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.
Mary Gaitskill, one of the most distinctive and celebrated contemporary American writers, spoke with Tom Lutz and Laurie Winer at a special LARB event in Silver Lake last month. Mary opened the evening with a reading from her new collection of essays, Somebody with a Little Hammer. The conversation flowed through countless subjects from there: the psychology of Mary's most celebrated characters; drugs, alcohol, and writing; Linda Lovelace; the question of cultural appropriation; Mary's scathing take on Donald Trump, and more. Also, Janet Sarbanes author of The Protester Has Been Released returns to recommend two books: The Censors by Luisa Valenzuela; and a book of poetry The Wasp Queen by Claudia Cortese.
LARB Radio's Kate Wolff, Medaya Ocher, Eric Newman spoke with authors Joyce Carol Oates, Morgan Parker, and Fiona Maazel at this year's LA Times Bookfest held recently on the USC campus. Morgan Parker is the author of There are More Beautiful Things than Beyonce. Fiona Maazel's latest novel is A Little More Human. Joyce Carol Oates remains one of the leading figures in contemporary American letters, a status she has held for many decades. All three reflect on their writing processes, on contemporary literature and culture, as well as our troubled political times.
LARB Radio's Kate Wolff, Medaya Ocher, Eric Newman braved 90 degree heat to speak with authors Garth Greenwell, Marcy Dermansky, and Dana Spiotta at this year's LA Times Bookfest held recently at USC's campus. Garth Greenwell is the author of the novel What Belongs to You. Marcy Dermansky's latest novel is The Red Car (which was recommended a few weeks ago on the LARB Radio hour). Dana Spiotta is a return guest on the show and author most recently of Innocents and Others: A Novel. All three offer spirited observations on contemporary literature, as well as our troubled political times.
Author Janet Sarbanes speaks with Kate and Medaya about her new collection The Protester Has Been Released. The wide-ranging conversation includes Soviet space dogs, humanity's betrayal of the planet, the relevance of Latin American literature in the era of Trump; and, of course, the reason this moment inspires protest. Also, LARB's Eric Newman drops in to recommend two books from the recent Chinese LGBT canon: Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin from Taiwan and Beijing Comrade by Bei Tong - both of which brilliantly capture the spirit of romantic obsession.
Documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras joins Kate, Eric, and Medaya to discuss her new film, Risk; the product of filming Julian Assange and the Wikileaks team over the past seven years. The film is a companion piece to Poitras' Academy Award winning Citizen Four, about Edward Snowden. Both films place Poitras at the epicenter of two of the most significant politcal phenomena of our digital age; and, in both instances, she has crafted brilliant films. Also, Abdellah Taia returns to recommend Russell Banks' novel from the 1980's Continental Drift.
In a powerful show, author Abdellah Taia talks with co-hosts Kate Wolf and Eric Newman about his new collection from Semiotexte, "Another Morocco;" and also about his experience as the first prominent Moroccan author to come out of the closet; his love of Morocco; how he knew he would lose part of himself when he moved to France; and his bitterness towards French liberal society, which may be less homophobic, but is not tolerant of the young man he was in Morocco. George Prochnik, author of a new book about Gershom Scholem, returns to recommend Scholem's magisterial biography The Mystical Messiah: Sabbatai Sevi about one of the most astonishing figures in Jewish history.
Art Historian Kellie Jones talks about her new book, South of Pico, on the flourishing African-American Art scene in Los Angeles in the 1960s and '70s. Co-host Kate Wolf is joined by first-time co-host Eric Newman in a wide-ranging discussion with Kellie about the social, economic, historical, and artistic forces that influenced a powerful generation of black artists in Southern California; whose work continues to resonate. Also, author George Prochnik returns to recommend the work of novelist Irene Nemirovsky, whose stories from both pre- and post-nazi Europe are chillingly cautionary tales for our times.
George Prochnik is one of our leading biographers and cultural historians; and he talks with Kate and Medaya about his latest book, "Stranger in a Strange Land: Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem." As he talks about Scholem's life, from his close friendship with Walter Benjamin to his exodus from Europe, to his history excavations of Judaica that were motivated by a desire to enliven contemporary Jewish life - it becomes apparent that Prochnik sees something of his own quest for meaning in Scholem's unique path. Also, Elif Batuman returns to recommend Hanya Yanagihara' s The People in the Trees.
Author Elif Batuman joins Kate and Medaya to discuss her new semi-autobiographical novel, The Idiot, about a Turkish-American freshman at Harvard. Elif explains the book’s unique genesis: she wrote it shortly after graduating, found it in a drawer many years later, and reworked it into its current form. Many Elifs contributed to this book - the Harvard freshman, the postgraduate author, the recent literary archaeologist, and the nonfiction author whose celebrated book The Possessed covers a similar time period as a work of “objective journalism.” And, yes, Kate, Medea, and Elif share their love for Dostoyevsky! Also, Melissa Febos, author of Abandon Me, returns to recommend a book of poetry, Donika Kelly's Bestiary. And we end by honoring Robert Silvers, legendary founder and editor of the New York Review of Books, who died at 87 in March. LARB contributor Jon Wiener spoke to Silvers in 2013.