David Remnick is joined by The New Yorker’s award-winning writers, editors and artists to present a weekly mix of profiles, storytelling, and insightful conversations about the issues that matter — plus an occasional blast of comic genius from the magazine’s legendary Shouts and Murmurs page. The New Yorker has set a standard in journalism for generations and The New Yorker Radio Hour gives it a voice on public radio for the first time. Produced by The New Yorker and WNYC Studios.
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What Exactly Does “Woke” Mean, and How Did It Become so Powerful?
Many on the right blame “wokeness” for all of America’s ills—everything from deadly mass shootings to lower military recruitment. Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, recently signed a so-called Stop WOKE Act into law, and made the issue the center of his midterm victory speech. In Washington, there has been talk in the House of forming an “anti-woke caucus.” “I think ‘woke’ is a very interesting term right now, because I think it’s an unusable word—although it is used all the time—because it doesn’t actually mean anything,” the linguist and lexicographer Tony Thorne, the author of “Dictionary of Contemporary Slang,” tells David Remnick.
Plus, the poet Robin Coste Lewis talks with the staff writer Hilton Als about how suffering a traumatic brian injury led her to a career in poetry. Her most recent book, “To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness,” was published last month.
Michael Schulman on Oscars History, and a Visit with “Annie” Composer Charles Strouse
Despite years of controversy, the Academy Awards and the other awards shows remain must-watch television for many Americans. The awards may be “unreliable as a pure measure of cinematic worth,” Schulman tells David Remnick. “But I would argue that the Oscars are sort of a decoder ring for cultural conflict and where the industry is headed,” Schulman says. “They are a way to understand where pop culture is.” With theatre attendance in continuing decline, the Academy is looking for solutions, Schulman believes, and that could result in a higher-grossing outlier winner for the coveted Best Picture award. Plus, a visit with the Broadway composer Charles Strouse, who is ninety-four and compiling his archives to donate to the Library of Congress. He reflects on his work with Jay-Z and his “friendly enemy” relationship with Stephen Sondheim: “He didn’t like me much. I didn’t like him less.” Still nimble at the piano, Strouse plays a rendition of his classic, “Tomorrow.”
A Local Paper First Sounded the Alarm on George Santos. Nobody Listened.
George Santos is hardly the first scammer elected to office—but his lies, David Remnick says, are “extra.” Most Americans learned of Santos’s extraordinary fabrications from a New York Times report published after the midterm election, but a local newspaper called the North Shore Leader was sounding the alarm months before. The New Yorker staff writer Clare Malone took a trip to Long Island to speak with the Leader’s publisher, Grant Lally, and its managing editor, Maureen Daly, to find out how the story began. “We heard story after story after story about him doing bizarre things,” Lally told her. “He was so well known, at least in the more active political circles, to be a liar, that by early summer he was already being called George Scamtos.” Lally explains how redistricting drama in New York State turned Santos from a “sacrificial” candidate—to whom no one was paying attention—to a front-runner. At the same time, Malone thinks, “the oddly permissive structure that the Republican Party has created for candidates on a gamut of issues” enabled his penchant for fabrication. “[There’s] lots of crazy stuff that’s popped up in politics over the past few years. I think maybe Santos thought, Eh, who’s gonna check?”
Deepti Kapoor Discusses “Age of Vice” with Parul Sehgal
Deepti Kapoor describes New Delhi, the setting of her novel “Age of Vice” as “extremely beautiful, but also violent. . . . It’s a place where you think you’re gonna get cheated and robbed until someone does something incredibly kind and breaks your heart.” The highly anticipated book, published simultaneously in twenty countries this month, is part crime thriller, part family saga centered on a reckless playboy who wants to break away from his mob family; a young man working as a servant to him; and a naïve young journalist. Kapoor, who spent a decade as a journalist herself, tells Parul Sehgal that she wrote the book while living abroad—needing the distance from her country in order to see it more clearly.
In Politics, How Old Is Too Old?
It wasn’t so long ago that Ronald Reagan was considered over the hill, too old to govern. Now a sitting President has turned eighty in office, and a Presidential contest between Joe Biden and Donald Trump would put two near-eighty-year-olds against each other. (Trump—while denying President Biden’s fitness—commented, “Life begins at eighty.”) Yet the question of age has not disappeared; even some of Biden’s ardent supporters have expressed concerns about him starting a second term. David Remnick talks with the gerontologist Jack Rowe, a professor at Columbia University who also founded Harvard Medical School’s Division on Aging, about how to evaluate a candidate’s competency for office; and with Jill Lepore and Jane Mayer, keen observers of the Presidency. Rowe argues that ageism underlies the public discourse; an occasional slip or unsteadiness, he thinks, is not consequential to the job. “If I give you a seventy-eight-year-old man with a history of heart disease, you don’t know if he’s in a nursing home or on the Supreme Court of the United States,” he tells Remnick. But Lepore and Mayer argue public opinion, and not only medical prognosis, should be considered seriously as we look at aging politicians. If Biden and Trump face off, Lepore says, “Age won’t be an issue between them. But age will be an issue for American voters. . . . I think of the young people that I teach everyday. They will be furious.” Mayer sees something anti-democratic in play as well. “Incumbency is such an advantage at this point,” she notes, that “it leads to gerontocracy,” because “it’s really hard to unseat someone.”
The Photographer Who Documented a Long-Forgotten Pan-African Festival
Forty-six years ago, a young photographer named Marilyn Nance got the opportunity of a lifetime. A student at the Pratt Institute, an art school in Brooklyn, Nance had never left the country. But she became one of the official photographers documenting a festival in Lagos, Nigeria, called FESTAC ’77. The monthlong festival featured artists from across Africa and the diaspora, and has been described as the most important Black cultural event of the twentieth century. But, on returning from the festival, Nance didn’t find any takers to publish her photos, and fifty years later, few people know it took place. “I thought I would be talking about FESTAC in 1978, not in 2022,” Nance told the staff writer Julian Lucas. “If some tragic thing had happened, everybody would remember. . . . But I guess maybe there was no investment in celebrating Black joy.” A collection of Nance’s photographs from the event was published late in 2022, in the book “Last Day in Lagos.”
Great job ... super interview
what is it with americans?
sanitizing and legitimizing desantis the way they did trump. it’s no accident monsters and dunces are rising in america. when the “good guys” won’t recognize american fascism for what it is, where’s the hope?
Love the show and hosts but repetitive content
Love Remnick, and have listened to the show a lot over the years, but I only seem to listen to 1 out of every 5 shows these days at best. Besides the odd musical episode, it seems every single episode is on Trump or COVID. I understand those are important topic but a lot of episodes are beating a dead horse on these things. Hoping they can get back to more interesting content soon.