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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: April, 2022
Apr 29, 2022

Writer and critic Margo Jefferson joins Kate Wolf to speak about her latest book, Constructing A Nervous System: A Memoir. A formally inventive and exacting assemblage of personal history and deliberation that delves into Jefferson’s familial legacy, her battles with depression, and the oppressive construct of the model minority, the book is also a cultural reflection. It touches on such subjects as Ella Fitzgerald, Bud Powell, Ike Turner, and Willa Cather, especially as they manifest in the author’s conception of herself. With a kaleidoscopic sense of voice, Jefferson enacts here the constant toggle of the self, from the harshness of the superego to the curiosity, pain and enthusiasm of the child and most of all, the ingenuity of the writer.
Also, Claire-Louise Bennett, author of Checkout 19, to recommend Letters to Gwen John by Celia Paul.

Apr 22, 2022
On this special LARB Book Club edition of the Radio Hour, Boris Dralyuk and Lindsay Wright are joined by Andrey Kurkov, one of Ukraine's leading literary figures. Kurkov was raised in Kyiv and, until very recently, was based in the city. Kyiv is not only the setting of some of his most beloved novels, like Death and the Penguin, but also the position from which he has chronicled his nation's journey towards democracy in works like the Ukraine Diaries, his firsthand account of the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution of Dignity and the subsequent Russian annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas. His latest novel available in English, Grey Bees, focuses on those devastated eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, two or three years into what is now an eight-year war. Russia's brutal escalation of that war has uprooted Kurkov and his family, along with millions of Ukrainians, making Grey Bees more painfully relevant and its insights more important. Dralyuk happens to be the novel’s translator into English, so this special edition of the Book Club is all the more special for him.
Apr 15, 2022

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher speak with musician, author, artist and all-around legend Patti Smith about her latest work, The Melting, an extended piece of prose she began releasing last spring in serial form via the Internet platform Substack. The Melting, started in the early days of the pandemic, finds Smith alone in her apartment, her world tour having just been canceled. As she yearns for the freedom of travel while stuck at home, her living space begins to yield to other spaces: dreams, literature, memory, reflection, and fictions. The melting of the title refers not just to global warming, but to time itself.

Also, NoViolet Bulawayo, author of Glory, returns to recommend Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah’s The Sex Lives of African Women.

Apr 8, 2022

NoViolet Bulawayo joins Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about her latest novel, Glory, which explores the waning days and political ouster of Robert Mugabe, the authoritarian leader who controlled NoViolet’s home country of Zimbabwe for nearly four decades before he was overthrown in a coup spearheaded by his Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Allegorized as animals — in the style of George Orwell’s Animal Farm — the major players in Mugabe’s ouster and a chorus of citizens tell the story of utopian promise that becomes totalitarian terror, of ruthless political subterfuge and everyday survival, of a country torn between the righting of old wrongs and the almost cyclical production of new ones. At once an allegory of Zimbabwe’s history and a deeply poignant reading of the fractious moment we are all living through, Glory looks at how leaders command and forfeit power, as well as at the lives of ordinary people caught in the roiling waters of politics.

Also, Danielle Lindemann, author of True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us, returns to recommend Lorrie Moore’s short story collection Self-Help.

Apr 1, 2022

This week it’s a LARB Radio doubleheader. In the first half of the show, Kate Wolf talks with John Markoff about his latest book, Whole Earth: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand. Brand is probably best known as the creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, a countercultural magazine he published regularly between 1968 and 1972, and then infrequently up until 1998. With influences ranging from the Beat poets whom Brand met as a youth in San Francisco to his experimentation with LSD, the wisdom of indigenous cultures, and the philosophy of Buckminster Fuller, Whole Earth Catalog featured articles on sustainable living, ecology, and emerging technologies. As Markoff shows in his book, Brand — who’s worked as a photographer, writer, political advisor, and environmental activist, among other things — is not an easy person to pin down. His sympathies have ranged from libertarianism to eco-pragmatism, which stresses “useful technologies,” including nuclear power. Brand is now 83 and Markoff’s book is based on many years of interviews with him.

In the second half of the show, Kate is joined by artist Ulysses Jenkins on the occasion of his first, long overdue retrospective, Without Your Interpretation, which runs until May 15th at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Jenkins’s career spans five decades and he’s known especially for his pioneering video and performance art pieces, which often explore questions of race, multiculturalism, ritual, representation, and technology. Born in Los Angeles in 1946, Jenkins has been integral to the artistic evolution of the city, collaborating and forming collectives with many other important artists, including Senga Nengudi, Maren Hassinger, David Hammons, Nancy Buchanan, Harry Gamboa Jr., May Sun, and Kitt Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz.

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