Hanif Abdurraqib may just be the most poignant raconteur of American culture in the age of Donald Trump. Hanif joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, his magisterial collection of essays on the contemporary music scene; and all the pain, pleasure, promise, disappointment, pasts and presents, communities and self that he finds there. The interview, like Hanif's writing, conveys what it feels like to be awake, fully observant inside the whirlwind of America in the late twenty-teens.
Also, Francisco Cantu, author of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, returns to recommend the work of a number of poets writing about the US-Mexico border, in particular Javier Zamora's collection Unaccompanied.
What if a highly illegal drug could be used, far more successfully than prescribed pharmaceuticals, to help people with depression and bi-polar disorder? Who would be willing not just to experiment on themselves, but also to spread the word? LARB Radio's Medaya Ocher talks with just such a brave soul, Ayelet Waldman, author of A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. Recorded in front of a full house at Scripps College, it's a fascinating dialogue full of surprises: Ayelet relates her own personal struggles, her frustration with anti-depressants, her traumatizing years as a Federal public defender appalled by the War on Drugs, her full knowledge of the severity of the law she was breaking, the whimsical arrival of a package from Lewis Carroll, the pharmacology of LSD, the precision of micro-dosing, and then, magically, relief. Ayelet acknowledges that her social privilege (as a prosperous white woman, a Harvard Law graduate, married to Michael Chabon, herself a successful mystery writer and novelist) allowed her to take a huge risk, as such she feels compelled to announce her discovery of happier trails ahead.
What motivates a great novelist to write a children's book? Author Junot Diaz joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Kate Wolf to discuss the inspiration behind Islandborn, the story of five year-old Lola learning about her family's history and culture, beautifully illustrated by Leo Espinoza. What follows is a penetrating conversation about the severe under-representation of people of color in children's books, the long-overdue reckoning that needs to happen across society, the genius of diasporic literature, and the healing potential of stories for all ages, about all peoples, that convey universal human experience.
Also, Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket inspired LARB Radio's Dan Lopez to re-read, and highly recommend, Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy
How do cultural practices become established? Why do we live in the way that we do? For generations social scientists, philosophers, and even psychologists have emphasized the centrality of human rationality as the arbiter of cultural development. USC Professor of Neuroscience, Psychology and Philosophy Antonio Damasio suggests otherwise in his latest book, The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures. As Professor Damasio explains to co-hosts Tom Lutz and Eric Newman, his research shows how cultural decisions, and their potential adoption across a given society, is rooted much more in feelings than previously thought. What follows is a fascinating dive into the role emotions and feelings play in all living things on earth: from us (so-called) higher primates to other animals, plants, and all the down way to micro-organisms. Suffice to say, this week's show will challenge, and possibly change, the way you understand, and feel about, the world.