Virtual Memories Show:
The Guest List 2018 and Bill Kartalopoulos

Comics scholar (and curator, and editor, and educator) Bill Kartalopoulos joins the show to talk about his role as the series editor of Best American Comics (HMH)! We get into the process of winnowing down the year’s best, working with a new guest editor each year, Bill’s history in comics, the challenges of fitting everything to a standard page size, programming festivals and his tricks for getting a weird mix of panelists, his upcoming general history of North American comics, and plenty more! Give it a listen (Bill’s conversation starts at 46:00) and pick up this year’s edition of The Best American Comics 2018!

But first, it’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories Show tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2018’s pod-guests and asked them about the favorite book(s) they read in the past year, as well as the books or authors they’re hoping to read in 2019! Nearly 3 dozen responded with a dizzying array of books. (I participated, too!) Just in time for you to make some Christmas purchases (or a belated Hanukkah gift), The Virtual Memories Show offers up a huge list of books that you’re going to want to read! Give it a listen, and get ready to update your wish lists!

This year’s Guest List episode features selections from nearly 3 dozen of our recent guests (and one bonus guest)! So go give it a listen, and then visit our special Guest List page where you can find links to the books and the guests who responded.

Also, check out the 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 editions of The Guest List for more great book ideas!

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About our Guests

The guests who participated in this year’s Guest List are Jerry Beck, Christopher Brown, Dave Calver, Roz Chast, Mark Dery, Michael Gerber, Cathy B Graham, Dean Haspiel, Steven Heller, Richard Kadrey, Paul Karasik, Ken Krimstein, Nora Krug, John Leland, Alberto Manguel, Hal Mayforth, Dave McKean, Mark Newgarden, Audrey Niffenegger, Jim Ottaviani, Robert Andrew Parker, Shachar Pinsker, Nathaniel Popkin, Chris Reynolds, Lance Richardson, JJ Sedelmaier, David Small, Willard Spiegelman, Levi Stahl, Lavie Tidhar, Mark Ulriksen, Irvin Ungar, Henry Wessells . . . and me, Gil Roth! Check out their episodes at our archives!

About our Guest

Bill Kartalopoulos is a comics critic, educator, curator and editor. He is the Series Editor for the #1 New York Times best-selling Best American Comics series published annually by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He teaches classes at Parsons and at SVA. He lives in Brooklyn, where he is writing a book about comics.

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

Virtual Memories Show 298:
Summer Pierre

“A mix-tape isn’t just saying, ‘I want you to enjoy this’, it’s, ‘I want you to enjoy me making this.'”

In her new graphic memoir, All the Sad Songs (Retrofit Comics), Summer Pierre uses the mix-tapes of her 20s and 30s to tell us the story of her life, one wrong boyfriend, one cross-country drive, one Boston folk stage set at a time. We talk about the soundtracks to our lives, the memoir & comics influences that gave her permission to tackle her PTSD issues on the page, the discovery that she was making a 104-page comic instead of the 25-page one she set out to draw (or “getting used by the muse”), and how surprised she was that college students know what a mix-tape is. We also get into her artistic maturation out of the kamikaze-style of making comics, the Boston folk music scene she was in/around in her 20s, the somatic therapy that helped her deal with PTSD, the notion that mixes are self-portraits, and wanting to be her mother’s biographer, but realizing she knew almost nothing about her mom’s insane life. Give it a listen! And go buy All the Sad Songs!

“This book’s about memory and the power of art to narrate our lives.”

“I’m a big believer in deadlines, boundaries, the small constraints that set up work for you.”

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

Summer Pierre is a cartoonist, illustrator, writer, and teacher living in the Hudson Valley, New York. She is the author of the graphic memoir, All the Sad Songs, and the autobiographical comic series, Paper Pencil Life. Her other books include The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week, and Great Gals: Inspired Ideas for Living a Kick-Ass Life. Her writing and art have appeared in PEN America, The Rumpus, The Comics Journal, and The Nashville Review among other places.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Summer’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. Photo of Ms. Pierre 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 295:
Angela Himsel

“In the end, sometimes, your writing becomes what it wants to be, despite yourself.”

How did Angela Himsel make the transformation from rural Indiana and apocalyptic, fundamentalist Christianity to the Upper West Side of Manhattan and observant Judaism? Her new memoir, A River Could Be a Tree (Fig Tree Books) chronicles that process, bringing to life a story of family and discovery. I talk with the award-winning columnist about how she came to Judaism from the Worldwide Church of God, when she met Jews for the first time, what Israel means to her, and what she considers the weirdest aspect of Judaism. We get into the difference between seeing the world as the emanation of God and seeing it as the Devil’s playground, her conversion to Philip Roth-ism, the beautiful family secret she uncovered in the process of writing her book, the decision to include her terrible teenage poetry in the memoir, why God may need therapy, and the Rapture-based prank she and her siblings still pull on each other. Give it a listen! And go buy A River Could Be a Tree: A Memoir!

“The toughest part of making the decision to convert was saying, ‘I’m just going to leave the past behind, it’s really not working.'”

“It was hard for me to put my self in my own story, to be honest.”

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

Angela Himsel’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Jewish Week, Forward, Lilith and elsewhere. Her column “Angetevka” ran on Zeek.net won two American Jewish Press Association Awards. Angela holds a BA from Indiana University, which included two years at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and an MFA from The City College of New York. She grew up the seventh of eleven children in rural southern Indiana in a fundamentalist, doomsday, Christian faith. She converted to Judaism and lives in New York City. A River Could Be a Tree traces that journey.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Angela’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. Photo of me & Ms. Himsel by me. It’s on my instagram. (Not sure who the main image is by.)

Virtual Memories Show 294:
Mark Dery

“I wanted to allow Gorey not only a degree of mystery . . . but also to convey his belief in the value of lacunae, of gaps.”

For his first biography, Mark Dery picked a doozy of a subject: the great, creepy, droll, mysterious artist and writer Edward Gorey. We talk about Mark’s brand-new book, Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey (Little, Brown), his one in-person encounter with Gorey, how Gorey’s sexuality did and didn’t inform his work, and the challenge of writing the biography of an artist whose work always invited the reader to fill in the gaps. We get into how Gotham Book Mart made a cottage industry out of Gorey, the long-range impact of Gorey on America’s pop culture, the queerness of children’s literature beginning in the ’50s, the influence of Asian art and philosophy on Gorey’s work, his devotion to ballet and Balanchine, why the epic catalog makes for a great biographical tool, and a lot more, like Mark’s lifelong one-sided relationship with Patti Smith! Give it a listen! And go buy Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey!

“One of the fascinating things about Gorey is how he problematizes and challenges some of the underlying assumptions about our age of identity politics.”

“Somehow I thought performance poetry was a growth industry.”

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

Mark Dery is a cultural critic. He coined the term “Afrofuturism,” popularized the concept of “culture jamming,” taught at Yale and NYU, and has published widely on pop culture, the media, and on the mythologies (and pathologies) of American life. His books include Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture, a seminal anthology of writings on digital culture; Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century, The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink, and the essay collection, I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-by Essays on American Dread, American Dreams. Like Gorey, his mission in life “is to make everybody as uneasy as possible.” His new book is Born to Be Posthumous.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mark’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 Mark Dery by me and C. Taylor Crothers. The bookshelf one is on my instagram.