Virtual Memories Show 312:
Bram Presser

“To me, this is a book about how we tell stories, and how we come to understand stories.”

What sort of person breaks into Auschwitz? An author — and semi-reformed punk rocker, recovering academic and occasional criminal lawyer — in search of answers. Bram Presser joins the show to talk about his award-winning, fantastic debut novel The Book of Dirt, a memoir-fiction hybrid about his family’s experience in the Shoah. We get into the myths of how his grandfather survived the concentration camps and what they meant for his family and his book, the years of detective work (and the lucky breaks) researching his grandparents’ stories and records and the limits of knowing anyone else’s life, the exceptionalist vibe of Czech Jews, the stories he was afraid to learn and the heroism that redeemed his great-grandmother and her family, the challenges of researching an unheard-of story of survival when archivists are already put off by your punk-rock appearance, and how Bram avoided Holocaust cliches while giving agency, dignity and social dynamics to the prisoners in the camps. We also get into Bram’s worries about feedback from his mentor Dasa Drndic, the value of documentary fiction, the aspects of his other careers that supported his ability to write The Book of Dirt, that Auschwitz break-in, and why Talmudkommando would have been a better name for his Jewish punk band than Yidcore. Give it a listen! And go buy The Book of Dirt!

“One thing I took from writing this book is that we really don’t know much about the people we love. We accept an idea of who they are, but that’s all we have.”

“Every time I talk about the book and about my grandparents, I feel like I’m spending more time with them. It’s a way for me to get to know them and understand them.”


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

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Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Scruffy scrivener. Semi-reformed punk rocker. Recovering academic. Occasional criminal lawyer. Two-time cartoon character. After schlepping around the world for 10 years in the acclaimed punk band Yidcore, Bram Presser realized he was getting too old to sleep on concrete floors and smear hummus over himself every night. Swapping the rubber chicken for a fountain pen, he has since dedicated himself to writing. In 2011, Bram won The Age Short Story Award and since then his stories have appeared in Best Australian Stories, Award-Winning Australian Writing, The Sleepers Almanac, and Higher Arc. His debut novel, The Book of Dirt, was published in Australia in 2017 by Text Publishing to wide acclaim and went on to the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, Best New Writer and People’s Choice Awards in 2018, as well as the prestigious Voss Literary Prize. The novel was published in the U.S. in 2018 and recently won the Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction at the National Jewish Book Awards.

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

Virtual Memories Show 309:
Joe Ciardiello

“Everything Sergio Leone knew about Americans came from the movies, so he was let down when he saw American soldiers in Rome after the war. The heroic aspect was there, but he saw these guys for who they really were.”

Illustrator/artist Joe Ciardiello returns to the show to talk about his brand-new book, A Fistful of Drawings (Fantagraphics Underground). We go into the project’s history, Joe’s exploration of the Italian-American experience, and how it’s reflected in Spaghetti Western cinema of Sergio Leone & his peers. We also talk about how Joe overcame his anxiety about writing to bring the book’s narrative together, how Buffalo Bill and Old West culture infected Italy, his visit to the street set of The Godfather as a kid in Staten Island, the book of his musician drawings he hopes to make, keeping up with new westerns, the actors and figures he didn’t have room for in A Fistful of Drawings (but maybe we’ll see in For A Few Drawings More!), a survey of his drawing heroes and more recent inspirations, and more! Give it a listen (and check out my 2017 episode with Joe)! And go buy A Fistful of Drawings!

“I look at Picasso’s late drawings, and it’s the abandon, the freedom; the older I get, that’s the thing I crave the most.”

“There’s a logical extension from the Western to the Gangster film.”

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, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Joe Ciardiello was born and raised on Staten Island, NY, just a ferry ride to Manhattan where he attended the High School of Art & Design and Parsons School of Design. A freelance illustrator since 1974, Ciardiello has worked for most major magazines, newspapers, and book publishers, including Entertainment Weekly, The Nation, The New Yorker, The NY Times Book Review, and Rolling Stone. His drawings have been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the country. Among his awards is the prestigious Hamilton King Award from the Society of Illustrators in 2016. Joe lives in Hunterdon County, NJ. His new book is A Fistful of Drawings.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Joe’s studio 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 Joe by Deborah Feingold. It’s on her website.

Virtual Memories Show 308:
James Oseland

“I think of myself as a journalist first and foremost, someone who’s always reporting, always trying to find out what’s beneath that layer that we think is the final one.”

Before Saveur, before Top Chef Masters, before all the National Magazine and James Beard awards, James Oseland was Jimmy Neurosis. James and I talk about his brand-new book, Jimmy Neurosis: A Memoir (Ecco Press), about his life as a gay teen in the late ’70s. We get into how none of his previous artistic and literary pursuits prepared him for writing this book, the challenges of remove 50-something James’ perspective from the teen narration, the difficult relationship with his mother at the core of the book (which begins with his dad bailing on them), and what it was like to find comfort in the burgeoning punk-music scene of San Francisco. We get into the toughest parts of the book to write about (we both get choked up at different points of that), his growing concern as a teen that (superabundant) sex wasn’t the be-all and end-all, the diversity of the early punk scene and how it got overwhelmed by violent white guys, why he used ads and TV taglines as chapter titles for the book, the fate of his punk record collection, and the wonderful (but admittedly problematic) experience of living with a much older gay lover in NYC when he was 15/16. And I promise, we also talk about food writing and the new World Food book series he’s working on! Give it a listen! And go buy Jimmy Neurosis!

“One of the key messages that I want to convey is that gay is normal; it’s not strange.”

“You can really appreciate the world by what it eats.”

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, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

James Oseland is the editor-in-chief of World Food, a book series launching from Penguin Random House in 2020. Prior to that, he was the editor-in-chief of Saveur, America’s most critically acclaimed food magazine. He has won multiple National Magazine and James Beard Foundation awards and has been a judge on Celebrity Apprentice, Iron Chef America, and all five seasons of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. He is also the author of Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, which was named one of the best books of 2006 by the New York Times and Good Morning America. He lives in Mexico City and New York City. His new book is Jimmy Neurosis: A Memoir

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at a hotel in midtown Manhattan 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. Oseland by me. It’s on my instagram. Author photo by James Roper.

Virtual Memories Show 305:
Deborah Feingold

“Photography students are begging me to teach them about strobes and lights, but it’s all about what you see. It’s all about looking at light.”

Legendary photographer Deborah Feingold joins the show to talk about the inspiration for her new personal project: photographing illustrators (which is how we fell into each other’s orbit)! We get into her approach to teaching ‘Portraiture and the Art of Imitation‘ at ICP, the process of learning through imitation and absorbing influence, how she moved from ‘professional girlfriend’ to ‘professional photographer’ in the ’70s while shooting pictures of jazz musicians. We also talk about how she made the transition to digital photography while hewing to her film-shooting techniques, how she boldly directs her subjects despite being an incredibly shy person, the unspoken pressure to ape Annie Leibowitz’ style when she shot for Rolling Stone, her stories of shooting early Madonna and pre-presidency Obama, finding the humanity in her subjects, and more! Give it a listen! Also, go buy Deborah Feingold: Music, a collection of her musician portraits!

“I have no fixed style, and that’s what’s kept my photography interesting.”

“Stealing is not a compliment.”

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, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Spanning more than 40 years, Deborah Feingold’s photography career began when she immersed herself in the jazz of the late ’70’s and simultaneously was shooting and keeping company with Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Tony Bennett and many other jazz legends. After working as the first staff photographer for Musician magazine for five years, she continued shooting musicians for album/cd covers and portraits for Warner Music for the next two decades.

As a contributor to Rolling Stone, Time Magazine, Newsweek and the New York Times, among many other publications, Deborah has also photographed most of the biggest names in pop culture. She has also created over 100 memorable author portraits for book covers and has shot numerous ad campaigns for print and television. Her work has been syndicated all over the world and is included in a number of music anthologies and private collections.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Feingold’s apartment 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. All photos in montage by Deborah Feingold. Photo of Ms. Feingold and me by me (direction by Ms. Feingold). It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 303:
Peter Kuper

“Art has been my saving grace, in terms of having an outlet so I’m not just having today’s news run around in my head and make me scream.”

Political artist/illustrator Peter Kuper rejoins the show to talk about these Kafkaesque times and his new graphic novel, Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories (Norton)! We get into his decades-long interest in Kafka, the art of literary adaptation, why the constraints of working with an existing story can be liberating, how to talk about controversial artists in the present moment, the various translations of K he read before commissioning his own, and challenges of his adaptation-in-progress: Heart of Darkness. We also get into his post-2016-election mindset, the discovery of his New Yorker cartoonist line, his laborious process of breaking down a comic, what his dream adaptation project is, the time he got stranded in a village in Africa by an evil guide, and much more! Give it a listen! And go buy Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories!

“I feel a lot of anxiety that what I’m working on relates to what’s going on in the world.”

“I teach so that I can learn what it is I think I know.”

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, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Peter Kuper’s work appears regularly in The New Yorker, The Nation, and Mad, where he has written and illustrated “Spy vs. Spy” every issue since 1997. He is the co-founder of World War 3 Illustrated, a political comix magazine now in its 40th year of publication. He has produced over two dozen books, including Sticks and Stones, The System, Diario de Oaxaca, Ruins (which won the 2016 Eisner Award) and more. His most recent graphic novel is Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories. He is currently working on an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Peter has lectured extensively throughout the world and has taught comics and illustration courses at Parsons, The School of Visual Arts, and Harvard University’s first class dedicated to graphic novels. A frequent guest at literary festivals, Peter enjoys traveling the world, but will always call New York City his home.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Peter’s studio on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder, as well as a Zoom H2n Handy 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. B/w photo of Peter by me. It’s on my instagram. Butterfly photo by Holly Kuper.