Virtual Memories Show 329:
Kate Maruyama

“I was always attracted to dark writing. I grew up in a kind of gothic house, and there was always good stuff on the shelves.”

Writer, teacher, and activist Kate Maruyama joins the show from Readercon 2019! We talk about her first novel, Harrowgate (47North), which managed to make new motherhood and domesticity even creepier than the ghost story that overlays it. We get into how her husband and kids reacted to that book (it’s about a woman who dies in childbirth), and when she got around to reading the work of her late mother, Kit Reed. We also talk about how she spent 20 years in Los Angeles before stumbling across its literary scene, and how she’s making up for lost time by promoting that diverse writing community. Along the way, we discuss the differences between screenwriting vs prose writing, how she teaches students to avoid using archetypes that demean an entire population (and why Baby Driver turns out to be a woke crime movie), the authors her parents hosted at Wesleyan University during her childhood and the embarrassing question she asked Ralph Ellison, the social justice mission of Antioch College, how she taught creative writing in South Central LA and what her students taught her, and why the fast-fail model of screenplay sales has a lot to recommend it. Give it a listen! And go buy Harrowgate!

“I used to subscribe to the belief in talent as this innate thing, as opposed to practice, something you could learn.”

“I adore the screenplay format because if you really work at it every day, you can write a really good one in six to eight weeks. On the other hand, your agent goes out with it and it dies within a week.”

“I know I teach a lot of writing, but I feel like often I’m rehabilitating people who were damaged by people who stopped them from writing.”

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

Kate Maruyama’s novel Harrowgate was published in 2013 by 47North. Her short work has appeared in Stoneboat, Arcadia Magazine, Controlled Burn, Salon, and The Rumpus, among other online journals, as well as in two anthologies. She teaches at Antioch University Los Angeles in their MFA and BA programs, as well as Writing Workshops Los Angeles. She co-founded and edits the literary website, Annotation Nation, and has served as a juror for The Bram Stoker Awards and for the Shirley Jackson Awards. Kate writes, teaches, cooks, and eats in Los Angeles, where she lives with her family. She’s on Twitter and Instagram as katemaruyama.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Readercon 2019 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 me & Kate by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 325:
Boris Fishman

“Cooking is the only thing in my life that creates the same exalted transport that writing does.”

With his new memoir, Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (a Memoir with Recipes), author Boris Fishman explores his family’s Soviet Jewish legacy, his arc as a writer, and the glorious and varied meals that kept his family together from Minsk to Brighton Beach. We get into why creative nonfiction is his first passion (after publishing two novels), how he guaranteed his family’s disapproval by writing about them throughout his career, how he couldn’t leave Sovietness behind until he moved out of his parents’ home at 24 (despite emigrating from the USSR at 9), what he’d do if he quit the writing game, and why the recipes were the toughest part of Savage Feast. We also talk smack about certain books and authors, compare Malamud to Roth and Bellow, discuss the first (very not Jewish/not Russian) writer Boris became friends with, and explore the use of fiction to imagine alternate lives for oneself. Along the way, we make a life-changing pact, decide whether an MFA is worth pursuing, share book tour best practices, and conclude that Soviet Jewish guilt is exponentially more severe than Jewish guilt. It’s a whole lot of talk about books, food, and deracinated Jews! Give it a listen! And go buy Savage Feast!

“What makes me Soviet is not having spent my first 9 years in that country, but how many years I spent under my parents’ roof.”

“We read novels trying to sniff out what really happened, and we read memoirs what didn’t really happen.”

“I had this very smug idea that the recipes would be easy, because they didn’t involve creating sentences. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

“The finality of one’s self can be devastating.”

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

Boris Fishman was born in Minsk, Belarus, and emigrated to the United States in 1988. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, Travel + Leisure, the London Review of Books, New York magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian, among other publications. He is the author of the novels A Replacement Life, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and winner of the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Medal, and Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo, which was also a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He teaches in Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and lives in New York City. His new book is the memoir, Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (a Memoir with Recipes).

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at my house 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 me & Boris and b/w photo of Boris by me. It’s on my instagram. Nicer pic with brick wall by Stephanie Kaltsas.

Virtual Memories Show 321:
Nina Bunjevac returns!

“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.”

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

Nina Bunjevac is best known for her internationally acclaimed books Heartless (2012) and Fatherland: A Family History (2014). She lives in Toronto where she draws and teaches. Her new book is Bezimena.

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

Virtual Memories Show 318:
Ersi Sotiropoulos

“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.”

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

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.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the home of Michael Z. Wise 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 Ersi and Michael Z. Wise by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 317:
Frederic Tuten

“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.”

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

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.

Tuten’s short stories, art and film criticism have appeared in such places as ArtForum, the New York Times, Vogue, Conjunctions, Granta and Harpers. In addition, he has written essays and fictions for artists’ catalogues including John Baldessari, Eric Fischl, Pierre Huyghe, Jeff Koons, David Salle and Roy Lichtenstein. He has published five novels: The Adventures of Mao on the Long March; Tallien: A Brief Romance; Tintin in the New World: A Romance; Van Gogh’s Bad Café: A Love Story; The Green Hour; and most recently, Self Portraits: Fictions, a collection of stories.

Tuten received a Guggenheim Fellowship for Fiction and was given the Award for Distinguished Writing from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His new book is the memoir My Young Life.

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