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LARB Radio Hour

The Los Angeles Review of Books Radio Hour is a weekly show featuring interviews, readings and discussions about all things literary. Hosted by LARB Editor-at-Large Kate Wolf, Managing Editor Medaya Ocher, and Gender and Sexuality Editor, Eric Newman.
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Apr 4, 2020

What better way to break out of the stay-in-place doldrums, and reflect on this transformational moment, than to consider the role of the random in the creation of the new with one of our most brilliant shape-shifters, artist Harry Dodge. Kate, Medaya, and Eric speak with Harry from four different locations across Southern California on the occasion of the publication of his first, already-heralded, book, My Meteorite. Harry talks about what motivated him to write, how he arrived at a form that interweaves memoir-like accounts with extended philosophical reflections - and, of course, the content of those reflections. The imagination of Harry Dodge is an exciting place; and your random encounter with this podcast just might inspire new approaches to our new reality.

Also, Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness, calls in to recommend The Gift by Barbara Browning.

This is the eighth episode in our series on LA and Southern California writers, artists and filmmakers. This episode of the LARB Radio Hour is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov. Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of the California Arts Council.

Mar 28, 2020

From their disclosed locations, Kate, Eric, and Daya report on the new normal: cooking, enclosure, and a changed perspective on doing nothing. One thing they all agree on, it's a good time to give Jenny Odell another listen, so...
Jenny Odell, author of How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, joins co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf to asses the state of the human soul in the age of social media reproduction. The verdict is clear: we need strategies of resistance. Constantly tracked and hunted by the digital panopticon, we have no time for reverie, reflection, letting go, or just being. We desperately need Nothing, which is everything. Jenny shares details of her own liberation.
Also, Susan Straight, author of In The Country of Women, returns to honor Toni Morrison by sharing how she has read her favorite book every single year since she was twelve, Morrison's luminous second novel, Sula.

Mar 21, 2020

"There's so much there, and it's so fascinating" observes co-host Kate Wolf after Lyra Kilston opens this week's podcast with a summary of her new book Sun Seekers: The Cure of California. Kate might as well be talking about the entire history, brief yet spectacular, of Southern California. This week's show unveils another of the spectacular paradoxes that define the rise of the Golden State Paradise/Dystopia - the relationship between California Modernism to European Sanatorium culture. If you've ever marveled at the modern architectural jewels that dot the LA landscape; and fantasized about a refined European ex-pat community that built them - prepare to have your dreams recast (in the best SoCal tradition!). Lyra spins fascinating tales that will challenge your understanding of LA history, in dialogue with Kate and Eric Newman.
Also, Hanif Abdurraqib returns to recommend Harmony Holiday's new book of poetry, A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom.

Mar 15, 2020

Kate and Medaya talk to longtime journalist Joshua Hammer about his most recent book, The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird. Joshua discusses the strange story of notorious egg smuggler, Jeffery Lendrum, and the wildlife detective who pursued him, as well as the larger repercussions of wildlife poaching, climate change and the global animal trade.

Also, writer and producer Samantha Culp drops by to recommend a timely book, A Journal of the Plague Year, a catalogue from an exhibition of the same name, looking back on the SARS outbreak of 2003.

Mar 8, 2020

...and now for something completely difficult. We are inaugurating a new project, the "Best of..." series. Inspired by our annual holiday season "Best of..." special, in which Eric, Kate, and Daya pick their faves from the previous year; the new series differs in one significant way, each episode is organized around one theme - today's is Difficult Women. So, expect to be challenged and meta-challenged! The show opens with a brief discussion about the new series; then Kate explains what inspired her to propose this week's theme; followed by three sets of three engaging discussions about three difficult women - "thrice to thine and thrice to mine / And thrice again. to make up nine."

Feb 29, 2020

Tom Lutz sits down with legendary Los Angeles author Walter Mosley, recipient of LARB/UC Riverside Lifetime Achievement Award. Mosley, a master of contemporary noir, has written over 50 books, most famously Devil in a Blue Dress. In late 2019, Mosely published Elements of Fiction; and his most recent novel, Trouble Is What I Do, hit the bookstores this week. In his dialogue with Tom, Mosley spins tales about his childhood, his years as a young writer, and his experiences most recently in the TV writer’s room and Hollywood.

Feb 22, 2020

Janet Fitch, author of the classic White Oleander, joins Kate and Medaya to discuss the life and work of Kate Braverman, a Los Angeles literary legend who passed in late 2019. Braverman was Janet's teacher, mentor, and later friend; and Janet reflects on the person she knew, tells tales of her in the classroom, and, of course, on the power of her work on the written page.
Then, LARB's own Founder and Editor-in-Chief Tom Lutz joins Kate and Medaya for an extended conversation about his just released debut novel, Born Slippy.
This is the seventh episode in our series on LA and Southern California writers, artists and filmmakers. This episode of the LARB Radio Hour is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov. Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of the California Arts Council.

Feb 14, 2020

This week the legendary actress, model and filmmaker Isabella Rossellini joins co-hosts Kate and Medaya to discuss her new theatrical production, Link Link Circus, her studies into animal behavior, and her long career in film and TV. Isabella also discusses her most recent book, My Chickens and I; as well as her previous one, Green Porno, a hugely successful multi-media project that helped revive interest in one of Isabella's other loves, the short film form.
Also, Charles Yu, author of Interior Chinatown, returns to recommend Lisa Damour's Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood.

Feb 8, 2020

Kate and Medaya talk with Garth Greenwell about his new book of fiction, Cleanness, the follow-up to his heralded debut What Belongs to You. Set in Bulgaria, where Greenwell taught in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008 and the social crises that followed; the book's distinct nine chapters/stories focus on the narrator's life as a teacher as well as his romantic and sexual experiences.

Also, Director Celine Sciamma, who's latest film is Portrait of a Lady on Fire, returns to recommend the entire body of work of French author Virginie Despentes.

Feb 1, 2020

Kate and Medaya talk with award-winning screenwriter and novelist Charles Yu about his new book, Interior Chinatown; an experimental, yet eminently enjoyable, novel-in-the-form-of-a-screenplay. Charles discusses how he came to write such a formally challenging book, in which the central character's world is defined by, and limited to, the horizons available to Asian and Asian-American characters in popular film and television.
Also, J Hoberman, author of Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan, returns to recommend Victor Serge's recently discovered Notebooks from 1936-47, in which the great communist writer lived in exile, from Paris to Mexico.

This is the sixth episode in our series on LA and Southern California writers, artists and filmmakers. This episode of the LARB Radio Hour is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov. Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of the California Arts Council.

Jan 25, 2020

LARB Editor-in-Chief Tom Lutz is joined by author and USC Professor Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Sympathizer, at a recent LARB Luminary Dinner. Viet begins by talking about about his family's experience as refugees, and how that informs his writing; as well as his understanding of globalization, American politics and contemporary Vietnam. They then discuss the breadth of Viet's writing, how he approaches his fiction vs his non-fiction vs his academic writing; and his latest work too, Chicken of Sea, a children's book - with powerful detours along the way on the importance of both Paul Ricoeur's concept of "enlightened forgetting," and the absent presence of ghosts, for our fraught times.

Jan 19, 2020

Celine Sciamma joins hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to discuss her film Portrait of a Woman on Fire, which was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes and won this year's Queer Palm at Cannes. Set in the 18th Century, the film is about the growing desire between a woman painter and her subject, a young woman about to marry a nobleman. The central action takes place on an island in which the men all-but-disappear. Claire discusses how she rejects the established ways that women, women's bodies, their desire, and their sexuality are traditionally represented in cinema; and how she seeks to develop a new feminist approach to such representation, one which lends itself to new forms of dramatic tension and groundbreaking cinematography. Celine also addresses the struggles of women directors in France and their even greater marginalization in America; and what can be done to remedy this injustice.
Also, Amanda Yates Garcia, author of Initiated: Memior of a Witch, returns to recommend Ariana Reines' transcendent poetry in A Sand Book.

Jan 10, 2020

Critic, photographer and artist, Hilton Als joins Kate and Medaya to discuss his debut play, Lives of the Performers, which tells the story of actress Sheryl Sutton, one of the lead actors in Robert Wilson's ground-shattering troupe in the 1970s. Als, the former theater critic at the New Yorker, also discusses his fascination with twins, writing a play, and the role race has played in the history of the avant-garde.
The show also includes a spirited debate among the hosts about this year's soporific Golden Globes: are woke actors enough to keep you awake?
Also, legendary film critic J Hoberman returns to explain why his favorite film of 2019, Mary Harron's Charlie Says, was a superior take on the Manson Family saga than Quintin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Jan 3, 2020

Legendary film critic J Hoberman joins Kate and Daya to discuss Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan, which is the the final installment of his film history trilogy Found Illusions. Hoberman describes how he set out to tell the story of how cinema operated as the social and political unconscious of American society throughout the Cold War and discovered along the way that Ronald Reagan was the "protagonist" of this story. The conversation traces Reagan's career in Hollywood and politics; and how the development of feel good blockbusters in the 1970s harmonized with Reagan's message as a candidate. Of course, no encounter with J Hoberman goes without delicious close readings of movies we love or loathe. You'll never see Ghostbusters the same way again! Equally poignant are J's thoughts on how our current entertainer President reflects the much coarser media environment of the 21st Century.
Also, Darryl Pinckney, author of Busted in New York, returns to recommend Jonathan Crary's eloquent study of our exhausting, over-extended lives 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep - as well as James Fenton's collection of poems Yellow Tulips.

Dec 27, 2019

It's a LARB Holiday Season tradition! Kate, Daya, and Eric review all that they read, watched, attended, and gossiped about to select their favorites from the past year. The result is a broad, eclectic array. Indeed, the first work chosen is by an author who died in 1996. Many more surprises ensue. A few of our picks are by authors or directors that we interviewed over the past year. Most, however, were not previously discussed on the show. No matter, every selection sparks a spirited discussion. As Eric warns in the introduction, "no one chose only one thing in any category." So, get out your notepads and prepare for an avalanche of excellence.

Check out all of our recommendations here.

Dec 21, 2019

Few would argue with the assertion that we are in the throes of a political crisis in American society; and, no doubt, many would acknowledge that the Trump presidency is more symptom than cause - that something with deep roots has taken hold of the American collective unconscious. How can this spell be broken? Is there a roll for progressive spirituality in healing our polity? What variant of mytho-poetic literature can truly speak to our times? Kate and Medaya talk with Amanda Garcia Yates, aka The Oracle of Los Angeles, author of Initiated: Memoir of a Witch about her spiritual practice, its deep historical roots, organic ties to nature, and the myriad ways it is misunderstood. What unfolds is a vibrant, inspiring exchange animated by literary theory, ecological awareness, and a tangible sense that ancient feminist wisdom can yet illuminate our dark zeitgeist. If you're looking for the perfect podcast for the winter solstice season, this is it.
Also, Molly Lambert, who wrote the introduction to I Used To Be Charming: The Rest of Eve Babitz, returns to recommend Dorothy B Hughes' 1963 noir classic The Expendable Man, re-released by New York Review of Books Classics.

This is the fifth episode in our series on LA and Southern California writers, artists and filmmakers. This episode of the LARB Radio Hour is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov. Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of the California Arts Council.

Dec 14, 2019

Author Darryl Pinckney joins Kate and Medaya to discuss his new collection, Busted in New York and Other Essays, which includes twenty-five pieces from the past two and a half decades, which reflect and report on politics, culture, and African-American lived experience. The conversation begins with Pinckney's thoughts on Barack Obama's election and presidency, and it's unexpected tragic denouement with the victory of Donald Trump. Pinckney reflects on what remains of the great advance that Obama represented. How much was lost? Should the next act have been so surprising? Looking back further, he wonders have we lost the America we thought we knew; or is our current nightmare merely the return of the repressed?
Also, Matt Wolf, director of Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, returns to recommend Peter McGough's memoir of the 1980's New York art scene, I've Seen the Future and I'm Not Going.

Dec 6, 2019

Filmmaker Matt Wolf joins co-hosts Kate and Medaya to discuss his new documentary Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project. Marion Stokes was a former librarian, political activist, and early Apple investor who began recording the 24/7 news cycle in 1979 and continued into the early years of this decade, producing the largest archive of recorded television material. Matt discusses the potential of this archive, Marion’s vision, portraying problematic characters, and how the news reconfigures history.
Also, Yogita Goyal, author of Runaway Genres: The Global Afterlives of Slavery, returns to recommend German Author Jenny Erpenbeck's 2015 novel Go, Went, Gone about a retired professor and his relationship with African Refugees staging a protest in Berlin.

Nov 29, 2019

Author Fred Tuten joins co-hosts Medaya Ocher, Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to talk about his new book, My Young Life: A Memoir. The conversation begins with Fred explaining why after five celebrated novels, he chose to write a memoir; what follows is a series of beautiful reflections on his life. Indeed! Medaya says this is perhaps her very favorite LARB Radio Hour to date. Indeed, Fred's deep compassion for the people in his life, his novel-like descriptions of time and place, and his trenchant political observations makes this a show that cannot be missed - there's a true generosity of Spirit here.
Also, the irrepressible John Waters returns to recommend a book and offers four: Moby's new memoir, Then It Fell Apart; Kevin Killian's Fascination - as well as the works of Clarice Lispector and Dodie Bellamy.

Nov 22, 2019

Yogita Goyal, author of Runaway Genres: The Global Afterlives of Slavery, joins Eric, Medaya, and Kate to discuss the shape of traditional slave narrative and the ways it has been transformed over the past 70 years across the world and in different genres. Goyal talks about what drew her to this subject, and about teaching the slave story in the Trump and Kanye era. She contrasts abolitionist era slave narratives with those from the past five decades, following their return to prominence in African-American literature in the 1970s, bringing together work by Paul Beatty, Colson Whitehead, and Toni Morrison.
Also, Monique Truong, author of The Sweetest Fruits, returns to recommend Chia-Chia Lin's beautiful debut novel, an immigrant narrative set in Alaska, The Unpassing.

Nov 15, 2019

Eve Babitz, our LA Woman, was one of the heavyweights of the 1970s New Journalism. Now, thanks to the New York Review of Books Classics series, Babitz's vibrant prose is collected in I Used To Be Charming: The Rest of Eve Babitz. Molly Lambert, who wrote the introduction to the edition, joins co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to discuss the career of this Southern California legend and why her writing remains as captivating as ever. Indeed, the show opens with Kate revealing the tremendous importance of Eve Babitz in her own life; and why she has long felt it necessary that this author, who conveys the cultural fabric of our hometown as well as any in recent decades, be readily available to new readers.
Also, Natasha Stagg, author of Sleeveless: Fashion, Image, Media New York 2011-2019, returns to recommend one of Denis Johnson's lesser known novels, The Name of the World.

This is the third episode in our series on LA and Southern California writers, artists and filmmakers. This episode of the LARB Radio Hour is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov. Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of the California Arts Council.

Nov 9, 2019

Co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher speak with author Monique Truong about her new multi-voiced novel The Sweetest Fruits; aptly titled given its sensuality, and special attention to cuisine. Monique explains her decision to write in the voices of three women - one Greek, one African-American, and one Japanese - all of whom were central figures in the life of globetrotting 19th century author, Lafcadio Hearn, who was born in Greece and is best known for his books about Japan. Giving voice to amazing souls that history and patriarchal culture have put under erasure.
Also, Stephen Van Dyck, author of People I've Met From the Internet, returns to recommend Joe Brainard's groundbreaking I Remember from the 1970s.

Nov 2, 2019

Kate Wolf talks with "It Girl" Natasha Stagg about her new essay collection from Semiotexte: Sleeveless: Fashion, Image, Media 2011-19. Natasha explains overcoming her reluctance to move to NYC, how she landed in the fashion world - simultaneously at its center and on the periphery - and what she discovered there. This most-priveleged sphere in the capital of the world is just part of the scenery: where the old is new again until the moment of re-interpretation passes; the thrill of creativity is tangible, yet nothing to get excited about; and it's most definitely post-Post-Modern yet pastiche, nostalgia, and appropriation remain the order of day. Telling tales of Late Capitalism in its interminable phase. The conversation also inspires Medaya Ocher, LARB's Managing Editor, to reveal details of her previous life as a Parisian fashion photographer.
Also, Ariana Reines, author of the A Sand Book, returns to recommend two exceptional works of poetry, one old, one new: James Merrill's National Book Award winning epic from the late 70s, The Changing Light at Sandover; and Edgar Garcia's Skins of Columbus: A Dream Ethnography.

Oct 25, 2019

Tom Lutz opens the show with a spirited introduction of co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher and author Leslie Jamison, who has a new collection of essays: Make It Scream, Make it Burn. Jamison describes her empathic approach to her eclectic subjects, her relationship to the body and how she thinks about writing and authorship.

Also, Jenny Odell returns to recommend Robin Wall Kimmerer's Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses.

Oct 18, 2019

Co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by filmmaker, Bong Joon Ho, whose latest film is Parasite. Parasite has already gathered a wide range of acclaim, winning the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and breaking specialty box office records. Bong joins us to discuss how he grew up, how he came up with the idea for the movie, and how he understands the relationship between the rich and the poor. Bong’s previous films include Mother (2009), Snowpiercer (2013) and Okja (2017).
Also, Sarah M Broom, author of The Yellow House, returns to recommend The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald.

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