gen X!

“You grow up imagining all these writers live in mansions and have their private, elegant writing rooms. But the working reality for most writers is not that different from the working reality for working class to middle class people.”

Editor, book-blogger and podcaster Ron Hogan joins the show to talk about his 20-year history with the literary internet, launching Beatrice.com, interviewing his favorite writers, podcasting Life Stories, taking the wrong lessons from the work of Harlan Ellison, defending Hudson Hawk, retaining his inner fanboy, discovering romance fiction, overcoming gender/race imbalances in publishing (and podcasting), using Foucault as cover for being a pugnacious asshole, getting to meet James Ellroy, Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, and Cornel West, and generally trying to overthrow the hegemony. Give it a listen!

“We severely underestimated the ability of corporate media to assimilate challenges to it.”

IMG_1689But first, Josh Alan Friedman offers us his reminiscences and reflections on the great Joe Franklin, who passed away last weekend at the age of 88. Josh wrote a wonderful piece on Joe in 2012, so I called him down in Texas and invited him to tell us about this legendary celebrity fixture of New York. (That’s “Handsome Dick” Manitoba” with Joe in March 2014.) (Oh, and check out our first Josh Alan Friedman episode over here!)

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

Ron Hogan helped create the literary Internet by launching Beatrice.com in 1995. He is currently an editor at Regan Arts, acquiring both fiction and nonfiction titles. He maintains an active presence in New York City’s literary scene, hosting and curating events such as Lady Jane’s Salon, the first monthly reading series dedicated to romance fiction. (Previously, he curated a series of conversations between authors and bloggers at Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore.)

He was a columnist at Shelf Awareness, and has written book reviews and feature stories for publications like Tor.com, the Dallas Morning News, Buzzfeed and The Daily Beast. He spent several years writing about the business side of publishing as a senior editor for GalleyCat, then briefly worked with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as their director of e-marketing strategy. He speaks frequently at book festivals and publishing conferences about how to make the best use of social networking tools, advances in digital publishing, and other transformative trends in the publishing industry.

Credits: This episode’s music is Here and Now by Letters to Cleo, on account of all the Gen X references we made. The conversation was recorded 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. Hogan by me. Photo of Joe Franklin & “Handsome Dick” Manitoba by me.

15779369618_00f57991fe_mVirtual Memories Show:
Claudia Young – The Sprinter

“Being in a wheelchair didn’t change me; it just made things harder to do.”

From the Flora-Bama to Vietnam, Claudia Young has sprinted through life. We got together to talk about running songwriting workshops in Nashville, redesigning the menu for the hippest bar in Cleveland, living in the Chelsea Hotel as a teen, and being confined to a wheelchair for the past 35 years. We also talk about food-blogging, southeast Asia’s pull on her, the place she regrets she’ll never visit, what she’s reading, and getting the sear on a scallop! It’s a fascinating conversation, so give it a listen!

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

Claudia Young used to blog at CookEatFret. She should probably get back to that.

Credits: This episode’s music is The Wheel by Roseann Cash. The conversation was recorded 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. Young by me, photo of both of us by Amy Roth.

levismallVirtual Memories Show:
Levi Stahl – Simple Tricks and Nonsense

“The biggest thing I learned editing The Getaway Car is that a working writer’s work is never done.”

Let’s kick off 2015 with a podcast about one of the 20th century’s great America writers, Donald Westlake! Our guest, Levi Stahl, is the editor of The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany (University of Chicago Press). We talk about his history with Westlake’s crime novels, why Parker is Westlake’s greatest achievement, why the author wrote under so many pseudonyms, what it was like to be a working writer and how that concept may not exist nowadays, and what Westlake project he’d love to bring into print.

We also talk about Levi’s day job as publicity manager for U of Chicago Press, his advice for people looking to get into publishing, why he loves twitter, how the internet has helped and hurt book criticism, what makes him put a book down, what he’s learned about book marketing over the years, his favorite menswear store in NYC, how he can support both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, and more! Give it a listen!

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

Levi Stahl is the publicity manager for the University of Chicago Press. He has served as the poetry editor for the Quarterly Conversation, and has written for the Poetry Foundation, the Chicago Reader, the Second Pass, the Bloomsbury Review, the Front Table, the New-York Ghost, the New York Moon, and McSweeneys Internet Tendency. He tweets at @levistahl

Credits: This episode’s music is Life of Crime by The Triffids. The conversation was recorded 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. Stahl by me.