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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: 2023
Dec 29, 2023

Author Ed Park joins Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to discuss his new novel, Same Bed Different Dreams. It begins with a former writer named Soon Shen, who’s given up fiction for a cozy suburban life in upstate New York, working for a tech conglomerate. At a booze-soaked literary dinner back in Manhattan one night, Soon encounters a famous Korean author named Echo and later finds himself in possession of Echo’s new book, Same Bed, Different Dreams: Being A True Account of the Korean Provisional Government. This book presents an alternate history of the peninsula, one in which the KPG (a real organization that formed to protest Japanese occupation of the country) continued their activity after WWII from far flung locations, roping in a wide variety of accomplices from both Eastern and Western cultures. Adding to the speculative history, Park also includes a third narrative of a Korean war veteran and sci-fi writer named Parker Jotter that bridges the first two stories and demonstrates the afterlife of fiction, the murkiness of identity, and underground networks running through art that connect us all.
Also, Robert Gluck, author of "About Ed," returns to recommend Camille Roy's Honey Mine.

Dec 22, 2023

Together we've travelled one more trip around the sun... and that means it's time for our favorite episode of the year!
Kate, Medaya, and Eric share their favorite books, movies, TV shows, music, magazines (a new category!) and more in this look back at the year that was 2023.

Dec 15, 2023

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher speak with the writer and editor Blake Butler about his latest book, a memoir called Molly. Molly is dedicated to the poet and writer Molly Brodak, Butler's wife of three years. Molly committed suicide one spring afternoon, near the house they shared outside of Atlanta. After her death, Molly comes into clearer view, as the secrets and traumas she hid during her life begin to reveal themselves. The book is an extraordinarily honest account of her death, of their relationship, and of the way people manage to survive immense loss.
Also, Andrew Chan, author of Why Mariah Carey Matters, returns to recommend Keats's Odes: A Lover's Discourse by UCLA Professor Anahid Nersessian.

Dec 8, 2023

Eric Newman and Kate Wolf are joined by the author, editor, and co-founder of the New Narrative movement Robert Glück to discuss his latest book, About Ed. The book is a non-linear memoir (of sorts), parsing the life and death of Glück's lover, the artist Ed Aulerich-Sugai. The narrative moves promiscuously back and forth between the 1970s when Bob and Ed's relationship takes shape, to the 1980s when AIDS ravages the gay community and Ed is diagnosed with HIV, to Ed's death in 1994, and Bob's wrestling with the emotional aftermath of Ed's loss. Along the way, Glück captures the peaks and valleys of the relationship— tumultuous moments conjured in elegiac reveries—as well as the everyday objects by which the world of a deeply intimate history continues into the present. About Ed forces us to confront what we know and don't know about those loved ones who indelibly shape our lives.
Also, Sasha Frere-Jones, author of Earlier, returns to recommend two books by Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, and Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew.

Dec 1, 2023

Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by writer and critic Andrew Chan to discuss his latest book, Why Mariah Carey Matters. Exploring Mariah's career as a singer, performer, and dexterous music producer, Andrew's book unpacks how the music industry of the 1980s and 1990s shaped and was reshaped by the work of the landmark whistle-tone diva. The conversation ranges across developments in R&B, cultural battles over Mariah's "authenticity" as a Black artist, and the erosion of the ballad's centrality to our contemporary musical landscape, diving into the world of a diva whose songs we love but whose life and struggle often slip out of view.
Also, Dan Sinykin, author of Big Fiction, returns to recommend Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul?, a collection of essays by Jesse McCarthy.

Nov 24, 2023

Writer, musician, and critic Sasha Frere-Jones joins Kate Wolf to discuss his first book, Earlier. A non-chronological memoir, Earlier collects fragments of Frere-Jones's life: intimate recollections, minor triumphs, path-defining moments, failures, loves, losses, and all stations in-between. An artist formation story that is too humble to declare itself as such, the book enacts the simultaneity of memory, smashing the late 1960s, when Frere-Jones is born, against the 1990s, when he arrives back home in New York, falls in love with his ex-wife, and begins to write in earnest and tour; the 1980s when he attends high school at Saint Ann's, college at Brown, and obsessively collects and listens to music, against the 1970s growing up in Brooklyn, wondering at aspects of his parents faltering finances and private lives. Like all noteworthy memoirs, it addresses both personal and collective history, pointing to a present bursting at the seams with the past.
Also, filmmaker Nicole Newnham, Director of The Disappearance of Shere Hite, returns to recommend Every Good Boy Does Fine: A Love Story, in Music Lessons by Jeremy Denk.

Nov 17, 2023

Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by award-winning director Nicole Newnham to discuss her latest film, The Disappearance of Shere Hite. The documentary explores the life and work of Shere Hite, a sexological researcher whose 1976 book The Hite Report on Female Sexuality brought the private reality of women's sexual experience into mainstream consciousness and became one of the bestselling books of all time. But the male cultural anxiety sparked by the book's findings generated a powerful backlash to Hite's work in popular media, making her a pariah and driving her into a self-imposed European exile after which she largely receded from American public consciousness. Eric, Medaya, and Nicole discuss the larger cultural frameworks of Shere Hite's story, the enduring legacy of her research, and how restoring a feminist firebrand from the past might help us navigate ongoing battles for gender and sexual liberation in the present.
Also, Justin Torres, fresh from winning the National Book Award for his novel Blackouts, returns to recommend My Body is Paper, a collection of previously unpublished writings by Gil Cuadros, as well as City of God by Cuadros.

Nov 10, 2023

Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by writer and professor, Dan Sinykin. His new book is called Big Fiction: How Conglomeration Changed the Publishing Industry, which chronicles the many changes publishing has undergone in the past 50 years, starting in 1965 when Random House was bought by an electronics company. Since then we’ve seen the radical conglomoration of publishing, as small independent houses were bought up by multinational companies, slowly forming the Big Five. Dan writes about the way these changes affected the books we read — what editors buy, what readers expect, and even, what writers write. He covers everything from the rise of mass-market paperbacks to the establishment of prestigious non-profits, hoping to protect literature from the market.
Also, Dorothea Lasky, whose new collection of poems is called The Shining, returns to recommend two books: Eileen by OIttessa Moshfegh and Hermetic Definition by H.D.

Nov 3, 2023

Medaya Ocher and Eric Newman speak with author Justin Torres about his latest novel, Blackouts. As they discuss the novel's layered revelation of both the characters' lives and the real queer history into which they are imaginatively woven, the conversation explores queerness as a literary identity, history as a particular site of queer desire, and how we tell the stories that make us intelligible to ourselves and others.
Also, Anna Biller, author of Bluebeard's Castle, returns to recommend Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

 

 

Oct 27, 2023

A LARB Radio Hour double-header Halloween horror special. In the first half, Kate Wolf is joined by the poet Dorothea Lasky to discuss her most recent poetry collection, The Shining. The book is an ekphrastic ode to Stanley Kubrick’s classic film, based on the novel by Stephen King. Its poems remix and reimagine the haunted spaces and uncanny elements of King and Kubrick’s story in a uniquely personal register, and from a feminist perspective, touching on violence, time, identity, isolation, and creative ghosts. Then filmmaker Anna Biller speaks with Kate and Medaya Ocher about her first book, Bluebeard’s Castle, a traditional romance and horror novel that pays homage to the genre while turning it inside out. The book follows a romance writer named Judith who falls in love with Gavin, a man who seems too good to be true. He’s aristocratic, rich, handsome and cultured. It is, of course, all very erotic and very misleading. The relationship is both enthralling and as we quickly begin to see, violent and abusive.

Oct 20, 2023

LARB Editor-in-Chief Michelle Chihara and Executive Director Irene Yoon speak with author Lydia Kiesling about her novel Mobility, this fall’s LARB Book Club selection. The inaugural book from Crooked Media Reads, Mobility begins in post-Soviet Azerbaijan, following the main character, Bunny, from childhood into her ultimate career transition to Big Oil. The novel is timely and urgent, a macro and micro study of climate change’s destructive impact on the Earth and our individual lives, and evokes the tension between emotional investment in and arms-length detachment from large-scale catastrophe. Lydia shares how she researched the book, the joys and dangers of storytelling, and how to navigate overwhelm in the face of unrelenting and difficult news cycles.

Oct 13, 2023

Kate Wolf speaks to author and translator Lydia Davis about her latest collection of stories, Our Strangers. The book, which is notably not available for sale on Amazon, includes well over 100 stories, with many measuring at just a few lines. The stories take a variety forms: sketches of interactions from daily life, letters of complaint, recorded anecdotes, sequential interludes, grammatical inquires, meditations on passing thoughts and fantasies, as well as more sustained looks at life in a small country town and the intimacies we share with neighbors. Davis returns to abiding themes of aging, friendship, illness, death, mutual care, melancholy, nature, and the life of women with singular insight, humor, rigor, and an ever-present curiosity. 
Also, Hilary Leichter, author of Terrace Story, returns to recommend Worry: A Novel by Alexandra Tanner.

Oct 6, 2023

Journalist and author Mary Gabriel joins Eric and Medaya to talk about her latest book, Madonna: A Rebel Life. The massive, richly researched biography follows every detail of the superstar’s life: her Michigan roots, her debut amid New York’s heady underground scene, her film career, her London era, finally catching up with Madge in 2020. The book is also a history of the culture that shaped her, and which she shaped in her wake. Mary discusses writing the book, as well as Madonna’s breakthrough performances, the AIDS crisis and its legacy, sweeping changes in the music industry, and a re-examination of the “feminist” as a pop icon.
Also, Ross Gay, author of The Book of (More) Delights, returns to recommend a trio of books: Guston in Time by Ross Feld; Come Back in September by Darryl Pinckney; and Stealing History by Gerald Stern.

Sep 29, 2023

In the first half of the show, Medaya Ocher speaks with Hilary Leichter about her novel Terrace Story. It follows a young family who live in cramped quarters in a big city, surviving but financially strapped. One day, a woman named Stephanie comes over and when she opens the closet door they discover a magic terrace, which immediately disappears once Stephanie leaves, and only appears again when she returns. Suddenly, the family's tight, mediumrestricted lives take a turn for the magical—and the tragic.
Then, Kate Wolf is joined by writer, artist, and beloved former LARB senior editor Lisa Teasley to talk about her latest book of gripping short stories, Fluid, her first in two decades.

Sep 22, 2023

Ross Gay joins Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about his latest, book, THE BOOK OF (MORE) DELIGHTS, a second installment of THE BOOK OF DELIGHTS, published before Ross, us, and the world were plunged into the COVID19 pandemic. Like it's predecessor THE BOOK OF (MORE) DELIGHTS features a collection of short essays that bring into focus the small wonders we so often overlook in our busy lives. Among them are the wonders of a neighbor's fruit tree, a discovery of self-maturation in an impromptu pickup ball game, and appreciating the toothy feel of a stolen notebook. Moving between the intimate record of Ross' quotidian experiences and the larger political, social, and philosophical questions that saturate and surround them, THE BOOK OF (MORE) DELIGHTS revels in the everyday joy—and sometimes the pain and horror—of a world right at our fingertips… if only we'd take the time to notice it.
Also, Thea Lenarduzzi, author of Dandelions, returns to recommend A Life by Guy de Maupassant, translated by Roger Pearson.

Sep 15, 2023

Writer and longtime TLS editor Thea Lenarduzzi joins Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to speak about her debut book Dandelions, a winner of the Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize. Weaving together memoir, history, and criticism, Dandelions explores the life of Lenarduzzi’s grandmother, Dirce, a totemic figure in her family who was born almost a century ago into Mussolini’s Italy. Political and economic circumstances, as well as personal tragedy, force Dirce to leave Italy for England, first as a child and later as an adult. Migration becomes one of the central realities of her life, and subsequently the life of her son and then Lenarduzzi herself. But even as the conditions of these moves between countries grow less critical, the difficulties of immigrating remain, complicating and splintering a sense of identity and home, foregrounding difference, and calling belonging into question. Lenarduzzi portrays the gravity of what for so many across the world is still the most dire of decisions, tracing the effect emigrating can have over multiple generations, while also finding inspiration in her family’s resiliency and the stories they leave behind.

Also, Colin Dickey, author of Under the Eye of Power, returns to recommend Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young.

Sep 8, 2023

Colin Dickey joins Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to discuss his latest book, Under the Eye of Power, in which he charts the history of America through its fear of secret societies, like the Illuminati and the Freemasons, as well as the enduring cultures of conspiracy theories that spring up around these shadowy clubs. Colin posits that our national belief in the fantastical and conspiratorial is the slave we reach for in view of the chaos and randomness of history, the rising and falling fortunes of Americans, and the messiness of our democracy. Only by seeing the cyclical nature of our national obsession with secret societies and conspiracies–one that no doubt resounds for many listeners right now–can we break its grip on our society, politics, and culture.
Also, Maya Binyam, author of Hangman, returns to recommend The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon.

Sep 1, 2023

Writer Maya Binyam joins Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to speak about her debut novel Hangman. The book begins with a man who finds himself returning to his home country somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa for the first time in 26 years. But the places, customs, and traditions he encounters there have become foreign or burdensome to him, and the people he meets, even members of his own family, strange and unrecognizable. Somewhere in the country his brother lays dying, but his journey to be by his side is marked by a series of losses—of money, clothes, and passport. Along the way, he’s forced to rely on the stories and experiences of the strangers he meets and speaks with at length to make sense of things, even as he sees himself as disinterested or apart from them. Working against more typical narratives of homecoming and migration, the novel pushes deeper into questions about the essentialism and continuity of self, the individual versus the abstract, the obligation of kinship and the necessity of faith, as well as the possibility of political change.

Also, Prudence Peiffer, author of The Slip: The New York City Street That Changed American Art Forever, returns to recommend two books The Nameplate: Jewelry, Culture, and Identity by Marcel Rosa-Salas and Isabel Attyah Flower, as well as My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland.

Aug 25, 2023

Writer, editor, and art historian Prudence Peiffer joins Kate Wolf to speak about her first book, The Slip: The New York City Street That Changed American Art Forever. The book is a group biography of a collection of luminous American artists including Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Indiana, James Rosenquist and Jack Youngerman, as well as his wife, the French actress and filmmaker, Delphine Seyrig. From the late 1950s to the middle of the 1960s, all of them happened to live in the same place: a collection of former sail-making warehouses on Coenties Slip, a dead end street in one of the oldest sections of Manhattan, right next to the river. Rather than jostle their work into well-established art historical movements and categories, Peiffer’s book asserts place as the generative frame from which to understand these artists and the connections and influence between them. Though the community was short-lived, their support of one another, the collective solitude they found, even their rivalry, takes shape as integral to their development, and at least one of the reasons that their work survives today.
Also, Andrew Leland, author of The Country of the Blind, returns to recommend Darryl by Jackie Ess.

Aug 18, 2023

Andrew Leland joins Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to talk about his first book, The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight. The book recounts Leland’s experience of gradually losing his vision due to a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which eventually results in blindness. The knowledge that it’s not a question of if, but when he will become blind, leads him to a deeper investigation of blindness itself: how it is represented in literature, language, and media; what its political and racial dimensions are; the connection it has to technology and innovation; how it can both shape identity and also feel incidental to it. Most importantly, Leland relates the ways blindness is actually experienced by the many people he meets and writes about in his book. Their testimonies help him reckon with the two worlds he finds himself in—the blind and the sighted—and close the gap between them.
Also, Heidi Julavits, author of Directions To Myself, returns to recommend David Wojnarowicz's Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration.

Aug 11, 2023

In this special edition LARB Book Club episode of the Radio Hour, Editor-in-Chief Michelle Chihara talks with Koritha Mitchell, editor of Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and Michelle Lanier, professor and public historian in North Carolina. The two recount Lanier’s invitation to Mitchell to visit Edenton, North Carolina, the hometown of Harriet Jacobs. By visiting the historic site at the culmination of her project, out now by Broadview Press, Mitchell embraced the practice of embodied knowledge—connecting her physical experience in Edenton to the legacy of Jacobs’s escape from enslavement and creativity in survival. By combining their intellectual knowledge with Jacobs and physical embodiment of her hometown, Mitchell and Lanier connect their own work as descending from the legacy of Harriet Jacobs as an activist, scholar, mother, and writer.

Aug 4, 2023

A LARB Radio Hour double feature. In the first half of the show Eric Newman speaks to D. Smith about her new documentary—and directorial debut—Kokomo City. The film turns an intimate lens onto the lives of four Black transgender sex workers in Atlanta and New York, revealing their everyday experience alongside probing conversations about the intersections of gender, sexuality, and race as they struggle to survive and find acceptance within the Black community and a world at large that too often confronts them with derision, shame, and violence. Then, in the second half of the show, Kate Wolf is joined by filmmaker Claire Simon to discuss her new documentary, Our Body, which is shot entirely in the gynecology unit of a public hospital in Paris. Simon shows the many patients within at every stage of life: they manage unexpected pregnancies, transitioning genders, endometriosis, infertility, breast and reproductive cancer, birth, and death. The film lends itself to looking at individual bodies as part of a bigger organism—both within the hospital and society at large—and it gently questions the limits of autonomy, the power differential between doctors and patients, the hopes we have for our futures, and the fears and comfort we find when facing the end.

Jul 28, 2023

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by author Heidi Julavits, whose new book is called "Directions to Myself: A Memoir of Four Years." Heidi Julavits is also the author of The Folded Clock: A Diary as well as four novels. She is an associate professor at Columbia University. In Directions to Myself, Heidi returns to her own life, specifically her relationship to her pre-adolescent son, whose childhood is nearly at an end. After a student at her university accuses another of rape, she begins to wonder about how a mother should steer her son as he grows into a man. How can a parent guide and form who their child becomes? How much of our personhood is nature, nurture, or culture? She looks back at her own childhood, growing up in Maine, and the lessons and stories she heard from her own parents. The book works through Julavits’s own private thoughts and heartaches, but always leads back to bigger questions about the time we live in, the way we think about justice and punishment, and how we form ourselves as people.
Also, John Yau, author of Please Wait By the Coatroom: Reconsidering Race and Identity in American Art, returns to recommend Ghost Music by An Yu.

Jul 21, 2023

Kate Wolf is joined by filmmaker Wes Anderson and film programmer and distributor Jake Perlin to discuss Do Not Detonate Without Presidential Approval, an anthology inspired by Anderson's latest, Asteroid City, which is out in theaters now. The book, edited by Perlin, interprets different aspects of Asteroid City, including its setting, which is the American West (in a small town in the 1950s hosting a Junior Stargazers award ceremony) as well as it’s parallel existence as a televised stage play—another theme is the Broadway stage—and of course the movies themselves with the theme of mid-century cinema. Like Anderson’s film, the collection reveals an interwoven lattice of allusion, reference, and history; a deep and sometimes startling connection between American life, politics, and entertainment; the day to day realities of of being part of an ensemble and working on a theatrical production; as well some incredibly incisive film criticism with excellent essays on movies such as Vincente Minnelli's Some Came Running, Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole, and Lewis Allen's Desert Fury

Jul 14, 2023

The poet and longtime art critic John Yau joins Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to speak about his latest collection of criticism, Please Wait By the Coatroom: Reconsidering Race and Identity in American Art. The book's title comes from an essay Yau wrote in 1988 on reductive readings of the Cuban artist Wifredo Lam and the unwillingness of art historians and curators to consider Lam’s biracial identity as relevant to his work. In his collection, Yau makes a case for the role identity and cultural background can play in the formation of an artist’s aesthetic choices, and he interrogates standard art historical hierarchies and the supposed objective viewpoint of the avant-garde. While he acknowledges a number of strides in recent decades toward a more inclusive, open version of art history, he also shows how far there is to come, a gap he helps to close through thoughtful pieces on artists such as Ruth Asawa, Kerry James Marshall, Richard Hunt, Jiha Moon, Ed Clark, and many more.
Also, Juana María Rodríguez, author of Puta Life: Seeing Latinas, Working Sex, returns to recommend A Lover's Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes.

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