Virtual Memories Show 360:
Otto Penzler

“Writing is hard. I’d rather do yard work than write. But this memoir was the least onerous writing I’ve done.”

The great publisher, editor, anthologizer, retailer and collector of crime fiction, Otto Penzler, joins the show to talk about his wonderful new book, Mysterious Obsession: Memoirs of a Compulsive Collector (Mysterious Bookshop), and his decision to auction off the world’s greatest collection of crime fiction (think ~60,000 first editions). We get into his instant regret about that decision, how it inspired this amazing memoir, and how he’s getting by without all those books (especially because he designed his house to accommodate an even larger collection). We discuss the changes in his Mysterious Bookshop and his other Mysterious pursuits (see links below) as the internet has warped book and retail culture, the camaraderie and friendships that he built over a lifetime of collecting, the mania that can strike during auctions, and the difference between collecting and reading. And we talk about how he learned to edit major writers for his anthologies (including a near-disaster with Joyce Carol Oates), the farthest he’s traveled to acquire a single book, the moment he realized he had a writing style and how that unlocked him as a writer, how he had to choose between Sherlock Holmes and the rest of crime fiction, the vagaries of fame and literary reputation as reflected in book collecting, and why he characterizes himself as a parasite in the mystery world (having done everything but writing a mystery novel of his own). Give it a listen! And go buy Mysterious Obsession: Memoirs of a Compulsive Collector!

“I came up with one word — MYSTERIOUS — and my creativity was finished.”

“This is an era of short attention spans, but collecting is not something you should be doing in a rush.”

“I don’t know what it is that keeps some authors or books highly regarded today, as opposed to others that have been totally forgotten.”

“If I can edit Joyce Carol Oates, I can edit anybody.”

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

Otto Penzler is the founder of the publishing companies Mysterious Press, Otto Penzler Books, the Armchair Detective Library, Penzler Publishers, mysteriouspress.com, and Scarlet. He opened New York’s Mysterious Bookshop in 1979. He has written or edited more than 60 books, winning the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards for the Encyclopedia of Mystery & Detection and The Lineup. His library of nearly 60,000 first editions of mystery fiction went to auction in late 2018. His new book is Mysterious Obsession: Memoirs of a Compulsive Collector.

Here are the links to all the ways to keep up with Otto and his Mysterious Empire:

The Mysterious Bookshop
Website
Twitter
Instagram

Mysterious Press
Website
Twitter

Penzler Publishers
Website
Twitter

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

Virtual Memories Show 358:
Daniel Mendelsohn

“Achilles is a hero who is mesmerizing without being penetrable, whereas Odysseus I think I understand (perhaps hubristic to say that).”

His wondrous new collection, Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones (NYRB), brings a dizzying array of Daniel Mendelsohn‘s critical-essayistic-memoir pieces together. We sat down to talk about the work of the critic and the drama that makes for a great critical piece, as well as the temptation to make a name by going after easy targets, his need to criscross genres and categories with personal writing and criticism, and why his negative review of Mad Men got him more pushback than anything else he’s written. We get into his amazing 2017 memoir, An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic, its gorgeous structure and its insight into Homer and our present day, while we try to suss out why the great Greek translators have either produced a great Iliad or a great Odyssey, but not both (he’s working on a new translation of The Odyssey). We also discuss the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the nature of contemporary mythmaking, my pet theory about the tragedy of Achilles in the Iliad, Emily Wilson’s question about Odysseus’ true homophrosyne, the role of erudition in criticism, how institutions like The New Yorker, New York Review of Books, Paris Review etc. handle succession, our love of the finale of The Americans, his one conversation with Philip Roth, and SO much more. Give it a listen! And go buy Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones and An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic!

“When you start as a critic, there’s a great drive to make your mark and be noticed.”

“You need to be bothered a little bit by something, in order to want to investigate it.”

“There is no act of intimacy in the world of literature that is greater than translating.”

“Identity becomes more interesting the more multiplex 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, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Daniel Mendelsohn teaches at Bard and is Editor-at-Large at The New York Review of Books. His books include An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic; The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million; How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays, and, from New York Review Books, Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture. His new book is Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones, also from NYRB.

There’s a longer version at his website.

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

Virtual Memories Show:
The Guest List 2019

It’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories Show tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2019’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 2020! More than two dozen responded with a dizzying array of books. (I participated, too!) The Virtual Memories Show offers up a huge list of books that you’re going to want to read in the new year! Give it a listen, and get ready to update your wish lists!

This year’s Guest List episode features selections from 25 of our recent guests (and one upcoming 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, 2017, and 2018 editions of The Guest List for more great book ideas!

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guests

The guests who participated in this year’s Guest List are Christopher Brown, Nina Bunjevac, Caleb Crain, Joan Marans Dim (episode coming 2020), Boris Fishman, Katelan Foisy, Mort Gerberg, Eva Hagberg, Peter Kuper, Kate Lacour, Liniers, Kate Maruyama, Edie Nadelhaft, Sylvia Nickerson, James Oseland, Dawn Raffel, Witold Rybczynski, Frank Santoro, Ersi Sotiropoulos, Karl Stevens, James Sturm, Frederic Tuten, Chris Ware, and me, Gil Roth! Check out their episodes at our archives!

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The episode was recorded at stately Virtual Memories Manor 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 my 2019 books by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show:
Tom Spurgeon
Memorial Service,
Dec. 14, 2019

“I had an amazing life, and my love for my family is unsurpassed, followed nearly as much as the love for my closest friends. Be kind to yourselves, and live in laughter as much as possible. I love you. Thanks for everything.”

This special episode of The Virtual Memories Show features the memorial service for Tom Spurgeon, held December 14, 2019, at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. The speakers (in sequence) were Whit Spurgeon, Sunny McFarren, Rob Eidson, Dan Wright (slideshow here), Fred Haring, Eric Reynolds, Jordan Raphael, me, Jeff Smith, Laurenn McCubbin, Rebecca Perry Damsen, Caitlin McGurk. The following people spoke during the open comments session: Bruce Chrislip, Christian Hoffer, Carol Tyler, Evan Dorkin, Darcie Hoffer, Shena Wolf, James Moore. To get a greater understanding of Tom’s life and his impact on the world around him, please listen to these heartfelt, emotional, and sometimes funny remembrances of our friend. If you’d like to make a donation in Tom’s name, he requested that your gifts go to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, but he also would have been happy to know you supported your favorite artist, writer, or creator, however you can. Give it a listen!

“You realize I don’t do anything I don’t want to, right?”

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

Tom’s obit by Andy Downing will tell you plenty.

Here are some pix I took of the speakers. I forgot to take one of Whit.

Credits: These remarks were recorded at Tom Spurgeon’s memorial service at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum on 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. Memorial pins were designed by Chris Pitzer of AdHouse Books, based on a caricature of Tom by Sam Henderson. You can get one here. Memorial card portrait of Tom by Julian Dessai, with lettering and scrollwork by Emi Gennis, and layout and color separations by Laurenn McCubbin.

Virtual Memories Show:
Tom Spurgeon
Birthday Memorial Episode

“The thing about Tom was, he wasn’t necessarily interested in everything you were interested in, but he was interested in learning about WHY you were interested in it. That sort of curiosity is rare, and it’s part of what made him a special person.”

Today (Dec. 16) would have been Tom Spurgeon‘s birthday. To honor my best friend after his untimely death, this mini-episode has my remarks from his memorial service this past weekend at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum in Columbus, OH. Give it a listen! And go support your favorite artists, via Patreon, donation, or buying their artwork!

“Tom provided support, raised attention to injustices in the field, directed people to lesser-known creators who he thought deserved a look, and — I know it sounds hokey — tried to make a better world for people. And he did it without expectation of financial reward.”

“His combo of intellect, passion, sociability and lack of an angle is not going to be seen again, and I dread what the years ahead will look like for that field.”

“Since we mainly communicated by e-mail over the decades, we got to try to be closer to our ideal selves for each other.”

“A few nights ago, when I was trying to write this, I thought, ‘Man, I should zap Tom a draft of this. He’d know how to make it work.’ So if it sucks, blame Tom.”

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!

Credits: These remarks were recorded at Tom Spurgeon’s memorial service at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum on 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 Tom by Meghan Ralston. Photo of me by Amy Roth.