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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The Brody Awards, and Louis Menand on “The Free World”
Oscars, schmoscars! Richard Brody is a critic of wide tastes and eccentric enthusiasms. His list of the best films of the year rarely lines up with the Academy’s. Each year, he joins David Remnick and the staff writer Alexandra Schwartz to talk about the year’s cinematic highlights. Plus, the staff writer Louis Menand talks with Remnick about his new work of cultural history, “The Free World.” Menand writes about the postwar flowering of American culture, when the United States evolved from an economic and military giant into a global creative force. Modern jazz and rock and roll were exported and celebrated around the world. Painters got out from under the long shadow of Europe and led the way into new forms of abstraction and social commentary. Writers like James Baldwin turned a spotlight back on America’s fundamental, unexamined flaws. It was a time, Menand writes, when “ideas mattered. Painting mattered. Movies mattered. Poetry mattered.”
David Fincher on “Mank,” and Daniel Alarcón’s Favorite Children’s Books
David Fincher made his name in Hollywood as the director of movies that pushed people’s buttons—dark thrillers like “Fight Club,” “The Game,” “Seven,” and “Gone Girl”—but his new film belongs to one of Hollywood’s most esteemed genres: stories about Hollywood. Around thirty years ago, his father, the late Jack Fincher, gave him the draft of a screenplay about Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote “Citizen Kane” and other classics. Fincher tells David Remnick that Mankiewicz was a key figure in film—one of that first generation of writers who invented a vibrant language for movies as they came into the sound era. Nominated for ten Academy Awards (including a Best Director nomination for Fincher), “Mank” is the story of the writer’s conflict with Orson Welles in the making of “Citizen Kane,” and their struggle is one that has bedevilled creators and critics down the decades: Who really authors a film? Plus, the journalist and fiction writer Daniel Alarcón talks about three children’s books he’s been enjoying with his son during the pandemic.
Race and Taxes, and Jane Mayer on How to Kill a Bill
The investigative reporter Jane Mayer recently received a recording of a meeting attended by conservative power brokers including Grover Norquist, representatives of PACs funded by Charles Koch, and an aide to Senator Mitch McConnell. The subject was the voting-rights bill H.R. 1, and the mood was anxious. The bill (which we discussed in last week’s episode) would broadly make voting more accessible, which tends to benefit Democratic candidates, and it would raise the curtain on “dark money” in elections with stringent disclosure requirements. The problem for this group, a political strategist says, is that the bill is popular among voters of both parties, but H.R. 1, they insist, must die. As we hear the participants tick through options to tarnish the bill’s public appeal, Mayer notes how the political winds have shifted in Washington, leaving the Republican coalition newly fragile. Plus, Dorothy Brown, a professor of tax law, uncovers how the seemingly race-neutral tax code compounds many inequalities in American life, and prevents Black people from building wealth. She talks with Sheelah Kolhatkar about her new book, “The Whiteness of Wealth.”
The Complex Story of Being Trans in Africa, and Derek DelGaudio on Deception
Our producer talks with the South African scholar Dr. B Camminga, whose essay “Disregard and Danger” deconstructs the viewpoints of so-called TERFs—trans-exclusionary radical feminists—through an African-feminist lens. And we speak with Derek DelGaudio, whose magic special on Hulu is “In & Of Itself.” DelGaudio says that he’s never liked tricking people, and he credits his brief stint as a “bust-out dealer”—a professional card dealer who cheats the players on behalf of the house—with changing his perspective on the power of deception. DelGaudio compares the claims of a rigged election that preceded the actual election to his work as a crooked dealer: he made his legitimate deals look shady in order to camouflage the bad ones.
Will the Most Important Voting-Rights Bill Since 1965 Die in the Senate?
No sooner had Joe Biden won the Presidential election than Republican state legislatures began introducing measures to make voting more difficult in any number of ways, most of which will suppress Democratic turnout at the polls. Stacey Abrams, of Georgia, has called the measures “Jim Crow in a suit and tie.” Congress has introduced the For the People Act, known as H.R. 1. Jelani Cobb looks at how the bill goes beyond even the 1965 Voting Rights Act in its breadth, and how it will likely fare in the Senate. And Jeannie Suk Gersen speaks with David Remnick about the Supreme Court’s views on voting rights. The Court is currently weighing an Arizona case that will help decide what really counts as discrimination in a voting restriction.
Remembering a City at the Peak of Crisis
April 15, 2020, was near the apex of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, which was then its epicenter. On that day, a crew of New Yorker writers talked with people all over the city, in every circumstance and walk of life, to form a portrait of a city in crisis. A group station manager for the subway talks about keeping the transit system running for those who can’t live without it; a respiratory therapist copes with break-time conversations about death and dying; a graduating class of medical students gets up the courage to confront the worst crisis in generations; and a new mother talks about giving birth on a day marked by tragedy for so many families. The hour includes contributions from writers including William Finnegan, Helen Rosner, Jia Tolentino, Kelefa Sanneh, and Adam Gopnik, who says, “One never knows whether to applaud the human insistence on continuing with some form of normal life, or look aghast at the human insistence on continuing with some form of normal life. That’s the mystery of the pandemic.”
This episode originally aired on April 24, 2020.