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 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.

Virtual Memories Show 445:
Heather Cass White

“I’m sure that my obsessive focus on reading, as much as it is anything else, is a sign of a wound, or a lack.”

Author & professor Heather Cass White joins the show to celebrate her wonderful new book. Books Promiscuously Read: Reading as a Way of Life (FSG). We get into what reading does & doesn’t do for us, how we can lose ourselves & find ourselves in books, how this book gestated for decades while she was working on her scholarship of Marianne Moore, how she snagged the title from a line by Milton, and how promiscuously we should read the word “promiscuously”. We also talk about her read-to-bits childhood copy of Anne of Green Gables, the possibility of getting too much out of Henry James, the lessons she took from studying with Harold Bloom, why you shouldn’t read as if you’re going to die (prompted by my recent health issues), the importance of keeping a patient attitude toward poetry, why she decided not to do more reading about reading once she started to write a book about reading, and more! Give it a listen! And go read Books Promiscuously Read!

“My experience of reading is that it is a whole self experience. I can’t think of many part of myself that haven’t been engaged in some point in my life as a reader. So I liked that sense of ‘promiscuously’ as both unplanned, haphazard, random, but also as playful, contrarian and transgressive. I liked the word for every reason.”

“Once I started to investigate the files in my computer, I discovered ones going back 15 or 20 years. I realized that this book had been waiting for me.”

“There’s very little that happens throughout the day that doesn’t spark some little verbal association to a poem or a novel. A good half of what I think, I don’t know if I even think it, so much as these words are in my head and have taken up residence there.”

“In a funny way, this book is repaying a kind of debt. Reading has shaped my life in every way possible, it felt like I owed it something.”

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

Heather Cass White has edited several collections of Marianne Moore’s work: New Collected Poems; A-Quiver with Significance: Marianne Moore, 1932–1936; and Adversity & Grace: Marianne Moore, 1936–1941. She is a professor of English at the University of Alabama. Her new book is Books Promiscuously Read.

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 Heather by Crosby Thomley. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 436:
Dmitry Samarov

“Basically I didn’t have to make anything up. I’ve never understood why anybody has to make anything up. The world is so weird, and the stories you get by shutting up and listening are all you’ll ever need.”

With his new book OLD STYLE, artist & author Dmitry Samarov moves from memoir into a (mostly) fictional mode, chronicling the lives and deaths of a pair of Chicago bars. We get into the liberations & responsibilities of fiction, the challenges of writing about bars while avoiding nostalgia, and how he put in the time to understand the bar patrons and their archetypes. We also talk about making art through the pandemic, turning his old art & writing into collage books, the need to change his palette, and what it was like for him to teach drawing for the first time (at 50!) and the curriculum he’d design if he had the opportunity. Plus, we get into his is recent NYC trip to see the Alice Neel retrospective, the next book he’s hoping to write, and his semi sorta envy at my taking up drawing at 50. Give it a listen! And go read OLD STYLE!

(& check out my other conversations with Dmitry: 2014, 2015, 2018, 2020, and our COVID Check-In)

“I haven’t had a truly stuck or blocked period in many years. My way of working is to throw a lot of stuff against the wall. I don’t know what percentage of it will stick, but I make a lot of work, and it takes years to figure out what was actually good.”

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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

Dmitry Samarov paints and writes in Chicago. He is the author and illustrator of six books. He sends out a newsletter every Monday. An absurd amount of his work is collected at his website, which is seventeen years old now.

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 Dmitry from 1990 by some photobooth, I expect. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 435:
Dorothy Gallagher

For my first in-person podcast since March 2020 (!), I talked with writer, memoirist & biographer Dorothy Gallagher about her beautiful new collection, Stories I Forgot To Tell You (NYRB). We get into the 2010 death of her husband, literary editor & raconteur Ben Sonnenberg, and how it took her five years before she could begin to write about him, the need to balance elegy and humor in her writing, and the importance of her early days working at Magazine Management (alongside the likes of Mario Puzo & Bruce Jay Friedman). We also discuss whether things are “only things” or evidence of a life, why it’s not good for a biographer to actively dislike her subject, the one biography she’d love to write, her atheist’s notion of an afterlife (less eternal punishment/reward, more eternal cocktail hour), her favorite time & place in NYC, why she misses flea markets, the impact/scars of her Communist upbringing, how she’s handled the pandemic, and why the isolation would have driven her late husband nuts. Give it a listen! And go read Stories I Forgot To Tell You!

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

Dorothy Gallagher’s works include two volumes of memoir — How I Came into My Inheritance and Strangers in the House — as well as a biography of the Italian American anarchist Carlo Tresca and, most recently, Lillian Hellman: An Imperious Life. She lives in New York. Her new book is Stories I Forgot To Tell You.

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. No photo of Dorothy: her choice), but I did take a pic of the weird little mule figure she bought in a flea market a while back (above). It’s on my instagram.