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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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295 Episodes
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In 2014, Tom Hanks—the star of “Apollo 13,” among many other accomplishments—wrote a short story about going to the moon.  But his was not a dramatic story of NASA heroes facing grave danger. Hanks told the tale of a very twenty-first century mission, executed D.I.Y. style, with four misfits in a space capsule run off an iPad and held together with duct tape.  The story, “Alan Bean Plus Four,” was published in The New Yorker in 2014.  Hanks originally read the story for the New Yorker’s Writer’s Voice podcast.  
“I can remember, even four months after [“Call Me Maybe” ’s] release, being claimed in the press as a one-hit wonder,” Carly Rae Jepsen says. “Isn’t it too soon to decide that? Give me a chance!” The Canadian singer and songwriter was by no means a one-hit wonder, and her talent for crafting earworm pop songs about love in all its forms won her a legion of fans and the devotion of many critics, including The New Yorker’s Amanda Petrusich. In 2017, while Jepsen was working on her fourth album, “Dedicated”—which was released in May, 2019—Jepsen sat down at the New Yorker Festival with Petrusich, to talk about her creative process. She had already written eighty songs for the record, she estimated. “If you wanted, I could write you a song right now, but it might not be good. I never run out of ideas, and I never stop enjoying doing it.” With her collaborator and guitarist Tavish Crowe, Jepsen performed an acoustic version of her hit “I Really Like You” live. 
It’s hard to recall a newly elected freshman representative to Congress who has made a bigger impact than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Her primary victory for New York’s Fourteenth District seat—as a young woman of color beating out a long-established white male incumbent—was big news, and Ocasio-Cortez has been generating headlines almost daily ever since. Practically the day she took her seat in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez became the hero of the left wing of the Democrats and a favored villain of Fox News and the right. She battled Nancy Pelosi to make the Green New Deal a priority, and has been involved with a movement to launch primary challenges against centrist or right-leaning Democrats. Like Bernie Sanders, she embraces the label of democratic socialism and supports free college education for all Americans. She has called for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She joined David Remnick in the New Yorker Radio Hour studio on July 5th, just after her trip to the border to examine migrant-detention facilities. Remnick and Ocasio-Cortez spoke about why she courted controversy by referring to some facilities as “concentration camps”; why she thinks the Department of Homeland Security is irredeemable; and whether Joe Biden is qualified to be President, given his comments about colleagues who supported forms of segregation. “Issues of race and gender are not extra-credit points in being a good Democrat,” she says. “They are a core part of the ... competencies that a President needs. . . . Where are you on understanding the people that live in this country?”
As he set about adapting “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the stage, Aaron Sorkin found himself troubled by its protagonist, the small-town lawyer Atticus Finch. Harper Lee’s Finch, he thought, is tolerant to a fault—understanding rather than condemning the violent racism of many of his neighbors. Sorkin also felt that Lee’s two black characters, the maid Calpurnia and the falsely accused Tom Robinson, lacked a real voice. “I imagine that, in 1960, using African-American characters as atmosphere is the kind of thing that would go unnoticed by white people,” he tells David Remnick. “In 2018, it doesn’t go unnoticed, and it’s wrong, and it’s also a wasted opportunity.” Sorkin’s changes in his adaptation led to a lawsuit from Harper Lee’s literary executor, who had placed specific conditions on the faithfulness of his script. In Sorkin’s view, the criticisms of the executor, Tonja Carter, were tantamount to racism, in that they reinforced the lack of agency of black people in the South in the nineteen-thirties. (Carter declined to comment on Sorkin’s remarks, and the lawsuit was settled before the play was produced.) Sorkin says that, of his own volition, he cut some of his new lines that hinted too broadly toward the current Presidency. But Atticus Finch’s realization—that the people in his community whom he thought he knew best were people he never really knew at all—mirrors the experience of many Americans since 2016. Plus, Ocean Vuong, the author of the best-selling autobiographical novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” visits the food court at a largely Asian mall in Queens that reminds him of home. 
Tracy K. Smith was named Poet Laureate, in 2017, right after the most divisive election of our time. She could have spent her two-year appointment writing and enjoying a nice office in the Library of Congress, but she felt poetry might be able to help mend some of the divisions that the election had highlighted. Her plan was this: to put together a collection of poems from living poets, called “American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time,” that she felt were in some way relevant to our moment, and to hit the road—visiting community centers, senior centers, prisons, and colleges. While serving as Poet Laureate, Smith estimates that she travelled one or two nights every week, reading poems written by herself and others, and discussing them with groups of people. “It was exhausting, and exhilarating, and it was probably the best thing I could have done as an American,” she told The New Yorker’s poetry editor, Kevin Young. 
Valeria Luiselli first travelled to the U.S.–Mexico border in 2014, when the current immigration crisis began to heat up. Under the Trump Presidency, the border has become the dead center of American politics, and Luiselli returned with the radio producer Pejk Malinovski. Luiselli is a Mexican writer living in New York, and the author of “Lost Children Archive” and other books. She wrote in The New Yorker about Wild West reënactments, in which actors stage scenes like a gunfight at O.K. Corral. In Tombstone, Arizona, and Shakespeare, New Mexico, she finds a very particular view of Western history that elides the U.S.’s long and complicated relationship with Mexico, which once owned this region. She finds that historical reënactments feed a notion of the border region as a lawless frontier requiring vigilantes to defend American interests.
For decades, critical praise for a TV show was that it was “not like TV,” but more like a novel or a movie. That ingrained hierarchy always bugged Emily Nussbaum, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for her criticism in The New Yorker. She has been compared to Pauline Kael, but Nussbaum—acknowledging the compliment—is quick to point out that she has never written about movies, nor has she wanted to. She was inspired to be a TV critic by “Television Without Pity,” a blog site of passionate, informed fans arguing constantly. In her new book, “I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way through the TV Revolution,” Nussbaum argues that the success of serious antihero dramas like “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad” has led many to devalue mainstays of TV, like comedies and even soap operas. It’s time to stop comparing TV to anything else, she tells David Remnick. 
The New Yorker contributor Jenna Krajeski recently met with a woman who calls herself Esperanza. In her home country, Esperanza was coerced and threatened into prostitution, and later was trafficked into the United States, where she was subjected to appalling conditions. Esperanza eventually obtained legal help, and applied for something called a T visa. The T visa contains unusual provisions that recognize the unique circumstances of human-trafficking victims in seeking legal status. It has also been a crucial tool to obtaining victims’ coöperation in prosecuting traffickers. The Trump Administration claims to want to fight the problem of human trafficking, but Krajeski notes that its policies have done the opposite: T-visa applicants can now be deported if their applications are rejected. This dramatic change in policy sharply reduced the number of applications from victims seeking help. “If what [the Administration] cares about is putting traffickers in prison, which is what they say they care about, their prosecutions are going down and will go down further,” Martina Vandenberg, the president of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, says. “Trafficking victims under the circumstances can’t actually coöperate.”  
After a U.S. drone was allegedly shot down by Iran last week, relations between Tehran and Washington are again approaching a low point; on Thursday, President Trump ordered and then called off an air strike. The situation has been deteriorating since the beginning of the Trump era, with the Administration actively supporting Saudi Arabia as a regional competitor to Iran, and the President withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The New Yorker staff writer Dexter Filkins says that Iran’s initial strategy was to wait the Trump Presidency out. That calculus has changed as more hawkish advisors, like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, who are intent on imposing harsh sanctions on Iran, have joined the Administration. The result has been a series of tit-for-tat exchanges between the two countries, which could ultimately lead to a larger conflict. “If things got out of control in that region, that would be, Iraq, to Iran, to Afghanistan,” Filkins said. “I can't imagine where that would end, or how it would end." Kelefa Sanneh shares three music picks with David Remnick: artists who deliver all the emotional joys of pop music, but aren’t extremely popular.
Robert Caro is a historical biographer unlike anyone else writing today, with the Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, and other honors to prove it. But to call his books biographies seems to miss the mark: they’re so rich in detail, so accurate, and at the same time so broad in scope, that they’re more like epics of American history. David Remnick sat down with Caro at the McCarter Theater, in Princeton, New Jersey, on the occasion of the publication of “Working,” a volume of Caro’s speeches and other writings. They covered Caro’s early years as a newspaper reporter, his determination to tackle a project—the rise to power of Robert Moses—that no one had accomplished, and finally his chronicle of the life of Lyndon Johnson. Caro has completed four volumes on Johnson, with a fifth, covering the Presidency, in the works. Remnick asks about Caro’s singular method of interviewing in depth, and Caro describes his interview with Sam Houston Johnson, the president’s brother, which Caro conducted at the National Park Service’s Lyndon B Johnson Boyhood Home historic site. “I took him into the dining room,” Caro recalls, and told Johnson to sit where he had sat as a child. “I didn’t sit where he could see me . . . . I sat behind him. So I said, ‘Now tell about these terrible arguments your father used to have with Lyndon at the table.’ At first it was very slow going, you’d have to keep prompting him. But finally he was just shouting it out: ‘Lyndon you’re a failure, you’ll always be a failure. And what are you, you’re a bus inspector!’ And I felt he was back in the moment. So I said, ‘Now Sam Houston, I want you to tell me again those wonderful stories you told me before, that everybody tells about Lyndon Johnson.’ And there was this long pause. And then he says, ‘I can’t.’ And I said, ‘Why not?’ And he says, ‘Because they never happened.’ And without me saying another word, he starts to tell the story of Lyndon Johnson, which is a very different story of a very ruthless young man.”
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Comments (12)

ABR

First interview was great, no thanks to Wickenden. I have to admit, there were several times I felt like screaming at her. She has a very poor understanding of the adolescent experience in the late 20th and early 21st century. And for the record, many teenage girls are into guns and explosives too.

May 30th
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Natalia Mironova

I am crying from happiness, right now! The most fragile social group of sybarite Southern Aristocrats found!

May 26th
Reply

Wendy Bruder

The idea of endless growth NEEDS to end. Humans need to stop procreating and change our ways drastically. Glad to day no progeny of mine will be forced to live on the planet humans have destroyed.

May 10th
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Toby Barraud

Why aren't the prosecutors named in this radio program? I agree with John Thompson : they are guilty of attempted murder. It's an outrage the legal system refuses to hold them accountable. The very least punishment they suffer should be the public recognition of what they did.

Jan 30th
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Rachel McVey

Thanks for having David Bentley Hart on the show to talk about his translation of the New Testament! I was a member of a Bible church until age 24 and was "in the word" every day, instructing others in the scriptures -- while trying my best not to think too much about research on the history of the Bible and its translation that suggested my leather bound NIV might not be precisely God's truth. After listening to this episode, I immediately bought a copy of Hart's translation. It will be the first Bible I'll have opened in more than two years!

Dec 23rd
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Peter Chaloner

Call them Arabs. Call them owners of 22 countries. There are no 'Palestinians.'

Sep 25th
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Modus Pwnens

Peter Chaloner well i guess sort of since theyre being colonized by israel

Nov 30th
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L.S. Mitchell

The ending of this podcast made irony incarnate.

Jul 7th
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Drea Griffin

I think Mark is right. Unless DEMS win being "on my side" serves no purpose

Jun 1st
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Bridget Rathman

it's a little hard to listen to two men talk about women hiding their sexual assault. at one point the interviewer says that one of the women lied to Ronin about her sexual assuault. that's a harsh word choice to apply to a survivor. it's every survivor's choice as to whether or not they want to speak about what happened to them. it's no one's place to judge them for that decision. also the comment Ronin made that it's surprising that pretty, poised women also get sexually harassed is gross on multiple levels. I appreciate what you're doing and am glad this story is out, and am grateful for the part these journalists played. I'm so thankful that you had the woman come on and point out at that it's men listening that had changed. I feel like so much of the focus was on blaming women for not speaking out rather than on men not listening.

May 11th
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marlon cxxx

LOVE The TNYRD

Dec 31st
Reply

Noor Al Wattar

my favourite thing on the internet

Nov 9th
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