Profiles, storytelling and insightful conversations, hosted by David Remnick.
5 of 150
Hernan Diaz’s “Trust,” a Novel of High Finance
The daughter of eccentric aristocrats marries a Wall Street tycoon of dubious ethics during the Roaring Twenties. That sounds like a plot that F. Scott Fitzgerald might have written, or Edith Wharton. But “Trust,” by the writer Hernan Diaz, is very much of our time. The novel is told by four people in four different formats, which offer conflicting accounts of the couple’s life, the tycoon Andrew Bevel’s misdeeds, and his role in the crash of 1929. And though a book like “The Great Gatsby” tends to skirt around the question of how the rich make their money, Hernan Diaz puts that question at the heart of “Trust.” “What I was interested in, and this is why I chose finance capital, I wanted a realm of pure abstraction,” he tells David Remnick. Diaz was nearly unknown when “Trust,” his second novel, won the Pulitzer Prize this year.
Kelly Clarkson on Writing About Divorce
Twenty years after her breakout on “American Idol,” Kelly Clarkson released an album called “Chemistry” that deals with the long arc of a relationship and her recent divorce. She sat down to talk with Hanif Abdurraqib, a music writer passionate about the craft of songwriting. “This literally was written in real time,” Clarkson reflects. “That was me being indecisive. Man, I have kids. Do I want to do this? Can I try again?” But writing about divorce as one of the best-known celebrities in America is very different from a young artist’s heartbreak anthem. “It’s easy to hide in metaphors when it’s not the biggest thing that’s ever happened,” she says. “Everyone’s going to know. Unfortunately my life is very public, especially in the rough times.”
Plus, Robert Samuels, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer on politics and race, shares his secret indulgence: watching classic figure-skating routines on YouTube.
Naomi Klein Speaks with Jia Tolentino about “Doppelganger”
For twenty-some years, Naomi Klein has been a leading thinker on the left. She’s especially known for the idea of disaster capitalism: an analysis that the forces of big business will exploit any severe disruption to take over more space in our lives. She was often confused with another prominent political writer, Naomi Wolf—once a feminist on the left who has, in recent years, embraced conspiracy theories on the right and is now on good terms with Steve Bannon. Klein’s new book, “Doppelganger,” starts with this simple case of mistaken identity and broadens into an analysis of our political moment, which she describes as “uncanny” in the psychological sense. “Freud described the uncanny as that species of frightening that changes what was once familiar to something unfamiliar,” she tells the staff writer Jia Tolentino. “It’s that weirdness of ‘I think I know what this is, but it’s not what I think.’ ” Klein argues that the left and the right have become doppelgangers of one another—and that denialism regarding climate change has widened to any number of topics, including the claim that Joe Biden is dead and is being played by an actor. “Whenever you don’t like reality, you can just say that it’s not real,” she says.
A Solution For the Chronically Homeless, and Listening to Taylor Swift in Prison
About 1.2 million people in the United States experience homelessness in a given year—you could nearly fill the city of Dallas with the unhoused. But there are proven solutions. For the chronically homeless, a key strategy is supportive housing—providing not only a stable apartment, but also services like psychiatric and medical care on-site. The New Yorker contributor Jennifer Egan spent the past year following several individuals as they transitioned into a new supportive-housing building in Brooklyn. She found that this housing model works and argues that it could be scaled up nationally for less than the cost of emergency services for the homeless. But “no one,” Egan notes ruefully, “wants to see that line item in their budget.” Plus, Joe Garcia, an inmate serving a life sentence for murder in California’s High Desert State Prison, reads from his essay “Listening to Taylor Swift in Prison,” recently published by The New Yorker.
Richard Brody Makes the Case for Keeping Your DVDs
At the end of this month, after more than two decades, Netflix is phasing out its DVD-rental business. While that may not come as a surprise given the predominance of streaming platforms, it’s a great loss to cinephiles, according to the New Yorker’s Richard Brody. Streaming services routinely drop titles from circulation, and amazing films may be lost to moviegoers. “Physical media is what protects us from being at the mercy of streaming services for our movies and our music,” Brody says. “It’s like a library at home.” Brody gives the producer Adam Howard a peek into his own personal stash of films, and picks a few DVDs of films he would take with him in a fire: Godard’s “King Lear” (“the greatest film ever made – literally”); “Chameleon Street,” by Wendell B. Harris, Jr.; “Stranded” and “The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean,” by Juleen Compton; and a box set of five films by John Cassavetes.