Virtual Memories Show 456:
Zoe Beloff

“I’m a story scavenger. I’m not like a novelist who comes out with stories from scratch. I find stories, whether of real people, or just a scrap of film or old postcards. They’ll tell you stories. I think of myself as a voice through with people speak. They’re my partners.”

With Parade Of The Old New, artist Zoe Beloff has created a panoramic history painting documenting the depths of the Trump years. We get into the impetus for that project, its enormous scale (140 feet long), its Brechtian roots, and its reproduction as a 19-foot accordion book (available only from Booklyn). We talk about notions of rights and responsibilities for artists, the debate over displaying Philip Guston‘s work, the angry e-mail Zoe received from a white male Marxist that critiqued her for “her own benefit”, and why Parade Of The Old New is getting exhibited in Europe & Russia but not America. We also dive into her fascination with artists and thinkers of the interwar era, like Bertolt Brecht & Walter Benjamin, her family’s refugee history and why it left her feeling like a Rootless Cosmpolitan, the ways she interweaves painting, film, installation, picture-storytelling (or cartooning) and other forms, the vision of NYC that brought her to the city in her 20s from Scotland, and why being a story-scavenger rather than an inventor means she gets to live in the worlds of her art. Also, we talk about her new multimedia project to celebrate essential workers, my no-fly list for pod-guests, why telling her mother and grandmother’s refugee story is the closest she’ll come to autobiography, and a LOT more. Give it a listen! And go check out Parade Of The Old New!

“I think I realized around age 12 I wanted to be an artist because the art room was the only place where people didn’t tell you what you had to do, and there was no right or wrong answer.”

“I believe in everyday stories. Not everybody is a hero. But I’m interested in what everyday people have to do to survive and what it takes.”

“The workers, and the ambulance staff, and the people outside our house lining up for food: I want to paint these people, I care about these people. Somebody should represent them in paintings. If it had to be me, it would be me.”

“Do we only show the triumph over oppression, or do we also show the oppression?”

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

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About our Guest

Zoe Beloff is an artist, filmmaker, writer and rootless cosmopolitan based in New York. She aims to make art that both entertains and provokes discussion. With a focus on social justice, she draws timelines between past and present to imagine a more egalitarian future. Her projects often involve a range of media including films, drawings and archival documents organized around a theme. They include proposals for new forms of community; “The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society and its Circle 1926 – 1972” and “The Days of the Commune”, projects that explore relationships between labor, technology and mental states in “The Infernal Dream of Mutt and Jeff” and “Emotions go to Work” as well as the exploration of the origins of cinema from a feminist perspective in “Charming Augustine” and “Shadowland or Light from the Other Side”. Many of her projects also go out into the work as books. “A World Redrawn: Eisenstein and Brecht in Hollywood” which explores films they were never able to realize and how we can think about them today. Most recently she completed, “Parade of the Old New” an allegory of America in dark times, a panoramic painting reproduced as a forty panel accordion book accompanied by her essay “The Troublemakers: History Painting in the Real World”.

Zoe’s work has been featured in international exhibitions and screenings; include the Whitney Museum Biennale, Site Santa Fe, the M HKA museum in Antwerp, and the Pompidou Center in Paris. However, she particularly enjoys working in alternative venues that are free and open to the community for events and conversations. These have included in New York City; The Coney Island Museum, Participant, Momenta and The James Gallery at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is currently working on a documentary public art project “The Song of the Essential Worker” in collaboration with her long time cinematographer and all round partner in crime, Eric Muzzy.

Follow Zoe on Instagram.

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

Virtual Memories Show 455:
Charles Bivona

Writer, poet, professor, editor and old friend Charles Bivona returns to the show for a wide-ranging conversation about art, depression, anxiety, midlife health crises (his diabetes, my CLL), Buddhism, Vietnam & contagious trauma, writing his autobiography on Patreon, and more. Our 20+ years of friendship yield an intriguing conversation about how our lives have changed in response to and/or defiance of the world around us. We get into the heavy stuff this time, but don’t fret: there’s room for humor with my old pal, too. Give it a listen! And go read The Mourning After and Memoirs In Fragments

(You should also check out our 2014 conversation and the 3 monthly check-ins we did in 2016: March, April, May)

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

From his Twitter bio: Part-Time Professor & Writer, Poet & Retired Ass Model: I’ve worn many hats. Luckily, I look good in hats. Currently, the Executive Editor of academic things.

Follow Charles on Twitter and Instagram, and support his Patreon.

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

Virtual Memories Show 452:
Rosemary Steinbaum

“His reading and his writing are intertwined. That’s the main theme of the Philip Roth Personal Library: a writer at work reading and a reader at work writing.”

It’s part 1 of a 2-part show about the new Philip Roth Personal Library at the Newark Public Library! This week, NPL trustee Rosemary Steinbaum talks about working with Philip Roth over the years and helping convince him to donate his books and belongings to the PRPL. We get into her friendship with Roth, her visits to his Connecticut home to figure out what would be in the personal library, her favorite discoveries in the collection, and the joy of reading his notes and marginalia. We also talk about her favorite literary pilgrimages, her love of The Counterlife, Roth’s funeral, the themes of Roth’s work that could become future exhibitions at the library, her Newark and how she helped Liz Del Tufo develop a Roth-tour of the city (which Roth once tagged along on), the donation of Roth’s letters from his teen sweetheart (including a reading list for her), and more! Give it a listen! And go visit the Philip Roth Personal Library!

“To have Philip Roth walk us through the logic of his library was very special.”

“If people were going to make a pilgrimage for Roth, it was going to be to see his work life and his reading life, not his living room.”

“As far as retirement goes, he did say to us that he was finding it difficult as he aged to hold a whole novel in his mind at the same time.”

“Knowing only the data of Roth’s experience leads to misunderstanding of Roth’s work. Newark is a fictive setting, like Yoknapatawpha County for Faulkner.”

“He said he wanted to be buried near Hannah Arendt so he’d have somebody to talk to.”

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

Rosemary Steinbaum recently retired from a career in education. She earned her doctorate mid-career from Columbia Teachers College. Before obtaining her degree, she taught high school English in independent schools. In the second part of her career she worked in the field of teacher education, directing the Rutgers-Newark undergraduate teacher education program and overseeing two grant funded teacher education programs at Montclair State University. Her not-for-profit commitments have centered on Newark, especially on The Newark Public Library, where she is a trustee. She was involved in the talks that led to Philip Roth’s bequest of his personal library and in its planning and build-out at the Newark Public Library.

Follow the Philip Roth Personal Library on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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

Virtual Memories Show 451:
Jacques Berlinerblau

“I think what’s different about Roth is the wink and the nod and the game; he’s signaling to us in his fiction that he’s writing about events and people that are very close to him, and yet repeatedly denied doing so. No one else engaged in that gamesmanship with the readership and the critical apparatus around the study of the literature. Why did he need to play that game?”

Professor Jacques Berlinerblau joins the show to celebrate his new book, The Philip Roth We Don’t Know: Sex, Race, and Autobiography (UVA Press)! We get into a deep dive on All Things Roth: #metoo, reverse-biography, metafiction, rage merchants, Rothian Path Dependency, literary legacy & reputation, the changing expectations and tolerances of readers, and the writer Roth cites more than any other in his books. We also talk about the scandal around Roth’s biographer and why I think it’s greatest metafictional novel Roth never wrote, the role of race & racism in Roth’s work (and in Jacques’ broader areas of study), why Jacques never wanted to meet Roth, his love of The Anatomy Lesson, the disillusionment he had upon reading Roth’s letters in the Library of Congress, why we should all read My Dark Vanessa, whether not winning the Nobel really burned Roth’s ass, and so much more! Give it a listen! And go read The Philip Roth We Don’t Know!

“Roth studies needs a huge kick in the ass. Several, really. The first is that we have to stop letting non-Roth-scholars set the agenda for this writer. I can think of no American writer whose interpretation is brought to us by so many non-scholars.”

“It’s a dilemma for Roth scholars: did he know a lot about postmodernism and metafiction and just didn’t want to admit it, or did he just independently have very similar thoughts about how literature works? . . . Did he read literary criticism about anyone besides himself?”

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

Jacques Berlinerblau is Rabbi Harold White Professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University and author of Campus Confidential: How College Works, or Doesn’t, for Professors, Parents, and Students. His new book is The Philip Roth We Don’t Know: Sex, Race, and Autobiography.

Follow Jacques on Twitter.

Dr. Jacques Berlinerblau
Professor, Center for Jewish Civilization
Walsh School of Foreign Service | Georgetown University

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

And, because you read this far, here’s the painting that Roth owned, which Jacque’s agent sent him. As we said during the episode, there is NO way to do this justice:

Virtual Memories Show 450:
Robert McCrum

“People should be free to do Shakespeare anyway they like: in 5 minutes, 5 seconds, 5 days, 5 hours, underwater, in a desert, on a mountain. It’ll always work; he’s indestructible, in that sense.”

With his new book, Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption (Pegasus Books), author & literary editor Robert McCrum uses Shakespeare’s plays, poems, life and history to examine how Shakespeare is a mirror of human experience, and why his lines continue to resonate 400+ years after his death. We talk about Robert’s history with the plays (beginning with his role as First Fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the age of 13) and the 2017 performance of Julius Caesar in Central Park that inspired the book, the ways in which the Plays and the Sonnets complement each other, and how those works influence our understanding of the self and self-consciousness. We also get into the vicissitudes of literary reputation, the way Shakespearean fits as the capstone of Robert’s Disruption Trilogy, along with My Year Off and Every Third Thought, the first play Robert’s Shakespeare Club plans to see post-pandemic, the snobbery that drives Shakespeare denialism, how America became Shakespearean, and the urban myth that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during lockdown, as well as the ways plague influenced Shakespeare’s entire career. Plus: where I should begin with Wodehouse, what prompted Robert to finally finish Proust (and then re-read him), and the nightmare of interviewing Philip Roth! Give it a listen! And go read Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption (as well as My Year Off and Every Third Thought)!

“Any writer can tell you: if you write things down, you begin to make sense of things. If you’re surrounded by chaos and you begin to make notes, you begin to make sense.”

“It seems that Shakespeare and his contemporaries got used to the plague, so the plague references in his work are comparatively few and far between, and they’re not striking. And yet there’s no doubt of a connection between then and now.”

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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

Robert McCrum was born and educated in Cambridge. For nearly twenty years he was editor-in-chief of the publishers Faber & Faber, and then literary editor of the Observer from 1996 to 2008. He is now an associate editor of the Observer. He is the author of Every Third Thought, My Year Off, Wodehouse: A Life, six novels, and the co-author of the international bestseller, The Story of English. His new book is Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption.

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 Robert by Katherine Anne Rose for The Guardian. It’s on my instagram.