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.
Ottessa Moshfegh's "Lapvona"
Author Ottessa Moshfegh returns to speak to Kate Wolf about her latest novel Lapvona. The book is set in a medieval village of the same name; a place beset by violence and extreme cruelty. Its ruler is the loutish overlord Villiam, who engineers massacres of Lapvona’s inhabitants whenever dissent grows and steals their water during a deadly drought. Villiam’s distant relative is Jude, a shepherd who beats his son Marek and lies about the fate of Marek’s supposedly deceased mother. Marek weathers his father’s abuse through a devotion to God and the soothing of the village wet nurse, Ina, but his piety doesn’t keep him from his own brutal acts. In a fatal twist, he ends up in the care of Villiam, on the hill above the suffering villagers, increasingly complicit in Lapvona’s corruption, which is as germane today as a thousand years ago.
Also, Elif Batuman, author of Either/Or, returns to recommend The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili.
Nell Zink's "Avalon"
Author Nell Zink joins Eric Newman and Kate Wolf to talk about her latest novel, Avalon. The book is a coming of age novel centered on Bran, a young woman abandoned by her parents, left to fend for herself on a Southern California farm where she helps raise and sell exotic plants amid the looming presence of a biker gang. When Bran meets Peter, a college student thick on theory and philosophy, she glimpses the possibility of a lush new world of ideas and possibility. The two share a tortured and sweet romance through which Bran enters the world of ideas as a young writer coming into her identity, a relationship that promises an escape to a new life she glimpses just on the horizon.
Also, Shelly Oria, editor of the anthology, I Know What’s Best for You: Stories on Reproductive Freedom, returns to recommend four books (the first three by contributors to the anthology): Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach; The Stars are not yet Bells byHannah Lilith Assadi; American Estrangement, a short story collection, by Said Sayrafiezadeh; and A Lie that Someone Told You about Yourself by Peter Ho Davies.
Renee Gladman's "Plans for Sentences"
Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by the revered writer and artist Renee Gladman to speak about her latest book, Plans for Sentences. Plans for Sentences is a collection of ink and watercolor drawings paired with texts, each duo labeled as a “figure,” making 60 figures in all. The drawings combine the loops and scribbles of words and letters with the lines of cityscapes and buildings. The text meanwhile outlines what the titular “sentences” of the book will do. Together, Gladman seems to create a new kind of architecture, made up of a blend of words and images, solid and in flux at the same time. The plans here are for the future.
Also, John Markoff, author of The Many Lives of Stewart Brand, returns to recommend Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry for the Future.
Elif Batuman's "Either/Or"
Novelist and New Yorker staff writer Elif Batuman joins Kate Wolf to discuss her latest book, Either/Or. A sequel to 2017's The Idiot, the novel follows Batuman’s protagonist Selin in her sophomore year at Harvard University in 1996. Endearingly sincere in her efforts to understand the world around her, Selin turns most often to the books she reads for her literature major to do so, especially the titular work by Kierkegaard, which allows her to consider the merits of an aesthetic life versus an ethical one. It’s The Seducer’s Diary portion of Kierkegaard’s book, however, that Selin finds herself most interested in—and horrified by. It helps explain the mystifying behavior of her crush, Ivan, with whom nothing much of consequence has happened. But are books really a reflection of life? And might Selin write a novel of her own? Selin's quest for understanding eventually leads her away from campus and to her native Turkey and then Russia where she connects more deeply with experiences outside of literature and finally finds herself living on her own terms.
Also, Dan Lopez, author of The Show House, drops by to recommend Cuba: An American History by Ada Ferrer
Shelly Oria's "I Know What’s Best for You: Stories on Reproductive Freedom"
Author Shelly Oria returns to speak with Kate Wolf about her latest anthology, I Know What’s Best for You: Stories on Reproductive Freedom. The book compiles a range of fiction, essay, poetry, plays, and comics by twenty-eight contributors that offer perspectives on reproductive rights, health care, bodily autonomy, and family making, among many other things. It was published in collaboration with the Brigid Alliance, a nationwide service that arranges and funds confidential and personal travel support to those seeking abortions. The Brigid Alliance’s Executive Director, Odile Schalit, also joins the conversation.
Also, Hernan Diaz, author of Trust, returns to recommend Harrow by Joy Williams.
Hernan Diaz's "Trust"
Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher speak with writer Hernan Diaz about his latest novel Trust, which tells a single story from multiple perspectives, or rather revisions. Trust brings into focus both how storytelling itself, as well as the narratives American culture tells about wealth and money, shape and distort our world. The conversation moves from the traditions of the 19th century American novel, the vagaries of capital and how Diaz put together this nesting doll-like novel.
Also, Celia Paul, author of Letters to Gwen John, returns to recommend the Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh.
These are the types of conversations I want to hear! Thanks LARB
The host of the LARB Radio Hour podcast, highlights all aspects of a good read and more in this can’t miss podcast! The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!
Love it! But can we get more genres plz?
I adore that this podcast always feels relevant to todays cultures and questions. However, I want to hear from genres other than literature (essays, poems, fiction). Can we please get some scifi, fantasy, historical fiction, etc? Those genres tackle relevant contemporary issues in different but equally interesting ways and deserve a seat at the table.