Rank #1: Sally Rooney: Great Expectations
Co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf speak with Sally Rooney about her two novels Conversations with Friends and Normal People. Dubbed the "Jane Austin of the Precariat" and called "the first great millennial novelist" Sally addresses the acclaim she’s received; and how she’s grown into the person and writer she is today. Also, William E. Jones returns to recommend The Imposter byJavier Cercas, which tells the story of Spaniard Enric Marco, who was a national hero until he was exposed as a fraud in 2005.
May 03 2019
Rank #2: The Delightful Rage of Fran Lebowitz
Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf speak with legendary public speaker Fran Lebowitz. In a wide-ranging conversation, the gang flits from the Kavanaugh hearings to how the uber-rich have blighted the landscape of New York, from the escapism of literature (Lebowitz maintains that books are always better than real life) to the changes that have rocked the media environment in which Lebowitz has been a central figure for decades. In her iconic unvarnished style, Fran proves — as if there were ever any need for such a thing — that she’s still one of the most fascinating people to chat with about the lofty and mundane. Also, Eric recommends classicist Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles that brings to life the love affair between Patroclus and Homeric Greece's greatest warrior.
Sep 28 2018
Rank #3: The Body as Archive
Author Julietta Singh troubles the boundaries that we imagine in and through the body, recuperating it as a porous site marked by flows betwen the internal and external, the self and others. In a wide-ranging conversation about her new book, No Archive Will Restore You, Singh and hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Wolf touch on gender, sexuality, parenting and navigating the world in and as a body. Also, LARB's Medaya Ocher recommends her favorite short story from this past year, The Cafe by Kristen Gleason, which appeared in the Romance Issue of LARB's quarterly journal.
Dec 07 2018
Rank #4: Ariana Reines' Quest for 21st Century Epic Verse
Poet Ariana Reines joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Kate Wolf to discuss A Sand Book, her most ambitious work to date. The show opens with a powerful extended passage from the poem A Partial History. If listeners are not yet aware of Reines as one this century's great new voices, they will be within five minutes: a rhythmic cascade of language rife with resonant images of social conflict, dissipation, recurring glimmers of self-awareness lost in a flood of unrelenting distraction, but our drive to quest never extinguished - epic verse for our lost society. What follows then is a series of reflections on the promise of 21st century language; and the new territories where Reines is searching for, and finding, inspiration. Also, Erica Jong returns to recommend Horizon by Barry Lopez, the National Book Award-winner's new work of non-fiction.
Jul 19 2019
Rank #5: Leslie Jamison on Everything
Tom Lutz opens the show with a spirited introduction of co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher and author Leslie Jamison, who has a new collection of essays: Make It Scream, Make it Burn. Jamison describes her empathic approach to her eclectic subjects, her relationship to the body and how she thinks about writing and authorship.
Also, Jenny Odell returns to recommend Robin Wall Kimmerer's Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses.
Oct 25 2019
Rank #6: A Deep Dive into Pop Culture with Hanif Abdurraqib
Hanif Abdurraqib may just be the most poignant raconteur of American culture in the age of Donald Trump. Hanif joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, his magisterial collection of essays on the contemporary music scene; and all the pain, pleasure, promise, disappointment, pasts and presents, communities and self that he finds there. The interview, like Hanif's writing, conveys what it feels like to be awake, fully observant inside the whirlwind of America in the late twenty-teens. Also, Francisco Cantu, author of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, returns to recommend the work of a number of poets writing about the US-Mexico border, in particular Javier Zamora's collection Unaccompanied.
Apr 27 2018
Rank #7: A Difficult Woman: The Fierceness and Feminism of Andrea Dworkin
Johanna Fateman and Amy Scholders, the editors of Last Days at Hot Slit: the Radical Feminism of Andrea Dworkin, join co-hosts Medaya Ocher, Kate Wolf, and Eric Newman. Fateman and Scholder talk abut the literary and political legacy of Dworkin, a controversial figure in feminist history whose critiques of patriarchy and pornography made her an icon and a pariah in the 1970s and 80s. By looking back at Dworkin beyond the frame of the so-called Sex Wars, they challenge us to see the incisiveness of her political vision balanced against an abrasive style at once thrilling and off-putting. Also, Sam Lipsyte, the author of Hark, returns to recommend Lucy Ives' creatively titled upcoming novel Loudermilk or The Real Poet or The Origin of the World.
Mar 01 2019
Rank #8: Rebecca Makkai and the Burdens of History
Author Rebecca Makkai joins co-hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Wolf to discuss her heralded new novel, The Great Believers, which tells two parallel and inter-related stories: one of the AIDS epidemic ravaging the Chicago gay community in the 1980s; the other, set in Paris in 2015, about a woman, Fiona, searching for her daughter, who has joined a cult. The connection is Fiona, who had become a caretaker for the men dying 30 years earlier in Chicago. Rebecca explains how she arrived at such a complex narrative structure (hint: it wasn't how the project started); as well as how she struggled with issues of cultural appropriation versus historical alliance. Also, Jenny Zhang, author of Sour Heart, returns to recommend the work of Tommy Pico, in particular his new book-length poem, Junk.
Jun 29 2018
Rank #9: Natasha Stagg's Fashionworld Phantasmagoria
Kate Wolf talks with "It Girl" Natasha Stagg about her new essay collection from Semiotexte: Sleeveless: Fashion, Image, Media 2011-19. Natasha explains overcoming her reluctance to move to NYC, how she landed in the fashion world - simultaneously at its center and on the periphery - and what she discovered there. This most-priveleged sphere in the capital of the world is just part of the scenery: where the old is new again until the moment of re-interpretation passes; the thrill of creativity is tangible, yet nothing to get excited about; and it's most definitely post-Post-Modern yet pastiche, nostalgia, and appropriation remain the order of day. Telling tales of Late Capitalism in its interminable phase. The conversation also inspires Medaya Ocher, LARB's Managing Editor, to reveal details of her previous life as a Parisian fashion photographer. Also, Ariana Reines, author of the A Sand Book, returns to recommend two exceptional works of poetry, one old, one new: James Merrill's National Book Award winning epic from the late 70s, The Changing Light at Sandover; and Edgar Garcia's Skins of Columbus: A Dream Ethnography.
Nov 02 2019
Rank #10: Director Bong Joon Ho Talks Parasite
Co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by filmmaker, Bong Joon Ho, whose latest film is Parasite. Parasite has already gathered a wide range of acclaim, winning the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and breaking specialty box office records. Bong joins us to discuss how he grew up, how he came up with the idea for the movie, and how he understands the relationship between the rich and the poor. Bong’s previous films include Mother (2009), Snowpiercer (2013) and Okja (2017). Also, Sarah M Broom, author of The Yellow House, returns to recommend The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald.
Oct 18 2019
Rank #11: The Literature of Exile
Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi joins co-hosts Eric Newman, Kate Wolf, and Medaya Ocher to discuss her first novel, Call Me Zebra, released to universal praise this past month. In his review for The Los Angeles Review of Books, Nathan Scott McNamara, describes how Zebra, “the precocious narrator, a self-proclaimed “connoisseur of literature,… is unvaryingly brilliant and deadpan funny… the smartest narrator you will encounter this year.” Through her travels, tragedies, romance, and voracious reading of canonical literature, this book of ideas captures the “the experience of exile, deftly threading the narrative with theory while also using theory to pull the reader in.” In conversation with Azareen, we learn about a young author ambitious enough to take all this on and produce a captivating work of literature. Also, Giulia Sissa stops by to tell how she fell in love with Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (À la recherche du temps perdu) as a young woman and remains under its spell to this day.
Mar 02 2018
Rank #12: Ayelet Waldman's Psychedelic Salvation
What if a highly illegal drug could be used, far more successfully than prescribed pharmaceuticals, to help people with depression and bi-polar disorder? Who would be willing not just to experiment on themselves, but also to spread the word? LARB Radio's Medaya Ocher talks with just such a brave soul, Ayelet Waldman, author of A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. Recorded in front of a full house at Scripps College, it's a fascinating dialogue full of surprises: Ayelet relates her own personal struggles, her frustration with anti-depressants, her traumatizing years as a Federal public defender appalled by the War on Drugs, her full knowledge of the severity of the law she was breaking, the whimsical arrival of a package from Lewis Carroll, the pharmacology of LSD, the precision of micro-dosing, and then, magically, relief. Ayelet acknowledges that her social privilege (as a prosperous white woman, a Harvard Law graduate, married to Michael Chabon, herself a successful mystery writer and novelist) allowed her to take a huge risk, as such she feels compelled to announce her discovery of happier trails ahead.
Apr 19 2018
Rank #13: Historical Frictions: Jordy Rosenberg, Jack Sheppard and Imagining Transgender Lives in the Archive
In a wide-ranging conversation, Eric and Medaya talk with author Jordy Rosenberg about the life and times of Jack Sheppard, eighteenth century Britain’s most famous prisonbreak artist, who is at the center of Rosenberg’s Confessions of the Fox. Plumbing the archival material that remains of this mysterious figure, Rosenberg’s novel imagines Sheppard as a transgender man whose gender ambiguous “slight” body was often described as boon to his trade and to his reputation as a notorious ladies man. Throughout the conversation, we discuss how our changing understandings of gender and sexuality across history challenge how we think about identity, desire and embodiment. Also, filmmaker Werner Herzog returns to recommend J. A. Baker's The Peregrine.
Jun 28 2019
Rank #14: "Would You Have Waited for Me?" Tayari Jones An American Marriage
Author Tayari Jones joins co-hosts Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about her latest novel, An American Marriage, that tells the story of an African-American couple that gets separated when the husband is falsely accused of a crime and receives a twelve year sentence. Tayari relates her inspiration. How she set out to research the impact of mass incarceration on families; but, fittingly, made no progress until she overheard an exchange from a couple at a mall. She realized that the key component for any novel to have a powerful political impact is having fully realized, fully human, central characters. Also, Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties, returns to recommend Anne Rivers Siddons horror novel from the 1970s, The House Next Door.
Jun 22 2018
Rank #15: Our Homes, Ourselves: Reading Interiors with Lydia Millet
Co-hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf talk with Lydia Millet about her new short story collection, Fight No More, which covers the wide swathe of LA life through intimate, quiet stories in homes magnificent and modest. In a wide-ranging conversation, Millet talks about the simultaneously private and public nature of homes, delighting in the moments that blur the distinction between what a host wants you to see and what they want to hide from view. Millet and the co-hosts also lament the pornified nature of contemporary culture, one in which abjection and nakedness are not only daily fare but also the center of performed social identities. Also, author Jervey Tervalon pays tribute to his friend, legendary food critic and Los Angeleno Jonathan Gold, with some epic verse: Adventures in Life and Food with J Gold.
Aug 03 2018
Rank #16: The Science of Feelings and the Origins of Culture
How do cultural practices become established? Why do we live in the way that we do? For generations social scientists, philosophers, and even psychologists have emphasized the centrality of human rationality as the arbiter of cultural development. USC Professor of Neuroscience, Psychology and Philosophy Antonio Damasio suggests otherwise in his latest book, The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures. As Professor Damasio explains to co-hosts Tom Lutz and Eric Newman, his research shows how cultural decisions, and their potential adoption across a given society, is rooted much more in feelings than previously thought. What follows is a fascinating dive into the role emotions and feelings play in all living things on earth: from us (so-called) higher primates to other animals, plants, and all the down way to micro-organisms. Suffice to say, this week's show will challenge, and possibly change, the way you understand, and feel about, the world.
Apr 06 2018
Rank #17: Identity Theft
This week, co-hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher talk to Dani Shapiro, author of the memoir Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love. They discuss how Dani Shapiro discovered her real parentage and how that discovery shaped her understanding of herself, her relationship to her family, her body and her career. Also, Sam Lipsyte returns to recommend Mark Doten's new novel Trump Sky Alpha.
Feb 22 2019
Rank #18: A Podcast About Nothing with Jenny Odell
Jenny Odell, author of How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, joins co-hosts Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf to asses the state of the human soul in the age of social media reproduction. The verdict is clear: we need strategies of resistance. Constantly tracked and hunted by the digital panopticon, we have no time for reverie, reflection, letting go, or just being. We desperately need Nothing, which is everything. Jenny shares details of her own liberation. Also, Susan Straight, author of In The Country of Women, returns to honor Toni Morrison by sharing how she has read her favorite book every single year since she was twelve, Morrison's luminous second novel, Sula.
Sep 20 2019
Rank #19: The Best of 2018: Books, TV, Movies, and More
We end the year with a special treat as hosts Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Wolf reveal their Best of 2018 selections. Eric, Daya, and Kate go high and also low with their favorite books, films, TV shows, podcasts (present company excluded), art shows, and one category so scandalous it's best kept a secret (for now). So, All Hail King Paimon and the Combahee River Collective; as well as authors Azareen Van Der Vliet and Rebecca Makkai, the two previous guests who made the list! Please enjoy our look back at the year that was; and make sure to catch Eric, Daya, and Kate's sage advice for 2019 at the end of the show.
Dec 28 2018
Rank #20: The Faith and Fortitude of Min Jin Lee
Befitting the scope of Min Jin Lee's National Book Award-nominated novel Pachinko, this interview sweeps delightfully through a broad range of subjects - the challenges of writing a historical novel, of representing the unique pressures felt by immigrants, 20th Century Korean and Japanese relations, Presbyterian theology, fate, the dangers inherent in the American pursuit of happiness, the importance of valuing suffering and perseverance, and a show stopping meta-moment where we reflect on the possibilities of a LARB Radio interview - animated throughout by the joy and intensity that co-hosts Eric Newman, Kate Wolf, and Medaya Ocher experienced reading Min Jin Lee's masterpiece. Also, Medaya recommends Janet Malcolm's The Silent Woman, a biographical study of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes' relationship that uses this legendary, tragic, near-mythical relationship to critique the distorting operation of conventional biographies.
Feb 09 2018