“Making art is like an alchemical process for me. I want to take shit and make gold out of it, metaphorically speaking.”
Back from her Fool’s Journey in France, Nina Bunjevac returns to the show to celebrate her new book, Bezimena (Fantagraphics)! We talk about the graphic novel’s unique and weird structure, Nina’s abrupt decision to leave France and come back to Toronto after a year-long study of France’s BD publishing industry, and her upcoming tarot project and her explorations into the history of occult mysticism and esoteric philosophy. Along the way, we also get into fixing the financial model for comics-makers, the value of big publishers, her growth as a writer, how Bezimena helped her address past episodes of sexual assault, her joy that Canada legalized weed while she was away, the story of her collaboration with Antonio Moresco, how to make an Alchemical Kitchen, and plenty more! BONUS: I explain how to tip the housekeeping staff at hotels!Give it a listen! (our 2014 podcast is over here) And go buy Bezimena!
“I like small, intimate bookshops that smell like books, not yoga equipment.”
“I treat tarot the same way I treat my dreams, as symbolism.”
“I realized that my approach to writing is very poetic, and I now approach writing as poetry.”
“It’s very important how you say things, because the stories themselves are the same: love, death, sex, betrayal. Since Homer, we repeat the same stories.”
How does an artist make The Leap into greatness? In Ersi Sotiropoulos‘ wondrous new novel, What’s Left of the Night (New Vessel Press, tr. Karen Emmerich), we explore three days in the mid-life of the poet CP Cavafy and how they may have helped him become the most distinguished Greek poet of the 20th century. Ersi & I talk about how an off-the-cuff discovery of Cavafy’s 1897 trip to Paris led her to this novel over three decades, how she almost drowned in research before a poet browbeat her into writing the proemium of her novel, and how the book rebelled against itself until she had a dream of Cavafy that quelled the unrest. We also get into the universality of desire, her non-challenge of writing from the perspective of a gay man, the process of translation and Ersi’s tendency to over-edit translators when it’s a language she knows. Plus, she tells us why she considers me a pantophile (one who likes everything), and why she prefers hotels over being home in Greece, the Iliad over the Odyssey, and the daemon over the muses when it comes to the font of creativity. BONUS: You get to hear about the novel I never got around to writing, featuring Henry Miller and George Orwell!Give it a listen! And go buy What’s Left of the Night!
“Writing the book, with all the research that I went through, Cavafy became very close as a person. I enjoyed him and I enjoyed his flaws. He amuses me very much.”
“In a hotel room, I feel like life can start again.”
“For me, writing is discovery. Otherwise, it would be boring.”
“The image we have of Cavafy is someone who is already old, who possesses wisdom. But I was interested in what happened before, before becoming Cavafy.”
Ersi Sotiropoulos has written fifteen books of fiction and poetry. Her work has been translated into many languages, and has been twice awarded Greece’s National Book Prize as well as her country’s Book Critics’ Award and the Athens Academy Prize. What’s Left of the Night won the 2017 Prix Méditerranée Étranger in France.
“I told Jerome Charyn, ‘You escaped the Bronx by writing about it. I escaped by never going back.'”
With My Young Life (Simon & Schuster), Frederic Tuten had to get over his notion that memoir is a cheap shot in order to look back at the beginning of a career in writing, teaching, and art criticism in the New York of the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. We get into what started him on this book, how he’s haunted by his childhood in the Bronx, his emphasis on quality over quantity in literary output (while coping with the cautionary example of his writing teacher, Leonard Ehrlich, who only published a single, well-acclaimed novel), his mentorship by artist and convicted murderer John Resko, the joys of cafe culture (and his favorite haunt, Cafe Mogador), and how he got two-timed by “the Elizabeth Taylor of the Bronx” with Jerome Charyn. We also lament today’s celebration of the mundane, celebrate his friendships with Herge, Lichtenstein, Resnais and Queneau, and talk about the books he wants loaded in his casket when he dies, the great allure of Juan Rulfo’s sole book, Pedro Paramo, why future pod-guest Iris Smyles’ first novel is better than F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, how fact-checker Anne Stringfield corrected some virtual memories in My Young Life, how poverty shaped his later life, what he learned from sobriety, Gaugin and The Magic Mountain, and plenty more! Give it a listen! And go buy My Young Life!
“In my 80s I feel like I’m just beginning life. Beginning to learn how to live, and to work, and to enjoy.”
“Live in the dream of the work and rest easy. Something will come. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you’ve done it. And you can always fix it.”
Frederic Tuten grew up in the Bronx. At fifteen, he dropped out of High School to become a painter and live in Paris. He took odd jobs and studied briefly at the Art Students League, and eventually went back to school, continuing on to earn a Ph.D. in early 19th century American Literature from New York University.
He travelled through Latin and South America, studied pre-Columbian and Mexican mural painting at the University of Mexico, wrote about Braziliian Cinema Novo, and joined that circle of film makers, which included Glauber Rocha and Nelson Pereira dos Santos. Tuten finally did live in Paris, where he taught film and literature at the University of Paris 8. He acted in a short film by Alain Resnais, co-wrote the cult film Possession, and conducted summer writing workshops with Paul Bowles in Tangiers.
“Queerness has become less arty, less intellectual, less cultural, more physical, more gym-oriented, more commercial. Lady Gaga instead of Maria Callas.”
Novelist, memoirist, essayist and queer literary icon Edmund White joins the show to talk about his new memoir, The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading (Bloomsbury USA)! We get into how his implied reader has changed identities over the years, the differences between writing memoir, autofiction and imaginative fiction, the boom and bust of the “gay fiction” bookstore category, the challenges of his massive biography of Genet and how he navigated about French attitudes toward gossip, and having the gay version of a shotgun wedding. We also get into his HIV diagnosis in 1985, outliving what he thought was a two-year death sentence, and being crazy enough to take on a long-term writing project in the midst of it. In between, we get to his status as a blurb-slut, what it’s like for him to write on a computer for the first time, the pressure to write for a gay audience and how The Flaneur opened him up to a very different reader, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading!
“I hate the term ‘creative nonfiction,’ which always sounds to me like, you know, lying.”
“I felt my Genet biography was political. I wanted to remind people that gays had a history before AIDS and that it didn’t just involve disease.”
Comics scholar (and curator, and editor, and educator) Bill Kartalopoulos joins the show to talk about his role as the series editor of Best American Comics (HMH)! We get into the process of winnowing down the year’s best, working with a new guest editor each year, Bill’s history in comics, the challenges of fitting everything to a standard page size, programming festivals and his tricks for getting a weird mix of panelists, his upcoming general history of North American comics, and plenty more! Give it a listen (Bill’s conversation starts at 46:00) and pick up this year’s edition of The Best American Comics 2018!
But first, it’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories Show tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2018’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 2019! Nearly 3 dozen responded with a dizzying array of books. (I participated, too!) Just in time for you to make some Christmas purchases (or a belated Hanukkah gift), The Virtual Memories Show offers up a huge list of books that you’re going to want to read! Give it a listen, and get ready to update your wish lists!
This year’s Guest List episode features selections from nearly 3 dozen of our recent guests (and one bonus 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, and 2017 editions of The Guest List for more great book ideas!
The guests who participated in this year’s Guest List are Jerry Beck, Christopher Brown, Dave Calver, Roz Chast, Mark Dery, Michael Gerber, Cathy B Graham, Dean Haspiel, Steven Heller, Richard Kadrey, Paul Karasik, Ken Krimstein, Nora Krug, John Leland, Alberto Manguel, Hal Mayforth, Dave McKean, Mark Newgarden, Audrey Niffenegger, Jim Ottaviani, Robert Andrew Parker, Shachar Pinsker, Nathaniel Popkin, Chris Reynolds, Lance Richardson, JJ Sedelmaier, David Small, Willard Spiegelman, Levi Stahl, Lavie Tidhar, Mark Ulriksen, Irvin Ungar, Henry Wessells . . . and me, Gil Roth! Check out their episodes at our archives!
About our Guest
Bill Kartalopoulos is a comics critic, educator, curator and editor. He is the Series Editor for the #1 New York Times best-selling Best American Comics series published annually by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He teaches classes at Parsons and at SVA. He lives in Brooklyn, where he is writing a book about comics.