Virtual Memories Show 397:
Daniel Mendelsohn

“Each of my four books is secretly exploring a genre: lyric, epic, novel, and I’m not even sure what this one is, but I wrote it entirely to please myself.”

With Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate (UVA Press), Daniel Mendelsohn has written one of my favorite books of 2020. We get into Homer’s use of Ring Composition and how it shapes Three Rings, how this book grew out of his experience writing An Odyssey, why he chose François Fénelon, Eric Auerbach, and WG Sebald as the three exiled subjects of his book, and how we understand the relationship between “what happened” and “the story of what happened” (that is, how narration changes the nature of facts). We also get into how he managed to compress and capture just about all of his major themes in his briefest book, why Auerbach disliked ring composition, and what it says about Homeric vs. Hebrew — or optimistic vs. pessimistic — styles of story, how every story has more stories embedded in it, and why Istanbul may serve as the fusion of Athens & Jerusalem. We also get into Daniel’s pandemic experience and coping mechanisms for anxiety and dread, his mom’s involvement in Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary about the Holocaust in America, why translation is like a crossword puzzle for him, the negatives of focusing on STEM to the detriment of the liberal arts, and how we can both relate to Auerbach’s comment, “If it had been possible for me to acquaint myself with all the work that has been done on so many subjects, I might have never reached the point of writing.” Give it a listen! And go read Three Rings! (& check out our previous conversation!)

“I was very attracted to the idea of the way in which their own wandering lives ended up being analogs for the narratives they ended up being interested in.”

“For the writer, anything is a subject. Even nothing is a subject, so to speak.”

“Colleges are going to abandon the humanities and go for more STEM stuff than ever, because it’s ’employable’. The irony is that NEVER have we needed the humanities more, because that’s the stuff that tells you how to deal with these crises.”

TUNEIN LINK TK

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, and Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones. His new book is Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate

There’s a longer version at his website.

Follow Daniel on Twitter and Instagram.

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

Virtual Memories Show 392:
David Mikics

“The thing about Kubrick is that the more you see the movies — they’re tantalizing, they entice you to come back to them again and again — the more you come back, the more you see.”

With his new book, Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker (Yale University Press), David Mikics explores the life and movies of one of cinema’s greatest directors. We talk about David’s intro to his work (seeing 2001 at the age of 12 (!)) and the research that went into this concise and wonderful biography, why Kubrick’s movies work as literary experiences, which of his movies speaks most to This Whole Situation we’re in, and Kubrick’s Jewishness and the holocaust movie he could never make. We get into the director’s perfectionism, right down to his movies’ newspaper advertising, how he balanced being control-freak in a collaborative medium like film, the role of masculinity and the lack of women in many of his movies, and the unmade projects we wish he had gotten around to (he wanted to adapt Chess Story, my favorite Stefan Zweig story!). We also get into David’s experiences with the late Harold Bloom, how he’s adapted to teaching via Zoom, whether Lolita (the novel, not Kubrick’s adaptation) survives the ‘cancel culture’ era, and why The Shining is his comfort movie, disturbing as that sounds. Give it a listen! And go read Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker!

“I was always inspired by how Harold Bloom combined his interest in books with his interest in people. He once said the reason we read books is that we don’t have enough time to meet all the interesting people.”

“His movies are a kind of excavation of the male psyche.”

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

David Mikics is Moores Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Houston, as well as a columnist for Tablet magazine. His most recent books are Bellow’s People and Slow Reading in a Hurried Age. He also edited the Library of America edition of Harold Bloom’s essays, The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon. He lives in Brooklyn, NY and Houston, TX. His new book is Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker.

Follow David on Facebook and listen to our 2016 conversation.

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

Virtual Memories Show 368:
Tess Lewis

“Oblivion works its way through the world.”

Translator Tess Lewis joins the show to talk about co-curating the 2020 (now 2021) edition of Festival Neue Literatur, why editing a bad translation is much tougher than just translating it yourself, the book she’s proudest of translating (Maja Haderlap’s Angel of Oblivion), and the project that is the most difficult (Ludwig Hohl’s Notizen), how the business and culture has changed, her dream project of translating Montaigne (swoon!), and how literature — especially in translation — can disrupt the familiar and familiarize what seems strange. This episode was intended to promote the Festival Neue Literatur, which was to be held April 23-26, 2020 but has been postponed along with everything else; I decided to keep it all to remind us of The Before Times. Give it a listen! And go check out some of Tess’ translations!

“A constant discussion among translators: what is the right tone, how close should you be, how much should you reinvent?”

“Montaigne is one of those writers who never ages, but his translations do.”

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

Tess Lewis is a writer and translator from French and German. Her translations include works by Peter Handke, Walter Benjamin, Klaus Merz, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Christine Angot, Pascal Bruckner and Jean-Luc Benoziglio. She has been awarded grants from PEN USA, PEN UK, and the NEA, a Max Geilinger Translation Grant for her translation of Philippe Jaccottet, the ACFNY Translation Prize and the 2017 PEN Translation Prize for her translation of the novel Angel of Oblivion by the Austrian writer Maja Haderlap, and most recently a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. She is Co-chair of the PEN Translation Committee and Advisory Editor for The Hudson Review. Her essays and reviews have appeared in a number of journals and newspapers including Bookforum, Partisan Review, The Hudson Review, World Literature Today, The Wall Street Journal and The American Scholar.

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

Virtual Memories Show 297:
Shachar Pinsker

“This is the story of Jewish migration through the lens of coffeehouses.”

Jews have a long tradition with coffee (I can attest!). In A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture (NYU Press), Professor Shachar Pinsker explores the intersection of modernistic Hebrew literature and coffee. We get into the story of Jewish migration through Europe and into America and Israel, why coffeehouses were the silk road of secular Jewish creativity, the golden age of feuilletons, the semitic roots of coffee culture, the way A Rich Brew is about big cities as much as it is about coffeehouses, the importance of thirdspace to bridge the social and the private, and how Shachar narrowed the book down to 6 representative cities. We also get into how his Yeshiva education helped his secular literary studies, his night-and-day visits to Warsaw, and just how we define “modern Jewish culture”! Give it a listen! And go buy A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture!

“This topic and this book took me to places I never imagined I was going to go, both metaphorically and physically.”

“Some say that what characterizes modern Jewish culture is exactly asking the question of what 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, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Taken from Shachar’s faculty page:

As a specialist in modern Hebrew and Jewish literature and culture, I am interested in Hebrew literature  written in Palestine/Israel, Europe and America, as well as Jewish literature in Yiddish, English, German and other languages. I have a joint appointment at the department of Middle Eastern Studies and the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan.

I am the author of A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture (NYU Press, 2018), the award-winning book Literary Passports: The Making of Modernist Hebrew Fiction in Europe (Stanford, 2011). My third book (in progress) is A Silent Language? Yiddish in Israeli Literature.

I am the editor of Women’s Hebrew Poetry on American Shores: Poems by Anne Kleiman and Annabelle Farmelant (Wayne State University, 2016), and  the editor of In the Place where Sea and Sky Meet: Israeli Yiddish Stories (Magnes Press, forthcoming 2018), in Hebrew. I am also the co-editor of Hebrew, Gender and Modernity: Critical Responses to Dvora Baron’s Fiction (Maryland, 2007).

I publish articles in scholarly journals, as well as in Ha’aertz, The New Republic, The Jewish Week and other journals and newspapers.

I lecture widely around the world on all aspects of my research and writing, and as part of the AJS Distinguished Lectureship Program.

I teach a variety of courses in English and Hebrew for undergraduate and graduate students. I am also teaching a course abroad in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I integrate technology and Digital Humanities in my scholarship and teaching.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mykonos Blue Grill 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. Pinsker by me. It’s 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.