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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 6
Feb 25, 2022

Writer Isaac Butler joins co-hosts Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to speak about his new book, The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act which was published this month by Bloomsbury. The Method traces the dissemination of a style and way of thinking about acting that’s so prevalent, it’s hard to imagine the performing arts without it today. Originally envisioned by the great actor and textile heir Konstantin Stanislavski, in Moscow, in the late 1800s, the Method, originally known as the System, stressed the importance of emotional realism, research, a character’s motivation, and the actor's organic experience. Stanislavski believed actors were meant to be truth tellers and to this end, he developed empathic and imaginative exercises to enhance the authenticity of their performances such as “affective memory” and the “Magic If.” When the Moscow Arts Theater, which Stanislavski co-created, toured its productions in Europe and the US in the early 1920s, it inspired a whole new generation of actors and teachers, including Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler, who would go on to teach the Method to much the acclaim and controversy in the United States.
Also, Lewis R. Gordon, author of Fear of Black Consciousness, returns to recommend three books: Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde; Living While Black: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Racial Trauma by Guilaine Kinouani; and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

Feb 18, 2022

Lewis R. Gordon, head of the philosophy department at the University of Connecticut, joins Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about his latest book, Fear of Black Consciousness. The book explores contemporary racism and the long historical movement from black consciousness with a lower-case “b” to capital “B” Black consciousness, an active and more liberatory mentality that sees through the lies of white supremacy and works to build a better and more democratic society. Gordon examines these weighty topics through sustained readings of popular film and culture, including Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther.

Also, Sheila Heti, author of Pure Colour, returns to recommend Elif Batuman’s Either/Or.

Feb 11, 2022

Sheila Heti joins Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to speak about her latest novel, Pure Colour. A mythical and tender telling of the life of a woman named Mira, Pure Colour imagines our present day as taking place in the first stages of God’s creation. The world as we know it is but God’s first draft, and the complaints of human beings about its difficulties are being logged by him as input for his second. In this first draft world, people come in three categories: birds, fish, and bears. Mira is a bird — she relates to the world aesthetically and studies writing and criticism — while the woman that beguiles her, Annie, is a fish — a pragmatist who believes in justice for all of humanity. Mira’s father, meanwhile, is a bear, devoted most to the people he loves. When he dies early in the novel, questions of how to reconcile these different positions, how and at what distance to love someone, and how much to let go of that love, take the fore, as do other deeply philosophical inquiries about time, the future, art, and the universe as we know it.

Also, Francesco Pacifico, author of The Women I Love, drops by to give a glowing recommendation for Gertrude Stein’s classic The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.

Feb 4, 2022

Italian author Francesco Pacifico talks with hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher about his latest novel, The Women I Love, which follows an editor and poet named Marcello who is trying to write a novel about the women in his life. The relationships he explores are sexual and romantic - there’s a young editor Elenora, with whom he is having an affair; Barbara, his girlfriend and later his wife - as well platonic and familiar, he writes about his sister Irene as well as his mother. The book is about love and sex, as well as gender, power, and literature. How well can we know each other, even our most intimate partners?
Also Neel Patel, author of Tell Me How To Be, returns to recommend Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala.

Jan 28, 2022
Eric and Medaya are joined by Neel Patel, an author and TV writer based in Los Angeles, to talk about his debut novel, Tell Me How To Be. The novel opens as Akash, a gay songwriter in his twenties living in LA, returns to his hometown in Illinois in the wake of his father’s death to help his mother, Renu, and brother, Bijal, sell his family home before his mother returns to London. Akash is the black sheep of the family, still deeply closeted and reeling from a failed relationship of his own. But he’s not the only one keeping secrets. Renu is holding fast to a long-simmering love that she’s told nobody about; and things are not as good as they seem for golden son Bijal. Alternating narration between Akash’s and Renu’s perspectives, Tell Me How To Be is an intimate story about race, sexuality, and the secrets that keep a family together, but also tear it apart.
Also, Tochi Onyebuchi, author of Goliath, returns to give a glowing recommendation for This is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar.
Jan 21, 2022

Eric and Kate are joined by Tochi Onyebuchi to discuss his debut adult science fiction novel Goliath. Told through a series of vignettes, Goliath meditates on a world destroyed by environmental and viral catastrophe, in which the privileged largely white population has decamped for a space colony.  The group left on earth, predominantly people of color, try to eke out an existence amid the ruins.  Delving into such topics as colonization, gentrification, and the racial conflict that courses through American history and which, in the novel, firmly shapes its future and the future of the world in the 2050s, Goliath is a haunting and incisive look at a world that could very much be our own.

Also, Gary Shteyngart, author of Our Country Friends, returns to recommend his favorite book of 2021, Luster by Raven Leilani.

Jan 14, 2022

Boris Dralyuk, LARB’s Editor-in-Chief, joins Medaya Ocher for a very special ex-Soviet edition of the LARB Book Club and Radio Hour. The guest of honor is the doyen of Russian-American letters, Gary Shteyngart. The author of the novels The Russian Debutante’s HandbookAbsurdistanSuper Sad True Love Story, and Lake Success, as well as of the memoir Little Failure, Shteyngart’s sharp sense of humor, memorable characters, and up-to-the-minute responsiveness to developments in the culture have won him comparisons to Philip Roth and Saul Bellow, as well as a number of prizes and a wide, dedicated readership. His latest novel, Our Country Friends, is a poignant, affectionate tale of pandemic life set at a “House on the Hill” in the Hudson Valley. More than one critic has called it Chekhovian, and Chekhov does make a well-timed appearance, but this eventful novel is no pastiche. During the talk, Shetyngart touches on the lessons of Soviet and Russian life, the pernicious effects of social media, the importance of community, and the ways in which fiction can and should address the unfolding crises of modern life.
Also, James Hannaham, author of Pilot Impostor, returns to recommend Megan Mylan’s 2021 documentary about Syrian refugees, Simple as Water.

Jan 7, 2022

Author, activist, and novelist Arundhati Roy joins us from Delhi to discuss her new collection of essays, Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction. Roy is well known for her impassioned political writing, as well as her two novels, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, and The God of Small Things, which won the Man Booker in 1997. She talks with us about the rise of Indian nationalism, Modi’s descent into fascism, the oppression of Muslims in India, and the role of fiction and literature in the world today.
Also, Yaa Gyasi, author of Transcendent Kingdom, returns to recommend Saidiya Hartman's groundbreaking Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals.

Dec 31, 2021

It’s that time of year again — the end. In our annual “best of” show, Kate, Daya, and Eric select their favorite books, movies, TV shows, podcasts, scandals, and other items from the past 12 months. Sit back, enjoy, and have a very Happy New Year!

Dec 24, 2021

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher talk with Anna Della Subin about her new book, Accidental Gods: On Men Unwittingly Turned Divine. Accidental Gods traces the rarely told history of the deification of living men in modern times, revealing the phenomenon’s connection to imperial conquest, revolution, and civil war. Taking as a starting point Columbus’ exploitation of his reception by native peoples as a deity come from the heavens, the book offers in-depth studies of figures such as the Ethiopian King Haile Selassie, who is regarded as God by Rastafarians in Jamaica, England’s Prince Philip, who became the center of a religion on an island in the South Pacific, and Jiddu Krishnamurti, who was seen as divine by early Theosophists. What does it mean to make a man a God? Why is it always a man? And what does that say about notions of masculinity, the place of religion in society, and the relations between political power and divinity?

Also, Sam Quinones, author of The Least of Us, returns to recommend Calvin Trillin’s Killings.

Dec 17, 2021

Award-winning author and investigative journalist Sam Quinones joins Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to discuss his latest book, The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth. The book charts the sweeping, shocking rise of synthetic drugs in the United States, and their production here, by corporations such as Purdue Pharma, as well as in labs in Mexico and China. The proliferation of so-called “designer drugs” has led to yet another wave of the opiate crisis, with more overdose deaths between the spring of 2020 and 2021 than ever before recorded. The Least of Us tells the personal stories behind many of these casualties, the larger political and socioeconomic shifts that have exacerbated the problem, the fascinating and disturbing history of the emergence of fentanyl and methamphetamine, and what some communities are doing to fight against the drugs’ devastation.

Also, Anna Della Subin, author of Accidental Gods: On Men Unwittingly Turned Divine, drops by to recommend Jason Josephson Storm’s The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences.

Dec 10, 2021

Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf moderate a panel on the use, abuse, and omnipresence of digital technology in our lives — with writers and scholars Christoph Bieber (University of Duisburg-Essen), Safiya Noble (Algorithms of Oppression), and Anna Wiener (The New Yorker, Uncanny Valley).

A global pandemic, a national election, entire regions devastated by one natural disaster after another: new technologies have made it possible for us to track, grasp, and witness these large-scale phenomena in real time and in the palms of our hands. Tech platforms like Facebook and Twitter have encouraged a sense of community and mobilized action, even as they have facilitated the spread of misinformation and the formation of fissures in public life. How do we, as individuals and as communities, navigate technologies of information and misinformation? How much power do tech companies have in shaping public conversation, and how much power should they have?

This event was called Online Together and it was a part of LARB’s Semipublic Intellectual Sessions, a tenth anniversary celebration and fundraiser.

Donate to LARB between now and Dec. 31 and your support of vibrant and vital conversations will be matched by an anonymous donor! lareviewofbooks.org/donate/

Dec 3, 2021

Writer and artist James Hannaham joins Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to discuss his most recent book, Pilot Impostor, a mix of prose, poetry, and visual collage. James is the author of the award-winning novels Delicious Foods and God Says No. His short stories have appeared in One StoryFence, and Bomb, and he was for many years a writer for the Village Voice and Salon. 

Pilot Impostor was partly inspired by a trip to Cape Verde and Lisbon, right after Trump’s election in 2016. The book brings together disparate influences like the work of Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa, the TV show Air Disasters, and current events. Through shifts in form, narrative, and style, Hannaham asks some of the biggest questions about the self, identity, the failure of leadership, history, and the nature of consciousness.

Also, film critic Melissa Anderson, author of Inland Empire, returns to recommend Jean Stein’s depiction of Hollywood, West of Eden.

Nov 26, 2021

In the first half of the show, Kate Wolf is joined by Melissa Anderson to discuss her first book, Inland Empire, a volume in Fireflies Press’s Decadent Editions series, which revisit seminal films from the 2000s. A story of a “woman in trouble,” David Lynch’s Inland Empire (2006) is a bold selection, since, as Anderson points out, to try and make sense of its plot “would be to replicate the tediousness and pointlessness of narrating a dream.” Instead the book concerns itself most with the film’s star, Laura Dern, an electrifyingly expressive performer who has worked in the industry since she was a child. Using the whole of Dern’s career and her many collaborations with Lynch, Anderson explores Inland Empire as the work not so much of an auteur but of an actor, making poignant observations along the way about disintegration and desperation, victimization and agency, the possibilities of the female gaze, and the dark side of Hollywood.

In the second half, Kate is joined by artist and inventor Pippa Garner. Over the past six decades, Garner has satirized American consumer culture with a range of drawings and ideas for outlandish yet, given our zeal for novelty, completely plausible products, custom furniture, and things like the world’s most fuel efficient car — which is actually a bicycle set inside the frame of a miniature Honda. In the 1970s she collaborated with the media collective Ant Farm, and in the 1980s, as Phillip Garner, she published books such as Better Living Catalog: 62 Absolute Necessities for Contemporary Survival and Utopia — or Bust! Products for the Perfect World. She also made regular appearances on the talk show circuit, in character as a small-town inventor, presenting some of her many gadgets — like a crop-top business suit and an umbrella whose canopy is constructed of palm fronds. “Immaculate Misconceptions,” a retrospective of her work, is currently on view at Joan in Los Angeles.

Nov 19, 2021

Essayist, poet, playwright, and filmmaker José Vadi joins Eric Newman to discuss his debut essay collection, Inter State. José’s first play, a eulogy for three, was the winner of the San Francisco Foundation’s Shenson Performing Arts Award. He is also the author of SoMa Lurk, a collection of photos and poems that spring from the San Francisco neighborhood of the same name, and his writing has been featured in a number of publications, including CatapultMcSweeney’sNew Life Quarterly, and our own Los Angeles Review of Books. The essays in Inter State move across a California that is at once family home and site of alienation, humming with possibility and on the brink of disaster, energetic and decayed.

Also, Ruth Ozeki, author of The Book of Form and Emptiness, returns to recommend Jorge Luis Borges’s The Aleph and Other Stories.

Nov 12, 2021

Ruth Ozeki is a writer, filmmaker, Zen Buddhist priest, and author of three novels, My Year of MeatsAll Over Creation, and A Tale for the Time Being, which was a finalist for the 2013 Booker Prize. Her nonfiction work includes the memoir The Face: A Time Code and the documentary film Halving the Bones. 

Ozeki joins Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about her latest work, The Book of Form and Emptiness. The novel opens with the death of Kenji, an itinerant jazz musician who is run over by a chicken truck after he falls down in the street late at night and is too intoxicated to pick himself back up. The story follows Kenji’s wife, Annabelle, and son, Benny, as they both cope, in their own ways, with their terrible tragedy. Annabelle becomes a hoarder, stacking various objects in their home as a kind of insurance against loss. Benny starts to hear those objects, and many others, talking to him, which eventually lands him in a psychiatric ward. As the novel moves forward, Benny meets an alluring, rebellious girl, Aleph, and Slajov the Bottleman, a wheelchair-bound alcoholic whose ravings about poetry, capitalism, and philosophy gin up, in part, the novel’s deep investment in questions about consumption, objects, and grief.

Also, Tom McCarthy, author of The Making of Incarnation, returns to recommend Ann Quin’s Three.

Nov 5, 2021

Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by Tom McCarthy, author of the contemporary classic, Remainder, as well as of the novels C and Satin Island, both of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He is also the author of the collection of essays Typewriters, Bombs, and Jellyfish and of the literary study Tintin and the Secret of Literature, and is the “General Secretary” of the “semi-fictitious organization” the International Necronautical Society (INS), which has exhibited art around the world.

McCarthy’s latest book is The Making of Incarnation, a novel that follows the hunt for a box that has gone missing from the archives of a time-and-motion pioneer named Lillian Moller Gilbreth. Gilbreth’s studies in movement helped birth the era of mass observation and big data, but did she also discover the “perfect” movement, one that would “change everything”?

Also, Natalie Diaz, author of Postcolonial Love Poem, returns to recommend poet Desiree C. Bailey’s What Noise Against the Cain.

Oct 29, 2021

In a special LARB Book Club installment of the Radio Hour, Boris Dralyuk and Callie Siskel speak with poet Natalie Diaz about her collection Postcolonial Love Poem, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2021. Diaz is also the author of the collection When My Brother Was an Aztec, which was a 2012 Lannan Literary Selection and won an American Book Award the following year. Throughout her work she explores the beauty and heartbreak of her own experience as a Latina and Mojave American as well as the broader tragedies and contractions of life in the US and in its global shadow.
Also, Dodie Bellamy, author of Bee Reaved, returns to recommend Marlen Haushofer's 1963 novel The Wall.

Oct 22, 2021

Kate, Daya, and Eric speak with director Todd Haynes about his latest movie, and first documentary, The Velvet Underground, which shows just how the legendary rock group became a cultural touchstone representing a range of contradictions. The band is both of their time, yet timeless; rooted in high art and underground culture. The film features in-depth interviews with key artistic players of the 1960s combined with a treasure trove of never- before-seen performances and a rich collection of recordings, Warhol films, and other experimental art. The result is an immersive experience into what founding member John Cale describes as the band's creative ethos: “how to be elegant and how to be brutal."
Also, Kelefa Sanneh, author of Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres, returns to recommend I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres.

Oct 14, 2021

Writer Dodie Bellamy joins Kate Wolf to speak about her latest collection, Bee Reaved. The book gathers nearly 20 essays Bellamy has written over the last few years, with a focus on the state of bereavement, examining not only the loss of her husband Kevin Killian, but the loss of other artists, physical objects, her own past lives, and radical social movements. As with all of Bellamy’s work, the pieces in Bee Reaved foreground the viscera of the body and other aspects of the physical world, while also engaging with ghosts, fairy tales, the internet, spirituality and a deep sense of community.
Then, in this week's second interview, Kate is joined by fillmaker Mia Hansen-Love to discuss her latest, and first English-language movie, Bergman Island, which follows a filmmaking couple during their residency on Fårö, the island in Sweden where Ingmar Bergman lived and shot many of his films. As the couple, Chris and Tony, work on their screenplays and tour the sites that inspired the great filmmaker, the line between real life and fiction becomes ever more ambiguous. Bergman Island opens in theaters October 15th and available for digital rental October 22nd.

Oct 7, 2021

Kate Wolf speaks with writer Kelefa Sanneh about his debut book, Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres. An exhaustive, enthralling breakdown of the last 50 years in music, Major Labels diagrams the American sonic landscape, Alfred Barr-style, in the discrete yet overlapping categories of rock, R&B, country, punk, hip hop, dance, and pop; it also pays close attention to the proliferation of genres within genres, covering everything from thrash metal to glitter rock, quiet storm to hip hop soul, and many more. The book reveals what these divisions mean not only for the way music gets made, but how it’s listened to, and by whom. In conversation, we learn what inspired, and continues to inspire, one of our leading music writers.
Also, Cynthia Cruz, author of The Melancholia of Class, returns to recommend a collection of writings by the late Mark Fisher "Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology, and Lost Futures."

Oct 2, 2021

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by author Cynthia Cruz to discuss The Melancholia of Class: A Manifesto for the Working Class. A mix of memoir, cultural theory, and polemic, Cruz’s latest work addresses the personal and social consequences of the marginalization of America’s majority population, its working class. Cruz speaks about what inspired her to write the book and how she came to focus on the lives of certain famous working-class people, like musicians Amy Winehouse and Ian Curtis (who both died tragically in their 20s), and Jason Molina (who made it to 39), actress Barbara Loden, and others. How did they and Cynthia contend with the hegemonic “middle-class” culture’s shaming of working-class characteristics? Denial and repression of working-class consciousness is encouraged in our society. This repression is seen as a precondition for success, but it mangles the soul and shreds the bonds of social solidarity that are the foundation of community and provide a sense of belonging. 173 years after Marx and Engels recast the working class as the protagonist of history in their Manifesto, Cruz does the same in hers.

Also, Amia Srinivasan, author of The Right to Sex: Feminism in the 21st Century, returns to recommend Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights by Molly Smith and Juno Mac, who are both British sex workers.

Sep 24, 2021

Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by documentary filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen, who are perhaps best known for RGB, their Academy Award-nominated documentary about late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That film provided the impetus for their latest project, My Name Is Pauli Murray, which traces the career of a fierce warrior against injustice whose story has been confined to the margins of history. A pioneering African American attorney, activist, and priest, Murray shaped landmark litigation — and consciousness — around race and gender equity, including the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education and the extension of the 14th Amendment to provide equal protection under the law to all Americans, regardless of sex.
Also, Maggie Nelson, author of On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint returns to recommend a major work scheduled to be released in November, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow. Graeber was working on The Dawn of Everything at the time of his death last year.

Sep 17, 2021

Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf are joined by writer, critic, and philosopher Amia Srinivasan, whose new book is The Right to Sex: Feminism in the 21st Century. Amia is a professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College at Oxford and a contributing editor at the London Review of Books. The essays in her book probe how we think and talk about sex. Srinivasan grapples with the subject from a variety of angles, looking closely at the #MeToo movement, the history of feminism and pornography, and the larger political forces that shape our personal lives. She discusses the complicated relationships between sex and racial justice, class, and disability. As she asks in her preface, “What would it take for sex really to be free? We do not yet know; let us try and see.”
Also, poet Kaveh Akbar, author of Pilgrim Bell, returns to recommend Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry, a poetry anthology edited by Jane Hirshfield.

Sep 10, 2021

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by Maggie Nelson to discuss her latest book, On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint. In 2015, Nelson’s bestselling, genre-defying The Argonauts won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and her other works of criticism, memoir, and poetry include The Art of Cruelty: A ReckoningWomen, The New York School, and Other True AbstractionsBluetsJane: A Murder; and The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, and a Warhol Creative Capitol Arts Writing Grant, among other awards. Currently she is a professor of English at USC. Written in the wake of the 2016 election, On Freedom is an ambitious consideration of the complex knots of “sovereignty and self abandon, subjectivity and subjection, autonomy and dependency” that form under the blanket of liberation. Focusing on four topics — art, sex, drugs, and the climate crisis — the book challenges the notion of freedom as a utopian state toward which we might move untethered from our responsibilities to the planet and to one another. At the same time, Nelson carves out a notable amount of space within realms many would be quick to deem as uniquely unfree: caretaking, addiction, conflict, and negative affect, even the ticking time bomb of global warming that leaves so many of us feeling helpless. Here, we’re asked to consider what feeling free might have to do with feeling good — and what could be a better question than that?

Also, Rachel Greenwald Smith, author of On Compromise: Art, Politics, and the Fate of an American Ideal, returns to recommend Heather Berg's Porn Work: Sex, Labor, and Late Capitalism.

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