Interviews, readings, music, and more from the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Elvia Wilk's "Death By Landscape"
Elvia Wilk joins Kate Wolf to discuss her latest book, Death by Landscape, a collection of essays, including one originally published by the Los Angeles Review of Books. The pieces in Death by Landscape invite us to look closer at the narratives that persist in this time of environmental collapse and cataclysm. Reading a range of fiction and theory — including the work of writers such as Mark Fisher, Margaret Atwood, Amitav Ghosh, Jeff VanderMeer, Octavia Butler, and Karen Russell — Wilk explores the stories and genres that might allow us to decenter our human perspective of Earth and reimagine old divisions, such as those between people and plants, dystopia and utopia, role play and reality, and existence before and after apocalypse.
Raquel Gutiérrez's "Brown Neon"
The writer and critic Raquel Gutiérrez joins Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to speak about their debut collection of essays, Brown Neon. The book follows Gutiérrez’s peregrinations across time and place, particularly the West and Southwest, from their upbringing and youth in 1990s Los Angeles as a member of post punk bands and inside of a queer community of color, to their years as an arts administrator in Northern California, as well as their more recent experiences in the borderlands of Arizona and Texas. With an approach that is both intimate — many of the artists they write about are close friends — and expansive, the book takes on issues of identity, gender, class, ownership, and legacies of violence, with nuance, historical perspective, and rapt attention to place.
Also, Joseph Osmundson, author of Virology, returns to recommend C. Russell Price's poetry collection oh, you thought this was a date?!
Joseph Osmundson's "Virology"
Joseph Osmundson joins Eric Newman to discuss VIROLOGY, his new collection of essays published in June by Norton. Joe is a professor of microbiology at NYU, critic, essayist, and co-host of the Food4Thot podcast.
Part memoir, part COVID diary, part essayistic journey into questions of risk, identity, and modern culture, Virology loosely explores what queer thought and experience can help us see and understand about viruses, and what a close look at viruses can help us understand about ourselves and our relation to others and the world. Two major pandemics saturate the book—the legacy of the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, and the COVID19 pandemic of the past several years. In looking at how queerness, risk, and social bonds intersect with moments of peak medical crisis, Joe searches out how we have been challenged and changed by pandemics and what new worlds we can build out of that experience.
Also, Ruth Wilson Gilmore returns to recommend six books, which, taken together, renew her faith in "human internationalism from below." The titles and authors are: Sinews of War and Trade by Laleh Khalili, Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko, Those Bones are Not My Child by Toni Cade Bambara, Return of a Native by Vron Ware, The Common Wind by Julius S. Scott, and the collection As If She Were Free edited by Erica L Ball, Tatiana Seijas, and Terri L Snyder.
Claire Denis's "Both Sides of the Blade"
Kate Wolf speaks with the renowned French filmmaker Claire Denis about her latest feature, Both Sides of the Blade, out in theaters now. It stars Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon as Sara and Jean, a couple who have been together for almost a decade. Sara works in broadcasting, and Jean is a former rugby player looking for a job, but finding it difficult after serving a prison sentence some time ago. Sara used to be with a different man, François, Jean’s old co-worker. When François remerges in their lives, Sara is overcome by yearning, returned to a love that never really went away. Jean is more circumspect but begins to work with François again, and the drama unfurls from there. The film probes the power of female desire and the possibilities of escaping one’s past, while subtly examining bureaucracy as well as racial and class tensions in France.
Also, Nell Zink, author of Avalon, returns to recommend Croatian novelist Robert Perišić’s No-Signal Area, translated by Ellen Elias-Bursac.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore's "Abolition Geography: Essays Toward Liberation"
Ruth Wilson Gilmore joins Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to talk about her new collection, Abolition Geography: Essays Toward Liberation, which covers three decades of her thinking about abolition, activism, scholarship, the carceral system, the political economy of racism, and much more. For Gilmore, these are not siloed issues; rather, they are braided effects of an unjust political, economic, and cultural system that must be dismantled in order for liberation to take place. Gilmore reminds us that we must look for connections beyond the academy, where theory meets praxis, where the vulnerable are not an abstraction but a concrete human reality. Her thought and work are a much needed shot in the arm for a political and intellectual culture that has, in the view of many, atrophied or been co-opted by the extractive loops of late capitalism.
Also, Natalia Molina, author of A Place at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished a Community, returns to recommend two books on Latinx Los Angeles, George Sanchez’s Boyle Heights: How a Los Angeles Neighborhood Became the Future of American Democracy, and Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo and Manuel Pastor’s South Central Dreams: Finding Home and Building Community in South LA.
Natalia Molina's "A Place at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished A Community"
Kate Wolf and Eric Newman are joined by historian Natalia Molina to discuss her most recent book, A Place at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished a Community. The book follows Molina’s maternal grandmother, Doña Natalia Barraza, who immigrated to Los Angeles from Mexico in the 1920s and went on to open a series of restaurants. The most successful and longest lasting was the Nayarit, which opened on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park in 1951. The Nayarit served the ethnically diverse and historically progressive and queer neighborhood for over two decades. As Molina, a MacArthur Fellow, shows, it was a refuge for members of the city’s Latinx community, many of whom were recent arrivals in the United States. At the Nayarit they “could come together for labor, leisure, and access to a ready-made social network,” and this act alone would shape the face of Los Angeles for years to come.
Also, Ottessa Moshfegh, author of Lapvona, returns to recommend Dr. Mike Bechtle's The People Pleaser’s Guide to Loving Others without Losing Yourself.