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The New Yorker Radio Hour

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David Remnick is joined by The New Yorker’s award-winning writers, editors and artists to present a weekly mix of profiles, storytelling, and insightful conversations about the issues that matter — plus an occasional blast of comic genius from the magazine’s legendary Shouts and Murmurs page. The New Yorker has set a standard in journalism for generations and The New Yorker Radio Hour gives it a voice on public radio for the first time. Produced by The New Yorker and WNYC Studios.
WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, On the Media, Snap Judgment, Death, Sex & Money, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, Nancy and many more.
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361 Episodes
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The complexity of world events can’t be modelled by a flow chart or even the most sophisticated algorithms. Instead, military officers, diplomats, and policy analysts sometimes turn to an old but sophisticated set of tools: war games. Simon Parkin observed officials playing one in order to predict and contain a potential geopolitical conflict. And Michael Schulman speaks with Pam Grier, the pioneering star of blaxploitation films like “Coffy” and “Foxy Brown,” about her singular career in Hollywood. 
Donald Trump began his Presidential bid, in 2015, with an infamous speech, at Trump Tower, in which he said of Mexican immigrants, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” But it was not until a former aide to Jeff Sessions joined Trump’s campaign that the nativist rhetoric coalesced into a policy platform—including the separation of children from their families at the border. Jonathan Blitzer, who writes about immigration for The New Yorker, has been reporting on Stephen Miller’s sway in the Trump Administration and his remarkable success in advancing an extremist agenda. “There has never been an American President who built his campaign around the issue of immigration and later won on that campaign on immigration. Trump was the first and only President really ever to do it,” Blitzer tells David Remnick. Despite this influence, Miller remains largely behind the scenes. Blitzer explains why: “He knows that the kiss of death in this Administration is to be identified as the brains behind the man. He can’t let on that he’s the one who effectively is manipulating Trump on these issues.” 
In the near future, the Internet is sentient and her name is Aunt Nettie. Gish Jen’s novel “The Resisters” imagines a dystopian world with two classes: the “netted” (people who work) and the “surplus” (people who merely consume). The book follows Gwen, a terrific baseball pitcher from a surplus family that’s politically active. When her pitching attracts the attention of Aunt Nettie, she must choose between realizing her talents or staying with her family and being a resister. Baseball, for Jen, epitomizes the magic of chance and natural talent. “I wanted to write about our times,” she tells Katy Waldman. “But, to write in a realistic mode about our times and everything that’s happening, we would have nothing but shock and anger.”    “The Resisters” was published on February 4th.
Bernie Sanders’s win in New Hampshire has established him as the Democratic Presidential front-runner. Centrist Democrats regard him not as a challenge but more like an existential threat: they assume that only a moderate—and certainly not a democratic socialist—can sway critical swing voters and win in November. Are they right? David Remnick speaks with Keith Ellison, the Minnesota Attorney General who served as co-chair of the Democratic National Committee after that organization infamously tried to spike Sanders’s candidacy in 2016. Ellison says that the clarity of Sanders’s mission and his appeal to economic problems can win over struggling voters in both parties. Then Nathaniel Rakich, a pollster for FiveThirtyEight, presents what the data indicates about Sanders’s chances. Plus, a civics project goes off the rails when high-school students run a simulation of the 2020 primaries. 
Louis C.K. is touring comedy clubs for the first time since accusations of sexual misconduct seemed to end his career, in 2017. Several women charged that C.K. had exposed himself and masturbated in front of them. (Louis says that he believed he had their consent.) The New Yorker staff writer Hilton Als saw C.K.’s show at Yuk Yuk’s comedy club, in Niagara Falls, hoping to see him address the issues through his comedy. “I really wanted him to describe himself,” Als tells David Remnick. “To be Louis that I loved, the person who would have described what those situations were like . . . what his compulsion was, where did it start? Why was it important for him to masturbate and not be alone? Was it a performance? Did he want [the women] to like him?” Instead, with an audience of bros in a small club, Louis dismissed what he called “the thing” as quickly as possible. Plus, a small group of one-per-centers argues that the wealth gap has grown too large, and that it will hurt economic growth. The solution? They want to raise their own taxes.
The Black Vote in 2020

The Black Vote in 2020

2020-02-0700:27:064

The last time a Democrat won the White House, he had enormous support from black voters; lower support from black voters was one of many reasons Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. Marcus Ferrell, a political organizer from Atlanta, tells Radio Hour about the importance of turning out “unlikely voters” in order to win an election, which, for him, means black men. Jelani Cobb, a New Yorker staff writer and historian, points out that the four Democratic front-runners, all of whom are white, may struggle to get the turnout they need. Cobb tells David Remnick that Joe Biden’s strong lead may begin to fall after his weak showing among largely white voters in Iowa; Pete Buttigieg has very low support among South Carolina voters, and even faces opposition from black constituents in his home town, South Bend. But Bernie Sanders, Cobb says, seems to have made inroads with at least younger black voters since 2016. Plus, a New Yorker staffer picks three favorites.
N. K. Jemisin is one of the most celebrated authors in science fiction’s history; the novels of her “Broken Earth” trilogy won the Hugo Award for three consecutive years, a unique achievement. Yet her work has also engendered an ugly backlash from a faction of readers who feel that the recognition of women and authors of color within the industry has been undeserving. Racism in science fiction and fantasy goes back to the origins of the genre, Jemisin explains to Raffi Khatchadourian. Her new novel, “The City We Became,” explicitly addresses the legacy of H. P. Lovecraft, an early and influential writer who helped to invent the genre. Lovecraft was also a virulent, impassioned racist, even by the standards of the early twentieth century. It’s not possible, Jemisin says, to separate Lovecraft’s ideology from his greatness as a fantasy writer: his view of non-white peoples as monstrous informed the way he wrote about monsters. Rather than try to ignore or cancel Lovecraft, Jemisin says, she felt compelled to engage with him.
The Washington correspondent Susan Glasser has been covering the scene in the Capitol as Republicans rush to contain the damage of the John Bolton manuscript leak. Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, told Glasser that “if a Republican makes the argument that removing the President this close to an election isn’t the right response, [that] we should trust the American electorate to make the decision, then you have to support [calling for] more witness and more documents” in order for the electorate to make an informed decision. Glasser also spoke with Zoe Lofgren who is one of the House impeachment managers prosecuting the case against the President. Lofgren is an expert on the subject: she was on the House Judiciary Committee in 1998 during the Clinton impeachment, and, in 1974, as a law student, she helped to draft charges against Richard Nixon. Nixon, she points out, was far more forthcoming than Trump with Congress, directing his staff to appear for questions without a subpoena. If the Senate votes to acquit, endorsing a campaign of stonewalling by the executive branch, Lofgren says, “It will forever change the relationship between the branches of government.” Plus, the historian and staff writer Jill Lepore talks with David Remnick about how Americans rallied to save democracy in the nineteen-thirties, and how we might apply those lessons to a time when our own democracy has weakened. 
It’s time for the most anticipated of all awards shows: the Brodys, in which The New Yorker’s Richard Brody shares the best films of the year, according to Richard Brody. And the political commentator Ezra Klein explains why he thinks politics have gotten as polarized as they are: we care too much about party identity and not enough about policy.
Mass incarceration is now widely regarded as a prejudiced and deeply harmful set of policies. Bipartisan support exists for some degree of criminal-justice reform, and, in some circles, the idea of prison abolition is also gaining traction. Kai Wright, the host of the WNYC podcast “The United States of Anxiety,” spoke about the movement with Paul Butler, a law professor and former federal prosecutor who saw firsthand the damage that prosecution causes; and sujatha baliga, a MacArthur Foundation fellow who leads the Restorative Justice Project at the nonprofit Impact Justice and a survivor of sexual violence. “Prison abolition doesn’t mean that everybody who’s locked up gets to come home tomorrow,” Butler explains. Instead, activists envision a gradual process of “decarceration,” and the creation of alternative forms of justice and harm reduction. “Abolition, to my mind, isn’t just about ending the prisons,” baliga adds. “It’s about ending binary processes which pit us as ‘us, them,’ ‘right, wrong’; somebody has to be lying, somebody’s telling the truth. That is not the way that we get to healing.”
The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world; although the country makes up about five per cent of the global population, it holds nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners. David Remnick is joined by WNYC’s Kai Wright, the host of the podcast “The United States of Anxiety,” to talk about mass incarceration and the beginning of a movement against it. Remnick also talks with Michelle Alexander, whose book “The New Jim Crow,” from 2010, which was a best-seller for nearly five years, identified how mass-incarceration policies have been a disaster for communities of color. The poet and public defender Reginald Dwayne Betts, who was formerly incarcerated, reads from his book “Felon.” And we follow a man who returns home from prison to find a changed world.    Taber Gable contributed original music for this episode.   
Next week’s debate, in Des Moines, was likely going to focus on health care and other domestic issues, but the agenda will probably be dominated by the Trump Administration’s killing of Iran’s General Qassem Suleimani and America’s history of war in the Middle East. The New Yorker’s Eric Lach, who is in Iowa, describes how the candidates are honing their positions. Plus, the contributor Anna Wiener reflects on the changing face of Silicon Valley; and the Moscow correspondent Joshua Yaffa describes how to succeed in Putin’s Russia.
David Remnick has appeared as the guest of Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” a number of times over the years, talking about Russia, Muhammad Ali, and other subjects. Hosting “Fresh Air” for nearly forty-five years, Gross is a defining voice of NPR, and is perhaps the most celebrated interviewer of our time. In October, 2019, the tables turned, and Gross joined Remnick as his guest for a live interview at The New Yorker Festival. They spoke about how she first found her way to the microphone, the role of feminism in establishing NPR, the limits of her expertise, and what she has had to give up to prepare for serious conversations day after day.
Qassem Suleimani was Iran’s most powerful military and intelligence leader, and his killing, in a U.S. air strike in Baghdad on Thursday night, will likely be taken as an act of war by Tehran. Dexter Filkins, who wrote the definitive profile of Suleimani, in 2013, spoke with David Remnick about the commander’s central role within the Iranian regime. Reprisals against the U.S., he says, might be carried out anywhere in the world, either by Iran’s Quds Force or by affiliates such as Hezbollah. The Trump Administration experiences tension between a desire for regime change and the President’s desire to avoid foreign wars; Filkins notes that embattled Presidents, like Bill Clinton during his impeachment, often have itchy trigger fingers.
In December of 2015, a video appeared on the Internet that stunned surfers worldwide. Titled “Kelly’s Wave,” it showed Kelly Slater—arguably the best pro surfer in history—unveiling a secret project he had been working on for more than a decade. With the help of engineers and designers, Slater had perfected the first artificial wave, created by machine in a pool, that could rival the best waves found in the ocean. “One could spend years and years surfing in the ocean,” the staff writer William Finnegan, himself a lifelong surfer, notes, “and never get a wave as good as what some people are getting here today. Ever.”    Finnegan went to visit the Kelly Slater Wave Company’s Surf Ranch—a facility in California’s Central Valley, far from the Coast—to observe a competition and test the wave for himself. (He wrote about the experience in The New Yorker.) Up until now, surfing was defined by its lack of predictability: chasing waves around the world and dealing with disappointment when they do not appear has been integral to the life of a surfer. But, with a mechanically produced, infinitely repeatable, world-class wave, surfing can become like any other sport. The professional World Surf League, which has bought a controlling interest in Slater’s company, sees a bright future.   But Finnegan wonders what it means to take surfing out of nature. Will kids master riding artificial waves without even learning to swim in the ocean? Finnegan spoke with Kelly Slater, Stephanie Gilmore (the Australian seven-time world champion), and Matt Warshaw (the closest thing surfing has to an official historian). Warshaw, like Finnegan, is skeptical about the advent of mechanical waves. Yet he admits that, when he had the chance to ride it, he didn’t ever want to stop. “It reminded me of 1986,” Warshaw recalls. “The drugs have run out, you already hate yourself—how do we get more?”   This story originally aired December 14, 2018.
Patricia Marx is a staff writer at The New Yorker, and has contributed pieces for thirty years. Still, it might not be too late to try out a new career. “There are some jobs and endeavors that look impossibly hard,” she notes. “But conducting [an orchestra]—I just thought, How hard, really, can it be?”  Prepared with a little coaching from the real-life conductor Bernard Labadie, and armed with an eight-dollar baton from Amazon, Patty Marx takes a stab at conducting the prestigious Orchestra of St. Luke’s through Hayden’s Symphony No. 45. Marx doesn’t want to do a passable job of conducting the piece; she wants to give it her own unique stamp. With that goal in mind, she devises a set of sui-generis conducting techniques derived from daily activities like hailing a cab, or yoga. “I want to be one of the greats,” Marx says. Plus, the New Yorker’s Kelefa Sanneh sings the praises of his favorite Christian rockers.
The Hyperpartisan State

The Hyperpartisan State

2019-12-2000:30:583

North Carolina is a relatively purple state, where voting between the two major parties tends to be close. That might suggest a place of common ground and compromise, but it’s quite the opposite. “A couple of years before the rest of the country got nasty, we started to get nasty,” a North Carolina political scientist tells Charles Bethea. Not long ago, a veto-override vote devolved into a screaming match on the floor, to which the police were called. Bethea, a longtime political reporter based in Atlanta, went to Raleigh to examine how hyper-partisanship plays out on a state capitol, where everyone knows each other, and the political calculations seem to revolve more on who did what to whom, and when, than on who wants to do what now.
In the classic play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” a romantic with an exceptionally large and ugly nose pines after an unattainable woman. “As a person who looks like me, whenever I would watch a version of ‘Cyrano,’ I would just think, ‘That’s an actor in a fake nose,’ ” says Peter Dinklage. Dinklage, who has dwarfism, plays the character in a New Group adaptation by his wife, Erica Schmidt, with music by the National. But Dinklage avoids wearing a prosthetic, and he tells Michael Schulman that the nose isn’t really the point. The play is about “everyone’s capacity to not feel worthy of love.” To “Game of Thrones” fans who were devastated by the show’s ending, Dinklage has only tough love to offer. “They didn’t want it to end so a lot of people got angry. This happens.” He is not distraught about Daenerys, who turned out to be quite a brutal ruler. “Monsters are created. We vote them into office. . . . Maybe [fans] should have waited for the series finale before you get that tattoo, or name your golden retriever Daenerys. I can’t help you.” Plus, every year, countless poor spellers accidentally address their Santa letters to Satan. Satan—played by Kathleen Turner—always replies.
Helen Rosner is known for her high degree of resourcefulness in the kitchen: she once broke the Internet with an article about the ingenious use of a hair dryer to help roast a chicken. So the staff of Radio Hour threw down a challenge: we asked Helen to make a meal out of whatever food she could find in The New Yorker’s communal fridge, with whatever cooking equipment she could scare up around the office. The result (spoiler alert): a marinated-vegetable salad with sardines, a whole-grain risotto topped with charred broccoli and chimichurri, a bread pudding with whiskey sauce and ice cream, and a rather unique cocktail—a Bloody Mary made with John McPhee’s vodka and a rim of crushed caterpillar. 
Lena Waithe is the screenwriter and creator of the Showtime series “The Chi,” about the South Side of Chicago, but she tells Jelani Cobb, “Getting your own TV show is like getting beaten to death by your own dream.” Her first script for a feature film is “Queen & Slim,” directed by Melina Matsoukas. It’s about a man and woman who are on a not-great first date, during which they unintentionally kill a police officer at a traffic stop that escalates. “I just wanted to write something about us. But unfortunately, if I’m writing about us, how can I ignore the fact that we’re being hunted?” The film arrives in the aftermath two notorious police killings of black people in their homes—Botham Jean in Dallas and Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth—only the latest in a long line of similar murders. “I do not want that kind of publicity for my film,” Waithe says. “I am like every other black person. . . . Every time these stories hit our phones, a piece of us dies, because we know that we could be next.”
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