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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: June, 2023
Jun 30, 2023

Medaya Ocher and Eric Newman speak to Rachel Nuwer about her recent book, I Feel Love: MDMA and the Quest for Connection in a Fractured World. They discuss the drug's emergence in the Bay Area during the 1960s when pioneers hailed it as a groundbreaking mental health therapy for treating everything from addiction to trauma before the US government classified it as a dangerous Schedule I drug. Eric, Medaya, and Rachel also discuss MDMA's surge in popularity as a party drug during the 1980s and 1990s, as well as inclusion in new clinical trials currently underway to research its effectiveness in treating severe cases of PTSD. Across her account of MDMA's past, present, and future, Nuwer's accessible journalistic account informs and challenges what we know about how the drug works and how the government, researchers, and underground renegades have shaped the scientific and cultural discourse that surrounds it.

Also, Kristin Ross, the author of The Politics and Poetics of Everyday Life returns to recommend a range of works that capture and comment on everyday life: Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidaya Hartman, the writing of Mike Davis and Fredric Jamison on Los Angeles, the noir novels of Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald set in Sothern California, the detective novels (and even-darker fictions) of George Simenon, and the historical novels of Janet Lewis, including The Wife of Martin Guerre.

Jun 23, 2023

Eric Newman and Kate Wolf speak to the author Kristin Ross about her recent book, The Politics and Poetics of Everyday Life, a collection of essays that examine how everyday life emerges as a vantage point for understanding and transforming our social world. The book represents three decades of Ross's writing about the everyday in French political, social, and cultural theory and history, including the commune form and current autonomous zones in France, the romance and memory of the May 1968 protests, and the present predicaments both faced and created by the Macron government. Featuring a long interview with the pioneering philosopher Henri Lefebvre, the book also invokes the work of Frederic Jameson, Jacques Ranciere, Emile Zola, and many others, to explore the intersections of political transformation and cultural representation as resources for thinking opposition and liberation in the present.
Plus, artist Martine Syms, whose new exhibition Loser Back Home is currently on view at Spruth Magers in Los Angeles, returns to recommend Steffani Jemison's novel A Rock, A River, A Street.

Jun 16, 2023

Kate Wolf is joined by the acclaimed artist and filmmaker Martine Syms to discuss her new exhibition Loser Back Home, currently on view at Spruth Magers in Los Angeles. Sym's work in the show encompasses video, sculpture, painting, photography, installation, publishing, and clothes. It merges recognizable brand names with personal ephemera to create a form of self-portraiture and explores the slippery nature of self as distilled through technology, as well as a state of "dysplacement"—a term coined by the historian Barbara Fields to describe the loss of a shared sense of connection to one’s familiar or home country. Last fall, Syms also released her first narrative feature film, The African Desperate, which she co-wrote and directed. The African Desperate (now streaming on MUBI) takes place over the course of 24-hours in the life of an artist named Palace on the day she receives her Masters of Fine Arts degree at a small college in upstate New York, combining formal innovation with humor, pathos, and astute social commentary.
Also, Craig Seligman, author of Who Does That Bitch Think She is?, returns to recommend Liz Brown's Twilight Man: Love and Ruin in the Shadows of Hollywood and the Clark Empire .

Jun 9, 2023

Eric Newman and Kate Wolf speak with writer Craig Seligman about his recent book, Who Does That Bitch Think She is? Doris Fish and The Rise of Drag. The book follows the story of the groundbreaking drag queen, performer, and artist Doris Fish, who was born in Australia in the early 1950s as Philip Mills. Seligman initially wrote about Fish in the 1980s after they met through his boyfriend in San Francisco. He builds on his past interviews to recount Fish’s life, from her early days in Sydney when she was a member of the outre drag group Silvia and the Synthetics, to her time living in San Francisco, where she moved in the late 1970s. She formed the group Sluts A-Go-Go there, and went on to become one of the city’s most celebrated performers, writing and starring in the cult film Vegas in Space, and staging increasingly avant-garde and political performances until her death from AIDS in 1991. In addition to Fish’s story, Seligman looks at larger attitudes toward drag, both within the queer community and outside of it, elucidating the way drag has seeped into popular culture and why it still remains a radical act today.
Also, Joanna Biggs, author of A Life of One's Own, returns to recommend Still Born, a novel by Guadalupe Nettel, translated by Rosalind Harvey.

Jun 2, 2023

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by editor and writer Joanna Biggs, whose new book is called A Life of One’s Own: Nine Women Writers Begin Again. Joanna is an editor at Harper’s Magazine. Her writing has appeared in the New Yorker, The Nation, the Financial Times and the Guardian. In her new book, Joanna is attempting to recalibrate her life after a divorce. She turns to literature and specifially, to nine different women writers and philosophers, ranging from Mary Wollstonecraft to Sylvia Plath to Toni Morrison to Elena Ferrante. In exploring their lives and their work, Joanna finds radical ways to live and rebuild, inspired by these women who forged their own paths outside of domestic and societal expectations. With the help of their writing and their example, Joanna slowly starts to find a new sense of self. She writes “I was alone in many ways, but in my reading I had company for the big questions.”
Also, Gary Indiana, author of Do Everything in the Dark, returns to recommend The Age of Skin by Dubravka Ugresic.

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