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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: May, 2024
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.

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