This week, co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher talk to Dani Shapiro, author of the memoir Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love. They discuss how Dani Shapiro discovered her real parentage and how that discovery shaped her understanding of herself, her relationship to her family, her body and her career.
Also, Sam Lipsyte returns to recommend Mark Doten's new novel Trump Sky Alpha.
Join LARB editors Kate Wolf, Medaya Ocher and Eric Newman for a special Valentine’s Day episode. In the first half of the show, we speak with Laurie Essig, author of Love Inc., an investigation into the ways in which the wedding, romance and dating industry have affected our lives and made us believe in happy endings, despite the world crumbling (or rather, melting) around our shoulders. Our second guest is long-time LARB veteran, Briallen Hopper, who talks to us about her new collection of essays, Hard to Love. We talk to Briallen about spinsters, singledom and how to throw the perfect Galentine’s party.
Sam Lipsyte talks to co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher about his latest novel, Hark, which follows the exploits of an unlikely prophet named Hark and his acolytes, who think that they have found salvation in “mental archery”. Sam, Kate and Medaya discuss the appeal of gurus, the power of satire, and how to explain global warming to your kids. Sam Lipsyte is the author of author of Venus Drive, The Ask, Home Land, and The Fun Parts. He is also the Chair of the creative writing program at Columbia University.
Also, Dan Lopez, author of The Show House, returns to recommend Stephen Hawking's Brief Answers to the Big Questions.
Mitchell S Jackson, author of 2013's widely acclaimed The Residue, joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about his new, soon to be released, book Survival Math: Notes on an American Family. An eclectic text - part reportage, part memoir, with cento poems, an epistilary opening, and powerful narrative passages throughout - Survival Math seamlessly testifies to a life and a consciousness born from difficult environments, devastating experiences, and an insatiable appetite for understanding and insight. Mitchell talks about what inspired him to write in such a challenging form; how the book's stories capture the complex ways in which adult mentors and friends become "family;" and the relationship of African-American history to the production of spectacular African-American art and literature.
Also, Wayetu Moore returns to recommend The Lazarus Effect, a thriller, by Liberian author H. J. Golakai.
Poet Jeffrey Yang joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Kate Wolf to discuss Hey, Marfa, his heralded new collection. In poems that balance between intimacy and alienation, Hey, Marfa explores the unique history of the tiny town where art, history and culture intersect in the vastness of the Texas desert. Yang talks about his writing practice, what it means to write from and about a place, and the figures he encountered in Marfa that continue to fascinate him.
Also, John Wray, author of Godsend, returns to recommend Joaquin Maria Machado de Assis' miraculous classic The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, which John describes as a post-modern tour de force that happened to be written in Brazil in the 1880s.
Oscar season is upon us and our fearless co-hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Wolf bravely tender their predictions and preferences in a range of categories. There's a lotta love for Glenn Close and The Favorite; not so much for A Star is Born; respect for Roma; and a special focus on documentaries because we've interviewed the directors of many of this year's favorites (having featured last year's winner, Icarus). Medaya and Kate spoke with Sandi Tan, director of Shirkers; Eric talked to Bing Liu, director of Minding the Gap; and Morgan Neville discussed his film Won't You Be My Neighbor? with Kate and Eric; but we've chosen... to bring you a command performance of Eric and Daya's interview with Tim Wardle, director of Three Identical Strangers.
Also, author Julietta Singh returns to recommend The Queer Art of Failure by Jack Halberstam, which features close readings of Pixar Films which celebrate a new generation of animated films which embrace characters, narratives, and communities that counter the traditional tropes of patriarchal, hetero-normative, heroic individualism.
Legendary essayist John McPhee joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to discuss his latest collection The Patch. Reflecting on his long career in creative non-fiction and journalism, McPhee talks about the duty of the writer to get out of the way of the story and bemoans the rise of the branded writer in the age of social media. In place of speed, McPhee extolls the virtue of slowness, the time it takes for a writer to develop his voice, to collect material and to divine the associations and structures through which it might breathe itself into a story.
Also, author Julietta Singh returns to recommend Bhanu Kapil's Humanimal: A Project for Future Children.
Wayetu Moore speaks with host Eric Newman about her debut novel She Would Be King, which interweaves history with magical realism to re-tell Liberia's founding in the 19th century. The Allegorical tale revolves around three characters: an immortal woman Vai, exiled from her indigenous community; an African-American man June Dey, who possesses super-human strength; and Norman Aragon, half-white from Jamaica, with the magical power to vanish. As the three stories merge, Liberia is born. Wayetu tells Eric about her family's history in Liberia, their move to America when Wayetu was five years old during a civil war, her subsequent relationship to Liberia, and what motivated her to write its foundation myth in such a beautiful and mystical form.
We end the year with a special treat as hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Wolf reveal their Best of 2018 selections. Eric, Daya, and Kate go high and also low with their favorite books, films, TV shows, podcasts (present company excluded), art shows, and one category so scandalous it's best kept a secret (for now). So, All Hail King Paimon and the Combahee River Collective; as well as authors Azareen Van Der Vliet and Rebecca Makkai, the two previous guests who made the list! Please enjoy our look back at the year that was; and make sure to catch Eric, Daya, and Kate's sage advice for 2019 at the end of the show.
Author John Wray joins co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf to read from and discuss his critically-lauded new novel, Godsend; which has found its way onto many best of 2018 lists. Godsend tells the story of Aden, a young woman from Santa Rosa who travels to the Pakistan/Afghanistan border region shortly before 9/11, converts to Islam, disguises herself as a male and joins the Taliban as a fighter. John Wray tells us the almost-equally-amazing backstory to the novel, which stems from his time in Afghanistan as a reporter for Esquire; and his motivations for immersing himself so completely in Aden's world.
Also, author and podcast host Karina Longworth returns to recommend Angelica Houston's second memoir, Watch Me.
A double dose of SoCal culture, from classic Hollywood in the 1930s & '40s to the wasteland of the '90s. First up, hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Wolf welcome back Karina Longworth to the show. Previously, Karina talked about her hugely popular podcast, You Must Remember This, which tells tales of old Hollywood. Now she returns to discuss her equally intriguing book, Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes Hollywood that profiles the lives of women involved with the mogul, filmmaker, and playboy; and exposes the routine damage done by male power in classic Tinseltown, #ThemToo. Then Nikki Darling drops by to talk about her debut novel, Fade Into You; a coming-of-age tale set in suburban nowhere during the dire days of the early '90s.
Author Julietta Singh troubles the boundaries that we imagine in and through the body, recuperating it as a porous site marked by flows betwen the internal and external, the self and others. In a wide-ranging conversation about her new book, No Archive Will Restore You, Singh and hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Wolf touch on gender, sexuality, parenting and navigating the world in and as a body.
Also, LARB's Medaya Ocher recommends her favorite short story from this past year, The Cafe by Kristen Gleason, which appeared in the Romance Issue of LARB's quarterly journal.
Journalist and Author Mark Jacobson joins co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Eric Newman to discuss his timely new book, Pale Horse Rider: William Cooper, the Rise of Conspiracy, and the Fall of Trust in America. The result is a Trump-era gem: equally depressing and hilarious, with as much sociological and political insight as can be packed into one show. Jacobson addresses the phenomenal rise of conspiracy theory culture through the underground history of its most influential text, Behold a Pale Horse by William Cooper; who emerges as a sincere and at-least-somewhat redeemable character, the tragedy to Alex Jones' farce. The detour the conversation takes through Hip-Hop culture is worth the price of admission itself!
Also, philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah returns once more to recommend a text he never tires of teaching, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty.
Author, Publisher, and Art Critic Chris Kraus joins hosts Eric Newman, Kate Wolf, and Medaya Ocher to talk about her new collection, Social Practices; which is described as "Essays on and around art and art practices" by Semiotexte, the legendary radical imprint where Chris has been a driving force since the '90s. What follows is a wide-ranging conversation about the role of art and art criticism in contemporary society; with detours into the recent cultural history of LA, the back-story to her novel I Love Dick, and the importance of good old fashioned description when your beat is radical creativity beyond your comfort zone.
Also, Kwame Anthony Appiah, who chaired this year's Man Booker Prize, returns to recommend the book that won fiction's most prestigious award, Milkman by Northern Irish author Anna Burns.
Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah talks with host Eric Newman about his new book The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity. Appiah tackles questions of cultural appropriation, how we come to feel that we possess our various identities, and why it is past time that we start restructuring our relationship to identity and our relationship to others. While Appiah’s work has long engaged questions of how we relate to others through and across difference in pursuit of a more peaceful world, these questions take on a special weight in today’s perilous times as the President inflames racial and political divisions and the commentariat ponder whether we have entered a new “Cold Civil War.”
Also, Dan Lopez returns to honor poet Tony Hoagland, who died last month, by reading from and recommending his Application for Release from the Dream.
In conversation at the finale of the Lambda LitFest in October, Patrisse Cullors, author of When They Call You a Terrorist: a Black Lives Matter Memoir, speaks to host Eric Newman about her activism, the philosophy that undergirds #BlackLivesMatter and how queer writers and activists from the 1960s and 1970s continue to shape her political vision and practice. While Cullors celebrates recent victories against police brutality and the prison system in Los Angeles, she also gives the audience inspiration for fighting back on the eve of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Also, Author Dan Lopez returns to recommend Autonomous by Sci-Fi author Annalee Newitz.
"Shirkers" is a film that Sandi Tan and her friends made in 1992, in Singapore, when they were teenagers. Then the film was lost - stolen. 20 years later it was recovered. Tan's new documentary on Netflix, also called Shirkers, tells the story behind the original film, the tragedy of its theft, and the mystery of its recovery. Co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf ask Tan about her life as a teenage auteur in Singapore and how she came to work with Georges, an older mentor, who shot the sumptuously gorgeous footage and then betrayed her trust. Tan evokes the DIY spirit of early '90s Indie cinema, and her magical relationship to the few great films she saw (in the era before instant access); providing an uncanny re-encounter, at mid-life, with the dreams of an inspired youth.
Also, Dan Lopez drops by to herald Haruki Murakami latest novel, Killing Commendatore; reflect on the magical humanism of the master's flawless formula; and confess that he, like legions of fans around the world, never wants it to end.
Moving between the starlight of Hollywood’s golden age and the stardust that made Studio 54 sparkle in the 1970s, director Matt Tyrnauer’s recent documentaries “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood” and "Studio 54" capture sexual utopias before the dawn of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Moving between the two films in a wide ranging conversation, host Eric Newman and Tyrnauer riff on post-closet culture, the social absorption of economic and political changes, and the glimpses of freedom to be caught in these moments for the archive of American experience.
Also, Ben Marcus drops in to recommend Catherine Lacey's most recent collection of stories Certain American States.
Is there something fundamentally different about contemporary capitalism than the system that Adam Smith identified, Karl Marx critiqued, and John Maynard Keynes sought to reform? If so, is there a unique underlying logic to what is frequently called Neo-Liberalism (aka post-Reagan/Thatcher capitalism)? Co-hosts Eric Newman and LARB Economics and Finance editor Michelle Chihara speak with Political Economist Martijn Konings about his ambitious new book, Capital and Time: For a New Critique of Neo-Liberal Reason, which posits that, yes, the current global order is distinct in ways that impacts every aspect of our lives. This raises two essential issues: one, on the economic and political front, how can we hope to reform (let alone challenge) Neo-Liberalism if we don't have a solid theoretical understanding of how it operates in our daily lives; two, on the philosophical front, given how all-encompoassing this system is in our materialist society, what does it say about how we experience "reality," in particular time. As Martin takes us through the changes that led to the rise of Neo-Liberal logic, he reveals the web we are entangled in - and, to paraphrase one of Martijn's predecessors, an accurate interpretation of the world is a necessary first step to changing it.
Also, Brian Phillips, author of Impossible Owls, drops by to recommend Rebecca West's beautiful, heart-wrenching 1956 novel The Fountain Overflows.
As one of today's featured authors is a celebrated sports blogger, it seems appropriate to begin by quoting legendary Chicago Cub Ernie Banks, "Let's Play Two!" Indeed, it's a Doubleheader today. First off, co-hosts Medea Ocher and Kate Wolf talk with Ben Marcus about his new collection, Notes from the Fog. Medea posits what she sees as a recurring theme in the stories, "Can we really know the people closest to us?" What follows is fascinating series of reflections on child raring, the banality of death, surreal realism, what makes a narrative compelling, and how Trump is undermining contemporary fiction. Then guest host Evan Kindley talks with Brian Phillips, one of our most celebrated non-fiction writers, about his new collection, Impossible Owls. While Brian initially gained notoriety and a huge fan base on the beloved-but-now-defunct Grantland website, which featured quality writing on sports; and he delighted millions with his puckish Tweets during the men's World Cup; he has now established himself as a master of long form reporting that is indistinguishable from the literary essay, through which he bares witness to our contemporary moment. In conversation with Evan, Brian opens up about his unorthodox career and inspired approach to his often-quirky subjects.
It's the LARB Radio Reunion Show, as the original triumvirate of hosts - Seth Greenland, Laurie Winer, and Tom Lutz - reconvene on the occasion of the publication of Seth's new novel, The Hazards of Good Fortune. The witty repartee flows forth as if they never skipped a beat. Seth speaks of the motivations and inspirations behind his sweeping story of contemporary American society that echoes classics from the previous gilded age. Tom and Laurie praise while they ponder the pressures of producing a narrative that captures the spirit of the times. The result is a thoroughly entertaining extended reflection on how we write today.
Also, Fran Lebowitz returns to recommend Deborah Eisenberg's masterful new collection of short stories, Your Duck is My Duck.
Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf speak with legendary public speaker Fran Lebowitz. In a wide-ranging conversation, the gang flits from the Kavanaugh hearings to how the uber-rich have blighted the landscape of New York, from the escapism of literature (Lebowitz maintains that books are always better than real life) to the changes that have rocked the media environment in which Lebowitz has been a central figure for decades. In her iconic unvarnished style, Fran proves — as if there were ever any need for such a thing — that she’s still one of the most fascinating people to chat with about the lofty and mundane.
Also, Eric recommends classicist Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles that brings to life the love affair between Patroclus and Homeric Greece's greatest warrior.
Documentary filmmaker Bing Liu joins host Eric Newman to discuss his award winning and critically acclaimed documentary Minding the Gap. A portrait of Bing's friends from his skate community in his hometown of Rockford Illinois, Minding the Gap is a hard film to pin down. In his conversation with Eric, Bing reflects upon the allure of skate culture for struggling teens, the cycles of domestic violence and abuse that move across generations from parents to children, and the emotional and cultural density of life in Middle America.
Also, Michael Arceneaux, author of the collection I Can't Date Jesus, returns to recommend Darnell Moore's No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America, a tale of a young, queer, black activist that's full of social observations, trenchant critique, and beautiful prose.
Michael Arceneaux joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to discuss the first collection of his writing, the critically heralded I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyonce. If ever a LARB podcast captured the texture of an author's writing, this may be it. After Michael opens the show, fittingly, by reading a passage from his book, he and Eric begin with reflections on their shared experience of growing up Queer and Catholic in the South - the conversation then moves seamlessly through matters of faith, family, race, writing and gay dating culture - all of it infused with Michael's wit. Along the way, amidst the laughter, much is revealed about our deepest shared desires.
Author Porochista Khakpour joins co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf to talk about her new book Sick: A Memoir, which chronicles her struggle with Lyme disease. Porochista discusses how she identified the illness, how it has affected her career and day to day life and how she navigates the experience of being a young sick woman in contemporary society.
Also, LARB's Medaya Ocher recommends Ali Smith's novel Autumn.