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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: Page 4
Feb 10, 2023

Maggie Millner joins Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf to discuss her debut book, Couplets, a love story in verse, written in alternating chapters of couplets and prose poems. It’s about a woman whose life is good: she has a loving partner, caring friends, organic vegetables, plenty of tote bags. Everything changes when she meets a woman at a bar and falls deeply in love, beginning an intense, consuming affair. What follows is an exploration of selfhood — a body and heart turned inside out. Millner writes about the ways in which we discover ourselves, the power other people have over us, about being both subject and object. Couplets is about relationships, queerness, sex and desire, as well as the very act of writing all of that down and turning it into poetry.
Also, De'Shawn Charles Winslow, author of Decent People, returns to recommend What Napolean Could Not Do by DK Nnuro.

Feb 3, 2023

Kate Wolf and Eric Newman are joined by author De'Shawn Charles Winslow to speak about his novel, Decent People. The book is set in the fictional small town of West Mills, North Carolina, and takes place in 1976, when West Mill is still segregated. It focuses on a crime: the calculated murder of three siblings in their home. Marian, Marva, and Lazarus Harmon have been found dead, and there are plenty of people to suspect of having wanted to kill them, including their half-brother Lymp, whose fiancé Jo is determined to prove his innocence; Eunice, an acquaintance from church whose teenage son Marian has wronged; Savannah, who was close friends with Marva and shared a drug habit with her; and Savannah’s father, Ted, who served as the landlord of the siblings’ pediatric practice in town. Alternating perspectives between many of these characters, the novel untangles the tightly knit and interrelated stories of people in a community who know each other intimately—sometimes too intimately for comfort—and considers the ways in which the need for privacy and autonomy can corrode into secrecy, even conspiracy, as well as the harmful effects of racism and homophobia across decades.
Also, Kathryn Ma, author of The Chinese Groove, returns to recommend Gish Jen's short story collection Thank You, Mr. Nixon.

Jan 27, 2023

Kathryn Ma joins Eric Newman to discuss her most recent novel, The Chinese Groove, which follows protagonist Xi Liu Zheng, who goes by Shelley, as he leaves his home in China's Yunnan province to make his future with the help of a rich uncle in San Francisco. But Shelly's journey is a comedy of errors in which nothing is as he expected. Yet, with indefatigable optimism, compassion, and determination, Shelly works to change his fortune and repair fractured family bonds. At once a harrowing immigrant tale and a humorous romp through cultural misunderstandings, The Chinese Groove explores the everyday negotiations of romance and family ties, as well as the power of belief that helps us make our way through the world without breaking.
Also, Curtis White, author of Transcendent: Art and Dharma in a Time of Collapse, returns to recommend two classic authobiographies, The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams, and The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton.

Jan 20, 2023

Curtis White joins Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to speak about his latest essay collection, Transcendent: Art and Dharma in a Time of Collapse. The book offers an incisive critique of the Westernization of Buddhism, from its adoption by tech companies like Amazon and Google into a practice of corporate mindfulness that aids with productivity in the workplace; to its embrace by New Atheists, such as Stephen Batchelor, who argue for Buddhism without beliefs; to its reduction to being solely a matter of neuroscience. White emphasizes the more unruly, unmaterialistic aspects of the dharma—defamiliarization, passion, and metaphysical consciousness— all of which he argues share a deep connection to the work of Western artists, musicians, and poets. Writing with a fiery skepticism about techno-capitalism as the only solution to solving the world’s crises, White advocates for Buddhism’s place as a form of resistance and a way to think against the status quo.
Also, Anand Giridharadas, author of The Persuaders, returns to recommend V.S. Naipaul's A Million Mutinies Now.

Jan 13, 2023

Award-winning journalist Anand Giridharadas joins Eric Newman and LARB’s new Editor-in-Chief Michelle Chihara to talk about his latest book, The Persuaders: At the Front Lines of the Fight for Hearts, Minds, and Democracy. The Persuaders –– this month’s LARB Book Club selection –– offers an inside account of how activists, politicians, educators, and other Left leaders are working to manifest change in a divided America. It is a fabulous study, full of interesting testimonials from hundreds of hours of interviews with Black Lives Matter’s Alicia Garza, Congressional Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders’ campaign workers, and many more. The Persuaders goes deep on what helps change hearts and minds as our fragile nation struggles to find common ground.

Also, Sabrina Imbler, author of How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures, returns to recommend Patricia Likes to Cuddle by Samantha Allen.

(To sign up for the LARB Book Club membership, visit www.shop.lareviewofbooks.org/join)

Jan 10, 2023

In an encore presentation, Adam Phillips joins Kate Wolf to discuss his two latest books, both published this year, On Wanting to Change and On Getting Better. The series looks at the very human impulse toward transformation, from religious and political conversion, and the conversion to family life from which one must ultimately emerge, to the aims and practices of psychoanalysis, along with more quotidian ideas of self-betterment. As always in his work, Phillips attends in these books to the aspects of ourselves that can be hardest to bear, and that can lead us to desire more rigid structures — intellectual or otherwise — or desire to be someone else, while also quietly petitioning for a more complex and thoughtful mode of change in which, as Socrates encouraged his pupils, we learn only to be ourselves. How might we get better, Phillips wonders, at talking about what it is to get better?

Also, Pankaj Mishra, author of Run and Hide, returns to recommend Josep Pla’s The Grey Notebook.

Jan 6, 2023

Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher speak with Sabrina Imbler, a Brooklyn-based writer and science journalist, about their debut essay collection, How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures.  Part creature feature part memoir, each essay explores the life of a unique sea animal as a means of illuminating key experiences from Sabrina's own life story. Across essays the life of a Chinese sturgeon is a catalyst for understanding a grandmother, a whale necropsy for understanding a dying romance, or a bloom of slippery slopes who help us understand the ephemeral joys of queer gathering.
Across the collection they ask us to think about how our lives mirror those of the animals around us, especially the ones who so often escape our gaze, just like the darker facets of our own personalities and histories.
Also, the writer and curator Jordan Stein, author of Riptales, returns to recommend Eat Your Mind: The Radical Life and Work of Kathy Acker by Jason McBride.

Dec 23, 2022

Writer and curator Jordan Stein joins Kate Wolf to discuss his book Rip Tales: Jay DeFeo’s Estocada and Other Pieces. The book centers on the American artist Jay DeFeo who’s best known for her monumental 2,000 pound painting The Rose, which she worked on for eight years. Following her eviction, in 1965, it had to be removed from her apartment by a forklift after the building’s bay window was sawed off. At the time, DeFeo was in the process of completing another painting, Estocada, a piece on paper stapled directly to the walls of her hallway. Instead of removing it intact, she ripped the pieces of the work apart and over the next decades reanimated the fragments by way of photography, photocopy, collage, and relief. While Stein documents the many incarnations of Estocada in his book, its mutating quality also become a template for writing about other Bay Area artists — including Trisha Donnelly, Ruth Asawa, Lutz Bacher, and Vincent Fecteau — whose work similarly engages with risk, reinvention, absence, ephemerality, and community.
Also, Jamieson Webster, author of Disorganisation and Sex, returns to recommend The Case of Dominique by Francoise Dalto.

 

 

Dec 16, 2022

We made it to the end of the year... and our favorite episode! Kate, Medaya, and Eric share their favorite books, movies, TV shows, podcasts, music, and more in this look back at the year that was 2022.

Dec 9, 2022

A LARB Radio double header on two mavericks of independent cinema. In the first half of the show, Kate Wolf and Eric Newman are joined by Joyce Chopra to discuss her new memoir, Lady Director: Adventures in Hollywood, Television, and Beyond. The book traces Chopra's earliest inspirations as a young girl growing up near Coney Island to the projects that launched her storied career across TV news, documentaries and feature films, including the feminist classics Joyce at 34 and Smooth Talk. The memoir also engages larger questions about how women combatted sexism in the entertainment industry before the #MeToo movement and in its wake. Chopra's story offers a path for women in film and beyond to find creative achievement, and that moving target we call happiness.
Next, Kate Wolf speaks with Chris Smith about his most recent movie, Sr. It documents the career of the American underground filmmaker Robert Downey Sr., who’s best known for his 1969 farce Putney Swope, about an advertising agency in New York City. Downey made over a dozen other films, such as Greaser’s Palace, Chafed Elbows, and Hugo Pool, which stars his son, the actor Robert Downey Jr., who made his debut in another film of his father’s, Pound, when he was only five years old. In Sr. Smith follows Robert Downey Jr.'s experience of reckoning with his father’s wildly creative and unconventional life, his complicated parenting, and his painful decline as he struggles with Parkinsons, all while celebrating the work of a true iconoclast.

Dec 2, 2022

Kate Wolf speaks with the writer and psychoanalyst Jamieson Webster about her most recent book Disorganisation and Sex, which collects a decade’s worth of Webster’s essays on themes such as desire, pleasure, fantasy, and the unconscious, and the often uneasy relationships we have with them in our everyday lives. Sex, Webster writes, is sometimes felt as a curse, not a cure—and by extension its disorganizing force is both highly guarded and legislated against (as it was recently with the overturning of Roe vs Wade). In her writing and clinical work, Webster sees the role of the psychoanalyst as someone “who takes on the burden of disorganisation and tries, at all costs, to do something other than make it go away,” leaving room for its revelatory potential and power to change us.
Also, Hilton Als, author of My Pinup, returns to recommend Henry Green's Party Going.

Nov 25, 2022

Hilton Als, joins Eric Newman to discuss his new book, My Pinup, a hybrid memoir-essay that explores questions of race, desire, and autonomy through an intense and intimate focus on Hilton's relationship with and to polymath musician and sexual dynamo Prince.  By looking at Prince as a subject of queer desire and being and at his recording career as a study in the struggle between Black excellence and white corporate control, MY PINUP probes the simultaneous allure of Black queer aesthetics and its disavowal in the hostile terrains of the music industry and American culture. The memoir/essay offers us a chance to remember and get close to the Prince that was, and to mourn the Prince that could have been. 
Also, Dionne Irving, author of The Islands, returns to recommend A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib.

Nov 18, 2022

Dionne Irving joins Eric Newman to talk about her debut story collection, The Islands. Moving across the United States, Canada, Jamaica, England, and France, the collection explores the female characters’ experience of diasporic dislocation, that feeling of never quite fitting into the rhythms of either their adopted culture or their culture of origin. Dionne’s stories reveal origin — that foundational and orienting sense of where one is “from” — as an eternally unsettled question for her female protagonists, troubling the ways in which they find or make a home for themselves among people and places that never feel entirely theirs.
Also, Peter Brooks, author of Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative, returns to recommend The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste as well as The Anomaly by Herve Le Tellier.

Nov 11, 2022

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by literary critic and scholar Peter Brooks. Brooks is the Sterling Professor of Comparative Literature Emeritus at Yale. He is the author of many books but perhaps most notably of Reading for the Plot, originally published in 1984, which initiated the narrative turn in literary criticism. In it, Brooks focused on the story, how it was told and how it moved forward.  
His latest book Suduced by Story returns to narrative as its main subject, 30 years later. Brooks now finds narrative everywhere — from President Bush invoking the “stories” of all of his cabinet members to corporate websites touting the company “story”. What does this narrative takeover mean? Why have we started to privilege storytelling over any other form of expression? Brooks writes “This…suggests something in our culture has gone astray.” Peter Brooks joins us today to discuss, as he puts it, “the misuses, and mindless uses, of narrative.”
Also, Darryl Pinckney, author of Come Back in September, returns to recommend three books: Elizabeth Hardwick's Seduction and Betrayal; Margo Jefferson's Constructing a Nervous System; and Marina Warner's Esmond and Ilia.

Nov 4, 2022

In the first half of the show, Kate Wolf and Eric Newman are joined by LARB contributing editor Jon Wiener to remember the historian Mike Davis, who died last week at 76 years old. Jon and Mike were longtime friends and together they wrote Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties, Davis's final book. Then Kate speaks with the writer Constance Debré about her novel, Love Me Tender, the first of her books to be translated in English. It follows a woman, who like Debré was once a lawyer, but has quit her job, and vacated the comforts of her former life to devote herself to her writing. She has a son from her marriage named Paul. After telling her husband, who she's separated from, that she has decided to be with women, the narrator’s ex starts to turn Paul against her and prevents her from seeing him. The novel takes place over the span of a glacial court case that will decide the narrator's fate with her son—all the while asking critical questions about the fearsome nature of unconditional love and attachment, the roles of gender and motherhood, and the unassailability of the truth.

Oct 28, 2022

Eric Newman and Kate Wolf speak with the novelist and critic Darryl Pinckney about his new memoir, Come Back in September: A Literary Education on West Sixty-Seventh Street, Manhattan. The book recounts Pinckney’s relationship with a legend of American letters: the singular stylist Elizabeth Hardwick. Hardwick was Pinckney’s professor in a creative writing class at Barnard in the early 1970s, and they quickly became close friends. She invited him into her home, into her writing process, and into a world of New York literary culture and gossip, which Pinckney doles out here in generous cupfuls. It was through Hardwick that Pinckney met Barbara Epstein, an editor and co-founder of the New York Review of Books, where he began his writing career. His memoir documents a critical time in both his own life and in Hardwick’s, including the dissolution of her marriage to the poet Robert Lowell, and the composition of her masterful novel, Sleepless Nights.
Also, Namwali Serpell, author of The Furrows, returns to recommend "Old Boys Old Girls" a short story by Edward P. Jones from his collection All Aunt Hagar's Children.

Oct 21, 2022

On this special LARB Book Club episode of the Radio Hour, Boris Dralyuk and Medaya Ocher are joined by Namwali Serpell, to speak about her new novel, The Furrows. One of the most daring and protean literary voices working today, Serpell is a Zambian-born novelist and essayist, and a professor of English at Harvard University. Her debut novel, The Old Drift, a genre-bending saga tracing the legacies of three families, appeared in 2019 and won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction, and the Los Angeles Times’s Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Her equally unclassifiable — a compliment, that — work of nonfiction, Stranger Faces, appeared the following year, as part of Transit Books’ series of Undelivered Lectures, and was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Serpell is also the recipient of a 2020 Windham-Campbell Literature Prize, the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing, and a 2011 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. Like The Old Drift, The Furrows defies narrative conventions and readerly expectations, but it does so with a narrower aim in view, homing in on the after-affects — which are, truth be told, manifold — of a particular, though uncertain, trauma, an event that fractures the protagonist’s life and sense of self at the age of 12. Blamed for the death of her younger brother, Cassandra is haunted by the presence of his absence — or is it simply his presence? — for the rest of her days. What Serpell’s novel tells us is what Cassandra promises to tell us: not what happened, but how it felt.
Also, Kathern Scanlan, author of Kick the Latch returns to recommend Charles Reznikoff's Testimony: The United States 1885-1915: Recitative.

Oct 14, 2022

Kathryn Scanlan joins Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to discuss her new novel, Kick the Latch. A series of taut, electrifying vignettes based on real-life interviews, the book narrates the life of Sonia, a horse trainer in rural Iowa, who enters the world of competitive racing while still in high school. Sonia’s experiences at the racetrack are by turns exultant and brutal: they take place in an atmosphere in which both human and animal are often pushed to the edge of their lives in the name of winning it all. But Sonia’s grit, devotion, and perseverance serve to counter to the exceptional details of her life and work. In her, Scanlan crafts a uniquely humane and gripping voice that reveals itself in small details, idiosyncratic phrases, and deep tenderness.
Also, Hua Hsu, author of Stay True, returns to recommend Maxine Hong Kingston's Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book.

Oct 7, 2022

Hua Hsu joins Eric Newman to discuss his latest book, STAY TRUE. The memoir recounts Hua's feeling of being caught between the Taiwanese culture of his immigrant parents and the burgeoning Silicon Valley suburbs in which he was raised. A lifeline of sorts is thrown to him in the form of Ken Ishida, a confident young man from a multigenerational Japanese American family. At first, it seems that Ken has every Hua lacks—the looks, the easy social confidence, a finger on the pulse of American culture. But during their friendship those first years of college, the young men support and lean on each other as they grow into adults with bright—if intangible—futures ahead of them. But one night, a shocking and random act of violence takes Ken away and Hua and his friends must try to makes sense of a senseless tragedy and pull back together the broken lives left in its wake.
Also, Andrew Sean Greer, author of Less is Lost, returns to recommend Julian Delgado Lopera's Fiebre Tropical.

Sep 30, 2022

Andrew Sean Greer, author of six novels, including The Confessions, joins Eric Newman to talk about Less Is Lost, a sequel to his 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner, Less. This latest installment finds our beloved and bewildered eponymous gay novelist of minor repute dashing across the American Southwest, South, and East Coast as he scrambles to save, and in some ways clarify, his relationship with Freddy Pelu, as well as to pay back some monumental back rent on the charming San Francisco home left to him by his recently deceased lover, Robert Brownburn. As Less takes his fish-out-of-water act on the road, Andrew Sean Greer treats readers to a number of poignant insights into the nature of love, devotion, belonging, and the by turns miserable and, er, miserable condition of being a writer.

Also, Yiyun Li, author of The Book of Goose, returns to recommend Charlotte Bronte’s Villette.

Sep 23, 2022

Kate Wolf speaks with celebrated author Yiyun Li about her latest novel, The Book of Goose. A tale of a passionate friendship between two adolescent girls set in a rural village in postwar France, The Book of Goose is told from the perspective of Agnès. Now living in America, many years later, she recounts the devotion and creativity she shared with her best friend, Fabienne, when they were young. Together the two girls composed a book of stories, but, at Fabienne’s urging, Agnès posed as the sole author when the book was eventually published, setting the course of their lives in two very different directions. An examination of friendship, poverty, feminine ambivalence, and death, Li’s novel is most concerned with the nature of stories themselves: where they come from, how they function, and who they belong to.

Also, Rachel Aviv, author of Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories that Make Us, returns to recommend Louis Sass’s Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature, and Thought.

Sep 16, 2022

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by New Yorker staff writer Rachel Aviv to discuss her first book, Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us. The book collects the stories of people whose mental health crises subvert our usual understanding of diagnosis, treatment, and healing. It begins with Aviv herself, who was hospitalized at the age of six for anorexia, before she even knew the term for her illness. Each chapter is then dedicated to a different person: Bapu, an Indian Brahmin woman, who shortly after giving birth dedicates herself to religious asceticism and mysticism; Naomi, a Black woman, who in her psychosis, despairs of the very real racism and generational oppression that surrounds her; and Ray Osheroff and Laura Delano whose chapters both show the ways in which psychiatry is still grappling with medication and biology. Aviv explores how mental illness can defy psychiatric explanation, requiring a broader view of the economic, social and lived realities of the people who experience it.
Also, Raquel Gutierrez, author of Brown Neon, returns to recommend Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller.

Sep 9, 2022

Editors of The LARB Quarterly, Chloe Watlington and Michelle Chihara, join Jeff Weiss of theLAnd and local designer and near-futurist writer, Schessa Garbutt, on a panel at this summer's LITLIT Festival.to discuss the love and labor of print magazines, designing for print, and ongoing debates around the relevance of literary criticism and production today.
On July 30th and 31st, LARB presented the second annual LITLIT, or Little Literary Fair, in partnership with Hauser & Wirth Publishers at Hauser & Wirth’s stunning gallery space in Downtown L.A.’s Arts District. LITLIT brought together 48 small presses and literary arts organizations and over 5,000 visitors for a two-day celebration of independent publishing on the West Coast. All five free panel discussions from the weekend are available to watch back on litlit.org. Today, you’ll hear one of these special conversations, For the Love of Print.

Sep 2, 2022

Translators Andrew Way Leong, Bruna Dantas Lobato, Robin Myers, and Magdalena Edwards discuss the Art of Translation on a panel at this summer's LITLIT Festival.
On July 30th and 31st, LARB presented the second annual LITLIT, or Little Literary Fair, in partnership with Hauser & Wirth Publishers at Hauser & Wirth’s gallery space in Downtown L.A.’s Arts District. LITLIT brought together 48 small presses and literary arts organizations and over 5,000 visitors for a two-day celebration of independent publishing on the West Coast, which included five free panel discussions.
Today, you’ll hear one of these special conversations, The Art of Translation, produced in partnership with the Center for the Art of Translation in San Francisco. Andrew Way Leong, Bruna Dantas Lobato, Robin Myers, and Magdalena Edwards, four eminent translators, discuss the hard-fought, increasing visibility of their art and offer insight into their methods and projects.
Are you a literary translator who has not yet publishing a book-length work? Know an emerging translator? Consider applying to the new LARB + Yefe Nof Emerging Translation Residency in Lake Arrowhead this winter. Applications are due September 14. Learn more and apply today at lareviewofbooks.org/events.

Aug 26, 2022

An encore presentation from early 2021 that speaks to our current summer of floods, droughts, blazing temperatures and extreme weather across the northern hemisphere:
Hosts Kate and Medaya are joined by New Yorker staff writer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert, whose new book is called Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, in which Kolbert explores the many ways humans intervene in nature. Kolbert discusses invasive species, the sinking of New Orleans, the triage plan for climate change and how solar geoengineering might bleach our skies.
Also, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, author of The Undocumented Americans, returns to recommend Children of the Land by Marcello Hernandez Castillo.

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