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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: September, 2021
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.

Sep 3, 2021

Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by poet Kaveh Akbar to talk about his latest collection, Pilgrim Bell. Whereas Akbar's previous collection, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, meditated on addiction and the challenges of recovery, Pilgrim Bell figures a turn to the spiritual and the possibility of repair, focusing on the damaged self, the abuses of empire, penitence, the failures of the faithful, and untamable efforts at submission and devotion.

Because the work of faith and thus the work of the faithful, is never complete — indeed, as Akbar’s best lines suggest to us, is always inchoate, compromised, confused — the spiritual is an experience of cycling, of makings, unmakings, and remakings. The poems leave the reader suspended between action and futility, the generosity of love and the pain of loss. Like the pilgrim of the collection’s title, we listen for the words that will ring out to us and we wait, in the interim between the bell’s tolls, to determine how we will respond to its call. Akbar opens the interview with a reading from the collection.

Also, Matthew Specktor, author of Always Crashing in the Same Car: On Art, Crisis, and Los Angeles, California, returns to recommend Emily Segal’s novel Mercury Retrograde.

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