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LA Review of Books

LA Review of Books

The Los Angeles Review of Books is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and disseminating rigorous, incisive, and engaging writing on every aspect of literature, culture, and the arts. The Los Angeles Review of Books magazine was created in part as a response to the disappearance of the traditional newspaper book review supplement, and, with it, the art of lively, intelligent long-form writing on recent publications in every genre, ranging from fiction to politics. The Los Angeles Review of Books seeks to revive and reinvent the book review for the internet age, and remains committed to covering and representing today?s diverse literary and cultural landscape.


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Andrew Sean Greer's "Less is Lost"

Andrew Sean Greer, author of six novels, including The Confessions, joins Eric Newman to talk about Less Is Lost, a sequel to his 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner, Less. This latest installment finds our beloved and bewildered eponymous gay novelist of minor repute dashing across the American Southwest, South, and East Coast as he scrambles to save, and in some ways clarify, his relationship with Freddy Pelu, as well as to pay back some monumental back rent on the charming San Francisco home left to him by his recently deceased lover, Robert Brownburn. As Less takes his fish-out-of-water act on the road, Andrew Sean Greer treats readers to a number of poignant insights into the nature of love, devotion, belonging, and the by turns miserable and, er, miserable condition of being a writer. Also, Yiyun Li, author of The Book of Goose, returns to recommend Charlotte Bronte?s Villette.
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Yiyun Li's "The Book of Goose"

Kate Wolf speaks with celebrated author Yiyun Li about her latest novel, The Book of Goose. A tale of a passionate friendship between two adolescent girls set in a rural village in postwar France, The Book of Goose is told from the perspective of Agnès. Now living in America, many years later, she recounts the devotion and creativity she shared with her best friend, Fabienne, when they were young. Together the two girls composed a book of stories, but, at Fabienne?s urging, Agnès posed as the sole author when the book was eventually published, setting the course of their lives in two very different directions. An examination of friendship, poverty, feminine ambivalence, and death, Li?s novel is most concerned with the nature of stories themselves: where they come from, how they function, and who they belong to. Also, Rachel Aviv, author of Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories that Make Us, returns to recommend Louis Sass?s Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature, and Thought.
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Rachel Aviv's "Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us"

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by New Yorker staff writer Rachel Aviv to discuss her first book, Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us. The book collects the stories of people whose mental health crises subvert our usual understanding of diagnosis, treatment, and healing. It begins with Aviv herself, who was hospitalized at the age of six for anorexia, before she even knew the term for her illness. Each chapter is then dedicated to a different person: Bapu, an Indian Brahmin woman, who shortly after giving birth dedicates herself to religious asceticism and mysticism; Naomi, a Black woman, who in her psychosis, despairs of the very real racism and generational oppression that surrounds her; and Ray Osheroff and Laura Delano whose chapters both show the ways in which psychiatry is still grappling with medication and biology. Aviv explores how mental illness can defy psychiatric explanation, requiring a broader view of the economic, social and lived realities of the people who experience it. Also, Raquel Gutierrez, author of Brown Neon, returns to recommend Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller.
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For the Love of Print: Chloe Watlington, Michelle Chihara, Jeff Weiss and Schessa Garbutt

Editors of The LARB Quarterly, Chloe Watlington and Michelle Chihara, join Jeff Weiss of theLAnd and local designer and near-futurist writer, Schessa Garbutt, on a panel at this summer's LITLIT discuss the love and labor of print magazines, designing for print, and ongoing debates around the relevance of literary criticism and production today. On July 30th and 31st, LARB presented the second annual LITLIT, or Little Literary Fair, in partnership with Hauser & Wirth Publishers at Hauser & Wirth?s stunning gallery space in Downtown L.A.?s Arts District. LITLIT brought together 48 small presses and literary arts organizations and over 5,000 visitors for a two-day celebration of independent publishing on the West Coast. All five free panel discussions from the weekend are available to watch back on Today, you?ll hear one of these special conversations, For the Love of Print.
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The Art of Translation: Andrew Way Leong, Bruna Dantas Lobato, Robin Myers, and Magdalena Edwards

Translators Andrew Way Leong, Bruna Dantas Lobato, Robin Myers, and Magdalena Edwards discuss the Art of Translation on a panel at this summer's LITLIT Festival. On July 30th and 31st, LARB presented the second annual LITLIT, or Little Literary Fair, in partnership with Hauser & Wirth Publishers at Hauser & Wirth?s gallery space in Downtown L.A.?s Arts District. LITLIT brought together 48 small presses and literary arts organizations and over 5,000 visitors for a two-day celebration of independent publishing on the West Coast, which included five free panel discussions. Today, you?ll hear one of these special conversations, The Art of Translation, produced in partnership with the Center for the Art of Translation in San Francisco. Andrew Way Leong, Bruna Dantas Lobato, Robin Myers, and Magdalena Edwards, four eminent translators, discuss the hard-fought, increasing visibility of their art and offer insight into their methods and projects. Are you a literary translator who has not yet publishing a book-length work? Know an emerging translator? Consider applying to the new LARB + Yefe Nof Emerging Translation Residency in Lake Arrowhead this winter. Applications are due September 14. Learn more and apply today at
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Elizabeth Kolbert's "Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future"

An encore presentation from early 2021 that speaks to our current summer of floods, droughts, blazing temperatures and extreme weather across the northern hemisphere: Hosts Kate and Medaya are joined by New Yorker staff writer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert, whose new book is called Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, in which Kolbert explores the many ways humans intervene in nature. Kolbert discusses invasive species, the sinking of New Orleans, the triage plan for climate change and how solar geoengineering might bleach our skies. Also, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, author of The Undocumented Americans, returns to recommend Children of the Land by Marcello Hernandez Castillo.
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K-Ming Chang's "Gods of Want"

On this special LARB Book Club episode of the Radio Hour, Boris Dralyuk and Lindsay Wright are joined by K-Ming Chang to discuss her collection of stories, Gods of Want. Chang made her debut with the 2018 poetry chapbook Past Lives, Future Bodies, which she followed up in 2020 with the novel Bestiary. A New York Times Book Review Editors? Choice long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award, Bestiary is a strikingly imaginative, fable-like tale of three generations of women who immigrate to the United States from Taiwan. Some of Bestiary?s motifs ? hauntings, queer desire, violence, and unexpected transformations ? recur in Chang?s 2021 chapbook Bone House, a phantasmagoric spin on Wuthering Heights, and also in Gods of Want. Shifting between genres, modes, and degrees of gravity, the collection displays the young Taiwanese American author?s striking inventiveness, both at the level of imagery and of language, as well as her cutting humor.
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Alexandra Lange's "Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall"

Architectural critic Alexandra Lange joins Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to discuss her latest book, Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall. As its title suggests, the study explores the beginnings and development of the American shopping mall, rewarding our nostalgic gaze with a fascinating look at the mall as architectural challenge and sociological phenomenon. As a response to the changing relationships to consumerism and urban space in the United States in the post-World War II period, the shopping mall soared in popularity in large part because it offered at once a space for consumerist escape and nearly complete environmental and social control. It shaped its own social culture, shot through with all of the prejudices of the world outside but with the promise of experiential transformation. In Meet Me by the Fountain, the shopping mall emerges as a uniquely postmodern public space grounded in the perennial human longing for social connection, and the nostalgia we feel for that space in the present demonstrates its ongoing appeal, even in the present, when it is considered to be, if not dead, all but certainly dying. Also, Elvia Wilk, author of the essay collection Death by Landscape, returns to recommend both Austrian author Marlen Haushofer?s 1963 novel The Wall, available in Shaun Whiteside?s English translation, and Ned Beauman?s new novel Venomous Lumpsucker.
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Elvia Wilk's "Death By Landscape"

Elvia Wilk joins Kate Wolf to discuss her latest book, Death by Landscape, a collection of essays, including one originally published by the Los Angeles Review of Books. The pieces in Death by Landscape invite us to look closer at the narratives that persist in this time of environmental collapse and cataclysm. Reading a range of fiction and theory ? including the work of writers such as Mark Fisher, Margaret Atwood, Amitav Ghosh, Jeff VanderMeer, Octavia Butler, and Karen Russell ? Wilk explores the stories and genres that might allow us to decenter our human perspective of Earth and reimagine old divisions, such as those between people and plants, dystopia and utopia, role play and reality, and existence before and after apocalypse.
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Raquel Gutiérrez's "Brown Neon"

The writer and critic Raquel Gutiérrez joins Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to speak about their debut collection of essays, Brown Neon. The book follows Gutiérrez?s peregrinations across time and place, particularly the West and Southwest, from their upbringing and youth in 1990s Los Angeles as a member of post punk bands and inside of a queer community of color, to their years as an arts administrator in Northern California, as well as their more recent experiences in the borderlands of Arizona and Texas. With an approach that is both intimate ? many of the artists they write about are close friends ? and expansive, the book takes on issues of identity, gender, class, ownership, and legacies of violence, with nuance, historical perspective, and rapt attention to place. Also, Joseph Osmundson, author of Virology, returns to recommend C. Russell Price's poetry collection oh, you thought this was a date?!
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Joseph Osmundson's "Virology"

Joseph Osmundson joins Eric Newman to discuss VIROLOGY, his new collection of essays published in June by Norton. Joe is a professor of microbiology at NYU, critic, essayist, and co-host of the Food4Thot podcast. Part memoir, part COVID diary, part essayistic journey into questions of risk, identity, and modern culture, Virology loosely explores what queer thought and experience can help us see and understand about viruses, and what a close look at viruses can help us understand about ourselves and our relation to others and the world. Two major pandemics saturate the book?the legacy of the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, and the COVID19 pandemic of the past several years. In looking at how queerness, risk, and social bonds intersect with moments of peak medical crisis, Joe searches out how we have been challenged and changed by pandemics and what new worlds we can build out of that experience. Also, Ruth Wilson Gilmore returns to recommend six books, which, taken together, renew her faith in "human internationalism from below." The titles and authors are: Sinews of War and Trade by Laleh Khalili, Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko, Those Bones are Not My Child by Toni Cade Bambara, Return of a Native by Vron Ware, The Common Wind by Julius S. Scott, and the collection As If She Were Free edited by Erica L Ball, Tatiana Seijas, and Terri L Snyder.
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Claire Denis's "Both Sides of the Blade"

Kate Wolf speaks with the renowned French filmmaker Claire Denis about her latest feature, Both Sides of the Blade, out in theaters now. It stars Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon as Sara and Jean, a couple who have been together for almost a decade. Sara works in broadcasting, and Jean is a former rugby player looking for a job, but finding it difficult after serving a prison sentence some time ago. Sara used to be with a different man, François, Jean?s old co-worker. When François remerges in their lives, Sara is overcome by yearning, returned to a love that never really went away. Jean is more circumspect but begins to work with François again, and the drama unfurls from there. The film probes the power of female desire and the possibilities of escaping one?s past, while subtly examining bureaucracy as well as racial and class tensions in France. Also, Nell Zink, author of Avalon, returns to recommend Croatian novelist Robert Peri?i??s No-Signal Area, translated by Ellen Elias-Bursac.
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Ruth Wilson Gilmore's "Abolition Geography: Essays Toward Liberation"

Ruth Wilson Gilmore joins Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to talk about her new collection, Abolition Geography: Essays Toward Liberation, which covers three decades of her thinking about abolition, activism, scholarship, the carceral system, the political economy of racism, and much more. For Gilmore, these are not siloed issues; rather, they are braided effects of an unjust political, economic, and cultural system that must be dismantled in order for liberation to take place. Gilmore reminds us that we must look for connections beyond the academy, where theory meets praxis, where the vulnerable are not an abstraction but a concrete human reality. Her thought and work are a much needed shot in the arm for a political and intellectual culture that has, in the view of many, atrophied or been co-opted by the extractive loops of late capitalism. Also, Natalia Molina, author of A Place at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished a Community, returns to recommend two books on Latinx Los Angeles, George Sanchez?s Boyle Heights: How a Los Angeles Neighborhood Became the Future of American Democracy, and Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo and Manuel Pastor?s South Central Dreams: Finding Home and Building Community in South LA.
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Natalia Molina's "A Place at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished A Community"

Kate Wolf and Eric Newman are joined by historian Natalia Molina to discuss her most recent book, A Place at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished a Community. The book follows Molina?s maternal grandmother, Doña Natalia Barraza, who immigrated to Los Angeles from Mexico in the 1920s and went on to open a series of restaurants. The most successful and longest lasting was the Nayarit, which opened on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park in 1951. The Nayarit served the ethnically diverse and historically progressive and queer neighborhood for over two decades. As Molina, a MacArthur Fellow, shows, it was a refuge for members of the city?s Latinx community, many of whom were recent arrivals in the United States. At the Nayarit they ?could come together for labor, leisure, and access to a ready-made social network,? and this act alone would shape the face of Los Angeles for years to come. Also, Ottessa Moshfegh, author of Lapvona, returns to recommend Dr. Mike Bechtle's The People Pleaser?s Guide to Loving Others without Losing Yourself.
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Ottessa Moshfegh's "Lapvona"

Author Ottessa Moshfegh returns to speak to Kate Wolf about her latest novel, Lapvona. The book is set in the eponymous medieval village, a place beset by violence and extreme cruelty. Its ruler is the loutish Villiam, who engineers massacres of Lapvona?s inhabitants whenever dissent grows, and also steals their water during a deadly drought. Villiam?s distant relative, Jude, is 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 his devotion to God and the soothing of the village wet nurse, Ina, but his piety doesn?t keep him from committing brutal acts of his own. 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 ? a turn of events as germane today as it was a thousand years ago. Also, Elif Batuman, author of Either/Or, returns to recommend Nino Haratischvili?s The Eighth Life, translated from the German by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin.
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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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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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.
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Celia Paul's "Letters to Gwen John"

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by acclaimed artist and writer Celia Paul to speak about her latest book Letters to Gwen John, an epistolary memoir addressed to the Welsh painter Gwen John, who lived and worked in Paris in the late 19th and early 20th century. Paul explores the connections between herself and John, who was a passionate defender of her own artistic practice, as well the lover of a much older, much more established man, the sculptor and painter Auguste Rodin. In her letters to John, Paul considers what it means to be a woman and an artist, as well as a mother and a romantic partner. Also, Douglas Stuart, author of Young Mungo, returns to recommend Maria McCann's As Meat Loves Salt.
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Douglas Stuart's "Young Mungo"

Author Douglas Stuart joins Eric Newman to talk about his new novel Young Mungo. Stuart's previous work, Shuggie Bain, won the 2020 Booker Prize and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Young Mungo is a coming of age novel about a young Protestant boy, growing up in working class Glasgow, who finds friendship and love with a Catholic boy who lives nearby. Together, they form a bond that promises to heal the wounds inflicted by family, class, and culture, hoping to build a world all their own before it all comes crashing down. Also, Margo Jefferson, author of "Constructing a Nervous System," returns to recommend "The Deja Vu: Black Dreams and Black Time" by performance artist Gabrielle Civil.
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Margo Jefferson's "Constructing a Nervous System"

Writer and critic Margo Jefferson joins Kate Wolf to speak about her latest book, Constructing A Nervous System: A Memoir. A formally inventive and exacting assemblage of personal history and deliberation that delves into Jefferson?s familial legacy, her battles with depression, and the oppressive construct of the model minority, the book is also a cultural reflection. It touches on such subjects as Ella Fitzgerald, Bud Powell, Ike Turner, and Willa Cather, especially as they manifest in the author?s conception of herself. With a kaleidoscopic sense of voice, Jefferson enacts here the constant toggle of the self, from the harshness of the superego to the curiosity, pain and enthusiasm of the child and most of all, the ingenuity of the writer. Also, Claire-Louise Bennett, author of Checkout 19, to recommend Letters to Gwen John by Celia Paul.
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Andrey Kurkov's "Grey Bees"

On this special LARB Book Club edition of the Radio Hour, Boris Dralyuk and Lindsay Wright are joined by Andrey Kurkov, one of Ukraine's leading literary figures. Kurkov was raised in Kyiv and, until very recently, was based in the city. Kyiv is not only the setting of some of his most beloved novels, like Death and the Penguin, but also the position from which he has chronicled his nation's journey towards democracy in works like the Ukraine Diaries, his firsthand account of the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution of Dignity and the subsequent Russian annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas. His latest novel available in English, Grey Bees, focuses on those devastated eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, two or three years into what is now an eight-year war. Russia's brutal escalation of that war has uprooted Kurkov and his family, along with millions of Ukrainians, making Grey Bees more painfully relevant and its insights more important. Dralyuk happens to be the novel?s translator into English, so this special edition of the Book Club is all the more special for him.
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Patti Smith's "The Melting"

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher speak with musician, author, artist and all-around legend Patti Smith about her latest work, The Melting, an extended piece of prose she began releasing last spring in serial form via the Internet platform Substack. The Melting, started in the early days of the pandemic, finds Smith alone in her apartment, her world tour having just been canceled. As she yearns for the freedom of travel while stuck at home, her living space begins to yield to other spaces: dreams, literature, memory, reflection, and fictions. The melting of the title refers not just to global warming, but to time itself. Also, NoViolet Bulawayo, author of Glory, returns to recommend Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah?s The Sex Lives of African Women.
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NoViolet Bulawayo's "Glory"

NoViolet Bulawayo joins Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about her latest novel, Glory, which explores the waning days and political ouster of Robert Mugabe, the authoritarian leader who controlled NoViolet?s home country of Zimbabwe for nearly four decades before he was overthrown in a coup spearheaded by his Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Allegorized as animals ? in the style of George Orwell?s Animal Farm ? the major players in Mugabe?s ouster and a chorus of citizens tell the story of utopian promise that becomes totalitarian terror, of ruthless political subterfuge and everyday survival, of a country torn between the righting of old wrongs and the almost cyclical production of new ones. At once an allegory of Zimbabwe?s history and a deeply poignant reading of the fractious moment we are all living through, Glory looks at how leaders command and forfeit power, as well as at the lives of ordinary people caught in the roiling waters of politics. Also, Danielle Lindemann, author of True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us, returns to recommend Lorrie Moore?s short story collection Self-Help.
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John Markoff's "Whole Earth" and Ulysses Jenkins's "Without Your Interpretation"

This week it?s a LARB Radio doubleheader. In the first half of the show, Kate Wolf talks with John Markoff about his latest book, Whole Earth: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand. Brand is probably best known as the creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, a countercultural magazine he published regularly between 1968 and 1972, and then infrequently up until 1998. With influences ranging from the Beat poets whom Brand met as a youth in San Francisco to his experimentation with LSD, the wisdom of indigenous cultures, and the philosophy of Buckminster Fuller, Whole Earth Catalog featured articles on sustainable living, ecology, and emerging technologies. As Markoff shows in his book, Brand ? who?s worked as a photographer, writer, political advisor, and environmental activist, among other things ? is not an easy person to pin down. His sympathies have ranged from libertarianism to eco-pragmatism, which stresses ?useful technologies,? including nuclear power. Brand is now 83 and Markoff?s book is based on many years of interviews with him. In the second half of the show, Kate is joined by artist Ulysses Jenkins on the occasion of his first, long overdue retrospective, Without Your Interpretation, which runs until May 15th at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Jenkins?s career spans five decades and he?s known especially for his pioneering video and performance art pieces, which often explore questions of race, multiculturalism, ritual, representation, and technology. Born in Los Angeles in 1946, Jenkins has been integral to the artistic evolution of the city, collaborating and forming collectives with many other important artists, including Senga Nengudi, Maren Hassinger, David Hammons, Nancy Buchanan, Harry Gamboa Jr., May Sun, and Kitt Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz.
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Danielle Lindemann's "True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us"

Danielle Lindemann joins Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about her latest book, True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us. Drawing on the ideas of major thinkers in modern sociology, including Emile Durkheim, Michel Foucault, and others, the book explores how reality TV both reflects and reproduces real-world social tensions, inequities, and slippages around class, race, gender, sexuality, and other categories of being. Rather than merely trash TV ? or perhaps in addition to being trash TV ? Lindemann argues that our favorite shows are lenses through which we can better understand our world, our social lives, and the powerful forces that shape them and us. Also, Jonathan Alexander drops by to recommend Mia McKenzie?s Skye Falling.
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Adam Phillips's "On Wanting to Change" and "On Getting Better"

Adam Phillips joins Kate Wolf to discuss his two latest books, both published this year, On Wanting to Change and On Getting Better. The series looks at the very human impulse toward transformation, from religious and political conversion, and the conversion to family life from which one must ultimately emerge, to the aims and practices of psychoanalysis, along with more quotidian ideas of self-betterment. As always in his work, Phillips attends in these books to the aspects of ourselves that can be hardest to bear, and that can lead us to desire more rigid structures ? intellectual or otherwise ? or desire to be someone else, while also quietly petitioning for a more complex and thoughtful mode of change in which, as Socrates encouraged his pupils, we learn only to be ourselves. How might we get better, Phillips wonders, at talking about what it is to get better? Also, Pankaj Mishra, author of Run and Hide, returns to recommend Josep Pla?s The Grey Notebook.
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Pankaj Mishra's "Run and Hide"

Pankaj Mishra joins Medaya Ocher and Eric Newman to talk about his new novel, Run and Hide, which takes up many of the themes explored in his political nonfiction. The book explores the lives of the literary translator Arun ? our narrator ? two of his friends from college, and Alia, a woman with whom he has an impactful romance, as they all grapple with the moral and emotional scars of economic globalization. Their story, as Run and Hide frequently points out, is also the story of modern India, a country in which rapid changes to centuries-old inequities bear both great boons and great costs. Also, Claire-Louise Bennett, author of Checkout 19, returns to recommend Celia Paul's Letters to Gwen John.
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Claire-Louise Bennett's "Checkout 19"

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by Claire-Louise Bennett, whose new novel is Checkout 19. It follows an unnamed young woman born into a working-class family, who is slowly discovering her own sense of self through the many books she reads and the stories she writes. Her relationship to her own experiences is partly filtered through the words of other writers, as she eventually attends college, finds work as a checkout clerk, in a grocery store, and dates a few inadequate, jealous men with literary ambitions of their own. The book seamlessly moves between literary analysis, fantastical storytelling, and life itself, eventually confronting the realities of sex, violence, and death. Also, Isaac Butler, author of The Method, returns to recommend Amanda Vaill?s Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins.
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Isaac Butler's "The Method"

Writer Isaac Butler joins co-hosts Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to speak about his new book, The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act which was published this month by Bloomsbury. The Method traces the dissemination of a style and way of thinking about acting that?s so prevalent, it?s hard to imagine the performing arts without it today. Originally envisioned by the great actor and textile heir Konstantin Stanislavski, in Moscow, in the late 1800s, the Method, originally known as the System, stressed the importance of emotional realism, research, a character?s motivation, and the actor's organic experience. Stanislavski believed actors were meant to be truth tellers and to this end, he developed empathic and imaginative exercises to enhance the authenticity of their performances such as ?affective memory? and the ?Magic If.? When the Moscow Arts Theater, which Stanislavski co-created, toured its productions in Europe and the US in the early 1920s, it inspired a whole new generation of actors and teachers, including Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler, who would go on to teach the Method to much the acclaim and controversy in the United States. Also, Lewis R. Gordon, author of Fear of Black Consciousness, returns to recommend three books: Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde; Living While Black: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Racial Trauma by Guilaine Kinouani; and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.
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Lewis R. Gordon?s ?Fear of Black Consciousness?

Lewis R. Gordon, head of the philosophy department at the University of Connecticut, joins Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher to talk about his latest book, Fear of Black Consciousness. The book explores contemporary racism and the long historical movement from black consciousness with a lower-case ?b? to capital ?B? Black consciousness, an active and more liberatory mentality that sees through the lies of white supremacy and works to build a better and more democratic society. Gordon examines these weighty topics through sustained readings of popular film and culture, including Jordan Peele?s Get Out and Ryan Coogler?s Black Panther. Also, Sheila Heti, author of Pure Colour, returns to recommend Elif Batuman?s Either/Or.
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Sheila Heti's "Pure Colour"

Sheila Heti joins Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to speak about her latest novel, Pure Colour. A mythical and tender telling of the life of a woman named Mira, Pure Colour imagines our present day as taking place in the first stages of God?s creation. The world as we know it is but God?s first draft, and the complaints of human beings about its difficulties are being logged by him as input for his second. In this first draft world, people come in three categories: birds, fish, and bears. Mira is a bird ? she relates to the world aesthetically and studies writing and criticism ? while the woman that beguiles her, Annie, is a fish ? a pragmatist who believes in justice for all of humanity. Mira?s father, meanwhile, is a bear, devoted most to the people he loves. When he dies early in the novel, questions of how to reconcile these different positions, how and at what distance to love someone, and how much to let go of that love, take the fore, as do other deeply philosophical inquiries about time, the future, art, and the universe as we know it. Also, Francesco Pacifico, author of The Women I Love, drops by to give a glowing recommendation for Gertrude Stein?s classic The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.
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Francesco Pacifico "The Women I Love"

Italian author Francesco Pacifico talks with hosts Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher about his latest novel, The Women I Love, which follows an editor and poet named Marcello who is trying to write a novel about the women in his life. The relationships he explores are sexual and romantic - there?s a young editor Elenora, with whom he is having an affair; Barbara, his girlfriend and later his wife - as well platonic and familiar, he writes about his sister Irene as well as his mother. The book is about love and sex, as well as gender, power, and literature. How well can we know each other, even our most intimate partners? Also Neel Patel, author of Tell Me How To Be, returns to recommend Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala.
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Neel Patel's "Tell Me How To Be":

Eric and Medaya are joined by Neel Patel, an author and TV writer based in Los Angeles, to talk about his debut novel, Tell Me How To Be. The novel opens as Akash, a gay songwriter in his twenties living in LA, returns to his hometown in Illinois in the wake of his father?s death to help his mother, Renu, and brother, Bijal, sell his family home before his mother returns to London. Akash is the black sheep of the family, still deeply closeted and reeling from a failed relationship of his own. But he?s not the only one keeping secrets. Renu is holding fast to a long-simmering love that she?s told nobody about; and things are not as good as they seem for golden son Bijal. Alternating narration between Akash?s and Renu?s perspectives, Tell Me How To Be is an intimate story about race, sexuality, and the secrets that keep a family together, but also tear it apart. Also, Tochi Onyebuchi, author of Goliath, returns to give a glowing recommendation for This is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar.
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Tochi Onyebuchi's "Goliath"

Eric and Kate are joined by Tochi Onyebuchi to discuss his debut adult science fiction novel Goliath. Told through a series of vignettes, Goliath meditates on a world destroyed by environmental and viral catastrophe, in which the privileged largely white population has decamped for a space colony. The group left on earth, predominantly people of color, try to eke out an existence amid the ruins. Delving into such topics as colonization, gentrification, and the racial conflict that courses through American history and which, in the novel, firmly shapes its future and the future of the world in the 2050s, Goliath is a haunting and incisive look at a world that could very much be our own. Also, Gary Shteyngart, author of Our Country Friends, returns to recommend his favorite book of 2021, Luster by Raven Leilani.
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Gary Shteyngart's "Our Country Friends"

Boris Dralyuk, LARB?s Editor-in-Chief, joins Medaya Ocher for a very special ex-Soviet edition of the LARB Book Club and Radio Hour. The guest of honor is the doyen of Russian-American letters, Gary Shteyngart. The author of the novels The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Absurdistan, Super Sad True Love Story, and Lake Success, as well as of the memoir Little Failure, Shteyngart?s sharp sense of humor, memorable characters, and up-to-the-minute responsiveness to developments in the culture have won him comparisons to Philip Roth and Saul Bellow, as well as a number of prizes and a wide, dedicated readership. His latest novel, Our Country Friends, is a poignant, affectionate tale of pandemic life set at a ?House on the Hill? in the Hudson Valley. More than one critic has called it Chekhovian, and Chekhov does make a well-timed appearance, but this eventful novel is no pastiche. During the talk, Shetyngart touches on the lessons of Soviet and Russian life, the pernicious effects of social media, the importance of community, and the ways in which fiction can and should address the unfolding crises of modern life. Also, James Hannaham, author of Pilot Impostor, returns to recommend Megan Mylan?s 2021 documentary about Syrian refugees, Simple as Water.
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Arundhati Roy on Freedom, Fascism and Fiction

Author, activist, and novelist Arundhati Roy joins us from Delhi to discuss her new collection of essays, Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction. Roy is well known for her impassioned political writing, as well as her two novels, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, and The God of Small Things, which won the Man Booker in 1997. She talks with us about the rise of Indian nationalism, Modi?s descent into fascism, the oppression of Muslims in India, and the role of fiction and literature in the world today. Also, Yaa Gyasi, author of Transcendent Kingdom, returns to recommend Saidiya Hartman's groundbreaking Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals.
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The Best of 2021 Show

It?s that time of year again ? the end. In our annual ?best of? show, Kate, Daya, and Eric select their favorite books, movies, TV shows, podcasts, scandals, and other items from the past 12 months. Sit back, enjoy, and have a very Happy New Year!
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Anna Della Subin?s ?Accidental Gods?

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher talk with Anna Della Subin about her new book, Accidental Gods: On Men Unwittingly Turned Divine. Accidental Gods traces the rarely told history of the deification of living men in modern times, revealing the phenomenon?s connection to imperial conquest, revolution, and civil war. Taking as a starting point Columbus? exploitation of his reception by native peoples as a deity come from the heavens, the book offers in-depth studies of figures such as the Ethiopian King Haile Selassie, who is regarded as God by Rastafarians in Jamaica, England?s Prince Philip, who became the center of a religion on an island in the South Pacific, and Jiddu Krishnamurti, who was seen as divine by early Theosophists. What does it mean to make a man a God? Why is it always a man? And what does that say about notions of masculinity, the place of religion in society, and the relations between political power and divinity? Also, Sam Quinones, author of The Least of Us, returns to recommend Calvin Trillin?s Killings.
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Sam Quinones?s ?The Least of Us?

Award-winning author and investigative journalist Sam Quinones joins Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to discuss his latest book, The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth. The book charts the sweeping, shocking rise of synthetic drugs in the United States, and their production here, by corporations such as Purdue Pharma, as well as in labs in Mexico and China. The proliferation of so-called ?designer drugs? has led to yet another wave of the opiate crisis, with more overdose deaths between the spring of 2020 and 2021 than ever before recorded. The Least of Us tells the personal stories behind many of these casualties, the larger political and socioeconomic shifts that have exacerbated the problem, the fascinating and disturbing history of the emergence of fentanyl and methamphetamine, and what some communities are doing to fight against the drugs? devastation. Also, Anna Della Subin, author of Accidental Gods: On Men Unwittingly Turned Divine, drops by to recommend Jason Josephson Storm?s The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences.
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Online Together: A Roundtable Discussion with Christoph Bieber, Safiya Noble, and Anna Wiener

Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf moderate a panel on the use, abuse, and omnipresence of digital technology in our lives ? with writers and scholars Christoph Bieber (University of Duisburg-Essen), Safiya Noble (Algorithms of Oppression), and Anna Wiener (The New Yorker, Uncanny Valley). A global pandemic, a national election, entire regions devastated by one natural disaster after another: new technologies have made it possible for us to track, grasp, and witness these large-scale phenomena in real time and in the palms of our hands. Tech platforms like Facebook and Twitter have encouraged a sense of community and mobilized action, even as they have facilitated the spread of misinformation and the formation of fissures in public life. How do we, as individuals and as communities, navigate technologies of information and misinformation? How much power do tech companies have in shaping public conversation, and how much power should they have? This event was called Online Together and it was a part of LARB?s Semipublic Intellectual Sessions, a tenth anniversary celebration and fundraiser. Donate to LARB between now and Dec. 31 and your support of vibrant and vital conversations will be matched by an anonymous donor!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Todd Haynes: The Velvet Underground

Kate, Daya, and Eric speak with director Todd Haynes about his latest movie, and first documentary, The Velvet Underground, which shows just how the legendary rock group became a cultural touchstone representing a range of contradictions. The band is both of their time, yet timeless; rooted in high art and underground culture. The film features in-depth interviews with key artistic players of the 1960s combined with a treasure trove of never- before-seen performances and a rich collection of recordings, Warhol films, and other experimental art. The result is an immersive experience into what founding member John Cale describes as the band's creative ethos: ?how to be elegant and how to be brutal." Also, Kelefa Sanneh, author of Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres, returns to recommend I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres.
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