Kate and Medaya talk to the critic and writer Olivia Laing about her new collection of essays Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency. The three discuss the role of art in dark times, Olivia’s environmental activist youth and what she turns to during a crisis. Then, Lucy Ives joins the hosts to discuss the legacy of the artist, architect and writer Madeline Gins, whose work was recently collected into a comprehensive reader titled The Saddest Thing is That I Have Had to Use Words.
One surefire way to lift yourself out of the shelter-in-place doldrums is to engage with someone whose enthusiasm for life and literature is more infectious than any coronavirus. Wayne Koestenbaum joins Kate, Eric, and Daya to discuss his new collection of essays Figure it Out; what ensues is a conversation with exuberant inspirations at every turn. Share this one with your friends, it will renew their faith in living the literary life.
Also, Cathy Park Hong, author of Minor Feelings, returns to recommend two foreboding works of recent literature (as if to counterbalance Wayne's optimism): C Pam Zhang's novel How Much of These Hills is Gold; and Joyelle McSweeney's new book of poetry Toxicon and Ariadne.
Writer, editor, and poet Cathy Park Hong joins Medaya Ocher for a dialogue about her new book Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, which is a blend of memoir, history, and cultural criticism that investigates what it means to live as an Asian American women and artist in America. Cathy and Daya learn that they shared some quirky experiences in their youth: wearing inappropriate t-shirts and how they struggled to conquer the english language. Cathy also explains her resonant eponymous concept, "Minor Feelings," which is introduced in an essay on Richard Pryor's hilarious/tortured/sublime "Live in Concert."
Also, Samantha Irby returns to give an advance recommendation for Raven Leilani's novel Luster, which is scheduled for release this summer.
This week we bring you two tales of lore from the olden days of Queer LA. First, Kate, Daya, and Eric are joined by Sharp and Durk Dehner from the Tom of Finland Foundation to tell the story of the legendary gay artist Touko Valio Laaksonen, who immigrated to Los Angeles, on the occasion of Tom's 100th birthday. Then, Rachel Mason drops by to talk about her documentary Circus of Books, which recently debuted on Netflix, about the legendary porn bookstore in Southern California that was owned and operated by Rachel's parents.
Feeling nostalgic for social anxiety? Go public vicariously with Samantha Irby! You may not conquer your fears, but you'll laugh so much you'll be happy about them. Samantha joins Kate, Eric, and Medaya to talk about her new collection of comic essays Wow, No Thank You, her experience writing for Hulu's hit series Shrill, TV writer's rooms in general, and Hollywood's one constant: fake kindness. The wit is accompanied by wisdom throughout; and, in a plague year, there's added resonance to Samantha's themes of making peace with the body and how not to feel alone.
Also, Rufi Thorpe, author of The Knockout Queen, returns to recommend Lynn Strong's Want, fever dream of a novel about contemporary American economic anxieties, which will be released this summer.
This week, writer Rufi Thorpe joins Eric and Medaya to discuss her latest novel, The Knockout Queen. Rufi, Eric, and Medaya talk about love and violence in American culture, as well as our failed systems of justice. They also discuss RuPaul’s Drag Race, and the beauty of friendships, which brings one of our hosts to tears.
Also, Felicia Angeja Viator, author of To Live and Defy in LA, returns to recommend Hari Kunzru's novel White Tears.
This week, we're joined by Felicia Angeja Viator, author of To Live and Defy in LA: How Gangsta Rap Changed America. Eric, Kate and Medaya talk with Felicia about the rise of gangsta rap in Los Angeles, the sounds and culture that defined the era, the artists and performers who rose to stardom, and how we still see the effects of that sound in music today.
Also, artist Harry Dodge, author of My Meteorite, returns to recommend Crudo A Novel by Olivia Laing.
What better way to break out of the stay-in-place doldrums, and reflect on this transformational moment, than to consider the role of the random in the creation of the new with one of our most brilliant shape-shifters, artist Harry Dodge. Kate, Medaya, and Eric speak with Harry from four different locations across Southern California on the occasion of the publication of his first, already-heralded, book, My Meteorite. Harry talks about what motivated him to write, how he arrived at a form that interweaves memoir-like accounts with extended philosophical reflections - and, of course, the content of those reflections. The imagination of Harry Dodge is an exciting place; and your random encounter with this podcast just might inspire new approaches to our new reality.
Also, Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness, calls in to recommend The Gift by Barbara Browning.
This is the eighth episode in our series on LA and Southern California writers, artists and filmmakers. This episode of the LARB Radio Hour is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov. Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of the California Arts Council.
From their disclosed locations, Kate, Eric, and Daya report on the new normal: cooking, enclosure, and a changed perspective on doing nothing. One thing they all agree on, it's a good time to give Jenny Odell another listen, so...
Jenny Odell, author of How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, joins co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf to asses the state of the human soul in the age of social media reproduction. The verdict is clear: we need strategies of resistance. Constantly tracked and hunted by the digital panopticon, we have no time for reverie, reflection, letting go, or just being. We desperately need Nothing, which is everything. Jenny shares details of her own liberation.
Also, Susan Straight, author of In The Country of Women, returns to honor Toni Morrison by sharing how she has read her favorite book every single year since she was twelve, Morrison's luminous second novel, Sula.
"There's so much there, and it's so fascinating" observes co-host Kate Wolf after Lyra Kilston opens this week's podcast with a summary of her new book Sun Seekers: The Cure of California. Kate might as well be talking about the entire history, brief yet spectacular, of Southern California. This week's show unveils another of the spectacular paradoxes that define the rise of the Golden State Paradise/Dystopia - the relationship between California Modernism to European Sanatorium culture. If you've ever marveled at the modern architectural jewels that dot the LA landscape; and fantasized about a refined European ex-pat community that built them - prepare to have your dreams recast (in the best SoCal tradition!). Lyra spins fascinating tales that will challenge your understanding of LA history, in dialogue with Kate and Eric Newman.
Also, Hanif Abdurraqib returns to recommend Harmony Holiday's new book of poetry, A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom.
Kate and Medaya talk to longtime journalist Joshua Hammer about his most recent book, The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird. Joshua discusses the strange story of notorious egg smuggler, Jeffery Lendrum, and the wildlife detective who pursued him, as well as the larger repercussions of wildlife poaching, climate change and the global animal trade.
Also, writer and producer Samantha Culp drops by to recommend a timely book, A Journal of the Plague Year, a catalogue from an exhibition of the same name, looking back on the SARS outbreak of 2003.
...and now for something completely difficult. We are inaugurating a new project, the "Best of..." series. Inspired by our annual holiday season "Best of..." special, in which Eric, Kate, and Daya pick their faves from the previous year; the new series differs in one significant way, each episode is organized around one theme - today's is Difficult Women. So, expect to be challenged and meta-challenged! The show opens with a brief discussion about the new series; then Kate explains what inspired her to propose this week's theme; followed by three sets of three engaging discussions about three difficult women - "thrice to thine and thrice to mine / And thrice again. to make up nine."
Tom Lutz sits down with legendary Los Angeles author Walter Mosley, recipient of LARB/UC Riverside Lifetime Achievement Award. Mosley, a master of contemporary noir, has written over 50 books, most famously Devil in a Blue Dress. In late 2019, Mosely published Elements of Fiction; and his most recent novel, Trouble Is What I Do, hit the bookstores this week. In his dialogue with Tom, Mosley spins tales about his childhood, his years as a young writer, and his experiences most recently in the TV writer’s room and Hollywood.
Janet Fitch, author of the classic White Oleander, joins Kate and Medaya to discuss the life and work of Kate Braverman, a Los Angeles literary legend who passed in late 2019. Braverman was Janet's teacher, mentor, and later friend; and Janet reflects on the person she knew, tells tales of her in the classroom, and, of course, on the power of her work on the written page.
Then, LARB's own Founder and Editor-in-Chief Tom Lutz joins Kate and Medaya for an extended conversation about his just released debut novel, Born Slippy.
This is the seventh episode in our series on LA and Southern California writers, artists and filmmakers. This episode of the LARB Radio Hour is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov. Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of the California Arts Council.
This week the legendary actress, model and filmmaker Isabella Rossellini joins co-hosts Kate and Medaya to discuss her new theatrical production, Link Link Circus, her studies into animal behavior, and her long career in film and TV. Isabella also discusses her most recent book, My Chickens and I; as well as her previous one, Green Porno, a hugely successful multi-media project that helped revive interest in one of Isabella's other loves, the short film form.
Also, Charles Yu, author of Interior Chinatown, returns to recommend Lisa Damour's Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood.
Kate and Medaya talk with Garth Greenwell about his new book of fiction, Cleanness, the follow-up to his heralded debut What Belongs to You. Set in Bulgaria, where Greenwell taught in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008 and the social crises that followed; the book's distinct nine chapters/stories focus on the narrator's life as a teacher as well as his romantic and sexual experiences.
Also, Director Celine Sciamma, who's latest film is Portrait of a Lady on Fire, returns to recommend the entire body of work of French author Virginie Despentes.
Kate and Medaya talk with award-winning screenwriter and novelist Charles Yu about his new book, Interior Chinatown; an experimental, yet eminently enjoyable, novel-in-the-form-of-a-screenplay. Charles discusses how he came to write such a formally challenging book, in which the central character's world is defined by, and limited to, the horizons available to Asian and Asian-American characters in popular film and television.
Also, J Hoberman, author of Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan, returns to recommend Victor Serge's recently discovered Notebooks from 1936-47, in which the great communist writer lived in exile, from Paris to Mexico.
This is the sixth episode in our series on LA and Southern California writers, artists and filmmakers. This episode of the LARB Radio Hour is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov. Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of the California Arts Council.
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.
It's a LARB Holiday Season tradition! Kate, Daya, and Eric review all that they read, watched, attended, and gossiped about to select their favorites from the past year. The result is a broad, eclectic array. Indeed, the first work chosen is by an author who died in 1996. Many more surprises ensue. A few of our picks are by authors or directors that we interviewed over the past year. Most, however, were not previously discussed on the show. No matter, every selection sparks a spirited discussion. As Eric warns in the introduction, "no one chose only one thing in any category." So, get out your notepads and prepare for an avalanche of excellence.
Check out all of our recommendations here.
Few would argue with the assertion that we are in the throes of a political crisis in American society; and, no doubt, many would acknowledge that the Trump presidency is more symptom than cause - that something with deep roots has taken hold of the American collective unconscious. How can this spell be broken? Is there a roll for progressive spirituality in healing our polity? What variant of mytho-poetic literature can truly speak to our times? Kate and Medaya talk with Amanda Garcia Yates, aka The Oracle of Los Angeles, author of Initiated: Memoir of a Witch about her spiritual practice, its deep historical roots, organic ties to nature, and the myriad ways it is misunderstood. What unfolds is a vibrant, inspiring exchange animated by literary theory, ecological awareness, and a tangible sense that ancient feminist wisdom can yet illuminate our dark zeitgeist. If you're looking for the perfect podcast for the winter solstice season, this is it.
Also, Molly Lambert, who wrote the introduction to I Used To Be Charming: The Rest of Eve Babitz, returns to recommend Dorothy B Hughes' 1963 noir classic The Expendable Man, re-released by New York Review of Books Classics.
This is the fifth episode in our series on LA and Southern California writers, artists and filmmakers. This episode of the LARB Radio Hour is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov. Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of the California Arts Council.
Author Darryl Pinckney joins Kate and Medaya to discuss his new collection, Busted in New York and Other Essays, which includes twenty-five pieces from the past two and a half decades, which reflect and report on politics, culture, and African-American lived experience. The conversation begins with Pinckney's thoughts on Barack Obama's election and presidency, and it's unexpected tragic denouement with the victory of Donald Trump. Pinckney reflects on what remains of the great advance that Obama represented. How much was lost? Should the next act have been so surprising? Looking back further, he wonders have we lost the America we thought we knew; or is our current nightmare merely the return of the repressed?
Also, Matt Wolf, director of Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, returns to recommend Peter McGough's memoir of the 1980's New York art scene, I've Seen the Future and I'm Not Going.
Filmmaker Matt Wolf joins co-hosts Kate and Medaya to discuss his new documentary Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project. Marion Stokes was a former librarian, political activist, and early Apple investor who began recording the 24/7 news cycle in 1979 and continued into the early years of this decade, producing the largest archive of recorded television material. Matt discusses the potential of this archive, Marion’s vision, portraying problematic characters, and how the news reconfigures history.
Also, Yogita Goyal, author of Runaway Genres: The Global Afterlives of Slavery, returns to recommend German Author Jenny Erpenbeck's 2015 novel Go, Went, Gone about a retired professor and his relationship with African Refugees staging a protest in Berlin.