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.
Legendary LA-based art reporter Jori Finkel joins co-hosts Eric Newman, Kate Wolf, and Medaya Ocher to discuss her first documentary film "Artist and Mother;" which investigates why the contemporary art world, which prides itself as a space of absolute free expression, seems more-than-reluctant to embrace work about Motherhood, even when done by theretofore established artists who are new mothers. Finkel and her team of filmmakers highlight the work of four powerful Los Angeles based artists, all mothers, who challenge this bias: Kenyatta A. C. Hinkle, Andrea Chung, Rebecca Campbell, and Tanya Aguiniga. In the interview, Jori shares her theories about why such a universal theme remains taboo in this iconoclastic realm.
Also, LARB's Eric Newman recommends Nella Larsen's 1929 classic Passing, which has long been a staple of academic syllabi but has remained relatively obscure among the general public. All that should change, Eric explains, as it's soon to be a major motion picture.
Two scholars of Queer History, Emeritus Professor Martin Duberman and LARB's Eric Newman, assess the state of the LGBTQ+ movement and ask whether today's generation can redeem the radical vision of Stonewall era activists. The jumping off point is Martin's new book, Has the Gay Movement Failed?, which finds today's largest and best-financed advocacy groups championing a narrow vision of the LGBTQ+ community that is unthreatening to the American status quo. However, both Martin and Eric take heart in the new emphasis by radicals on intersectionality, which celebrates both diversity and inclusion. Towards the end of the dialogue Martin offers a searing critique of "individualism," as the core of mainstream American ideology; a peroration that should be heard by all progressives, radicals, and people of good will.
Also, Eric tells LARB's Medaya Ocher about Michael Bronski's excellent A Queer History of the United States of America.
It is safe to say, in the Age of Trump and the Kardashians, that America's obsession with wealth grows ever-stronger. Photographer and Documentarian Lauren Greenfield has built a brilliant career both capturing and critiquing the conspicuous consumption of the 1% and wanna-be one percenters. Lauren joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Kate Wolf to discuss her new film, Generation Wealth; which, she explains, contrasts with her previous work because it shows how her super-wealthy subjects had a come-to-Jesus moment in the wake of the spectacular market crash of 2008 and subsequent Great Recession, which seemed, once-and-for-all, to kill the Greed is Good ethic. Generation Wealth then captures how quickly the super rich betrayed Jesus once their balance sheets recovered, even as the average household fell further behind.
Also, fittingly, LARB Radio's own Medaya Ocher stops by to recommend 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown, a fascinating study of a daughter of (the highest) privilege who remains more worthy of our attention than America's current crop of gluttonous narcissists.
To celebrate the release of the Romance Issue of the LARB Print Journal, this week’s podcast focuses on one of the definitional institutions of 21st century romance: The Bachelor (and The Bachelorette). Co-hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher and LARB Poetry Editor Callie Siskel discuss the ABC hit-series with LA Times writer Amy Kaufman, the author of Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure. The conversation hones in on the cultural resonance, as well as the juicy behind-the-scene secrets, of the now 16-year old TV franchise.
Also, Lydia Millet, author of Fight No More, returns to recommend Julia Holmes' first novel Meeks, a tale about bachelors in an alternative woman-dominated world.
Co-hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf talk with Lydia Millet about her new short story collection, Fight No More, which covers the wide swathe of LA life through intimate, quiet stories in homes magnificent and modest. In a wide-ranging conversation, Millet talks about the simultaneously private and public nature of homes, delighting in the moments that blur the distinction between what a host wants you to see and what they want to hide from view. Millet and the co-hosts also lament the pornified nature of contemporary culture, one in which abjection and nakedness are not only daily fare but also the center of performed social identities.
Also, author Jervey Tervalon pays tribute to his friend, legendary food critic and Los Angeleno Jonathan Gold, with some epic verse: Adventures in Life and Food with J Gold.
Co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Eric Newman talk with Director Tim Wardle about his Sundance-winning documentary Three Identical Strangers, which tells the story of identical triplets, separated at birth and re-united by chance in their late teens. The film is a masterpiece of pacing and Wardle discusses how he approached unveiling a story with so many unexpected twists and jaw-dropping turns; and also how he integrated reflections on the many controversial elements of the story. Throughout the interview, Wardle's compassion for the triplets shines through.
Also, Michelle Chihara, LARB's Economics and Finance Editor, stops by to explain why she adores The Woman Upstairs and all of Claire Messud's novels.
This week's podcast is an homage to Ursula K Le Guin from her final collaborator. David Naimon joins co-hosts Kate Wolf, Medaya Ocher, and Eric Newman and explains the backstory to his new book, Ursula K Le Guin: Conversations on Writing, a collection of dialogues with the legendary author from Naimon's literary podcast, Between the Covers. Le Guin died unexpectedly before Naimon had completed the project; thus, her mortality did not hang over the proceedings. Still, Naimon, a master interviewer, elicited reflections on the breadth of her work and thinking. In this conversation, he paints a resonant portrait of Le Guin as a generous, powerful, and fully-engaged person.
Also, author Dan Lopez returns to recommend Lisa Halliday's novel, Asymmetry.
Hosts Eric Newman and Kate Wolf sit down with documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville to discuss his latest work, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, which tackles the work and impact of Fred Rogers and his iconic children’s show. In a conversation that moves from Rogers’ recognition of the complex emotional life of children to his sense of television as his ministry for a more loving world, Neville outlines both the example and challenge that Rogers sets for us in an era when hatred and vitriol seem poised to engulf the nation.
Also, in recognition of The World Cup, Joseph O'Neill, author of the short story collection Good Trouble, recommends his favorite book on football, Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer by David Winner.