Authors Erica Jong and Susan Choi joins co-hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Wolf in our third and final installment from the 2019 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on USC Campus. First, Erica Jong talks about her new collection of poems, “The World Began with Yes,” as well how she sees the present moment from the long view of her engagement with feminist and other political causes. Then, exploring the trials and tribulations of life in high school, Susan Choi’s talks about the ethics of storytelling and how her novel “Trust Exercise” emerges from questions about how we work through our ideas about power, identity and values in the turbulent years of high school and, much later, after we've become adults.
It's our second show from the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC; and this installment features two of the Festival's award winners, as hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Wolf speak with Nafissa Thompson-Spires and Carl Phillips. Nafissa won the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction for her short story collection Heads of the Colored People; while Carl took home the LA Times Book Prize in Poetry for Wild is the Wind.
In the first of a series of shows from the Los Angles Festival of Books, Eric, Medaya, and Kate, catch up with two friends of the show: Hanif Abdurraqib and Claire Vaye Watkins. First up, Hanif talks about his new book, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest, an epistolary appreciation of one of the most influential groups in Hip Hop history. As always, Hanif astounds with instant recall of, and insights about, all things pop cultural and their social resonance. Then, Claire joins the team to discuss her heralded first novel, Gold Fame Citrus: a terrifying, and all-too-possible, representation of Southern California's near future, in which love blooms in a landscape ravaged by drought.
Co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher talk to writer Laila Lalami about her most recent novel, The Other Americans, a story about a Moroccan immigrant family in the Mojave Desert. In the second half of the episode, Kate, Medaya, and Eric come together to talk about the lessons they've learned from their mothers with Jo Giese, author of Never Sit If You Can Dance, a recent memoir about the lessons her mother has taught her.
Co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf talk with filmmaker Werner Herzog about his new documentary Meeting Gorbachev, which he co-directed with Andre Singer. They discuss the legacy of the last Soviet leader, the era of Glasnost and Perestroika, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and how Herzog understands the history of Russia. The centerpiece of the film is a dialogue between Gorbachev and Herzog, which Gorbachev agreed to do because he recognized the great German filmmaker as more poet than journalist. Indeed, in this show, Herzog's reflections flow seamlessly across an array of subjects, from politics, culture, and history to the resilience of the human spirit.
Also, Sally Rooney, author of Normal People, returns to recommend both The Kingdom by Emmanuel Carrere and the book that inspired it, the Gospel of Luke.
Co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf speak with Sally Rooney about her two novels Conversations with Friends and Normal People. Dubbed the "Jane Austin of the Precariat" and called "the first great millennial novelist" Sally addresses the acclaim she’s received; and how she’s grown into the person and writer she is today.
Also, William E. Jones returns to recommend The Imposter byJavier Cercas, which tells the story of Spaniard Enric Marco, who was a national hero until he was exposed as a fraud in 2005.
Juliet Lapidos is a writer and editor. She is currently a senior editor at The Atlantic, and previously worked for the LA Times, NYT and Slate. Host Tom Lutz joins Juliet to discuss Talent, her new novel about a 29 year old English grad student who can’t finish her dissertation, spending her days eating pop tarts rather than producing pages — relatable. Everything changes when she meets the niece of a famous author and gets access to his notebooks. Anna finds in the author’s archive the inspiration that takes her on a whirlwind journey into the depths of a literary mystery. Tom talks with Juliet about every writer's favorite subject, writer's block; along with the role of slacking in American culture, and that ancient quandary of artistic production: hard work vs inspiration or, could we say, Talent.
Author and Artist William E Jones joins co-hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Jones to discuss his first novel I'm Open to Anything. In the midst of a successful career as both an artist and a writer of non-fiction, William explains what inspired this change; albeit one clearly situated in the Los Angeles of the late 80s, which William encountered after a childhood in the declining rust belt and college on the East Coast. Much like his writing, insights pour forth as William reflects on the difference between writing and making art, his contempt for sexual ellipses in literature and film, his passion for both explicit sexual realism and literary pranks, and why these inform his love for Denis Diderot.
Also, Poet Tommy Pico returns to recommend Tommy Orange's novel There There; and clarify who's who.
Author Karen Tongson talks with co-hosts Eric Newman and Kate Wolf about the tragic life and beautiful voice of Karen Carpenter, the singer who is Tongson's namesake and whose star has never lost its lustre for an enduring fanbase in the Philippines. What she unpacks in Carpenter's story is a moving account of suffering and beauty, of longing for a world we may never reach save in soaring notes and the practiced perfection of vocal harmony, a struggle resonant with queer and diasporic experience.
Also, Morgan Parker, author most recently of Magical Negro, returns to recommend poet Nabila Lovelace's first collection, Sons of Achilles.
Co-hosts Eric Newman and Kate Wolf talk with poets Morgan Parker and Tommy Pico about their respective new works, Magical Negro and Junk. Parker and Pico discuss how they use poetry to explore the experiences of oppressed communities, shuttling between the sublimity and nuance of everyday experiences and the larger cultural and political questions that saturate bodies, spaces and relations. They also talk about how their aesthetic practice has changed as they have moved into writing novels and screenplays.
Who is Steve Bannon? The evil mastermind of a far right global counter-revolution that's taking the world by storm; or a shallow, frumpy guy doing the bidding of his billionaire backers. Could he be both? One thing for certain, Alison Klayman's verite documentary The Brink, which follows Bannon in the months after his exit from the Trump White House, is the essential portrait of one of the central players in global politics. Klayman explains to co-hosts Eric, Kate, and Medaya how she came to have such unlimited access to Bannon, her reflections on his toxic politics and on the man himself: his character, his motivations and what he hopes to accomplish.
Also, Geoff Dyer, author of Broadsword Calling Danny Boy, returns to recommend Annie Ernaux's "impersonal autobiography" The Years, an astonishing first-hand reflection on the cultural, political, and economic changes over the 2nd half of the 20th century.
Geoff Dyer joins co-hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Wolf to discuss his new book Broadsword Calling Danny Boy about the 1968 Richard Burton/Clint Eastwood war movie, Where Eagles Dare. In talking about a film that has held his attention since childhood, Dyer expounds on the continuities and discontinuities between the movie-going child and the adult critic as a resource for good film writing. It's not the plots that fascinate Dyer so much as a writer as the moments caught on camera that grab our critical attention: the signature expressions, the technicolorization of reality, the cacophony of sounds that transport us from our seats into the somewhere else of the film.
Also, Deborah Eisenberg, author of Your Duck is My Duck, returns to recommend a classic of Chinese Literature from the 18th Century: Cao Xueqin's five volume The Story of the Stone.
Co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf talk with acclaimed author and master of the short story Deborah Eisenberg about Your Duck is My Duck, her new collection and her first since 2006. The free-wheeling discussion opens with the mystery of the silly, and selfish, sounding title; winds through a set of surprising reflections on inspiration, process, and myths of creativity; and how Deborah's relation to her craft has evolved throughout her life.
Also, Chloe Ardijis, author of Sea Monsters, returns to recommend Charles Baudelaire's Prose Poems.
Inspired in part by her childhood in Mexico City, Sea Monsters charts the journey of a young girl who takes chase after both a budding romantic infatuation and in interest in, of all things, a band of Ukrainian dwarfs alleged to have defected from the USSR while on tour in Mexico. In a wide-ranging conversation, Ardijis talks with co-hosts Eric Newman, Kate Wolf, and Medaya Ocher about running away from home, the anxiety of inheritance coming from a family of noted writers and artists, goth aesthetics and teenage romance.
Also, Johanna Fateman, co-editor of Last Days at Hot Slit: the Radical Feminism of Andrea Dworkin, returns to recommend Re:Search Magazine's 1991 collection Angry Women, featuring interviews with and essays by the likes of bell hooks, Andrea Juno, Kathy Acker, Susie Bright, Wanda Coleman and many others.
Johanna Fateman and Amy Scholders, the editors of Last Days at Hot Slit: the Radical Feminism of Andrea Dworkin, join co-hosts Medaya Ocher, Kate Wolf, and Eric Newman. Fateman and Scholder talk abut the literary and political legacy of Dworkin, a controversial figure in feminist history whose critiques of patriarchy and pornography made her an icon and a pariah in the 1970s and 80s. By looking back at Dworkin beyond the frame of the so-called Sex Wars, they challenge us to see the incisiveness of her political vision balanced against an abrasive style at once thrilling and off-putting.
Also, Sam Lipsyte, the author of Hark, returns to recommend Lucy Ives' creatively titled upcoming novel Loudermilk or The Real Poet or The Origin of the World.
This week, co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher talk to Dani Shapiro, author of the memoir Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love. They discuss how Dani Shapiro discovered her real parentage and how that discovery shaped her understanding of herself, her relationship to her family, her body and her career.
Also, Sam Lipsyte returns to recommend Mark Doten's new novel Trump Sky Alpha.
Join LARB editors Kate Wolf, Medaya Ocher and Eric Newman for a special Valentine’s Day episode. In the first half of the show, we speak with Laurie Essig, author of Love Inc., an investigation into the ways in which the wedding, romance and dating industry have affected our lives and made us believe in happy endings, despite the world crumbling (or rather, melting) around our shoulders. Our second guest is long-time LARB veteran, Briallen Hopper, who talks to us about her new collection of essays, Hard to Love. We talk to Briallen about spinsters, singledom and how to throw the perfect Galentine’s party.
Sam Lipsyte talks to co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher about his latest novel, Hark, which follows the exploits of an unlikely prophet named Hark and his acolytes, who think that they have found salvation in “mental archery”. Sam, Kate and Medaya discuss the appeal of gurus, the power of satire, and how to explain global warming to your kids. Sam Lipsyte is the author of author of Venus Drive, The Ask, Home Land, and The Fun Parts. He is also the Chair of the creative writing program at Columbia University.
Also, Dan Lopez, author of The Show House, returns to recommend Stephen Hawking's Brief Answers to the Big Questions.
Mitchell S Jackson, author of 2013's widely acclaimed The Residue, joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about his new, soon to be released, book Survival Math: Notes on an American Family. An eclectic text - part reportage, part memoir, with cento poems, an epistilary opening, and powerful narrative passages throughout - Survival Math seamlessly testifies to a life and a consciousness born from difficult environments, devastating experiences, and an insatiable appetite for understanding and insight. Mitchell talks about what inspired him to write in such a challenging form; how the book's stories capture the complex ways in which adult mentors and friends become "family;" and the relationship of African-American history to the production of spectacular African-American art and literature.
Also, Wayetu Moore returns to recommend The Lazarus Effect, a thriller, by Liberian author H. J. Golakai.
Poet Jeffrey Yang joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Kate Wolf to discuss Hey, Marfa, his heralded new collection. In poems that balance between intimacy and alienation, Hey, Marfa explores the unique history of the tiny town where art, history and culture intersect in the vastness of the Texas desert. Yang talks about his writing practice, what it means to write from and about a place, and the figures he encountered in Marfa that continue to fascinate him.
Also, John Wray, author of Godsend, returns to recommend Joaquin Maria Machado de Assis' miraculous classic The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, which John describes as a post-modern tour de force that happened to be written in Brazil in the 1880s.
Oscar season is upon us and our fearless co-hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Wolf bravely tender their predictions and preferences in a range of categories. There's a lotta love for Glenn Close and The Favorite; not so much for A Star is Born; respect for Roma; and a special focus on documentaries because we've interviewed the directors of many of this year's favorites (having featured last year's winner, Icarus). Medaya and Kate spoke with Sandi Tan, director of Shirkers; Eric talked to Bing Liu, director of Minding the Gap; and Morgan Neville discussed his film Won't You Be My Neighbor? with Kate and Eric; but we've chosen... to bring you a command performance of Eric and Daya's interview with Tim Wardle, director of Three Identical Strangers.
Also, author Julietta Singh returns to recommend The Queer Art of Failure by Jack Halberstam, which features close readings of Pixar Films which celebrate a new generation of animated films which embrace characters, narratives, and communities that counter the traditional tropes of patriarchal, hetero-normative, heroic individualism.
Legendary essayist John McPhee joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to discuss his latest collection The Patch. Reflecting on his long career in creative non-fiction and journalism, McPhee talks about the duty of the writer to get out of the way of the story and bemoans the rise of the branded writer in the age of social media. In place of speed, McPhee extolls the virtue of slowness, the time it takes for a writer to develop his voice, to collect material and to divine the associations and structures through which it might breathe itself into a story.
Also, author Julietta Singh returns to recommend Bhanu Kapil's Humanimal: A Project for Future Children.
Wayetu Moore speaks with host Eric Newman about her debut novel She Would Be King, which interweaves history with magical realism to re-tell Liberia's founding in the 19th century. The Allegorical tale revolves around three characters: an immortal woman Vai, exiled from her indigenous community; an African-American man June Dey, who possesses super-human strength; and Norman Aragon, half-white from Jamaica, with the magical power to vanish. As the three stories merge, Liberia is born. Wayetu tells Eric about her family's history in Liberia, their move to America when Wayetu was five years old during a civil war, her subsequent relationship to Liberia, and what motivated her to write its foundation myth in such a beautiful and mystical form.
We end the year with a special treat as hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Wolf reveal their Best of 2018 selections. Eric, Daya, and Kate go high and also low with their favorite books, films, TV shows, podcasts (present company excluded), art shows, and one category so scandalous it's best kept a secret (for now). So, All Hail King Paimon and the Combahee River Collective; as well as authors Azareen Van Der Vliet and Rebecca Makkai, the two previous guests who made the list! Please enjoy our look back at the year that was; and make sure to catch Eric, Daya, and Kate's sage advice for 2019 at the end of the show.
Author John Wray joins co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf to read from and discuss his critically-lauded new novel, Godsend; which has found its way onto many best of 2018 lists. Godsend tells the story of Aden, a young woman from Santa Rosa who travels to the Pakistan/Afghanistan border region shortly before 9/11, converts to Islam, disguises herself as a male and joins the Taliban as a fighter. John Wray tells us the almost-equally-amazing backstory to the novel, which stems from his time in Afghanistan as a reporter for Esquire; and his motivations for immersing himself so completely in Aden's world.
Also, author and podcast host Karina Longworth returns to recommend Angelica Houston's second memoir, Watch Me.