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.
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.
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.
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.