Author Liska Jacobs joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to discuss her heralded first novel Catalina, narrated in vibrant prose by a young woman destined for a fall during an outing with friends to the eponymous island off the coast from LA. Echoes of Gatsby and Brett Easton Ellis abound – decadence is a blast, but can’t slay demons – but this is very much a tale of our time; as we encounter a woman stranded, her career and identity collapsing following a failed affair with a powerful boss. Liska, Eric, and Medaya reflect on the many insights Catalina provides for our post-Weinstein Crisis moment. Also, Liska recommends Chris Kraus’ Video Green, reflections on LA and the art world in the early ‘90s.
Co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by filmmaker Robin Campillo, and actors Nahuel Perez Biscayart and Arnaud Valois - the Director and the stars, respectively, of 120 BPM, which won the Grand Prix at this year's Cannes Film Festival - to discuss how they captured the spirit of the Parisian chapter of one of the most dynamic and transformative social movements in recent history, ACT UP; as well as the beautiful, tragic romance at the heart of the story. A reflection of the intensity of living constantly on the precipice of death, the show doubles as a masterclass on the rigors of creating truly excellent historical cinema. Also, Nathan Englander returns to recommend two books, both of which have special appeal to dog lovers: Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey; and Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes.
Lynn Comella, author Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure, joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Sarah Mesle, to discuss how a handful of Feminist entrepreneurs in the 1970s helped women in America and around the world take greater control of their own bodies and pleasure. The discussion couldn't be more timely in a month when our society is beginning to confront the patriarchal power relations that emboldens sexual predators. Vibrator Nation tells the history of women putting women's liberation in the hands of women! Also, author Dan Lopez drops by to recommend Katherine Heiny's new novel Standard Deviation.
Author Nathan Englander joins co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Eric Newman to discuss his ambitious new novel Dinner at the Center of the Earth, which is set inside the Israel/Palestine conflagration. In an energetic conversation, teeming with wit, Nathan also shares the despair he felt while living in Israel in 2000 at the collapse of the peace talks and beginning of the second intifada; and explains why he mixed the surreal and all-too-real in a work that strives to do nothing less than bring the two sides together to recognize their shared humanity, need for cooperation, and desire for peace. Also, Medaya recommends Rachel Cusk’s divinely drafted novel Outline.
This week’s show is a doubleheader. In game one, Award-winning poet & Mancunian Adam O’Riordan joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Boris Dralyuk, as well as author David Shook, to discuss the Manchester writing school, it’s partnership with LARB, the tradition of English letters in Southern California – and how to strengthen Los Angeles’ literary ties across the pond. In the nightcap, Eric, Boris, and David are joined by Amanda de la Garza, curator of an exhibit of contemporary Oaxacan murals at the Downtown LA Library entitled “Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in LA” to discuss the powerful resonance of indigenous language, art, and tradition in an era of mass migration from Oaxaca to Los Angeles. Also, author Karen Tei Yamashita returns to recommend Pankaj Mishra’s From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia; as well as his most recent book, Age of Anger: A History of the Present.
Artist, architect, and activist Ai Weiwei joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to discuss his new feature-length film Human Flow; and the on-going global refugee crisis that it documents. The conversation weaves through matters central to 21st Century humanity: digital technology, globalization, national identity, economic inequality, climate catastrophes, demagogues, and threats to liberty - as well as more eternal themes like war, beauty, human vulnerability, and how we bear witness to the mystery of existence.
Karen Tei Yamashita, one of the most celebrated American novelists of her generation, turns historian/archeologist with Letters to Memory, an investigation into the lived experience of the World War Two Japanese Internment Camps, as revealed by the words and images from her family's archive. Karen joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to discuss how this striking new work came to be, her political motivations, and the importance of bringing forward the tremendous impact this horrible episode in American history had on people, families, and communities. Also, author Chiara Barzini returns to recommend Leonard Michaels' Slyvia, a tragic tale of a sexually charged romance in early '60s Manhattan.
A LARB Radio Double-Header! First, Author, Academic, and OC resident Andrew Tonkovich joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about the all-but-unknown, but surprisingly excellent, literary tradition of Orange County. Andrew and his wife, poet Lisa Alvarez, have compiled a collection of stories, essays, and memoirs about (or reflective of) LA County's more right-wing neighbor - and the list of contributors is as impressive as the content itself. Andrew talks about some of his favorite entries; as well as the promising political evolution of a longtime GOP bastion that voted against Trump. Then, in the 2nd half of the show, author Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow joins Eric and Medaya to reminisce about the glory days of the Sony Walkman from the late 70s through to the 90s. Rebecca has written a short history/memoir entitled Personal Stereo, as part of Bloomsbury's charming Object Lesson series, about the device that revolutionized our listening habits.
Award-winning Italian screenwriter and English Language Novelist Chiara Barzini joins co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Eric Newman to talk about Things that Happened Before the Earthquake, which tells the story of an adolescent girl who moves with her family from Rome to LA in the early '90s. The conversation centers on the experience of moving to a massive, mythical city without a center; the turmoil of the Rodney King era; and the nuances of a coming-of-age immigrant tale. Also, Natalie Graham returns to recommend Play Dead, a collection of poems by Francine Harris.
Cave Canem award winning poet Natalie J Graham talks with hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher about her collection Begin with a Failed Body. The discussion opens about failure, imperfect bodies, and fallible memories; detours through hip-hop and black culinary traditions; and weaves through history to hope and pleasure. Also, LARB's Boris Dralyuk drops to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution by recommending a collection of stories written in the wake of 1917: Russian Emigre Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky, edited by Bryan Karetnyk.
Director Peter Bratt and the subject of his new Documentary, Dolores Huerta, talk with co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher about the making of the film Dolores; but in the hands of Dolores Huerta, every moment is an organizing moment - and the conversation flows across the central political issues of our time, much as the film tackles those from the past half-century and beyond. The message remains the same: everyone can take action to improve our lives and society, here's how you do it! Also, Medaya recommend's NYRB's re-issue of David Plante's classic (and controversial) Difficult Women: A Memoir of Three, which contains literary portraits of Jean Rhys, Sonia Orwell, and Germaine Greer.
Author Lucy Ives joins co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to discuss Impossible Views of the World, her first novel, which centers on the life of a curator working in New York's greatest museum. The ensuing conversation revolves around the Ives' inspiration for writing such a multi-faceted work: part character-driven social satire, part literary pastiche, it's also an intellectual mystery novel rife with artistic and philosophical resonance. Plus, poet Imani Tolliver, author of Runaway: A Memoir in Verse, returns to recommend Roxane Gay's Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.
Bryan Fogel joins co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to discuss his astonishing new film Icarus, which belongs on a shortlist of documentaries that fortuitously captured history in the making. The film began as an expose on Fogel as a guinea pig, taking performance enhancing drugs in preparation for a major cross-country bike race. However, the specialist who is assisting Bryan backs down and hands Bryan over to the head of Russia’s “anti-doping” team, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov; who is, in fact, the mastermind behind Russia’s massive national doping program. Rodchenkov decides he's had enough and turns to Brian to protect him and assist in blowing the whistle on the biggest doping scandal in history. Icarus is a tale of friendship, heroism, and suspense; which also happens to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the dishonesty and corruption of Vladimir Putin’s regime. Also, LARB Radio’s own Eric Newman drops by to recommend Tom Atwood’s new photography book Kings and Queens in Their Castles, which portrays 160 LGBTQ subjects in their homes.
Cave Canem Award-winning Poet Imani Tolliver joins LARB's Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn to read from, and talk about, her powerful new book, Runaway: A Memoir in Verse. The powerful, emotive conversation (recorded on Imani's birthday!) focuses on the redemptive role that verse, the community of poets, Howard University, The World Stage, coming out, and romantic partnership have all played in Imani's life. All of which gets reflected in her beautifully empowering words. Also, author Danzy Senna returns to recommend Elena Ferrante's The Lost Daughter, a short taught novel written before the more celebrated Neopolitan Novels.
Author Danzy Senna joins Kate, Medaya, and Eric to discuss her novel New People, a romantic "comedy" of manners that overflows with insight into race and identity in America. Senna describes how she crafts historical/cultural geographies: of Brooklyn in the '90s, Stanford University a few years earlier, and the nightmare utopia of Jonestown. The dialogue reveals an author of personal, very human, tales with tremendous resonance for our troubled Trumpian times. Also, poet and choreographer Harmony Holiday returns to recommend Toni Cade Bambara's novel The Salt Eaters.
Architect Frank Gehry sits down with Joseph Giovannini to discuss projects from across his career: including his rebuff of Donald Trump's inept courtship; his on-gong engagement with the LA River Project (which Giovannini has written about for LARB); and the many hurdles he had to overcome to complete the jewel of Downtown LA, Disney Hall. This is a Master both in repose and politically engaged; reflective and yet adamant that his work serve humanity.
LARB Radio goes in depth with poet Douglas Kearney. Co-hosts Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn and Will Clark talk with the award-winning poet, librettest, and Cal Arts Professor about the progression of his publications, writing of and for the common (wo)man, the vibrant beauty of his language, and so much more! Also, Peter J Harris returns to recommend a 1970s underground classic of African literature, The Healers by Ghanaian author Ayi Kwei Armah.
In early July, LARB invited Lorin Stein, the Editor in Chief of the Paris Review, to speak at its publishing workshop at USC. During the trip, he also joined LARB's Tom Lutz for a public dialogue on the state of publishing, books, journals, reading, and literature - which naturally flowed into an even wider range of subjects from the joy of print, the craft of editing, translation in the digital age, Michael Houellebecq, and the marvelous writing of Edouard Louis. Also, author Fiona Maazel, who's new book is A Little More Human, returns to recommend Jim Shepard's new collection of stories The World To Come.
Kate and Eric are joined by poet, choreographer, and founder of the Mythscience artist collective Harmony Holiday, whose new collection of verse is titled Hollywood Forever. Harmony reads from the volume and discusses her time-collapsing, historically conscious, visually engaging, collage-style poetry that produces a socially-conscious, politically resonant, sensual literary triumph. Also, author Garth Greenwell recommends novelist Yiyun Li's memoir "Dear Friend, from My Life I write to You in Your Life."
LARB's Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn talks with author Peter J Harris about the new production of his work "Johnson Chronicles: Truth and Tall Tales About My Penis," which opens in Los Angeles on July 21st. Janice and Peter discuss the work's transition from page to stage, reflect on the mythology surrounding the black male member and the role of that mythology in the ongoing de-humanization of African-Americans, and the challenges still facing artists presenting honest, intimate portraits of Black Americans. Also, author Morgan Parker returns to recommend Dick Gregory's provocatively titled autobiography.
Errol Morris, the legendary filmmaker, joins Kate, Medaya, and Eric to discuss his new documentary "The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography." A loving investigation of the work of a longtime friend, the film represented a new challenge for a master celebrated for revealing the tortured souls of America's elite war criminals on the big screen. Errol Morris reveals a couple secrets of his craft; and his sense of what, at the end of the day, still remains. Also, Jonathan Lethem returns to recommend Alison Lurie's brilliant novel of transplants in LA, The Nowhere City.
Jonathan Lethem joins Kate, Medaya, and Eric to discuss the publication of his first collection of essays, reviews, and commentaries "More Alive and Less Lonely;" which serves as a fine description of the free-ranging dialogue that ensues. The great subjects of life are tackled: how to contend with the impact of having children on your daily regimen of reading; New York v California; Fiction v Criticism; etc, et al. Also, Dana Spiotta returns to recommend Chanelle Benz's The Man Who Shot Out My Eye is Dead.
Author Deborah Nelson joins Kate, Medaya, and Eric to discuss her new book Tough Enough about a five iconic 20th century women writers, plus one photographer, and their stylistic affinity - a rejection of sentimentality that challenged gender stereotypes. A fascinating discussion about six fascinating figures in the American pantheon: Susan Sontag, Mary McCarthy, Diane Arbus, Joan Didion, and (the two expats) Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil. Also, Amelia Gray returns to recommend Kristen Iskandrian's novel Motherest.
Los Angeles Author Amelia Gray joins Kate, Medya, and Eric to discuss her new novel Isadora. The book focuses on two years in the life of Isadora Duncan, the legendary American Modern Dance pioneer. It begins when Isadora is the toast of Paris (her adopted hometown) in 1913, the year before the outbreak of World War One. Then, tragedy strikes, her two young children drown in the Seine. Isadora flees Paris, traveling across a Europe that is itself imploding. Author Amelia Gray talks about her approach to historical fiction, what attracted her to Isadora Duncan, and how we try to cope with soul shattering grief. Also, author Jess Arndt returns to recommend a novella, The Last Wolf, by Hungarian author Lazlo Krasznahorkai.
Los Angeles author Jess Arndt joins Kate and Medaya to talk about her first collection of stories Large Animals: Stories. Arndt is a stunningly original author; writing fluidly surrealistic tales where subjectivity is multiplicity; yet the proceedings are anchored by the bodies we navigate and inhabit. Also, Kate recommends Proxies: Essays Near Knowing, a book of philosophical poetry by Cal Arts Professor Brian Blanchfield.