Virtual Memories Show 207:
Garth Greenwell

“Speaking a language inexpertly makes language visible, and malleable. You become aware of language not just as a medium but as matter itself, as something you manipulate, as something you have to work with.”

Garth Greenwell joins the show to talk about the poetics of cruising (and cruising’s great leveling potential) in his life and in his debut novel What Belongs to You, the hyper-masculine culture and homophobia of Bulgaria, his concern that contemporary English-language writers don’t read in other languages (or read in translation), his role chairing the 2017 Festival Neue Literatur, the dangers of LGBTQ mainstreaming, the fragility of cosmopolitanism, the state of queer fiction, and our mutual admiration of Samuel R. Delany! Give it a listen! And go buy What Belongs to You: A Novel!

“I wanted in this book to create a space where I could think about what shame feels like to an open and proud gay man.”

Bonus: This episode is also part of our media partnership with Festival Neue Literatur, which is taking place March 2-5 in New York City! Garth’s the chairperson for the event! Go attend! Maybe I’ll see you there!

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Garth Greenwell is the author of What Belongs to You, which was longlisted for the National Book Award and shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the LA Times Book Prize. A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, it was named a Best Book of 2016 by The New York Times, The New Yorker, Publishers Weekly, and over 50 other publications. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, the London Review of Books, and elsewhere. He lives in Iowa City.

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 the apartment of Jeff Nunokawa 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. Greenwell by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 204: Phillip Lopate

“There were times when I was transcribing the tapes and I’d catch my breath and say, ‘Oh, my God.’ I would stop the tape and just sit there, staring into space. Did I hear what I just heard? It was a shocking, dramatic experience.”

Is wisdom possible? One of my favorite writers, Phillip Lopate, returns to The Virtual Memories Show to talk about his new book, A Mother’s Tale, where he revisits a series of taped conversations he had with his mother in the mid-’80s. We talk about listening to his mother’s voice years after her death, whether I should record with my parents, the way people try to be honest but back away in the face of their own mythologies, the one venue he’s always wanted to write for, the border traffic between fiction and nonfiction, the impact of the 2016 presidential election on his psyche, his prediction for the New York Mets, what it’s like for him to write a blog and the mistrust between mother and son that never goes away. Give it a listen! And go buy A Mother’s Tale (Mad River Books)! (And listen to our 2013 conversation!)

“I feel like all the values I grew up with were repudiated in one election.”

“”We carry this adolescent self in us for so long, we’re not prepared to see ourselves as older.”

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

There are lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Phillip Lopate is a central figure in the resurgence of the American essay, both through his best-selling anthology, The Art of the Personal Essay, and his collections: Getting Personal, Against Joie de Vivre, Portrait of My Body, Portrait Inside My Head, and To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction. He directs the nonfiction MFA program at Columbia University, where he is professor of writing. His new book is A Mother’s Tale.

(There’s a more extensive version at his website.)

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 Mr. Lopate’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 Mr. Lopate by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 201: Brad Gooch

“Rumi has the reputation of tinkling wind-chimes, but at the center is the pain of separation, both personally with Shams of Tabriz, and the human condition of separation with God.”

Brad Gooch returns to the show to talk about his new book, Rumi’s Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love (Harper). We dive right into Brad’s Orientalist fantasy of researching Rumi and the realpolitik that intruded on it (including getting detained at gunpoint), how he recreated the polyglot, multi-religious culture of 13th century Turkey (hint: it involved having to learn Farsi), the temptation to psychologize Rumi’s life, why the poet’s work has survived all these centuries (and what makes it so tweetable), what his own new fatherhood taught him about Rumi’s later years, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Rumi’s Secret!

“There’s a little method actor in me when it comes to biography writing.”

NOTE: We talk about a New Yorker article during the conversation. It’s “The Erasure of Islam form the Poetry of Rumi”, by Rozina Ali.

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Brad Gooch is the author of the acclaimed biographies City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O’Hara and Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, as well as other nonfiction and three novels. The recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Guggenheim fellowships, he earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University and is professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

There’s a more extensive bio at Brad’s site.

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 Brad’s office 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 Brad Gooch by me. It’s on my instagram.

1472770093-bk_spiegelmanVirtual Memories Show #185: Willard Spiegelman

“It’s an existential question, not a historical one: what kinds of places make you feel at home? Some people feel at home nowhere, and some feel at home everywhere. I’m myself, wherever I am.”

Willard Spiegelman returns to the show to talk about his wonderful new essay collection, Senior Moments: Looking Back, Looking Ahead (FSG). We get into the process of deaccessioning, Mark Strand’s advice on paring down to 100 books, Willard’s take on 45 years living in Dallas (and what he’ll miss about it now that he’s retired), the joy of getting lost in Italy, the best way to pick someone up in NYC, the contrast of his 50th high school and college reunions, and more. Give it a listen! And go buy Senior Moments!

“I’m enthusiastically looking forward to getting rid of everything.”

We also mix it up over the aesthetic sunk cost fallacy, ponder being alone in the middle of a crowd, compare Japan and Hungary relative to being linguistically uprooted (I argue that Hungary is tougher, because it looks like you should be able to piece together the language), examine the pharaonic idea of hoarding, and listen to time’s winged chariot hurrying near. Now go listen to the show!

“I’m much too old to write a memoir. That’s the province of 25-year-olds.”

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

Willard Spiegelman is the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. From 1984 util 2016, he was also the editor in chief of Southwest Review. He had written many books and essays about English and American poetry. For more than a quarter century, he has been a regular contributor to the Leisure and Arts pages of The Wall Street Journal. In 2005, Willard won the PEN/Nora Magid award for literary editing. In addition to Senior Moments, he’s also written or edited Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness, How Poets See the World: The Art of Description in Contemporary Poetry, Wordsworth’s Heroes, Imaginative Transcripts: Selected Literary Essays, Majestic Indolence: English Romantic Poetry and the Work of Art, The Didactic Muse: Scenes of Instruction in Contemporary American Poetry, and Love, Amy: The Selected Letters of Amy Clampitt. Oh, and he’s quite dapper.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Spiegelman’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 Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Photo of Mr. Spiegelman by me.

2803d239361d1148d0f5ff5ea09e7358Virtual Memories Show #184: David M. Carr

“There’s a deeper music that runs through and beneath the Bible.”

Biblical scholar David M. Carr joins the show to talk about his book, Holy Resilience: The Bible’s Traumatic Origins (Yale University Press). We get into how the Hebrew and Christian scriptures were shaped, the parallels between trauma and religion, the personal trauma that led to his thesis, the perils of applying modern psychology to people in antiquity, how he balances his faith with his scholarship, the problems with seeing yourself as “chosen”, the personal and communal trauma of 9/11 (it gets pretty heavy), and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Holy Resilience!

“I find Paul a fascinating figure. He’s incredibly irritating. He’s all over the place, in some ways. You can never pin him down. But he’s grappling with the reality of life, and life is itself untamable, so it’s an untamable text.”

We also discuss his favorite parts of scripture (something Old, something New), the social justice work that drew him into biblical scholarship, the difference between writing for other scholars and writing for a lay audience, the conflicted nature of Paul the Apostle and the enormous ramifications of that conflict, the tension between monotheism and cosmotheism, and the uncanny nature of celebrating the Cross as a symbol. BONUS: I ramble about visiting a sculpture exhibition in a cow pasture (photoset over here, plus these whitewalkers below)! Now go listen to the show!

“For some people this may be their first encounter with seeing the Bible as a human product, and it can be a little shocking.”

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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

David Carr is Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Over his decades-long academic career, he has become an international authority on the formation of the Bible, ancient scribal culture, and issues of the Bible and sexuality. He has written numerous books and articles, including The Erotic Word: Sexuality, Spirituality, and the Bible and Writing on the Tablet of the Heart: Origins of Scripture and Literature, both published by Oxford University Press. He is now working on a major scholarly commentary on Genesis 1-11.

Decades into a career as a biblical scholar, he suffered a life-threatening bicycle accident that changed his view of the scriptures he had devoted his life to studying. As he grappled with his own individual trauma and survival of it, he became interested in how the collective trauma of Israel and the early church had shaped the Bible. He saw that these holy texts are defined by survival of communal catastrophe. This is part of what makes them special, what made them last. The result of this basic insight is Carr’s work, Holy Resilience: The Bible’s Traumatic Origins (Yale University Press).

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Carr’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 Blue enCORE 200 Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Photo of Mr. Carr by me.