Virtual Memories Show 381:
Zena Hitz

“The forms of learning for its own sake that happen in ordinary life are more fundamental than the professional versions.”

Author & St. John’s College tutor Zena Hitz joins the show to talk about her wonderful new book, Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life (Princeton University Press). We get into the nature of learning for its own sake, the corruption of academia and its potential reform, how St. John’s prepared us for the world by not preparing us, and why the Newton’s Principia is the toughest thing on the SJC curriculum. We also talk about the joy of autodidacts and our shared love of The Peregrine, why she disagrees with the notion that learning-for-its-own-sake is a privilege of the elite, the challenges of leading seminars by Zoom, and how bureaucracy creeps into every system. We also tackle my lightning round of questions for SJC tutors, what she’d add to the curriculum and what she’d subtract, and answer the long-standing question: What is virtue and can it be taught? Give it a listen! And go read Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life!

“St. John’s is a different place. It has different values, and you don’t want the rest of the world to be like that, but it changes the way you interact with the world.”

“Casual interaction really matters. During the pandemic, it’s a burden to have everything be done with real intention: ‘Who would I like to see, who would I like to talk to?'”

“Sometimes young people don’t get that these books are real. That what Thucydides wrote about was what he lived through. They don’t always understand the books are about life.”

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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

Zena Hitz is a Tutor in the great books program at St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD. She has a Ph.D. in ancient philosophy from Princeton University and studies and teaches across the liberal arts. Her new book is Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life, from Princeton University Press.

Follow Zena on Twitter. There’s a more extensive bio at her site.

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 Zena by someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 379:
Jonathan W. Gray

“Literature has a role to play at precisely this moment, because we have to dream and think big.”

I nerd out with author, English professor, and hardcore comics reader Jonathan W. Gray. We talk about how Blackness is represented in American comics (the subject of his next book), how Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing changed his life, and how he was teaching comics when there weren’t a lot of college courses on comics. We get into the perils and perks of academia, what it’s like teaching at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and protesting against police violence, the influence of Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner & John Lewis’ March on his work, the horrifying question of whether we’re actually in the best timeline right now, and plenty more. Give it a listen! And go read his first book, Civil Rights in the White Literary Imagination: Innocence by Association!

“Because police are in retreat, at least rhetorically, we’re finally having a conversation about their budget vs. the budget for social workers, for education, and housing.”

“You never know a thing until you have to teach that thing, and that was the case with teaching about comics.”

“The problem with professors is that professors overthink everything.”

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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

Jonathan W. Gray is Associate Professor of English at John Jay College-CUNY and the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the author of Civil Rights in the White Literary Imagination (University Press of Mississippi) and is currently working on the book project “Illustrating the Race: Representing Blackness in American Comics”, which traces depictions of African Americans in comics from 1966 to the present by investigating how the twin notions of illustration — the creative act of depiction and the political act of bringing forth for public consideration — function in these texts. Prof. Gray co-edited the essay collection “Disability in Comics and Graphic Novels” for Palgrave McMillian and formerly served as the founding editor of the Journal of Comics and Culture (Pace). Prof. Gray’s journalism on popular culture has appeared in The New Republic, Entertainment Weekly, Medium, and Salon.com.

Arpi Pap Studio Images

Follow Jonathan on Twitter.

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 Jonathan W. Gray by Arpi Pap Studio. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 376:
Calvin Reid

“The biggest shift in comics right now is the explosion of independent publishing, the impact of Kickstarter on the ability of artists to not have to go through the superhero gatekeepers, the explosion of diversity in terms of creators and in genres, and the impact of the book publishing world.”

Through his work at Publishers Weekly, editor Calvin Reid has been an important advocate for comics and graphic novel publishing for decades. We get into his history with comics and making art, how he began writing about the book publishing world, and the weirdness of having to update the annual retailer survey to reflect the effect of the pandemic on booksellers. Calvin talks about the transformative nature of Black Lives Matter, the lack of diversity in publishing (which he wrote about 25 years ago), and how Black artists are represented in mainstream comics, as well as how wearing a mask helps protects him from COVID, satisfies his superhero fantasies, AND gets him likes on social media. Give it a listen!

“BLM has been transformative in every way. It’s triggered a sense of looking around at the systemic nature of racism, of realizing that maybe what’s killing young black men has been stifling careers, suppressing voices, and so much more. I’m astonished and inspired to see what young people are doing.”

“I think a new and revived New York will come out of the pain and the death and some of the shortsighted decisions about the pandemic that have caused so much suffering.”

“I’m a product of the romantic mythology of New York City. I love the idea of New York City. I love baseball, and black music, and Harlem, and jazz, and all the things that create the mythos of New York.”

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

Calvin Reid is Publishers Weekly‘s news editor and head of its comics department. He oversees PW’s annual African American issue. He also edits the PW Comics Week eNewsletter. He has edited the graphic novels Comanche Moon by Jack Jackson and David Chelsea in Love by David Chelsea.

Follow Calvin on Twitter, Facebook, 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 Calvin supplied by him. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 375:
Arthur Hoyle

“What really was hammered home by the stories in my book was the persistence of injustice in our society, the ongoing struggle make this country live up to its ideals.”

Author Arthur Hoyle joins the show to talk about his new book, Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfits: Americans Against the Grain (Sunbury Press), in which profiles of American figures help illustrate the paradoxes and aspirations of a nation. We get into how the book grew out of the concept of the exemplar put forth by Henry Miller (the subject of Arthur’s first book), his vision of America and how the florid language of the founding fathers is like PR for a damaging product, and how his selection of biographical subjects in MM&M represents the diversity of America in its ethnicity and geographic spread. We also get into climate change and rampant capitalism, his practice of “first draft, best draft”, the fascist seed of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, how the pandemic scrambled his trip to Patagonia and led to an odyssey to get back to Southern California, his next book about the tension artists face between the muse & the mundane, our various ideas of how to treat Henry Miller in film & fiction, and more! Give it a listen! And go read Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfits!

“To Henry Miller, exemplars were larger-than-life figures who lived well, pushed their potential, challenged the circumstances they were born into, and stood out as models.”

“What makes good prose nonfiction writing is extreme clarity and finding the true relationship between the subject of your sentence and the words you use to make that subject. Then I look for a verb that will bring that subject to life, that will put it in motion, animate it.”

“You find that all mystical traditions, if you follow them to the core, take you to the same place. They all lead to the same conclusion of what God is, and how one can experience that God, contact with which we’re closed off by because of our ego.”

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

Arthur Hoyle is a writer, educator, and independent filmmaker. His documentary films have won numerous awards and have aired on PBS, and he received a media grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Before becoming an author, he produced corporate communications materials in print and video for a broad array of clients. He received Bachelors and Masters Degrees in English from the University of California, Los Angeles, and taught English, coached tennis, and served as an administrator in independent schools. He currently volunteers as a naturalist in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, leading interpretive walks on Chumash Indian culture. His biography of Henry Miller, The Unknown Henry Miller: A Seeker in Big Sur, was published in March 2014 by Skyhorse/Arcade. He has also published essays in Huffington Post, Empty Mirror, Across the Margin, Counterpunch, and AIOTB: As It Ought To Be. He lives in Pacific Palisades, California. His new book is Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfits: Americans Against the Grain, from Sunbury Press.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at remotely. I was using 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 Arthur by Peter Register (the portrait) and Arthur’s wife (the piano). It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 374:
Philip Boehm

“German language is like a big Lego set: there are component parts and you can take them apart and put them back together and they fit in neatly or at least with a lot of right angles. Polish and the other Slavic languages, have all these declensions, and the verbs have aspects, and Polish sounds like ‘autumnal rustling’.”

Translator and director Philip Boehm joins the show fresh off winning his second Helen & Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize. We talk about his prize-winning translation of Christine Wunnicke’s The Fox & Dr. Shimamura (New Directions), and the research and challenges that went into bringing the eerie historical novel to life in English, then get into his time in Poland in the ’80s, how it shaped his ideas on the role of the arts in society, and how he had to smuggle his work out of the country, the differences between translating for the page vs. the stage, his role as Artistic Director of Upstream Theater, the time he pranked a publisher with a fake letter from Kafka to Milena, the pressure of translating canonical works and the joy of meeting & befriending authors he works on, the parallels between Iron Curtain countries in the ’80s & America today, how every theatrical staging is an act of translation, regardless of the source language, why German is like Lego while Polish is like autumnal rustling, how he’s dealing with Pandemic Life in Texas, and more! Give it a listen! And go read The Fox & Dr. Shimamura!

“That sense of translation as a living body of work, and not relegated to some category or serving a particular work, that was more present in Poland when I was there in the 1980s.”

“That era instilled a sense of significance to the arts. It became a more vital presence, and I felt a more vital part of society.”

“As bankrupt as The Party was, there once was an ideology behind it. Here we have a demagogue who is feeding all sorts of populist resentment and fueling tensions in a way that functions very differently from the Iron Curtain countries.”

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

Philip Boehm’s career zigzags across languages and borders, artistic disciplines and cultural divides. He is the author of more than thirty translations of prose works and plays by German and Polish writers, including Herta Müller, Franz Kafka, and Hanna Krall. For his work as a translator he has received numerous awards, as well as fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. As a director fluent in several languages, he has staged plays in Poland, Slovakia, and the US. His most frequent venue is Upstream Theater in St. Louis, which he founded in 2004. The company has produced dozens of works—mostly US premieres—from nearly twenty different countries.

Mr. Boehm’s plays have been seen in Atlanta, Houston, Sacramento, St. Louis and Banská Bystrica, Slovakia, and include Mixtitlan, Soul of a Clone, The Death of Atahualpa, and Return of the Bedbug, as well as adaptations of Büchner’s Woyzeck and Kazimierz Moczarski’s Conversations with an Executioner. For his dramatic work Mr. Boehm has received support from the Mexican-American Fund for Culture as well as the NEA.

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 Philip by Traci Lavois Thiebaud (the good one) and him (the pandemic-life one from a few days ago). It’s on my instagram.