The Los Angeles Review of Books Radio Hour is a weekly show featuring interviews, readings and discussions about all things literary. Hosted by LARB Editor-at-Large Kate Wolf, Managing Editor Medaya Ocher, and Gender and Sexuality Editor, Eric Newman.
James Hannaham's "Pilot Impostor"
Writer and artist James Hannaham joins Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to discuss his most recent book, Pilot Impostor, a mix of prose, poetry, and visual collage. James is the author of the award-winning novels Delicious Foods and God Says No. His short stories have appeared in One Story, Fence, and Bomb, and he was for many years a writer for the Village Voice and Salon.
Pilot Impostor was partly inspired by a trip to Cape Verde and Lisbon, right after Trump’s election in 2016. The book brings together disparate influences like the work of Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa, the TV show Air Disasters, and current events. Through shifts in form, narrative, and style, Hannaham asks some of the biggest questions about the self, identity, the failure of leadership, history, and the nature of consciousness.
Also, film critic Melissa Anderson, author of Inland Empire, returns to recommend Jean Stein’s depiction of Hollywood, West of Eden.
Melissa Anderson's "Inland Empire" and Pippa Garner's "Immaculate Misconceptions"
In the first half of the show, Kate Wolf is joined by Melissa Anderson to discuss her first book, Inland Empire, a volume in Fireflies Press’s Decadent Editions series, which revisit seminal films from the 2000s. A story of a “woman in trouble,” David Lynch’s Inland Empire (2006) is a bold selection, since, as Anderson points out, to try and make sense of its plot “would be to replicate the tediousness and pointlessness of narrating a dream.” Instead the book concerns itself most with the film’s star, Laura Dern, an electrifyingly expressive performer who has worked in the industry since she was a child. Using the whole of Dern’s career and her many collaborations with Lynch, Anderson explores Inland Empire as the work not so much of an auteur but of an actor, making poignant observations along the way about disintegration and desperation, victimization and agency, the possibilities of the female gaze, and the dark side of Hollywood.
In the second half, Kate is joined by artist and inventor Pippa Garner. Over the past six decades, Garner has satirized American consumer culture with a range of drawings and ideas for outlandish yet, given our zeal for novelty, completely plausible products, custom furniture, and things like the world’s most fuel efficient car — which is actually a bicycle set inside the frame of a miniature Honda. In the 1970s she collaborated with the media collective Ant Farm, and in the 1980s, as Phillip Garner, she published books such as Better Living Catalog: 62 Absolute Necessities for Contemporary Survival and Utopia — or Bust! Products for the Perfect World. She also made regular appearances on the talk show circuit, in character as a small-town inventor, presenting some of her many gadgets — like a crop-top business suit and an umbrella whose canopy is constructed of palm fronds. “Immaculate Misconceptions,” a retrospective of her work, is currently on view at Joan in Los Angeles.
José Vadi’s “Inter State: Essays from California”
Essayist, poet, playwright, and filmmaker José Vadi joins Eric Newman to discuss his debut essay collection, Inter State. José’s first play, a eulogy for three, was the winner of the San Francisco Foundation’s Shenson Performing Arts Award. He is also the author of SoMa Lurk, a collection of photos and poems that spring from the San Francisco neighborhood of the same name, and his writing has been featured in a number of publications, including Catapult, McSweeney’s, New Life Quarterly, and our own Los Angeles Review of Books. The essays in Inter State move across a California that is at once family home and site of alienation, humming with possibility and on the brink of disaster, energetic and decayed.
Also, Ruth Ozeki, author of The Book of Form and Emptiness, returns to recommend Jorge Luis Borges’s The Aleph and Other Stories.
Ruth Ozeki's "The Book of Form and Emptiness"
Ruth Ozeki is a writer, filmmaker, Zen Buddhist priest, and author of three novels, My Year of Meats, All Over Creation, and A Tale for the Time Being, which was a finalist for the 2013 Booker Prize. Her nonfiction work includes the memoir The Face: A Time Code and the documentary film Halving the Bones.
Ozeki joins Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about her latest work, The Book of Form and Emptiness. The novel opens with the death of Kenji, an itinerant jazz musician who is run over by a chicken truck after he falls down in the street late at night and is too intoxicated to pick himself back up. The story follows Kenji’s wife, Annabelle, and son, Benny, as they both cope, in their own ways, with their terrible tragedy. Annabelle becomes a hoarder, stacking various objects in their home as a kind of insurance against loss. Benny starts to hear those objects, and many others, talking to him, which eventually lands him in a psychiatric ward. As the novel moves forward, Benny meets an alluring, rebellious girl, Aleph, and Slajov the Bottleman, a wheelchair-bound alcoholic whose ravings about poetry, capitalism, and philosophy gin up, in part, the novel’s deep investment in questions about consumption, objects, and grief.
Also, Tom McCarthy, author of The Making of Incarnation, returns to recommend Ann Quin’s Three.
Tom McCarthy's "The Making of Incarnation"
Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by Tom McCarthy, author of the contemporary classic, Remainder, as well as of the novels C and Satin Island, both of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He is also the author of the collection of essays Typewriters, Bombs, and Jellyfish and of the literary study Tintin and the Secret of Literature, and is the “General Secretary” of the “semi-fictitious organization” the International Necronautical Society (INS), which has exhibited art around the world.
McCarthy’s latest book is The Making of Incarnation, a novel that follows the hunt for a box that has gone missing from the archives of a time-and-motion pioneer named Lillian Moller Gilbreth. Gilbreth’s studies in movement helped birth the era of mass observation and big data, but did she also discover the “perfect” movement, one that would “change everything”?
Also, Natalie Diaz, author of Postcolonial Love Poem, returns to recommend poet Desiree C. Bailey’s What Noise Against the Cain.
Natalie Diaz: Postcolonial Love Poem
In a special LARB Book Club installment of the Radio Hour, Boris Dralyuk and Callie Siskel speak with poet Natalie Diaz about her collection Postcolonial Love Poem, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2021. Diaz is also the author of the collection When My Brother Was an Aztec, which was a 2012 Lannan Literary Selection and won an American Book Award the following year. Throughout her work she explores the beauty and heartbreak of her own experience as a Latina and Mojave American as well as the broader tragedies and contractions of life in the US and in its global shadow.
Also, Dodie Bellamy, author of Bee Reaved, returns to recommend Marlen Haushofer's 1963 novel The Wall.