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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.
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Now displaying: August, 2021
Aug 27, 2021

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by Rachel Greenwald Smith to discuss her new book, On Compromise: Art, Politics, and the Fate of an American IdealOn Compromise takes a critical look at liberalism’s persistent push towards the center in both political and artistic realms. Instead of Compromise as a measure of good in and of itself, Smith argues for the values of illiberalism, passion, and commitment to a cause, aesthetic or otherwise. Her book explores how conflict and democracy need not be thought of as opposing forces. In doing so, she interprets a wide range of contemporary cultural phenomena, from Beyoncé’s album Lemonade to David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest, the history of poetry magazines, Guns N’ Roses, the far right, riot grrrl, and her own experience playing in an indie rock band.

Also, Nawaaz Ahmed, author of Radiant Fugitives, returns to recommend Shyam Selvadurai’s novel Funny Boy.

Aug 20, 2021

Matthew Specktor, one of the founding editors of the Los Angeles Review of Books, joins Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to discuss his newest book, Always Crashing in the Same Car: On Art, Crisis, and Los Angeles, California. A memoir and cultural history, Always Crashing explores the work and lives of writers, actors, directors, and musicians who straddle the line between success and anonymity, and whose careers, though majestic, still leave questions about what might have been had circumstances or, in many cases, their temperaments, been different. These include the screenwriters Eleanor Perry and Carole Eastman, the novelist Thomas McGuane, the actress Tuesday Weld, and the filmmaker Hal Ashby. The book questions notions of both success and failure, especially as filtered through the distorted prism of Hollywood. It also touches on Matthew’s own experiences growing up and later working in the film industry, his mother’s brief turn as a screenwriter, and his father’s more abiding success as a talent agent. A native of Los Angeles, Matthew draws a vivid portrait of the city, with both love and disdain.

Also, Jeanetta Rich, whose first collection of poems, Black Venus Fly Trap, was released in June, drops by to recommend Federico Garcia Lorca's play Blood Wedding.

Aug 13, 2021

Eric Newman talks with Nawaaz Ahmed about his debut novel, Radiant Fugitives, which loosely centers on Seema, a woman who makes a life for herself as a San Francisco-based campaign worker for progressive politicians after her Muslim family in Chennai, India reject her for being a lesbian. As the book opens, Seema is dying just as she is about to give birth to a son, conceived with a fellow campaign worker to whom Seema was briefly married. Gathered around are Seema's mother, Nafeesa, and Tahera, her deeply devout and jealous younger sister.

Narrated by Seema's newborn son, Ishraaq, Radiant Fugitives moves back and forth in time and space, from Chennai to London to the United States, charting the struggles of a family in the throes of rupture and reconciliation. Set against the backdrop of the Obama era, the novel explores what it means to belong, to be free, to love, to understand, and to forgive across countries, cultures, and desires.

Also, Rivka Galchen, author of Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch, returns to recommend a book that was featured on the LARB Radio Hour just two weeks ago — Katie Kitamura’s Intimacies.

Aug 6, 2021

Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by Hogir Hirori to talk about his latest film, Sabaya, which documents the heroic efforts to rescue women and girls from ISIS slavery at a refugee camp in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border. Sabaya, which premiered at Sundance and is now available nationwide, is a moving and visceral documentary that follows a team of volunteers from the Yazidi Home Center in northern Syria as they try to rescue Yazidi girls, some as young as seven, who have been kidnapped and sold into sexual and physical slavery by ISIS. Armed with just a mobile phone, a handgun, and information from “infiltrators” indicating where the captured girls are being held, Mahmud Ziyad and his team face incredible odds. After the rescued girls return to the Yazidi Home Center, we witness their palpable relief and learn of the horrific treatment they’ve been forced to endure. Sabaya is a harrowing story of both the best and worst of humanity, told from a place, and by a people, who are too often just words in headlines across the world. It also testifies to the power of documentaries and to the courage of filmmakers, who put their lives on the line to tell stories the world needs to hear.

Also, Katie Kitamura, author of Intimacies, returns to recommend German author Anna Seghers’s Transit, translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo, about a refugee attempting to leave Vichy France in 1944 through the port of Marseilles. Katie also recommends German director Christian Petzold’s 2018 film adaptation of the same name, which is set in contemporary France.

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