At the top of the show, Sean Penn reflects on how his just-released first novel, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, had its roots in his effort to intervene in the 2016 presidential election. So after Trump's victory, Penn continued with Bob Honey to investigate the ways in which we're all complicit in this catastrophic outcome; and what better mode to take all that on than a Pynchonesque, Foster Wallace-inspired antic tale, an absurdist/realist fiction. Co-hosts Eric Newman and Kate Wolf don't shy away from the obvious and vexing question: why would an A-list Hollywood actor, director, and screenwriter, sure to get any project green lit, choose the written word? What emerges is a fascinating portrait of a celebrity who truly rejects celebrity culture, a person of conscience, a restless creative imagination, rooted in the American rebel tradition, hell-bent on the next inspired, giddy, revealing turn-of-phrase.
The great author reflects on a lifetime of writing, an unorthodox career, and her current work as a teacher and healer, which couldn't be more relevant for our troubled times. Under a majestic oak in Reza Aslan and Jessica Jackley's beautiful backyard, Maxine Hong Kingston talks with LARB Radio's Tom Lutz and answers questions from an audience hanging on her every word. It was an evening rife with wisdom, charm, laughter, and confrontations with some of life's greatest challenges; a true celebration of literature.
In a penetrating interview, LARB Radio host Kate Wolf talks with author Francisco Cantu about his new book The Line Becomes a River, an impressionistic chronicle of his 5-year stint as an agent for the United States Border Patrol, his emotional fallout from the experience, and his reflections on the humanitarian crisis of the US-Mexico border. Cantu also offers his thoughts on the controversy that has surrounded this book, stemming from criticism from immigration rights activists; as well as his critique of Trump’s brutally wrong-headed border wall proposal.
Also, LARB Radio's Eric Newman drops in to recommend Jeffrey C Stewart’s magisterial 800-page biography The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, which transports you to the milieu of one of the Harlem Renaissance’s most influential thinkers.
Bassem Youssef, author of Revolution for Dummies: Laughing through the Arab Spring, joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to discuss what it's like to launch an entirely new genre in the Middle East - mass media political satire (modeled upon Jon Stewart's Daily Show) - and then become Egypt's most popular TV host before having to flee the country. Youssef has lost none of his wit or political insight since his days on center stage of an actual revolution; and the conversation is laden with relevance for a certain country dealing with a dangerous, wannabe-authoritarian leader. Youssef's analysis of the role of political satire during troubled times delivers a pointed lesson for all us taking solace in the wit of Colbert, Bee, SNL & Co.
Also, Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, author of Call me Zebra, returns to recommend Claire Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H.; a classic of Brazilian literature from 1964. Azareen reads a stunning passage that foregrounds a central concern of all serious authors, how words fall short.
Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi joins co-hosts Eric Newman, Kate Wolf, and Medaya Ocher to discuss her first novel, Call Me Zebra, released to universal praise this past month. In his review for The Los Angeles Review of Books, Nathan Scott McNamara, describes how Zebra, “the precocious narrator, a self-proclaimed “connoisseur of literature,… is unvaryingly brilliant and deadpan funny… the smartest narrator you will encounter this year.” Through her travels, tragedies, romance, and voracious reading of canonical literature, this book of ideas captures the “the experience of exile, deftly threading the narrative with theory while also using theory to pull the reader in.” In conversation with Azareen, we learn about a young author ambitious enough to take all this on and produce a captivating work of literature.
Also, Giulia Sissa stops by to tell how she fell in love with Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (À la recherche du temps perdu) as a young woman and remains under its spell to this day.