Virtual Memories Show 429:
Nate Powell

“It was a lifesaver, having Congressman Lewis in my life during this period — his temperance, his playing the long game, his absolute lack of compromise on a moral and ethical level — a lot of this helped me on a personal basis.”

How will we remember (and recover from) the last 5 years? National Book Award-winning cartoonist Nate Powell‘s new collection, Save It For Later: Promises, Parenthood, and the Urgency of Protest (Abrams ComicArts) explores America’s fractures and its hopes for the future. We talk about the impetus of the book, how it follows his work adapting Rep. John Lewis‘ story in the MARCH trilogy, and how his conversations with the late congressman scared him even more about the impact of the previous presidential administration. We get into the Save It For Later‘s balancing act of memoir & essay, his decision to draw his kids as magical animals, what MARCH taught him about comics storytelling and how it influenced his recent work. We also discuss the irony of Gen X’s apolitical nature, Nate’s punk ethos, the combo of thrash metal & X-Men comics that instilled a social conscience in him, the delight of visiting the quarter bins in his childhood comic shop when he goes home, why not being an activist doesn’t equal being a defeatist, and a lot more. Give it a listen! And go read Save It For Later!

“The older I get, the more I feel that my generation is more strongly linked to the Baby Boomers than to Millennials, specifically by the erroneous assumption of the inevitability of social progress, by the privilege of assuming that things will naturally work out.”

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“It’s not wrong that parents generally lose a lot of bandwidth to get involved with a lot of other work.”

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

Nate Powell is a National Book Award–winning cartoonist whose work includes civil rights icon John Lewis’s historic March trilogy, Come Again, Two Dead, Any Empire, Swallow Me Whole, and The Silence of Our Friends. Nate has also received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, three Eisner Awards, the Michael L. Printz Award, the Comic-Con International Inkpot Award, two Ignatz Awards, and the Walter Dean Myers Award. He has discussed his work at the United Nations, on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, PBS, CNN, and Free Speech TV. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana. His new book is Save It For Later.

Follow Nate on Twitter and Instagram.

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 Nate by Ben Rains.

Virtual Memories Show 428:
Michael DeForge

I think one of the ways art can be politically useful is by reimagining different ways of being.”

Cartoonist Michael DeForge joins the show to celebrate his amazing new graphic story collection, Heaven No Hell (Drawn & Quarterly). We get into his prolific comics career, his compulsion to jump genres, the ways we relitigate the traumas of our lives, and why he digs he self-imposed challenge of a daily comic strip (on top of his other comics and his illustration work). We get into how revolutionary politics permeates his art and how he engages in community activism, what it means to rethink our relationship to social media, why technology will always outpace his attempts at ridiculing it, and why Reading The Comments led him to explore a creative path when he was making Leaving Richard’s Valley. We also discuss the uses of absurdism & satire, how his dystopian stories have him rooting for utopian ideas, how he bullied his way into judging butter tart competitions, and more. Give it a listen! And go read Heaven No Hell and check out Birds of Maine!

“We take for granted that technology is developing in a certain way, and it’s up to us to mitigate the damage. I don’t think that’s true, and my current work is about an alternate view of technology.”

“I feel like my comics are still so far away from where I want them to be that I’m committed to continuing to focus on this medium.”

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

Michael DeForge lives in Toronto, Ontario. His comics and illustrations have been featured in Jacobin, The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Believer, The Walrus, The New Yorker and Maisonneuve Magazine. He worked as a designer on Adventure Time for six seasons. His published books include Very Casual, A Body Beneath, Ant Colony, First Year Healthy, Dressing, Big Kids, Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero, Leaving Richard’s Valley, Familiar Face, and A Western World. His new book is Heaven No Hell.

Follow Michael on Twitter and Instagram and follow his current serial, Birds Of Maine, on Instagram.

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. That pic of Michael is by Matthew James-Wilson.

Virtual Memories Show 424:
Jen Silverman

“What strikes me is how our culture has evolved such that if we’re not being witnessed we feel like we don’t exist. The desire for fame is really just the desire to be witnessed to such a degree that you feel like you HAVE to exist.”

What price fame? With her debut novel, We Play Ourselves (Random House), writer and playwright Jen Silverman tells a comedic tale of theater life gone wrong, internet humiliation, a teenage feminist fight club, queer absurdist puppetry, the boundaries of documentary filmmaking, and a lot more. We get into the roots of her novel, what writing for theater and TV/film taught her and what she had to unlearn for this book, how she balanced her love for absurdism with narrative realism, and how to figure out which stories belong in which medium. We talk about the difference between “theater” and “Broadway” and how the pandemic has wiped out the communal experience of theater (for now), how the economics of theater can perpetuate a lack of diversity and how it feels to be “the woman” playwright in a season, how she learned to navigate the heightened unreality of LA, the difference in searching for The Path and finding A Path, why the hunger for being seen can warp pretty much all human activities, why she draws sad pandas, and more! Give it a listen! And go read We Play Ourselves!

“I’m really interested in art forms that reflect us back to ourselves in unexpected ways.”

“In theater what I’m doing revolves around the question, ‘What is the invitation that I’m extending to my audience?’ How am I inviting them into this space, this live gathering that can only happen in a theater? A novel is not theater, and it felt like a couple lifetimes of me asking, ‘What is a novel?'”

“Absurdist theater is a very specific tool for thinking about power dynamics, about politics, about human relations inside communities.”

“Since the pandemic, the more plays I’ve read on the page the more I found myself able to engage with the art form as a form that I love, as opposed to the absence of theater in my life.”

“Each play is a new interrogation. In my process, form and content and the way they talk to each other is very important, so each play by necessity takes on a different form than the last play or the next play.”

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

Jen Silverman is a New York–based writer and playwright. She is the author of the story collection The Island Dwellers, which was longlisted for a PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for debut fiction. Her plays have been produced across the United States and internationally, and she also writes for television and film. She is a two-time MacDowell Colony fellow, a member of New Dramatists, and the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts grant, a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Fellowship, the Yale Drama Series Award, and a Playwrights of New York Fellowship. Her new novel is We Play Ourselves.

Follow Jen on Twitter and Instagram. She draws sad pandas.

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 Jen by Zackary Canepari.

Virtual Memories Show 423:
Leslie Stein

With her latest graphic memoir, I Know You Rider (Drawn & Quarterly), Leslie Stein reveals a piece of her life that she’d never shared with anyone: her decision to have an abortion. We talk about why she chose to tell that story, how her family reacted to the book, why she told the story in a direct, unmediated narrative, what it was like to have the book come out in the early days of the pandemic, and her one regret about the experience itself. We get into her pandemic life, and why her new comic (currently being serialized on her Instagram) portrays the exact opposite: touring the country in a van with a band and playing music in crowded bars. We also discuss her dream-book of a history of Green-Wood Cemetery, what it’s like to treat your life as content, and the one project that keeps making her run away into other projects. Give it a listen! And go read I Know You Rider!

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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

Leslie Stein is the cartoonist of the LA Times Book Prize Award-winning Present, as well as Bright-Eyed At Midnight and the Eye of the Majestic Creature series. Her diary comics have been featured in The New Yorker, Vice, and in the Best American Comics anthology. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Her new book is I Know You Rider, from Drawn & Quarterly.

Follow Leslie on Instagram (she’s serializing new comics there!).

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 Leslie by Don Stahl.

Virtual Memories Show 422:
Anahid Nersessian

“I’ve never had a period of separation from Keats, like I’ve had with other authors or bands that I love.”

Let’s commemorate the 200th anniversary of John Keats’ untimely death with a conversation with Anahid Nersessian, author of Keats’ Odes: A Lover’s Discourse (University of Chicago). We get into how she read Keats’ letters to Fanny Brawne at WAY too young an age, how she’s lived with his poems since childhood and how they’ve changed for her over the years, and why it kills her that no one has disinterred Fanny’s final letters to Keats (which he never read and are buried with him). We talk about her relationship to the western canon, the implicit (and explicit) sexual violence of Ode on a Grecian Urn, her harassment by a Latin teacher in high school and how it affected her career path, Keats’ radicalist, proto-Marxist tones and the benefits of reading The Communist Manifesto in funny voices as a 7th grader. We also discuss what it’s like to have a couple of strict old-school Freudians for parents, why she doesn’t have time for social media (and why she didn’t go overboard integrating her personal experiences into the book), the thread of Keats’ Odes that has led to her next book on the Cato Street Conspiracy, and more. Give it a listen! And go read Keats’ Odes: A Lover’s Discourse!

“Keats and Marx share a horizon or an ambition for human beings, a horizon of freedom realized in social life.”

“For the personal material in the book, I told myself I wouldn’t self-censor, if something came up that seemed relevant to a particular poem or to an understanding of Keats’ life, but I also wouldn’t push myself to be more explicit about aspects of my life.”

“In the Romantic period, things were intensely partisan and politicized. We think that our public world of the arts is politicized, but you should’ve seen the Regency period.”

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

Anahid Nersessian was born and raised in New York City. She attended Yale University as an undergraduate and got her Ph.D in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago. After spending three years at Columbia University, she moved to Los Angeles, where she currently teaches in the English Department at UCLA on the unceded territory of the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples. She is the author of three books, Keats’s Odes: A Lover’s Discourse (Chicago, 2021), The Calamity Form: On Poetry and Social Life (Chicago, 2020), and Utopia, Limited: Romanticism and Adjustment (Harvard, 2015), and has published widely in top scholarly journals as well as in the Los Angeles Review of Books and Public Books. She also founded and co-edits the Thinking Literature series at the University of Chicago Press.

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 Anahid by someone else. It’s on my instagram. Portrait of Keats by William Hilton.