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The New Yorker Radio Hour


Profiles, storytelling and insightful conversations, hosted by David Remnick.


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Profiles, storytelling and insightful conversations, hosted by David Remnick.



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Maya Hawke on the Fear of “Missing Out,” and Jen Silverman on “There’s Going to Be Trouble”

At a band rehearsal in Brooklyn, Rachel Syme talks to Maya Hawke about switching gears between acting and music. In “Stranger Things,” Hawke plays Robin Buckley, a band geek who cracks a Russian code in her spare time; she also recently appeared in films including “Asteroid City” and “Maestro.” “When I’m acting, I inhabit the character that I’m playing,” Hawke says, whereas when fronting a band, “I feel like I’m me… But sometimes I have to screw my courage to the sticking place, and that’s a bit of a character. It’s me, [but] willing to stand up onstage.” Hawke discusses the inspiration for her single “Missing Out”: a visit to her brother at college, where she came to terms with some of her own choices. Plus, the playwright and novelist Jen Silverman, whose new book “There’s Going to Be Trouble” deals with the excitement and uncertainty of getting caught up in a protest.


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How a Republican and a Democrat Carved out Exemptions to Texas’s Abortion Ban

Texas has multiple abortion laws, with both criminal and civil penalties for providers. They contain language that may allow for exceptions to save the life or “major bodily function” of a pregnant patient, but many doctors have been reluctant to even try interpreting these laws; at least one pregnant woman has been denied cancer treatment. The reporter Stephania Taladrid tells David Remnick about how two lawmakers worked together in a rare bipartisan effort to clarify the limited medical circumstances in which abortion is allowed. “If lawmakers created specific exemptions,” Taladrid explains, “then doctors who got sued could show that the treatment that they had offered their patients was compliant with the language of the law.” Taladrid spoke with the state representatives Ann Johnson, a Democrat, and Bryan Hughes, a conservative Republican, about their unlikely collaboration. Johnson told her that she put together a list of thirteen conditions that might qualify for a special exemption, but only two of them—premature ruptures and ectopic pregnancy—were cited in the final bill. Still, the unusual bipartisan action is cause for hope among reproductive-rights advocates that some of the extreme climate around abortion bans may be lessening.


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The Film Critic Justin Chang on What to See in 2024

The New Yorker’s newest staff member, Justin Chang, shares three films that he’s excited to see released in 2024: “Janet Planet,” the début feature film directed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker; “Blitz,” a wartime drama by Steve McQueen, the director of “12 Years a Slave”; and “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” the widely anticipated new entry in George Miller’s Mad Max series—which, at forty-five years years old, predates Justin Chang.


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The Attack on Black History, with Nikole Hannah-Jones and Jelani Cobb

Across much of the country, Republican officials are reaching into K-12 classrooms and universities alike to exert control over what can be taught. In Florida, Texas, and many other states, laws now restrict teaching historical facts about race and racism. Book challenges and bans are surging. Public universities are seeing political meddling in the tenure process. Advocates of these measures say, in effect, that education must emphasize only the positive aspects of American history. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times Magazine reporter who developed the 1619 Project, and Jelani Cobb, the dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, talk with David Remnick about the changing climate for intellectual freedom. “I just think it’s rich,” Hannah-Jones says, “that the people who say they are opposing indoctrination are in fact saying that curricula must be patriotic.” She adds, “You don’t ban books, you don’t ban curriculum, you don’t ban the teaching of ideas, just to do it. You do it to control what we are able to understand and think about and imagine for our society.”


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Rhiannon Giddens, Americana’s Queen, on Cultivating the Black Roots of Country Music

By the standards of any musician, Rhiannon Giddens has taken a twisting and complex path. She was trained as an operatic soprano at the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and then fell almost by chance into the study of American folk music and took up the banjo. With like-minded musicians, she founded the influential Carolina Chocolate Drops, which focussed on reviving the repertoire of Black Southern string bands. Giddens plays on Beyoncé’s new country album, which boldly asserts the Black presence in country music. But her view of Black music is unbounded by genre: “There’s been Black people singing opera and writing classical music forever.” Giddens shared a Pulitzer Prize for the opera “Omar” in 2023, and as a solo artist, she has moved through the Black diaspora and beyond it. David Remnick talked with Giddens when her album “There Is No Other,” recorded in Dublin, had just come out, and she performed in the studio with her collaborator, Francesco Turrisi. This segment originally aired May 3, 2019.


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Alicia Keys Returns to Her Roots with Her New Musical, “Hell’s Kitchen”

Alicia Keys’ new musical is opening on Broadway about a ten-minute walk from where she grew up in Hell’s Kitchen. She describes the New York City neighborhood in the eighties as a “place where anyone who didn’t belong anywhere accumulated.” She tells David Remnick, “There was this unique balance between that grime and the potential of Broadway” just steps away. “Hell’s Kitchen” is the name of the musical that incorporates her songs to tell a story about a teen-ager named Ali who is growing up and finding her love of music, and it is even set in the apartment building where Keys was raised. Yet she is adamant that the show is not autobiographical, “because a lot of people think ‘autobiographical’ and they think quite literally.” Keys, who was offered a recording contract at 14, was called the top R&B artist of the millennium by a recording-industry group, and with Jay-Z, she’s responsible for the New York City anthem of our time: “Empire State of Mind.” In casting the role of Ali, a young woman very much like herself, Keys was looking for a “triple-threat” performer who also had “the energy of a true New Yorker … That’s the hardest part, because you can’t teach that.”


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Percival Everett and the Reinvention of Mark Twain’s Jim

In a new novel, Percival Everett offers a radically different perspective on the classic story “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Everett tells the story of Jim, who is escaping slavery; he calls his book “James.” “My Jim—he’s not simple,” Everett tells Julian Lucas. “The Jim that’s represented in Huck Finn is simple.” Everett, whose 2001 novel “Erasure” was adapted as the Oscar-winning film “American Fiction,” restores Jim’s inner life as a father surviving enslavement, and forced to play along with the pranks of two white boys. But like other Black authors, including Toni Morrison and Ishmael Reed, Everett considers Twain’s original a central American text grappling with slavery. “I imagine myself in a conversation with Twain doing this. And one of the things I think he and I would both agree on is that he doesn’t write Jim’s story because he’s not capable of writing Jim’s story—any more than I’m capable of writing Huck’s story.”


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Trump’s Authoritarian Pronouncements Recall a Dark History

In 2016, before most people imagined that Donald Trump would become a serious contender for the Presidency, the New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik wrote about what he later called the “F-word”: fascism. He saw Trump’s authoritarian rhetoric not as a new force in America but as a throwback to a specific historical precedent in nineteen-thirties Europe. In the years since, Trump has called for “terminating” articles of the Constitution, has celebrated the January 6th insurrectionists as political martyrs, and has called his enemies animals, vermin, and “not people,” and demonstrated countless other examples of authoritarian behavior. In a new essay, Gopnik reviews a book by the historian Timothy W. Ryback, and considers Adolf Hitler’s unlikely ascent in the early nineteen-thirties. He finds alarming analogies with this moment in the U.S. In both Trump and Hitler, “The allegiance to the fascist leader is purely charismatic,” Gopnik says. In both men, he sees “someone whose power lies in his shamelessness,” and whose prime motivation is a sense of humiliation at the hands of those described as élites. “It wasn’t that the great majority of Germans were suddenly lit aflame by a nihilist appetite for apocalyptic transformation,” Gopnik notes. “They [were] voting to protect what they perceive as their interest from their enemies. Often those enemies are largely imaginary.”


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March Madness 2024: College Basketball at a Crossroads

As this year’s annual March Madness tournament kicks off, there’s a sense of malaise around men’s college basketball. The advent of the transfer portal is partly to blame, and the trend of top talents departing for the N.B.A. after just one year of college play. “There hasn’t been that kind of charismatic superstar like Zion Williamson at Duke,” Louisa Thomas tells David Remnick, “the big school and the big player, which is the perfect match.” But women’s college basketball is another story. Last year, superstars like Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark helped the sport reach its highest ratings ever for a final. Clark, in particular, with a penchant for nearly forty-foot throws that almost defies belief, has become such a source of fascination for fans that Remnick compares her to LeBron James. “The question is whether or not she can carry that attention with her” into the W.N.B.A. and to the league’s benefit, Thomas wonders, and if “she can leave some of that attention behind. To what extent is this a unique phenomenon around a unique player?”


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Judith Butler Can’t “Take Credit or Blame” for Gender Furor

A legal assault on trans rights by conservative groups and the Republican Party is escalating, the journalist Erin Reed reports, with nearly five hundred bills introduced across the country so far this year. Reed spoke with the Radio Hour about the tactics being employed. But long before gender theory became a principal target of the right, it existed principally in academic circles. And one of the leading thinkers in the field was the philosopher Judith Butler. In “Gender Trouble” (from 1990) and in other works, Butler popularized ideas about gender as a social construct, a “performance,” a matter of learned behavior. Those ideas proved highly influential for a younger generation, and Butler became the target of traditionalists who abhorred them. A protest at which Butler was burned in effigy, depicted as a witch, inspired their new book, “Who’s Afraid of Gender?” It covers the backlash to trans rights in which conservatives from the Vatican to Vladimir Putin create a “phantasm” of gender as a destructive force. “Obviously, nobody who is thinking about gender . . . is saying you can’t be a mother, that you can’t be a father, or we’re not using those words anymore,” they tell David Remnick. “Or we’re going to take your sex away.” They also discuss Butler’s identification as nonbinary after many years of identifying as a woman. “The younger generation gave me ‘they,’ ” as Butler puts it. “At the end of ‘Gender Trouble,’ in 1990, I said, ‘Why do we restrict ourselves to thinking there are only men and women?’ . . . This generation has come along with the idea of being nonbinary. Never occurred to me. Then I thought, Of course I am. What else would I be? . . . I just feel gratitude to the younger generation, they gave me something wonderful. That takes a certain humility.”


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In “Great Expectations,” Vinson Cunningham Watches Barack Obama’s Rise Up Close

Like most Americans, Vinson Cunningham first became aware of Barack Obama in 2004, when he gave a breakout speech at the Democratic National Convention. “Very good posture, that guy,” Cunningham noted. “We hang our faith on objects, on people, based on the signs that they put out,” Cunningham tells David Remnick. “And that’s certainly been a factor in my own life. The rapid and urgent search for patterns.” Although Cunningham aspired to be a writer, he got swept up in this historic campaign, working on Obama’s longshot 2008 run for the Presidency, and later worked in his White House. Cunningham’s adventures on the trail inspire his first novel, “Great Expectations,” an autobiographical coming-of-age story about where and how we seek inspiration. Cunningham recalls that Obama was seen as the “fulfillment” of so many hopes and dreams for people like himself. Now he wishes the former President were playing a larger role. “I will admit that it has been dispiriting,” in Obama’s post-Presidential life, “to see him making movies and being on Jet Skis as the world burns. … more like a movie star than someone whose great hope is to change the world.”


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Bradley Cooper Contends for Best Actor in “Maestro”

“Maestro,” about the legendary conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, is nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, as well as Best Actor for Bradley Cooper—who is not only the film’s star but its director and co-writer. Cooper’s movie focusses less on Bernstein’s musical triumphs, as a dominant figure in classical music for decades, than on his extremely complicated personal life. Bernstein was married to the actress Felicia Montealegre, played in the film by Carey Mulligan, but lived as a proudly nonmonogamous bisexual. “I had no desire to make a bio-pic,” Cooper tells David Remnick, of a man whose life is so well documented. Despite his track record as a box-office draw and critical success, Cooper endured a string of rejections from major studios when he shopped around a movie about classical music, shot largely on black-and-white film. Academy nominations aside, for Cooper, the experience of getting to play Bernstein and actually conducting the London Symphony Orchestra—“the scariest thing I’ve ever done, hands down,” he tells David Remnick—was reward enough: he had been practicing conducting an orchestra since his early childhood. The segment originally broadcast on November 24, 2023.


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What Biden Is Thinking About the 2024 Election

Despite hand-wringing among Democrats about Joe Biden’s age and his discouraging poll numbers, the President’s campaign for reëlection displays an “ostentatious level of serenity,” Evan Osnos says about the election. “This is a matter of great personal importance to Joe Biden. He feels almost, viscerally, this contempt for Trump and for what Trump did to the country,” Osnos tells David Remnick, after a rare private interview at the White House. “And let’s remember, he didn’t just try to steal this election—from Biden’s perspective—he tried to steal it from him.” Although Biden once referred to himself as a “bridge” President, he told Osnos that he had never considered stepping aside after one term. His gait has slowed, but Osnos found the President quick to jab at his questions and at “you guys” in the media, whom he blames for naysaying his campaign. But alongside complacent media coverage, threats to the President’s reëlection are many. The war in Gaza has alienated many voters from Biden, especially in Arab American communities, and it resonates even more widely. “When Houthi rebels started firing rockets at ships in the Red Sea,” Osnos points out, “it had an immediate effect on global shipping, to the point that it could have, and could yet still, push inflation back up. . . . I know this is the worst cliché in journalism, but this election has an element that is beyond anything we’ve ever really dealt with before.”


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Kara Swisher on Tech Billionaires: “I Don’t Think They Like People”

Kara Swisher landed on the tech beat as a young reporter at the Washington Post decades ago. She would stare at the teletype machine at the entrance and wonder why this antique sat there when it could already be supplanted by a computer. She eventually foretold the threat that posed to her own business—print journalism—by the rise of free online media; today, she is still raising alarms about how A.I. companies make use of the entire contents of the Internet. “Pay me for my stuff!” she says. “You can’t walk into my store and take all my Snickers bars and say it’s for fair use.” She is disappointed in government leaders who have failed to regulate businesses and protect users’ privacy. Although she remains awed by the innovation produced by American tech businesses, Swisher is no longer “naïve” about their motives. She also witnessed a generation of innovators grow megalomaniacal. The tech moguls claim they “know better; you’re wrong. You’ve done it wrong. The media’s done it wrong. The government’s done it wrong. . . . When they have lives full of mistakes! They just paper them over.” Once on good terms with Elon Musk, Swisher believes money has been deleterious to his mental health. “I don’t know what happened to him. I’m not his mama, and I’m not a psychiatrist. But I think as he got richer and richer—there are always enablers around people that make them think they hung the moon.”


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Lily Gladstone on Holding the Door Open for More Native Actors in Hollywood. Plus, the Brody Awards

Lily Gladstone had been in several films, but unknown to most moviegoers, when she got a call for Martin Scorsese’s period drama “Killers of a Flower Moon.” The role was challenging. She plays the historical Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman married to a white man, Ernest (played in the film by Leonardo DiCaprio), who perpetrates a series of murders of Osage people in a scheme to secure lucrative oil rights. Ernest may be poisoning her with a cocktail that includes morphine, and some of the dialogue is in Osage, a language that Gladstone—raised on the Blackfeet reservation in Montana—had to learn. Gladstone is the first Native person nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and is aware of the historical weight the nomination carries. “We’re kicking the door in,” she says. “When you’re kicking the door in, you should just kind of put your foot in the door and stand there,” she adds. “Kicking the door and running through it means it’s going to shut behind you.” Plus, our film critic Richard Brody returns with his annual movie honors: the Brody Awards. An awards show exclusively for The New Yorker Radio Hour, he’ll be handing out imaginary trophies—and trash-talking Oscar favorites like “Oppenheimer”—alongside the staff writer Alexandra Schwartz.


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Ty Cobb on Trump, Putin, and the Death of Alexey Navalny

Ty Cobb represented the Trump White House during the height of the Mueller-Russia probe, so he has a unique insight into the former President’s admiration for all things Putin, and his refusal to condemn the dissident Alexey Navalny’s death in prison. Trump’s response, bizarrely, was to compare his own legal troubles to Navalny’s political persecution and likely murder. Yet Cobb still feels certain that Russia has nothing concrete on Trump, which was the question of the Mueller investigation. Rather, Putin “has what Trump wants,” he tells David Remnick, “total control and adulation and riding the horse with his shirt off.” His quest to secure that power, seemingly by any means necessary, has made Trump “the greatest threat to democracy we’ve ever seen.” Cobb has been following Trump’s myriad of criminal cases closely, and he has concluded that only the January 6th case concerning Trump’s attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power has the potential to derail his political career. If a trial decision is not reached before the November election, and Trump were to win again, he can order the Justice Department to dismiss the case, and “it will be as though it never existed.”


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For Brontez Purnell, “Memoir Is Fiction—I Don’t Care What Anyone Says”

Brontez Purnell is a Renaissance man. He’s a musician, a dancer, a filmmaker, and the author of a number of books. His latest is “Ten Bridges I’ve Burnt,” a departure from the traditional memoir form. It's written in verse and playfully embellishes the truth throughout. “Memoir is fiction—I don’t care what anyone says,” Purnell tells The New Yorker Radio Hour’s Jeffrey Masters. “You [or] I could both write down our lives as true as we know it. But the second our mom reads it, or one of our siblings reads it, or anybody else peripherally in the book, they can easily say, ‘What are you talking about? That never happened like that.’ ” Purnell, who came of age in the underground punk scene in Oakland, California, during the early two-thousands, is no stranger to hard knocks, but that doesn’t mean he needs to divulge everything. “If you write about your life, you have to protect the wicked; namely, yourself,” he says. “So there is this game of pulling and punching.”


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“Pod Save America” ’s Jon Lovett on Trump: “The Threat of Jail Time Sharpens the Mind”

Jon Lovett had been deep inside politics, as a speechwriter in the Obama Administration, before he joined his colleagues Tommy Vietor and Jon Favreau to launch Crooked Media, a liberal answer to the burgeoning ecosystem of right-wing news platforms. “There was too much media that treated people like cynical observers,” Lovett tells David Remnick, “and not enough that treated them like frustrated participants.” Crooked Media has gathered millions of politically engaged listeners—“nerds,” Lovett calls them—to “Pod Save America,” “Lovett or Leave It,” and other podcasts. But Lovett is more worried about voters who no longer get a steady stream of reliable political coverage at all, as local news outlets wither and platforms like Facebook downplay the sharing of news. “The vast majority of people do not know about Joe Biden’s accomplishments,” he says. “When they say to a pollster that this is not someone they view as being up to the job, they’re not . . . understanding how he performed in the job so far.” Lovett shares the widespread concerns about Biden’s apparent aging, but notes that his performance remains effective, whereas, “in Trump, the reverse: he is more energetic—I think the threat of federal jail time sharpens the mind!—but by all accounts is emotionally, psychologically, and mentally not up to the job.”


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Jacqueline Novak Is Giving Audiences “Everything She’s Got”

The comedian Jacqueline Novak wasn’t well known before her Netflix début “Get on Your Knees.” The show was a big swing in her career, an ambitious attempt to establish her singular voice, and it worked. A fast-paced and raucous examination of her personal journey with oral sex, Novak tosses out so many tangents—philosophical, psychological, anatomical, linguistic—that you’re liable to miss many of her allusions. Novak knows that her hectic delivery is an acquired taste. “We’ve got to get through this, because I’ve got a lot to say,” she tells David Remnick. Although she relentlessly probes the power dynamics between men and women, she doesn’t “want to come out here and say ‘male fragility.’ I’m really not trying to do that. But it happens, sort of.” The show could make a lot of people uncomfortable, but she’s not worried about cancellation, as many male comedians have been. “Choosing to make art of any kind is sort of this self-appointment. No one’s asking you to do it. So it’s sort of weird for me to get into a mind-set as though you're owed any comfort.”


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Can Memes Swing the 2024 Election? Plus, Michelle Zauner on “Crying in H Mart”

In a Presidential race with two leading candidates who are broadly unpopular, any small perceived edge can make a tremendous difference. According to Clare Malone, more and more people will have their judgments formed by memes—visual jokes about the candidates floating on social media. Republican memes capitalize on widespread discomfort with President Biden’s age, by highlighting his stumbles, verbal or otherwise. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is a master of turning bad press to his advantage: he propagated his own mug shot on social media, feeding his outlaw image. Malone says that conservatives also have a leg up here because their beliefs suit the medium. “The right wing can ‘go there’—they can say the thing everyone thinks, but doesn’t actually say out loud.” Now the partisan fight on social media has roped in a relatively innocent bystander, Taylor Swift. The pop star, who has endorsed Biden in the past, and her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, have been labeled a “psy op” by right-wingers online. “My theory about American politics, especially in the past decade, is basically none of it’s really policy,” Malone argues. “It’s all political pheromones.” Plus, Michelle Zauner, the front woman for the indie band Japanese Breakfast, talks about her memoir, “Crying in H Mart,” with The New Yorker’s Hua Hsu, author of “Stay True.”