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Virtual Memories

A weekly conversation about books & life
-- not necessarily in that order

“You're painting from memory of yesterday morning.”
— David Hockney

Last week's episode: #198 - Ed Ward, author of The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1963

Relax! I told you last week that there's no new Virtual Memories Show coming out this week, and I meant it! Still, I want to send out an e-mail for a couple of reasons.

First, it helps to stay in practice. Second, I'm using a new template and want to see how it works. Third, I want to change the purpose of this e-mail. (Fourth, I figure, is to give you another occasion to unsubscribe.)

New purpose, you ask? Yeah: this e-mail gets decent open-rates but virtually zero click-through numbers. Since you don't find all those links & info click-worthy, I've decided to strip down the New Episode and Archive material, and use this more as a newsletter/blog about Virtual Memories.

It's a work in progress, hence this week's soft launch between podcasts.

I just got back from visiting my in-laws in Louisiana for the holidays, and managed to get a podcast in with Michael Tisserand, author of KRAZY, a new biography of the great cartoonist George Herriman. KRAZY's one of my fave books this year, and I hope next week's show inspires you to give it a read.

I only brought one book on the trip (in addition to my iPad and its Kindle app): the single-volume edition of Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honor trilogy. I had about 450 pages to go when we flew down Thursday night, and figured that would take me until homecoming. I miscalculated the page-turning quality of Waugh's writing and my own obsessiveness, and finished the 770-page book around Saturday afternoon. My bad, but man, was that a good one to finish the year with.

Novels of British experience of the War usually put me in mind of my mom and her family (she was born in London in '40), but this one came around near its end to touch on my dad's experience as an Eastern European Jewish refugee. Above and beyond those personal resonances, I enjoyed Sword of Honor immensely. The Cypriot clusterf*** alone is enough to put it among the best war literature.

YMMV: keep in mind that my favorite books in Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time were the three that took place during the war. (It's because Jenkins, the narrator, has to take on a more active and revealing role.) Sword of Honor was recommended to me by past pod-guest Elizabeth Samet; check out that episode.

I was bookless by Saturday, but on Sunday (Christmas), I got a few books from my Amazon wish list as presents from my brother- and sister-in-law, including Joseph Heller's Something Happened. Bob Gottlieb praised the heck out of it in his Avid Reader memoir, so I put it on the list, even though I've never actually read Catch-22. I'll likely give this one a ride in January. I'd get to it this week, but now that I'm home, I need to start Brad Gooch's new biography of Rumi, in advance of our podcast next week.

Rather than read on the flight home, I watched a 2009 documentary about David Hockney, A Bigger Picture, on my iPad. I enjoyed it for the most part (the director's narrative intrusions were a little precious). It was about Hockney's return from LA to his childhood home of Bradford, England, and his simultaneous departure from photography/technology to landscape painting, first with watercolors, then oils, evolving into a massive project at the Royal Academy.

I'm only telling you all that because of what Hockney said when the filmmaker remarked, "It's a beautiful light" during a painting session in the cotswolds:

"Of course, that's not what I'm painting right now. I'm still painting the mist. You paint with memory even when you're here. No such thing as objectivity. You're painting from memory of yesterday morning. We always see with memory. Seeing as each person's memory is a bit different, we can't be looking at the same thing, can we?

"We're all on our own."

That's what's going on. I've got the first five episodes of 2017 either recorded or lined up; given how chaotic the last months of 2016 were for me, I'm happy to have a bit of a plan in place for the show.

I'm sure this e-mail will get more focused in time, and might even lean toward the embarrassingly revealing. See you next week/year.

Gil Roth
Virtual Memories
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