Virtual Memories Show:
The Guest List 2017

It’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories Show tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2017’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 2018! Three dozen responded with a dizzying array of books. (I participated, too!) Just in time for you to make some Hanukkah and/or Christmas purchases, 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 36 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, and 2016 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 Pete Bagge, Kathy Bidus, Sven Birkerts, RO Blechman, Kyle Cassidy, Graham Chaffee, Howard Chaykin, Joe Ciardiello, John Clute, John Crowley, John Cuneo, Ellen Datlow, Samuel R. Delany, Nicholas Delbanco, Barbara Epler, Joyce Farmer, Sarah Williams Goldhagen, Paul Gravett, Liz Hand, Vanda Krefft, Michael Meyer, Cullen Murphy, Jeff Nunokawa, Mimi Pond, Eddy Portnoy, Keiler Roberts, Martin Rowson, Matt Ruff, Ben Schwartz, Vanessa Sinclair, Ann Telnaes, Michael Tisserand, Gordon Van Gelder, Shannon Wheeler, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Matt Wuerker . . . and me, Gil Roth! Check out their episodes at our archives!

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The episode was recorded 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.

Virtual Memories Show 240:
John Crowley & Michael Meyer

“Writing has made people feel unsafe and uncomfortable since, oh, the Bible.”

One of my favorite authors, John Crowley, returns to the show to talk about his “final dress novel,” the wonderful Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr (Saga Press). We talk about the sense of his various endings, writing a talking animal book that’s actually about an old man dying, the challenges of reaching a broader audience and why he returned to fantastika, his retirement from teaching at Yale and his thoughts on how students have changed, his Catholic upbringing and how it informed his writing, the pressure of new rules and norms on writers, the radical challenge of sympathy, and more. But first, I call Michael Meyer to talk about his new book, The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up (Bloomsbury). We get into what Americans really need to know about China, how the country has changed in the 20+ years that he’s been working and living there (on and off), and why Pittsburgh is the Beijing of the US. Give it a listen! And go buy Ka & The Road to Sleeping Dragon!

“We will figure out how to write exactly what we want to write, but within a coded system where we can speak to one another as adults, while people who want to check it against the present rules can read it that way, but we’ll know better.”

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

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About our Guests

A two-time winner of a Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing, Michael Meyer is also the recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award for nonfiction and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His stories have appeared in The New York Times, Time, Smithsonian, Slate, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and on This American Life. The author of The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed and In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, Meyer teaches nonfiction writing at the University of Pittsburgh. His new book is The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up.

John Crowley was born in the appropriately liminal town of Presque Isle, Maine in 1942, his father then an officer in the US Army Air Corps. He grew up in Vermont, northeastern Kentucky and (for the longest stretch) Indiana, where he went to high school and college. He moved to New York City after college to make movies and found work in documentary films, an occupation he still pursues. He published his first novel The Deep in 1975, and his fifteenth volume of fiction, Four Freedoms, in 2009. Since 1993 he has taught creative writing at Yale University. In 1992 he received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 2006 he was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He finds it more gratifying that almost all his work is still in print.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation with Mr. Crowley was recorded at the Boston Marriott in Quincy 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.

meyer-cover200Virtual Memories Show:
Michael Meyer – Palimpsest

“When you look at the history of northeast China, it’s all successive regimes that have tried to import their version of civilization into this area, and they’ve all failed.”

When he was a kid in Minnesota, Michael Meyer papered his walls with National Geographic maps. A Peace Corps stint in 1995 began his 20-year odyssey in China, yielding two books, true love, and a unique perspective on the world’s most populous country. We talk about his latest book, In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China (Bloomsbury), life in rural China compared to suburban MN, the country’s changes in the past two decades, the flexibility of the Communist party, China’s uses and abuses of history, the tortured history of the Manchuria region, the need to explode Americans’ myths about the country and its people, our favorite jet-lag remedies, and the Chinese use of “uh” as a conversational placeholder. Give it a listen!

“China isn’t a billion-plus people marching in lockstep. Nor is it some mastermind sitting in some opulent room in Beijing and declaring, ‘Now we will do this!'”

We also get into the time the Beijing police took Michael in so he could teach them American curse-words, why it’s safe to be a writer but not to be a journalist, China’s transition from individual farms to an agribusiness model, why the time to write a book is when the book you want to read doesn’t exist, the differences in storytelling modes between Americans and Chinese, his debts to Bruce Chatwin, Pearl S. Buck, and Ian Frazier, and how tens of thousands of Jews wound up in the town of Harbin.

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

16842769440_72b7202f10_nMichael Meyer is the author of the acclaimed nonfiction book The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed. He first came to China in 1995 with the Peace Corps, and for over a decade has contributed from there to The New York Times, Time, the Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Architectural Record, Reader’s Digest, Slate, Smithsonian, This American Life and many other outlets.He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing, as well as residencies at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. He recently taught Literary Journalism at Hong Kong University’s Journalism and Media Studies Center, and wrote the foreword to The Inmost Shrine: A Photographic Odyssey of China, 1873, a collection of Scottish explorer John Thomson’s early images. He is a current member of the National Committee on United States-China Relations‘ Public Intellectuals Program, and an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, where he teaches Nonfiction Writing. Michael’s new book, In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, was published by Bloomsbury in February, 2015.

Credits: This episode’s music is Life in a Northern Town by Dream Academy. The conversation was recorded at the Bloomsbury offices 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. Meyer by me.