100 episodes

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.

LARB Radio Hour Los Angeles Review of Books

    • Arts

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.

    Claire Messud's "This Strange Eventful History"

    Claire Messud's "This Strange Eventful History"

    Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf are joined by celebrated writer Claire Messud, the author of six works of fiction including the highly-acclaimed bestseller The Emperor's Children.  Messud's latest novel is This Strange Eventful History, which follows the Cassars, a Pied-Noir family from Algeria, who find themselves constantly displaced by the changing tides of history, first by World War II and then by Algerian independence. Partly based on her own family's story, the book traces the story of each family member, across three generations, as they encounter the world as well as their own personal joys and tragedies. The novel is, of course, about history, both personal and global, as well as the ways people build homes outide of their homelands.

    • 39 min
    Does Criticism Still Matter?

    Does Criticism Still Matter?

    In this special episode, hosts Medaya Ocher, Kate Wolf, and Eric Newman debate an age-old question that's being taken up in new ways amid an increasingly atomized landscape for thinking and writing about the literature and art that moves (as well as enervates) us. What does it mean for criticism to "matter"? And what indications do we have that it does beyond the measure of the marketplace? The hosts discuss what they think has changed—and hasn't—about how and where reviews circulate, the art of the take down, what they look for in a good piece of criticism, and if you can trust the New York Times Book Review. They also discuss the many roles critics play—from forming canons to puncturing them, using specific language, and transforming personal taste and sensibility into something that can, occasionally, change culture.

    • 45 min
    Rachel Khong on What Makes a Real American

    Rachel Khong on What Makes a Real American

    Rachel Khong joins Eric Newman to discuss her latest novel, Real Americans. Divided into three parts that each trace the experiences of different generations of a Chinese American family, the book delves into the thickets of identity, exploring how cultural strictures and the chaos of love shape our reality. The first section, set in 1999, recounts the romance between Lily, a second generation Chinese American media intern in New York, and Matthew, the WASPy private equity investor of the company where she struggles to eke out a living. The second section transports us to Seattle in 2021, where Lily's son, Nick, is navigating the end of high school and early college years with his father, Matthew, conspicuously absent. When Nick reconnects with Matthew through a DNA ancestry test, old wounds heal even as new ones are opened up in the wake of long-buried family secrets. In the final section, Nick's grandmother reflects on her experience fleeing Mao Zedong's China to make a new life in the United States, while trying to reconcile with a tattered and scattered family in present-day San Francisco. As these three lives are woven together and torn apart, Real Americans moves propulsively through questions of race, class, and gender as its characters work to understand their relationship to inheritance, variously conceived, around the tripwires of silence, desire, and pain.
    Also, Erik Davis, author of Blotter: The Untold Story of an Acid Medium, returns to recommend Dale Pendell's Pharmako Trilogy.

    • 54 min
    Erik Davis on the Art of LSD

    Erik Davis on the Art of LSD

    Erik Davis joins Kate Wolf to speak about his latest book, Blotter: The Untold Story of an Acid Medium. The book is a study and history of the emergence of acid blotter paper from the late 1970s to the present day. It charts not only how the distribution and legal definition of LSD has changed over the decades—along with shifting cultural attitudes towards the drug—but also how blotter makers reflected these changes in their designs. The book examines the many recurring themes and aesthetics of blotter from cartoon characters, underground comics and advertising, to religious and political imagery, as well as associations with modern art movements like pop and minimalism. As psychedelics move closer to legalization for therapeutic purposes, Blotter is a reminder of the freak culture, anti-establishment origins of LSD and the inventive and playful path one of its main mediums has cut across countless minds over the last half century.

    • 1 hr 4 min
    Legacy Russell's "Black Meme"

    Legacy Russell's "Black Meme"

    Writer and curator Legacy Russell joins Kate Wolf to discuss her new book, Black Meme, which theorizes the history of viral images of Blackness in America from the dawn of the 20th century to the present. The book argues for the centrality of Black culture in the formation of the digital sphere; it also points to the many ways images of Black people have been exploited, decontextualized, and abused both before and after the internet. Russell draws on a variety of examples, from the open-casket photos of Emmet Till that appeared in Jet Magazine, to the phenomena of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, which helped popularize the VCR, to more recent viral videos of police violence and Black social death. Calling for a reexamination of notions of private and public property, Black Meme urges a reconsideration of what an equitable exchange might look like for Black creators online, as well as engagement on the internet that goes beyond a reshare.
    Also, Miranda July, author of All Fours, returns to recommend Small Rain by Garth Greenwell.

    • 1 hr 3 min
    Miranda July's "All Fours"

    Miranda July's "All Fours"

    Miranda July speaks to Kate Wolf about her latest novel, All Fours. Its narrator is a woman in the middle of her life, a recognized artist who’s worked steadily for years with “the confidence that comes from knowing there is no other path.” Shortly after her 45th birthday, she decides to take a road trip to New York to celebrate with money she’s recently made from a whiskey commercial. She leaves her husband and child one morning and ends up stopping in a small suburb outside of Los Angeles for breakfast. But instead of continuing on, she rents a motel room there and proceeds to stay for the next three weeks. Part of her decision is based on her intense desire for a Hertz rental car employee she meets named Davey, a younger man, who yearns to be a hip hop dancer. But other aspects of her reasoning are more ineffable, fueled perhaps by the uncertainty of the future, aging, mortality, and struggles with the confines of domestic life. Her sojourn in the motel room becomes the catalyst for a reckoning with that life upon her return, and the basis for a deeper philosophical and visceral inquiry into desire, the female body, social and sexual possibility, caregiving, and what truly makes life worth living.
    Also, Danielle Dutton, author of Prairie, Dresses, Art, Other, returns to recommend The New Animals by Pip Adam.

    • 49 min

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