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.
Dodie Bellamy's "Bee Reaved;" and Mia Hansen-Love's on Bergman Island
Writer Dodie Bellamy joins Kate Wolf to speak about her latest collection, Bee Reaved. The book gathers nearly 20 essays Bellamy has written over the last few years, with a focus on the state of bereavement, examining not only the loss of her husband Kevin Killian, but the loss of other artists, physical objects, her own past lives, and radical social movements. As with all of Bellamy’s work, the pieces in Bee Reaved foreground the viscera of the body and other aspects of the physical world, while also engaging with ghosts, fairy tales, the internet, spirituality and a deep sense of community.
Then, in this week's second interview, Kate is joined by fillmaker Mia Hansen-Love to discuss her latest, and first English-language movie, Bergman Island, which follows a filmmaking couple during their residency on Fårö, the island in Sweden where Ingmar Bergman lived and shot many of his films. As the couple, Chris and Tony, work on their screenplays and tour the sites that inspired the great filmmaker, the line between real life and fiction becomes ever more ambiguous. Bergman Island opens in theaters October 15th and available for digital rental October 22nd.
Kelefa Sanneh's "Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres"
Kate Wolf speaks with writer Kelefa Sanneh about his debut book, Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres. An exhaustive, enthralling breakdown of the last 50 years in music, Major Labels diagrams the American sonic landscape, Alfred Barr-style, in the discrete yet overlapping categories of rock, R&B, country, punk, hip hop, dance, and pop; it also pays close attention to the proliferation of genres within genres, covering everything from thrash metal to glitter rock, quiet storm to hip hop soul, and many more. The book reveals what these divisions mean not only for the way music gets made, but how it’s listened to, and by whom. In conversation, we learn what inspired, and continues to inspire, one of our leading music writers.
Also, Cynthia Cruz, author of The Melancholia of Class, returns to recommend a collection of writings by the late Mark Fisher "Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology, and Lost Futures."
Cynthia Cruz’s “The Melancholia of Class: A Manifesto for the Working Class”
Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by author Cynthia Cruz to discuss The Melancholia of Class: A Manifesto for the Working Class. A mix of memoir, cultural theory, and polemic, Cruz’s latest work addresses the personal and social consequences of the marginalization of America’s majority population, its working class. Cruz speaks about what inspired her to write the book and how she came to focus on the lives of certain famous working-class people, like musicians Amy Winehouse and Ian Curtis (who both died tragically in their 20s), and Jason Molina (who made it to 39), actress Barbara Loden, and others. How did they and Cynthia contend with the hegemonic “middle-class” culture’s shaming of working-class characteristics? Denial and repression of working-class consciousness is encouraged in our society. This repression is seen as a precondition for success, but it mangles the soul and shreds the bonds of social solidarity that are the foundation of community and provide a sense of belonging. 173 years after Marx and Engels recast the working class as the protagonist of history in their Manifesto, Cruz does the same in hers.
Also, Amia Srinivasan, author of The Right to Sex: Feminism in the 21st Century, returns to recommend Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights by Molly Smith and Juno Mac, who are both British sex workers.
Betsy West and Julie Cohen: My Name is Pauli Murray
Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by documentary filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen, who are perhaps best known for RGB, their Academy Award-nominated documentary about late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That film provided the impetus for their latest project, My Name Is Pauli Murray, which traces the career of a fierce warrior against injustice whose story has been confined to the margins of history. A pioneering African American attorney, activist, and priest, Murray shaped landmark litigation — and consciousness — around race and gender equity, including the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education and the extension of the 14th Amendment to provide equal protection under the law to all Americans, regardless of sex.
Also, Maggie Nelson, author of On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint returns to recommend a major work scheduled to be released in November, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow. Graeber was working on The Dawn of Everything at the time of his death last year.
Amia Srinivasan: The Right to Sex
Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf are joined by writer, critic, and philosopher Amia Srinivasan, whose new book is The Right to Sex: Feminism in the 21st Century. Amia is a professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College at Oxford and a contributing editor at the London Review of Books. The essays in her book probe how we think and talk about sex. Srinivasan grapples with the subject from a variety of angles, looking closely at the #MeToo movement, the history of feminism and pornography, and the larger political forces that shape our personal lives. She discusses the complicated relationships between sex and racial justice, class, and disability. As she asks in her preface, “What would it take for sex really to be free? We do not yet know; let us try and see.”
Also, poet Kaveh Akbar, author of Pilgrim Bell, returns to recommend Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry, a poetry anthology edited by Jane Hirshfield.
Maggie Nelson: "On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint"
Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by Maggie Nelson to discuss her latest book, On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint. In 2015, Nelson’s bestselling, genre-defying The Argonauts won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and her other works of criticism, memoir, and poetry include The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning; Women, The New York School, and Other True Abstractions; Bluets; Jane: A Murder; and The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, and a Warhol Creative Capitol Arts Writing Grant, among other awards. Currently she is a professor of English at USC. Written in the wake of the 2016 election, On Freedom is an ambitious consideration of the complex knots of “sovereignty and self abandon, subjectivity and subjection, autonomy and dependency” that form under the blanket of liberation. Focusing on four topics — art, sex, drugs, and the climate crisis — the book challenges the notion of freedom as a utopian state toward which we might move untethered from our responsibilities to the planet and to one another. At the same time, Nelson carves out a notable amount of space within realms many would be quick to deem as uniquely unfree: caretaking, addiction, conflict, and negative affect, even the ticking time bomb of global warming that leaves so many of us feeling helpless. Here, we’re asked to consider what feeling free might have to do with feeling good — and what could be a better question than that?
Also, Rachel Greenwald Smith, author of On Compromise: Art, Politics, and the Fate of an American Ideal, returns to recommend Heather Berg's Porn Work: Sex, Labor, and Late Capitalism.
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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.
Thanks for the Jacqueline Rose show.