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.
Robert Glück's "About Ed"
Eric Newman and Kate Wolf are joined by the author, editor, and co-founder of the New Narrative movement Robert Glück to discuss his latest book, About Ed. The book is a non-linear memoir (of sorts), parsing the life and death of Glück's lover, the artist Ed Aulerich-Sugai. The narrative moves promiscuously back and forth between the 1970s when Bob and Ed's relationship takes shape, to the 1980s when AIDS ravages the gay community and Ed is diagnosed with HIV, to Ed's death in 1994, and Bob's wrestling with the emotional aftermath of Ed's loss. Along the way, Glück captures the peaks and valleys of the relationship— tumultuous moments conjured in elegiac reveries—as well as the everyday objects by which the world of a deeply intimate history continues into the present. About Ed forces us to confront what we know and don't know about those loved ones who indelibly shape our lives.
Also, Sasha Frere-Jones, author of Earlier, returns to recommend two books by Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, and Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew.
Andrew Chan's "Why Mariah Carey Matters"
Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by writer and critic Andrew Chan to discuss his latest book, Why Mariah Carey Matters. Exploring Mariah's career as a singer, performer, and dexterous music producer, Andrew's book unpacks how the music industry of the 1980s and 1990s shaped and was reshaped by the work of the landmark whistle-tone diva. The conversation ranges across developments in R&B, cultural battles over Mariah's "authenticity" as a Black artist, and the erosion of the ballad's centrality to our contemporary musical landscape, diving into the world of a diva whose songs we love but whose life and struggle often slip out of view.
Also, Dan Sinykin, author of Big Fiction, returns to recommend Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul?, a collection of essays by Jesse McCarthy.
Sasha Frere-Jones' "Earlier"
Writer, musician, and critic Sasha Frere-Jones joins Kate Wolf to discuss his first book, Earlier. A non-chronological memoir, Earlier collects fragments of Frere-Jones's life: intimate recollections, minor triumphs, path-defining moments, failures, loves, losses, and all stations in-between. An artist formation story that is too humble to declare itself as such, the book enacts the simultaneity of memory, smashing the late 1960s, when Frere-Jones is born, against the 1990s, when he arrives back home in New York, falls in love with his ex-wife, and begins to write in earnest and tour; the 1980s when he attends high school at Saint Ann's, college at Brown, and obsessively collects and listens to music, against the 1970s growing up in Brooklyn, wondering at aspects of his parents faltering finances and private lives. Like all noteworthy memoirs, it addresses both personal and collective history, pointing to a present bursting at the seams with the past.
Also, filmmaker Nicole Newnham, Director of The Disappearance of Shere Hite, returns to recommend Every Good Boy Does Fine: A Love Story, in Music Lessons by Jeremy Denk.
Nicole Newnham's "The Disappearance of Shere Hite"
Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by award-winning director Nicole Newnham to discuss her latest film, The Disappearance of Shere Hite. The documentary explores the life and work of Shere Hite, a sexological researcher whose 1976 book The Hite Report on Female Sexuality brought the private reality of women's sexual experience into mainstream consciousness and became one of the bestselling books of all time. But the male cultural anxiety sparked by the book's findings generated a powerful backlash to Hite's work in popular media, making her a pariah and driving her into a self-imposed European exile after which she largely receded from American public consciousness. Eric, Medaya, and Nicole discuss the larger cultural frameworks of Shere Hite's story, the enduring legacy of her research, and how restoring a feminist firebrand from the past might help us navigate ongoing battles for gender and sexual liberation in the present.
Also, Justin Torres, fresh from winning the National Book Award for his novel Blackouts, returns to recommend My Body is Paper, a collection of previously unpublished writings by Gil Cuadros, as well as City of God by Cuadros.
Dan Sinykin's "Big Fiction"
Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by writer and professor, Dan Sinykin. His new book is called Big Fiction: How Conglomeration Changed the Publishing Industry, which chronicles the many changes publishing has undergone in the past 50 years, starting in 1965 when Random House was bought by an electronics company. Since then we’ve seen the radical conglomoration of publishing, as small independent houses were bought up by multinational companies, slowly forming the Big Five. Dan writes about the way these changes affected the books we read — what editors buy, what readers expect, and even, what writers write. He covers everything from the rise of mass-market paperbacks to the establishment of prestigious non-profits, hoping to protect literature from the market.
Also, Dorothea Lasky, whose new collection of poems is called The Shining, returns to recommend two books: Eileen by OIttessa Moshfegh and Hermetic Definition by H.D.
Justin Torres's "Blackouts"
Medaya Ocher and Eric Newman speak with author Justin Torres about his latest novel, Blackouts. As they discuss the novel's layered revelation of both the characters' lives and the real queer history into which they are imaginatively woven, the conversation explores queerness as a literary identity, history as a particular site of queer desire, and how we tell the stories that make us intelligible to ourselves and others.
Also, Anna Biller, author of Bluebeard's Castle, returns to recommend Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.
The LARB Radio Hour is the most consistently intelligent yet down to earth podcast about books and ideas. And the best part is that I never know what I’m going to get when I tune in. How is it always interesting??
I love the LARB Radio Hour. Kate and Media are the best hosts: well-informed, well-read, and asking the good questions.
Most Favorite Pod
Cannot recommend this pod enough! Some of the most engaging and thoughtful conversation I've heard in eons, plus excellent book recommendations. This is my most favorite podcast out there!