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
    • 4.9 • 120 Ratings

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.

    Yasmin Zaher's "The Coin"

    Yasmin Zaher's "The Coin"

    Kate Wolf speaks with writer and journalist Yasmin Zaher about her debut novel, The Coin. An allegorical tale of alienation, loneliness, and repulsion, the book follows a Palestinian woman who’s recently fulfilled her family’s dream of moving to America. In New York, working as a middle school teacher, she finds herself disillusioned with the filth of the city and its poverty. She’s beset with a deep unease at her own body and haunted by memories, especially that of a coin—a shekel—she swallowed on a car ride as a child just moments before a horrible accident. Estranged from the few people she knows in the city, her behavior becomes increasingly unhinged and bizarre in ways that complicate standard stories of immigration, and instead imagine the path of a character who sees through America’s promise and realizes she has nothing to lose.
    Also, Nell Irvin Painter, author of I Just Keep Talking, returns to recommend three books and one magazine: The Plague Edition of Konch Magazine edited by Ishmael Reed and Tennessee Reed’s; Black Art and Aesthetics: Relationalities, Interiorities, Reckonings edited by Michael Kelly and Monique Roelofs; James: a Novel by Percival Everett; and Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith.

    • 47 min
    Nell Irvin Painter at the Crossroads of Art, Politics, and Race in America

    Nell Irvin Painter at the Crossroads of Art, Politics, and Race in America

    Eric Newman is joined by historian Nell Irvin Painter to discuss I Just Keep Talking: A Life in Essays, a compendium of Painter's writing about art, politics, and race across nearly four decades. The wide-ranging discussion moves from how researching Sojourner Truth inspired Painter to get her MFA in visual art, to the struggle over what can be taught and known about American history, to the ways modern information technology impacts our experience of the present and its echoes in the past, and to how we might navigate a bleak present in which fascism seems newly on the march.
    Also, Emily Nussbaum, author of Cue the Sun! The Invention of Reality TV, returns to recommend Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us by Rachel Aviv.

    • 1 hr 1 min
    Emily Nussbaum's "Cue the Sun! The Invention of Reality TV"

    Emily Nussbaum's "Cue the Sun! The Invention of Reality TV"

    Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by New Yorker staff writer and former television critic Emily Nussbaum to discuss her book Cue the Sun! The Invention of Reality TV. Nussbaum's overview of the most dominant genre of our time moves from reality TV's origins in radio to its role in forging the public image of a US president. In a sweeping conversation, the hosts and Nussbaum break down some of the unsung heroes and incredible stories behind the creation of our nostalgic reality TV touchstones, the harbingers of a darker genre to come, and its relationship to broad, tectonic social and political changes in American life.
    Also, Patrick Nathan, author of The Future was Color, returns to recommend Housemates: A Novel by Emma Copley Eisenberg.

    • 58 min
    A Queer Vision of Old Hollywood

    A Queer Vision of Old Hollywood

    Medaya Ocher and Eric Newman speak with author Patrick Nathan about his latest novel, and this month's LARB Book Club pick, The Future Was Color. The novel chronicles the life of Hungarian immigrant writer George Curtis. When we meet George, he's writing the hacky sort of monster movies that are today's cult classics, trying to find sex and love amid the closeted ambiance of life between the wars and in the midst of the McCarthyite purges of communists and homosexuals that plagued the mid-century film industry. As George demurs writing the studio's next big hit to create something of greater substance about Hungary and the war from his exile perspective, he follows a passionate affair with his coworker in the writers' room. But when he departs the studio office for a residency of sorts with a Malibu actress and her gay husband, a dramatic chain reaction brings new motivations and possibilities to light. A novel about a moment in time that is also in so many ways timeless, The Future Was Color is an exploration of the line between the personal and political, between safety and risk, the art we create and the art that creates us.
    Also, Claire Messud, author of This Strange Eventful History, returns to recommend Susie Boyt's novel, Loved and Missed.

    • 44 min
    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

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
120 Ratings

120 Ratings

Alchfjwlskdbewl ,

Five stars!

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??

B_squared ,

A missed opportunity

I can tolerate a good amount of intellectualization, pontification, and high-falutin nonsense (and I hope you can too), but there are times during LARB’s podcast that I am aghast (aghast, I say) at the level of disconnection and incuriosity on full and unabashed display, all L.A. tropes aside. The more interesting bits occur when the conversation becomes so unmoored that you realize how preoccupied and stymied the hosts become by the sound of their own voice at the expense of any and all depth or engagement with text or conversation (or material to which a given text alludes or includes); that’s also the most relatable it ever gets. It’s unfortunate that these efforts result in a simulacrum of a literary program, with no zest to speak of amidst the projected air of rarefied voices, nor any passionate ambitions to change the world meaningfully in some plausibly public interest. It adds up to a tasteless corrosive when it fails to have the courage of sensitivity, instead choosing the vacuous and prosaic stylistics of posture that sanitize their potential to approach some marrow of importance to enduring literary community. It serves as the purest metaphorical manifestation of the DTLA Arts District’s relationship to Skid Row and to art generally, but with the thinly veiled desperation palpably disavowed through a consistent intolerance and allergy to differences insufficiently commodified.

Harlequinknight ,


I love the LARB Radio Hour. Kate and Media are the best hosts: well-informed, well-read, and asking the good questions.

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