Virtual Memories Show 263:
Jonathan Ames

“For me, all writing — scripts, essays, novels — it comes down to enjoying writing a sentence.”

On the eve of the premiere of You Were Never Really Here, writer Jonathan Ames returns to his stomping grounds of northern NJ to talk about crime novels, the literary pilgrimages of his youth, getting laughs at AA meetings, and more. We get into the process of seeing his novella adapted into film, his decade-long fascination with Richard Stark’s Parker novels, the catharses and paradoxes of his confessional writing, learning on the fly to write for TV and working with a writers’ room for Bored to Death and Blunt Talk, the experience of studying creative writing at Princeton under Joyce Carol Oates, learning The Secret to stop being cheap with himself, his favorite writing form (given that he’s made novels, stories, columns, nonfiction, films, TV, and comics), the act of subsuming himself into fictional characters, the bizarre error on his IMDB page that left me totally flummoxed, and the amazing NJ coincidence of one of the locations used in the movie. Give it a listen! And go buy You Were Never Really Here and go catch the movie!

“With this movie being made of my book, it’s like I’m throwing a party, but I’m not invited.”

“In the novel, you can do everything. The reader is there, collaborating with you. You’re making that art together.”

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

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About our Guest

Jonathan Ames is the author of the novels I Pass Like Night, The Extra Man, Wake Up, Sir!, the graphic novel The Alcoholic (illustrated by Dean Haspiel), the novella You Were Never Really Here, and the essay collections What’s Not to Love?, My Less Than Secret Life, I Love You More Than You Know, and The Double Life Is Twice as Good. He is the editor of Sexual Metamorphosis: An Anthology of Transsexual Memoirs, and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is also the creator of two television shows: the HBO series Bored to Death and the STARZ series Blunt Talk. His novel The Extra Man was made into a film starring Kevin Kline, and You Were Never Really Here has been adapted for the screen, starring Joaquin Phoenix.

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 my 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. Ames by me. It’s on my instagram.

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