WNYC Studios and The New Yorker presents
The New Yorker Radio Hour
Profiles, storytelling and insightful conversations, hosted by David Remnick.
May 4, 2021
Thomas McGuane Reads “Balloons”
Thomas McGuane reads from the May 10, 2021, issue of the magazine. McGuane has published more than a dozen books of fiction, including the story collections “Gallatin Canyon,” “Crow Fair,” and “Cloudbursts: Collected and New Stories,” which came out in 2018.
May 4, 2021
Three Women Who Changed the World
“The Agitators” is a book about three women—three revolutionaries—who changed the world at a time when women weren’t supposed to be in public life at all. Frances Seward was a committed abolitionist who settled with her husband in the small town of Auburn, in western New York. One of their neighbors was a Quaker named Martha Coffin Wright, who helped organize the first convention for women’s rights, at Seneca Falls. Both women harbored fugitives when it was a violation of federal law. And, after they met Harriet Tubman, through the Underground Railroad, Tubman also settled in Auburn. “The Agitators,” by The New Yorker’s executive editor, , tells their interlocking stories. “These people were outsiders, and they were revolutionaries,” Wickenden tells David Remnick. “They were only two generations separated from the Declaration of Independence, which they believed in literally. They did not understand why women and Black Americans could not have exactly the same rights that had been promised.”
April 30, 2021
Are U.F.O.s a National Security Threat?
In June, the director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense are expected to deliver a report about what the government knows on the subject of “unidentified aerial phenomena,” more commonly known as U.F.O.s. The issue is nonpartisan: while he was the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, a Democrat, secured funding for a secret Pentagon project to investigate the subject; John Podesta, a chief of staff in the Clinton White House, argued for government transparency on the topic; most recently, the Republican senator Marco Rubio introduced language in last year’s Intelligence Authorization Act calling for the forthcoming report. This is a shocking turn of events. For generations, U.F.O.s were in the purview of late-night call-in radio shows and supermarket tabloids, not the Department of Defense. reports on how this change came about. The journalist Leslie Kean, who published a in the New York Times, explains how the C.I.A. got involved in casting doubt on U.F.O. sightings. Reid tells Lewis-Kraus that the Pentagon refused to authorize his inspection of contractor facilities which, it was rumored, held U.F.O. crash debris. And a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Christopher Mellon, says that the phenomena observed in many sightings cannot be explained as advanced technology built by one of our rivals. “I really doubt that the Russians or Chinese could be that far ahead of us,” he says. “It looks like centuries ahead.” So, whereas the word “aliens” still seems like taboo in serious conversation, he adds, “it's hard to come up with a hypothesis to explain that without considering the possibility that some other civilization is involved.” Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s “” appears in the May 10th issue of The New Yorker. This segment features scoring by Pablo Vergara. Additional archival clips were provided courtesy of James Fox.
April 27, 2021
A Surge at the Border, and the Children of Morelia
Nearly a century ago, during the Spanish Civil War, a group of parents put five hundred of their children on a boat and sent them across the ocean to find safety in Mexico. Few of the refugees ever saw their parents again. The youngest of the children was Rosita Daroca Martinez, who was just three. On this week’s show, her granddaughter, the writer and radio producer Destry Maria Sibley, traces the impact of her grandmother’s trauma down through the generations. Plus, the immigration reporter Jonathan Blitzer ties the story to today’s refugee crisis at the U.S. southern border, where a surge in arrivals has put the Biden Administration on its heels.
April 23, 2021
Jelani Cobb on Derek Chauvin’s Conviction and the Future of Police Reform
The murder of George Floyd galvanized the public and led to the largest protests in American history. Even Donald Trump said of the videos of Floyd’s killing, “It doesn't get any more obvious or it doesn't get any worse than that,” presumably referring to the use of force by police. America waited anxiously for the outcome of the murder trial of the former police officer Derek Chauvin. The prosecution’s case was notable for the unusually candid and definitive statements against Chauvin’s actions that were made by senior figures in the Minneapolis Police Department. The New Yorker’s covered the trial and says that this testimony sends a message to law enforcement. “There are now circumstances where public scrutiny and public outrage and egregious offenses that come to light can actually generate enough outrage that you actually will not be defended by your fellow-officers,” he tells David Remnick. “It may seem like a low bar. But, given what we’ve seen previously, that’s a pretty astounding development.”
April 16, 2021
What Is Happening in the Internment Camps in Xinjiang
In a special episode on the crisis in Xinjiang region of China, the staff writer Raffi Khatchadourian investigates Xi Jinping’s government’s severe repression of Muslim minorities, principally Uyghurs and Kazhaks. Accounts from a camp survivor and a woman who fled detainment show how, even outside the camps, life in the province of Xinjiang became a prison. The crisis meets the United Nations’ definition of genocide, and the U.S. State Department has also made that determination. With the 2022 Winter Olympics coming up in Beijing, what can the world do about Xinjiang?
April 13, 2021
Rickie Lee Jones’s Life on the Road
Rickie Lee Jones emerged into the pop world fully formed; her début album was nominated for five Grammys, in 1980, and she won for Best New Artist. One of the songs on that record was “The Last Chance Texaco,” and Jones has made that the title of her new memoir. The song evokes a service station on a long stretch of highway, and Jones’s book reflects on her almost obsessive need to travel and uproot herself at almost any cost. “All I wanted to do was leave” from a very young age, she says.“When I talk about it from here, it seems like it was so horribly dangerous.” She adds, “Suddenly I’ll [say], ‘I think I’ll go to Big Sur,’ and I’m in a car, going. But the chaos and trouble that brings to a life!” The producer Scott Carrier, who hosts the podcast “Home of the Brave,” interviewed Jones near her home in New Orleans.
April 9, 2021
The Brody Awards, and Louis Menand on “The Free World”
Oscars, schmoscars! Richard Brody is a critic of wide tastes and eccentric enthusiasms. His list of the best films of the year rarely lines up with the Academy’s. Each year, he joins David Remnick and the staff writer Alexandra Schwartz to talk about the year’s cinematic highlights. Plus, the staff writer Louis Menand talks with Remnick about his new work of cultural history, “The Free World.” Menand writes about the postwar flowering of American culture, when the United States evolved from an economic and military giant into a global creative force. Modern jazz and rock and roll were exported and celebrated around the world. Painters got out from under the long shadow of Europe and led the way into new forms of abstraction and social commentary. Writers like James Baldwin turned a spotlight back on America’s fundamental, unexamined flaws. It was a time, Menand writes, when “ideas mattered. Painting mattered. Movies mattered. Poetry mattered.”
April 6, 2021
David Fincher on “Mank,” and Daniel Alarcón’s Favorite Children’s Books
David Fincher made his name in Hollywood as the director of movies that pushed people’s buttons—dark thrillers like “Fight Club,” “The Game,” “Seven,” and “Gone Girl”—but his new film belongs to one of Hollywood’s most esteemed genres: stories about Hollywood. Around thirty years ago, his father, the late Jack Fincher, gave him the draft of a screenplay about Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote “Citizen Kane” and other classics. Fincher tells David Remnick that Mankiewicz was a key figure in film—one of that first generation of writers who invented a vibrant language for movies as they came into the sound era. Nominated for ten Academy Awards (including a Best Director nomination for Fincher), “Mank” is the story of the writer’s conflict with Orson Welles in the making of “Citizen Kane,” and their struggle is one that has bedevilled creators and critics down the decades: Who really authors a film? Plus, the journalist and fiction writer Daniel Alarcón talks about three children’s books he’s been enjoying with his son during the pandemic.
April 2, 2021
Race and Taxes, and Jane Mayer on How to Kill a Bill
The investigative reporter recently received a recording of a meeting attended by conservative power brokers including Grover Norquist, representatives of PACs funded by Charles Koch, and an aide to Senator Mitch McConnell. The subject was the voting-rights bill H.R. 1, and the mood was anxious. The bill (which we a professor of tax law, uncovers how the seemingly race-neutral tax code compounds many inequalities in American life, and prevents Black people from building wealth. She talks with Sheelah Kolhatkar about her new book, “The Whiteness of Wealth.”