Info

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 Editors-at-Large Kate Wolf, Medaya Ocher, and Eric Newman.
RSS Feed Subscribe in Apple Podcasts
LARB Radio Hour
2024
June
May
April
March
February
January


2023
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2022
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2021
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2020
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2019
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2018
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2017
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2015
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May


All Episodes
Archives
Now displaying: Page 1
Jun 21, 2024

Medaya Ocher and Eric Newman speak with author Patrick Nathan about his latest novel, and this month's LARB Book Club pick, The Future Was Color. The novel chronicles the life of Hungarian immigrant writer George Curtis. When we meet George, he's writing the hacky sort of monster movies that are today's cult classics, trying to find sex and love amid the closeted ambiance of life between the wars and in the midst of the McCarthyite purges of communists and homosexuals that plagued the mid-century film industry. As George demurs writing the studio's next big hit to create something of greater substance about Hungary and the war from his exile perspective, he follows a passionate affair with his coworker in the writers' room. But when he departs the studio office for a residency of sorts with a Malibu actress and her gay husband, a dramatic chain reaction brings new motivations and possibilities to light. A novel about a moment in time that is also in so many ways timeless, The Future Was Color is an exploration of the line between the personal and political, between safety and risk, the art we create and the art that creates us.

Also, Claire Messud, author of This Strange Eventful History, returns to recommend Susie Boyt's novel, Loved and Missed.

Jun 14, 2024

Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf are joined by celebrated writer Claire Messud, the author of six works of fiction including the highly-acclaimed bestseller The Emperor's Children.  Messud's latest novel is This Strange Eventful History, which follows the Cassars, a Pied-Noir family from Algeria, who find themselves constantly displaced by the changing tides of history, first by World War II and then by Algerian independence. Partly based on her own family's story, the book traces the story of each family member, across three generations, as they encounter the world as well as their own personal joys and tragedies. The novel is, of course, about history, both personal and global, as well as the ways people build homes outide of their homelands.

Jun 11, 2024

In this special episode, hosts Medaya Ocher, Kate Wolf, and Eric Newman debate an age-old question that's being taken up in new ways amid an increasingly atomized landscape for thinking and writing about the literature and art that moves (as well as enervates) us. What does it mean for criticism to "matter"? And what indications do we have that it does beyond the measure of the marketplace? The hosts discuss what they think has changed—and hasn't—about how and where reviews circulate, the art of the take down, what they look for in a good piece of criticism, and if you can trust the New York Times Book Review. They also discuss the many roles critics play—from forming canons to puncturing them, using specific language, and transforming personal taste and sensibility into something that can, occasionally, change culture.

Jun 7, 2024

Rachel Khong joins Eric Newman to discuss her latest novel, Real Americans. Divided into three parts that each trace the experiences of different generations of a Chinese American family, the book delves into the thickets of identity, exploring how cultural strictures and the chaos of love shape our reality. The first section, set in 1999, recounts the romance between Lily, a second generation Chinese American media intern in New York, and Matthew, the WASPy private equity investor of the company where she struggles to eke out a living. The second section transports us to Seattle in 2021, where Lily's son, Nick, is navigating the end of high school and early college years with his father, Matthew, conspicuously absent. When Nick reconnects with Matthew through a DNA ancestry test, old wounds heal even as new ones are opened up in the wake of long-buried family secrets. In the final section, Nick's grandmother reflects on her experience fleeing Mao Zedong's China to make a new life in the United States, while trying to reconcile with a tattered and scattered family in present-day San Francisco. As these three lives are woven together and torn apart, Real Americans moves propulsively through questions of race, class, and gender as its characters work to understand their relationship to inheritance, variously conceived, around the tripwires of silence, desire, and pain.
Also, Erik Davis, author of Blotter: The Untold Story of an Acid Medium, returns to recommend Dale Pendell's Pharmako Trilogy.

May 31, 2024

Erik Davis joins Kate Wolf to speak about his latest book, Blotter: The Untold Story of an Acid Medium. The book is a study and history of the emergence of acid blotter paper from the late 1970s to the present day. It charts not only how the distribution and legal definition of LSD has changed over the decades—along with shifting cultural attitudes towards the drug—but also how blotter makers reflected these changes in their designs. The book examines the many recurring themes and aesthetics of blotter from cartoon characters, underground comics and advertising, to religious and political imagery, as well as associations with modern art movements like pop and minimalism. As psychedelics move closer to legalization for therapeutic purposes, Blotter is a reminder of the freak culture, anti-establishment origins of LSD and the inventive and playful path one of its main mediums has cut across countless minds over the last half century.

May 24, 2024

Writer and curator Legacy Russell joins Kate Wolf to discuss her new book, Black Meme, which theorizes the history of viral images of Blackness in America from the dawn of the 20th century to the present. The book argues for the centrality of Black culture in the formation of the digital sphere; it also points to the many ways images of Black people have been exploited, decontextualized, and abused both before and after the internet. Russell draws on a variety of examples, from the open-casket photos of Emmet Till that appeared in Jet Magazine, to the phenomena of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, which helped popularize the VCR, to more recent viral videos of police violence and Black social death. Calling for a reexamination of notions of private and public property, Black Meme urges a reconsideration of what an equitable exchange might look like for Black creators online, as well as engagement on the internet that goes beyond a reshare.
Also, Miranda July, author of All Fours, returns to recommend Small Rain by Garth Greenwell.

May 17, 2024

Miranda July speaks to Kate Wolf about her latest novel, All Fours. Its narrator is a woman in the middle of her life, a recognized artist who’s worked steadily for years with “the confidence that comes from knowing there is no other path.” Shortly after her 45th birthday, she decides to take a road trip to New York to celebrate with money she’s recently made from a whiskey commercial. She leaves her husband and child one morning and ends up stopping in a small suburb outside of Los Angeles for breakfast. But instead of continuing on, she rents a motel room there and proceeds to stay for the next three weeks. Part of her decision is based on her intense desire for a Hertz rental car employee she meets named Davey, a younger man, who yearns to be a hip hop dancer. But other aspects of her reasoning are more ineffable, fueled perhaps by the uncertainty of the future, aging, mortality, and struggles with the confines of domestic life. Her sojourn in the motel room becomes the catalyst for a reckoning with that life upon her return, and the basis for a deeper philosophical and visceral inquiry into desire, the female body, social and sexual possibility, caregiving, and what truly makes life worth living.
Also, Danielle Dutton, author of Prairie, Dresses, Art, Other, returns to recommend The New Animals by Pip Adam.

May 10, 2024

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by writer and publisher Danielle Dutton, author of Prairie, Dresses, Art, Other as well as Margaret the First and Sprawl. Dutton is also co-founder of the outstanding press Dorothy Project. Prairie, Dresses, Art, Other is a collection of stories and essays that exemplify Dutton’s approach to writing: ekphrastic, collaborative, laced with dread, wonder, and silence, as well as the power of landscapes (outer and inner) to transport both characters and readers beyond the normal bounds of being. Many of the stories in the book are set in the open plains of the Midwest—a space that becomes rife for projections of bodily harm and climate collapse, where the real world and the digital sphere frequently overlap.
Also, Jennifer Croft, author of The Extinction of Irena Rey, returns to recommend Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake.

May 8, 2024

In this special episode, hosts Medaya Ocher, Kate Wolf, and Eric Newman discuss the case for and against giving up—on life, vices, dreams, creative pursuits, jobs, relationships, exercise, and work. Their conversation is inspired by Adam Phillips’s recent book On Giving Up, in which the psychoanalyst observes that “we give things up when we believe we can change; we give up when we believe we can’t.” The hosts discuss what is acceptable to give up, their own fears of failure, both fictional and real-life inspirational quitters, and whether Bartleby was onto something when he said he’d prefer not to.

May 3, 2024

Scholar and writer Anna Shechtman joins Medaya Ocher to discuss her book The Riddles of the Sphinx: Inheriting the Feminist History of the Crossword Puzzle. Shechtman is an accomplished cruciverbalist, constructing a bimonthly crossword at The New Yorker; she is the former Humanities and Film Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books, where she is now an editor-at-large. Her book is a history of how women shaped the crossword puzzle, only to be pushed out of the puzzling industry. It’s also a memoir of Shechtman's own start with crossword constructing and the simultaneous development of her eating disorder. Riddles explores language, meaning-making, the body, as well as who is allowed to set the rules and write the clues.
Also, Katya Apekina, author of Mother Doll, returns to recommend four diaries written during the Russian Revolution: Earthly Signs by Marina Tsvetaeva; and three volumes by Teffi, Other Worlds; Memories; and Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others, and Me.

Apr 26, 2024

Scholar Randol Contreras joins Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to discuss his new book  The Marvelous Ones: Drugs, Gang Violence, and Resistance in East Los Angeles. The book is a study of the history and present lives of veterans of the legendary Maravilla gang that long dominated the scene in East Los Angeles before a bitter rivalry with the La Eme during the 1990s and early 2000s that had Maravillas scrambling for their lives in the streets and in prison. Though centered around the experience of that epic gang rivalry, The Marvelous Ones is also an examination of how masculinity, race, and cultural identity are shaped and reshaped within the context of organized crime inside state institutions and in the everyday lives of those living in Los Angeles. It is also a story about what it means to matter and to be remembered as a man, as a husband, as a father, and as a Maravilla amid the roiling waters of political, social, and historical change.
Also, poet Victoria Chang, whose latest collection is With My Back to the World, returns to recommend an anthology of poetry entitled You Are Here: Poetry in the Natural World edited by the current Poet Laureate of the United States, Ada Limon.

Apr 19, 2024

A double-header episode about two new novels that each feature high stakes feats of translation. First, the translator and writer Jenny Croft speaks with Medaya Ocher about her debut novel, The Extinction of Irena Rey. It follows eight translators who have just arrived at the house of a famous, beloved writer, the titular Irena Rey. Suddenly, Irena disappears, and the translators are left to figure out what has happened to her. Stuck and isolated in a primeval Polish forest and driven by ambition, paranoia, and obsession, the group uncovers secrets about Irena and the stakes of their endeavor become higher and higher. Then, writer and translator Katya Apekina joins Kate Wolf to discuss her latest novel, Mother Doll. The book examines how we can be haunted, sometimes literally, by the choices and experiences of our ancestors. Its main character is an adrift young woman named Zhenia. In the midst of finding out she’s pregnant and splitting up with her husband, Zhenia receives a mysterious call from Paul, a pet psychic who has been communicating with her great-grandmother, Irina. Paul needs Zhenia to translate Irina’s story, from Russian, about her role in the Russian Revolution and why she decided to place Zhenia’s beloved grandmother in an orphanage; Irina meanwhile needs Zhenia to understand her choices, and just perhaps, forgive her.

Apr 12, 2024

Kate Wolf speaks with the poet Victoria Chang about her latest collection of poems, With My Back to the World. The book is in deep conversation with the work of the painter Agnes Martin: each poem takes the title of one of Martin’s paintings and is also often accompanied by Chang’s own visual interpretations of Martin’s work. Regarding Martin’s intricate grids and spare compositions inevitably allows Chang to reflect on form, emptiness, nature and light; along with more personal reflections on depression, identity, solitude, violence, and destruction. Chang writes about the act of looking along with the feeling of being seen—and the border between the two, especially within everyday encounters on the internet, where, as she writes, “solitude grabs my phone and takes a selfie.”

Apr 5, 2024

Eric Newman speaks with director Morgan Neville about his new film "STEVE! (martin) a documentary in 2 pieces," which explores the legendary comedian's meteoric rise to standup stardom, his abrupt pivot to TV and film, and his return to stage in the present as he and close friend Martin Short prep a new comedy tour. Eric and Morgan discuss the treasure trove of never-before-seen archival that brings Martin's early career to life, what Morgan has learned about fame and the psychology of entertainers from his storied work documenting the lives of cultural luminaries, and much more.

 

 

Apr 2, 2024

On this special episode, hosts Medaya Ocher, Kate Wolf, and Eric Newman talk about the ethics and politics of memoir in the wake of several recent controversies. Touching on Blake Butler’s Molly, Emily Gould’s essay in The Cut on her flirtation with divorce, and much more, the gang considers who gets to tell whose stories, how, and why.

Mar 29, 2024

Eric Newman speaks with writer Tommy Orange about his novel Wandering Stars, a multigenerational epic that is both prequel and sequel to his award-winning 2018 debut There There. Beginning in the immediate aftermath of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, the novel follows a Native family's journey across more than 150 years as they struggle to maintain their connection to one another and to their Cheyenne history and identity in the face of addiction and the brutal legacy of forced assimilation.
Also, Gretchen Sisson, author of Relinquished: The Politics of Adoption and the Privilege of American Motherhood, returns to recommend The Turnaway Study bhy Diana Greene Foster.

Mar 22, 2024

Kate Wolf speaks with sociologist Gretchen Sisson about her first book, Relinquished: The Politics of Adoption and the Privilege of American Motherhood. The book is based on interviews Sisson conducted over the last decade with birth mothers who relinquished their children for private adoption in the US. Most often Sisson found that these women deeply regretted their decision, and that poverty was the driving force behind it. Alongside the harrowing stories of the women who Sisson spoke with, her book also looks at the history of adoption in the United States and its ties to conservative Christianity, as well as family policing systems of the state. In an age of narrowing reproductive freedom, when adoption is touted by the Supreme Court as an answer to the need for abortion, Relinquished asks hard questions about the compatibility of the practice with the possibility for true reproductive justice.
Also, Brad Gooch, author of Radiant: The Life and Line of Keith Haring, returns to recommend Candy Darling by Cynthia Carr.

Mar 15, 2024

Eric Newman and Kate Wolf speak with Brad Gooch about his new biography, Radiant: The Life and Line of Keith Haring. A deep-dive into the life of an artist whose work can be seen today on everything from museum walls to t-shirts and tote bags, Gooch's book unearths the cultural moment that gave rise to Haring's meteoric career before his untimely death in 1990. Moving across topics including the commercialization of art, cultural appropriation, the AIDS crisis, and more, Radiant brings the highly-recognizable artist into nuanced focus.
Also, Tana French, author of The Hunter, returns to recommend Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Mar 8, 2024

Medaya Ocher and Eric Newman speak with megawatt mystery maven Tana French about her latest novel, The Hunter. Set in the fictional rural Irish town of Ardnakelty, The Hunter is a dark, slow-burning story of the ties that knit together small communities–and the animosities that tear them apart. French talks about how American Westerns influenced the tone and texture of her latest novels, where she gets the ideas for her dark stories, and how her globe-hopping childhood made her the mystery writer she is today.
Also, Leslie Jamison, author of Splinters: Another Kind of Love Story, returns to recommend Eliza Barry Callahan's The Hearing Test: A Novel, as well as Emmeline Clein's Dead Weight: Essays on Hunger and Harm.

Mar 5, 2024

In this special episode, Eric Newman chats with LARB Film & TV editor Annie Berke and Film Comment co-editors Devika Girish and Clinton Krute for a preview of this year's Academy Awards. Breaking down the top Oscar contenders, the group talks the best and worst of the year in movies, from Barbie to Oppenheimer, Killers of the Flower Moon, Poor Things, Maestro, and more. If you loved–or hated!–the year in film, this episode is for you.

Mar 1, 2024

Leslie Jamison joins Medaya and Kate to discuss her latest book Splinters: Another Kind of Love Story, a memoir that chronicles the birth of her daughter and the collapse of her marriage soon after. Jamison writes about the bond with her own mother, as well as the intense, consuming love for her child. The book is not only a story about her most intimate relationships, but an examination of doubt, betrayal, forgiveness and, as the subtitle says, love.
Also, Phillip B. Williams, author of Ours, returns to recommend The Black Book, edited by Toni Morrison.

 

 

Feb 23, 2024

Eric Newman speaks with Phillip B. Williams about his debut novel, Ours. A surrealist epic largely set in the American midwest both pre- and post-emancipation, the book tells the story of Saint, a conjure woman who uses her supernatural powers to liberate slaves and keep them safe in a magically secluded town near St. Louis. But as Saint's magic begins to falter and newcomers appear in the town, the residents chafe at her power over them, eager for a freedom, identity, and community forged on their own terms. In the interview, Williams discusses his novel's blend of diasporic traditions and spirituality, how his characters repair themselves and each other, and what it means to read–and write–with love.
Also, Lucy Sante, author of I Heard Her Call My Name: A Memoir of Transition, returns to recommend April Ashley's Odyssey by Duncan Fallowell and April Ashley.

Feb 16, 2024

Kate Wolf speaks to cultural critic and historian Lucy Sante about her latest book, I Heard Her Call My Name: A Memoir of Transition. It is the story of how as living as Luc for almost the entirety of her life, three years ago, she became Lucy. The book begins with the letter she sent her closest friends with the "bombshell" confession that the image of herself as a woman had been “the consuming furnace at the center” of her life, but that she had repressed it with almost equal force. Sante goes on to reflect back on that life, from her time growing up in Belgium as the only child of emotionally distant working class parents, to her adolescence as an immigrant in suburban New Jersey, and finally her nascent adult years as a punk and budding writer in a pre-corporatized New York City. Intercutting this past with the practical steps and transcendent emotions that accompany her first few months of transitioning, Sante explores the ways she contorted herself to fit into her male identity and the great unhappiness it caused, as well as the path to finally unburdening herself of her secret and emerging as Lucy.
Also, Nathan Thrall, author of A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy, returns to recommend Rian Malan's My Traitor's Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience.

Feb 9, 2024

Adam Shatz speaks with Kate Wolf and Eric Newman about his latest book, The Rebel’s Clinic: The Revolutionary Lives of Frantz Fanon. The book is both a biography of Fanon— one of the most important thinkers on race and colonialism of the last century— as well as an intellectual history that looks closely at his most seminal texts. Shatz uncovers the events that led to the writing of books such as Black Skin, White Masks and the Wretched of the Earth by following Fanon from his birth in Martinique (then a French colony), to his time serving in World War II, his studies in Lyon, his innovative work as a psychiatrist in France and Algeria, as well as his pivotal decision to join in the fight for Algerian independence and become a part of the FLN. Though Fanon died at only 36, in 1961, Shatz also explores the many afterlives of his work, from his embrace by the Black Panthers and his influence on filmmakers such as Claude Lanzmann and Ousmane Sembene to echoes of his thought in the continued movements for Black liberation and decolonization today.
Also, E. J. Koh, author of The Liberators, returns to recommend The Twilight Zone by Nona Fernandez, translated by Natasha Wimmer.

Feb 2, 2024

Writer Nathan Thrall joins Kate Wolf to talk about his recent book, A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy, which was published last October and named one of the best books of the year by The New Yorker, The Economist, The New Republic and the Financial Times. It is an account of a horrific accident that took place in the outskirts of Jerusalem on a rainy day in 2012, when a school bus full of kindergarten students on their way to a class trip collided with a semi-trailer and caught on fire. Thrall follows the lives of a number of people who were directly impacted by the tragedy, delving into their pasts and the ways in which the decades-old conflict between Israel and Palestine has indelibly shaped their trajectories. Chief among them is Abed Salama, a Palestinian, and father of five-year-old Milad, who was a passenger on the bus. In looking closely at the material conditions of Salama’s life, and the way they play out within the worst circumstances imaginable, Thrall evinces the toll of occupation in the most human of terms.
Also, Kohei Saito, author of Slow Down: The Degrowth Manifesto, returns to recommend Naomi Klein's No Logo.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next » 19