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 Ne…
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Daniel Craig made his career as an actor in the theatre and in British indie films. When he showed up in Hollywood, it was usually in smaller roles, often as a villain. So, in 2005, when Craig was cast as the original superspy, James Bond, he seemed as surprised as anyone. In “No Time to Die,” Craig gives his final performance as Bond—a role, he tells David Remnick, that sometimes grated on him. Craig hasn't lost his love of theatre, and is set to play Macbeth on Broadway. “I try not to differentiate” between Shakespeare's work and Ian Fleming's, he tells David Remnick. “You're trying to aim for some truth, to ground things in reality,” and “both require the same muscles.” Though he admits that “there's a lot more chat” in a Shakespeare script. Plus, the beloved comic character actor Carol Kane discusses her Oscar-nominated turn in 1975's “Hester Street,” which is being re-released.
Kara Walker is one of our most influential living artists. Walker won a MacArthur Fellowship (the “genius” grant) before she turned thirty, and became well known for her silhouettes, works constructed from cut black paper using a technique that refers to craft forms of the Victorian era. Walker has put modest materials to work to address very large concerns: the lived experience and historical legacy of American slavery. Though she often depicts the racial and sexual violence that went largely unspoken for centuries in the past, her work is aimed squarely at the modern world. “What I set out to do, in a way, worked too well,” she said, “which was to say, if I pretty everything up with hoop skirts and Southern belles then nobody will recognize that I'm talking about them. And then they didn't! They said, ‘The past is so bad.' But I'm not from the past. . . . I do live here now. And so do you.” Walker was interviewed at The New Yorker Festival by Thelma Golden, the director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem.
At The New Yorker Festival, the renowned investigative journalist Jane Mayer asked Attorney General Merrick Garland about the prosecution of January 6th insurrectionists, the threat of domestic terrorism, and what the Justice Department can do to protect abortion rights. Plus, the staff writer Susan Orlean talks with David Remnick about her obsession with animal stories, and her new book, “On Animals.”
Broadway theatres are welcoming audiences to a new season, mounting original works and restaging shows that closed in March, 2020. In this unusual season, Broadway is featuring atypical works such as “Is this a Room,” directed by Tina Satter, which stages the F.B.I. interrogation of the whistle-blower Reality Winner using the official transcript verbatim for all of its dialogues. But the most notable thing about Broadway this season is the record-breaking eight plays by Black playwrights, including Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu's “Pass Over,” and the reopening of Jeremy O. Harris's “Slave Play.” Two theatre critics, Alexandra Schwartz and Vinson Cunningham, discuss whether this diversity is a sign of change on Broadway or a short-term response to the racial reckoning that began in 2020. Plus, the music critic Amanda Petrusich shares three tracks from her playlist for a new baby—featuring Aretha Franklin, Paul and Linda McCartney, and the Velvet Underground.
Jonathan Franzen's sixth novel, “Crossroads,” is set in 1971, and the title is firmly on the nose: the Hildebrand family is at a crossroads itself, just as the America of that moment seemed poised to come apart. In the course of his career, Franzen has evolved away from an early postmodernist sensibility that highlighted “bravura” writing, and “with this book I threw away all the po-mo hijinks and the grand plot elements,” he tells David Remnick. “It's really only in the course of writing ‘Crossroads' that I have said to myself, What I am is a novelist of character and psychology. . . . It's not about formal experimentation and it's certainly not about changing the world through my social commentary.” Franzen also discusses the complex ethics behind writing a character of another race, and takes issue with the belief of some in the academy (and much of the political right) that leftist sensibilities are stifling free expression; he declined to sign the “Harper's Letter” last year. Despite political polarization, Franzen says, “It's a much better time to be an American writer than I would have guessed twenty-five years ago.”
Andreas Malm, a climate activist and senior lecturer at Lund University, in Sweden, studies the relationship between climate change and capitalism. With the United Nations climate meeting in Glasgow rapidly approaching—it begins on October 31st—Malm tells David Remnick that he believes environmentalists should not place too much faith in talks or treaties of this kind. Instead, he insists that the climate movement rethinks its roots in nonviolence. His book is provocatively titled “How to Blow Up a Pipeline,” though it is not exactly an instruction manual. Malm advocates for “intelligent sabotage” of fossil-fuel infrastructure to prevent more carbon from being emitted in the atmosphere. “I am in favor of destroying machines, property—not harming people. That's a very important distinction,” he tells Remnick. Plus: Parul Sehgal, The New Yorker's newest staff writer, introduces David Remnick to some notable works off the syllabus of a class she is teaching. It's called “Writing the Unspeakable,” about the literature of trauma and atrocity.
In 1967, in the wake of a violent uprising in Detroit, President Lyndon B. Johnson assembled the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders to investigate what had happened. This seemed futile: another panel to investigate yet another uprising. “A lot of people felt that way—‘We don't need more studies, nothing's going to come out of that commission,' ” Fred Harris, a former senator from Oklahoma and the commission's last surviving member, tells Jelani Cobb. But the conclusions were not typical at all. In the final analysis, known as the Kerner Report, the commission named white racism—no euphemisms—as the root cause of unrest in the United States, and said that the country was “moving toward two societies, one Black, one White—separate and unequal.” The report called for sweeping changes and investments in jobs, housing, policing, and more; the recommendations went so far beyond Johnson's anti-poverty programs of the nineteen-sixties that the President shelved the report and refused to meet with his own commission. The Kerner Report, Cobb says, was “an unheeded warning,” as America still struggles today to acknowledge the reality of systemic racism. Jelani Cobb co-edited and wrote the introduction to “The Essential Kerner Commission Report,” which was published this year.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a preliminary report on the long-standing underrepresentation of Latinos in the media. While most people consider Hollywood a relatively liberal industry, “the system as a whole is actually quite regressive and . . . exclusionary,” Joaquin Castro, the representative of a Texas district that includes much of San Antonio, says. “I'm convinced that Americans don't know who Latinos are,” Castro tells Stephania Taladrid. Unlike Black Americans, who are linked in the white imagination to the civil-rights era and other historical turning points, Castro says, non-Latinos “don't associate us with any particular time period in American history. They don't know who among us has contributed to the nation's prosperity or success. And they have no sense where to place us within American society.” What Castro calls a “void” in America's narrative gets filled by pernicious stereotypes of Latinos as criminals and “illegals.” “There has been now, for several years at least, this dangerous nexus between representation, portrayal, and the abuse of Latino stereotypes . . . by politicians who abuse them for their own political gain. And, in that dangerous mix, in its worst form, you get what happened in El Paso in August of 2019, where a madman drove ten hours and killed twenty-three people because he considered them Hispanic invaders.” Castro suggests that states and local governments should do more to hold the media accountable, for example, by tying tax breaks for entertainment production to improvements on diversity.
“I wanted to do a French movie, and I had this idea of wanting to do a New Yorker movie,” Wes Anderson explains. “Somehow, I also wanted to do one of those omnibus-type things where it was a collection of short stories.” The result is the new film “The French Dispatch.” Anderson describes his interest in The New Yorker as “almost fetishistic.” Each of the movie's four story lines was inspired by a work from the magazine or by one of its writers, though Anderson has played freely with biography. Jeffrey Wright, for example, plays Roebuck Wright, an amalgam of James Baldwin, a Black American expatriate in provincial France, and A. J. Liebling, a beloved writer on food and much else from The New Yorker's early years. “Even in exile,” the actor says, his character “realizes that he's only at home within himself, that there is no home for him. And maybe there is no home for anyone, really, other than within one's own body and one's own soul.” Anderson and Wright join David Remnick to discuss “The French Dispatch” and the classic New Yorker essays that inspired it.
Wes Anderson's new film, “The French Dispatch,” is about a magazine, and it was inspired by Anderson's long-standing love of The New Yorker. In this special episode, introduced by the articles editor Susan Morrison, cast members read excerpts from classic works associated with the magazine. Bill Murray reads a letter from the editor Harold Ross to an angry writer, Steve Park reads James Thurber, and Elisabeth Moss reads E. B. White. Owen Wilson reads Joseph Mitchell's piece on rats; Frances McDormand reads Mavis Gallant's record of the 1968 student uprising in Paris; Tilda Swinton reads a Calvin Tomkins art-world profile; and Jeffrey Wright reads James Baldwin's “Equal in Paris,” a remarkable indictment of French institutions.
The new Texas law Senate Bill 8 effectively outlaws abortion in Texas, violating constitutional protections on reproductive rights. Yet the Supreme Court is in no rush to review it. The law professor and staff writer Jeannie Suk Gersen speaks with Leah Litman, a law professor at the University of Michigan. They examine the novel ways in which the law insulates itself from judicial review. “It seems like the Texas law is an onion, with layers upon layers of unconstitutionality,” Suk Gersen notes. “It's basically saying to the courts, ‘We'll do your job for you. You are cut out of this.' ” Plus, Jia Tolentino talks with the pop musician Caroline Polachek, as the singer-songwriter gets ready to play her first live concert since March of 2020, for the biggest crowd of her career.
Twenty years after the events of September 11th, the writer Edwidge Danticat reads from her essay “Flight,” about the way that tragedies are memorialized by those who survive them. And the New Yorker contributor Anand Gopal reports from Afghanistan, where, he says, the younger rank and file of the Taliban are hardly aware of the way that the 9/11 attacks have shaped the last two decades.
David Remnick talks with Senator Michael Bennet, of Colorado, who campaigned for the Presidency in 2020 advocating for the child tax credit, which is now a centerpiece of the Democratic agenda. Bennet describes why direct cash payments make such a big difference. Our economics correspondent Sheelah Kolhatkar describes the policy as a scale model of universal basic income. She moderates a conversation between two academics on different sides of the issue: Michael Strain, a senior fellow and the director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and Amy Castro, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Plus, Radio Hour listeners go toe to toe in a round of The New Yorker's Name Drop, a new quiz.
As a rapper, Riz Ahmed has released critically acclaimed albums, and he was featured on the chart-topping “Hamilton Mixtape.” At the same time, he was becoming a leading man in the movies, with roles including a small part in the Star Wars picture “Rogue One” and an extraordinary, Oscar-nominated performance in “Sound of Metal.” Like his previous film, “Mogul Mowgli” is about a musical artist facing a health crisis that could end his career. Ahmed stars as the British-Pakistani rapper Zaheer—stage name Zed—and he co-wrote the film with Bassam Tariq. “It was very much a kind of inward journey,” Ahmed tells David Remnick. “It was very much about holding up a mirror and hoping that in the honesty and the vulnerability of that exercise, people would just connect emotionally—even if they couldn't necessarily connect to the specificity of the experience. But for those who could connect to that specificity, you would be, like, ‘Jesus Christ, I never thought I'd see that onscreen!' ”
One of the premier writers of thinky sci-fi, Kim Stanley Robinson opened his book “The Ministry for the Future” with an all too plausible scenario: a lethal heat wave descends on India, with vast, horrifying consequences. It's a sobering read, especially after July, 2021, was declared the hottest month on record. And yet Robinson tells Bill McKibben that his work is not dystopian; his central concern is how the globe could respond to such a disaster and begin to halt the momentum of global warming. “That whole dystopian postapocalyptic strain—it doesn't serve as a warning, it doesn't make you change your behavior,” Robinson notes. “I reject all that. I write as a utopian science-fiction writer.” But, “at the moment we're at right now in world history,” he admits, “I have to set a pretty low bar for ‘utopia.' If we dodge a mass-extinction event in this century, that's utopian writing. That's the best we can expect from where we are right now. Having put that story on the table as being possible, it suggests that we ought to be trying for it.”
Our guest host, Vinson Cunningham, looks at the joys of the beach read, hitting Brighton Beach on a hot, muggy day to peer over readers' shoulders. He relates his own fortuitous encounter with Lawrence Otis Graham's “Our Kind of People,” after finding the book in a rented house on Martha's Vineyard. Plus, Rachel Syme feels that “books have a season that they tell you to read them in,” and “summer is the season of the classic Hollywood memoir”; she shares three favorites with David Remnick.
For generations of cooks, Jacques Pépin has been the master. Early in his career he cooked for eminences like Charles DeGaulle, and was offered a job at the White House. But after a serious car accident ended his time in restaurants, Pépin remade a new career as a teacher, cookbook author, chef, and broadcaster. On television—at first alongside his friend Julia Child—he brought the gospel of French cooking into so many American homes, at a time when there was no other fine cuisine. At eighty-five, he is still active on Facebook Live, with a notably humble variety of use-what-you-got cooking that's well suited to the pandemic era. Pépin consented to a one-on-one lesson with David Remnick, a cooking novice, and together they tackled the subtle art of making a crêpe. Plus, Klancy Miller, the author of “Cooking Solo,” talks with the food correspondent Helen Rosner about her underlying philosophy: you should treat yourself as well as you would treat anyone else.
Dexter Filkins covered the American invasion of Afghanistan when he was a reporter for the New York Times, and has continued to report on conflicts in the region for The New Yorker. Filkins's best-seller from 2008 carried the resonant title “The Forever War.” Thirteen years after the book's publication, the forever war is over, but its end has been the chaotic worst-case scenario that many feared. Filkins talks with David Remnick about whether it had to go this way, and whether twenty years of war changed America more than it did Afghanistan.
Aretha Franklin was the Queen of Soul, the greatest voice of her generation, an eighteen-time Grammy Award winner whose career spanned five decades. She was also a famously private person, which makes the project of directing a film about her life challenging. The job of telling Aretha's story went to a South African-born director named Liesl Tommy, known for her work in theatre and nominated for a Tony, in 2016. Tommy had also directed episodes of TV shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Jessica Jones,” but the movie about Franklin—called, almost inevitably, “Respect”—is her first feature film. Tommy's long-standing passion for the singer, she says, made the job relatively easy, even though she first fell in love with Franklin's voice as a child living on a different continent. “I don't think I ever thought of her as American,” she told Vinson Cunningham. “I thought of her as a woman that I wanted to grow up to be.” As a small child, she recalls, “Even if I don't understand the feelings specifically, I understand how the way she sang them made me feel. And that was, excited to be alive.”
Amanda Petrusich describes herself as a “die-hard fan” of folk music, but not when it feels precious or sentimental. That's why she loves the Weather Station, whose songs, she thinks, “could take a punch to the face.” A solo project of the songwriter and performer Tamara Lindeman, the Weather Station's new album, “Ignorance,” focusses on the theme of climate grief: Lindeman was responding to a devastating report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the consequences of elevated carbon levels for human societies. If that sounds heady, Lindeman tells Petrusich that it may be her heritage. “There's this thread in Canadian music of philosophical songwriting, and that's how I like my lyrics to be. I like them to be about ideas as well as stories. . . . Most people want songs that just tell a story; they don't want the complicated ideas. But I do.” The Weather Station performs “Robber” and “Tried to Tell You,” with Evan Cartwright on percussion and Karen Ng on saxophone. This segment originally aired February 5, 2021.
For a few brief moments this summer, in places where the vaccination rate was high, we could imagine life after COVID-19: restaurants and theatres were filling up, gatherings of all kinds were taking place, and many businesses were planning to return to their offices after Labor Day. Then the story changed, as the highly contagious Delta variant began sweeping the nation. Atul Gawande, a professor of medicine and an internationally recognized expert on public health, tells David Remnick that the Delta surge has also caused a vaccination surge, which is promising. They discuss the idea of booster shots and the possibility of a future variant that would resist the vaccine and cause more severe breakthrough infections. The Lambda variant, Gawande says, has already reached the U.S., but little is known yet about how it responds to the vaccines in use here. Plus, forget the big white tent and the plate of rubber chicken: the real New York style is a City Hall wedding, complete with metal detectors. Vinson Cunningham tells us what it's all about. (Gawande has been nominated by President Biden to lead global health development, including COVID-19 efforts, for the United States Agency for International Development. The appointment awaits confirmation in the Senate.)
Jack Antonoff has had a busy pandemic. Sought out by Taylor Swift as a producer, he ultimately made two records for her—one of which, “Folklore,” won the Grammy for Album of the Year. He also worked on albums for Lorde, Lana Del Rey, and Clairo that are out or forthcoming this year. And Antonoff just released his own new record, “Take The Sadness out of Saturday Night,” his third album with the band Bleachers. It's music for driving fast down the highway—heavy on the horns, the power chords, and the emotions. But, like his fellow New Jerseyan Bruce Springsteen, Antonoff tells intensely personal stories in his anthems. He talks with David Remnick about how growing up in the suburbs inspired him, and about a death in his family that shaped his songwriting.
With the world overheating, glaciers melting, and landscapes in flames, it's difficult to think of a harder or more important job than John Kerry's. The former senator and Secretary of State is now the special Presidential envoy for climate, a Cabinet-level post created by President Biden. Kerry talks with David Remnick about reasserting the United States' fitness to lead on global climate action in the wake of Trump Administration policies, and about how to get allies and adversaries to engage in the battle together. He is heading to Glasgow for talks that aim to hold the warming level to 1.5 degrees Celsius. “Imagine what happens at 1.5, if you already see what's happening at 1.2,” Kerry exclaims. “Is that what we want? You would think not!” Plus, an evangelical historian who is the wife of a pastor breaks from her church's doctrine, arguing that Biblical readings of female submission are mistakes. She has felt the personal consequences of taking this stance.
The indictment reads like a not-so-great spy novel: the operatives would kidnap the dissident from her home in Brooklyn, deliver her to the waterfront to meet a speedboat, bring her by sea to Venezuela, and then move her on to Tehran—where she would, presumably, face a show trial, and perhaps execution. But this was no potboiler. The Iranian nationals charged in the indictment were allegedly researching an audacious plot to capture a naturalized American citizen, on U.S. soil. The target of the scheme was Masih Alinejad, a journalist and activist who has been critical of the Iranian theocracy and particularly vocal in speaking out against the compulsory wearing of hijab; she has a large following on social media and a show on Voice of America. Her brother has been jailed in Iran, and her sister was forced to renounce her on television. The F.B.I. took the threat to Alinejad seriously enough to sequester her and her husband, Kambiz Foroohar, in a series of safe houses, where they stayed for months. Alinejad and Foroohar spoke about their ordeal with David Remnick, and explained why the regime regards her as such a threat. “For Iran, hijab is like the Berlin Wall was to the Soviet system,” Foroohar points out. “The narrative of the Islamic Republic was that women are choosing to wear hijab, and Masih is challenging that narrative.” Plus, the revelations about Pegasus. Marketed as a tool against terrorism, the spyware was also deployed by governments against journalists and activists. Isaac Chotiner interviews one of the targets, the Indian journalist and scholar Siddharth Varadarajan.
The New York City mayoral primary, which culminated in a vote held in June, was full of surprises, including the introduction of ranked-choice voting to a confused electorate, and the presence of Andrew Yang, a newcomer to municipal politics who quickly attained front-runner status. But the winning Democrat was no surprise. Eric Adams is the borough president of Brooklyn and a former state senator, making him an establishment favorite. He was also, for more than two decades, a police officer. With policing at the center of public attention since last year's uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement, Adams occupies a unique position in the debate. He was a firebrand in the N.Y.P.D. and an advocate for Black officers; and he was, as a teen-age boy, a victim of police abuse himself. But Adams is also a strong defender of the police department. He has spoken about the correct way to implement stop-and-frisk policies, which have been previously carried out in ways that were ruled unconstitutional. He rebuked candidates to his left who talked about defunding the force. And he made the national spike in violent crime part of his candidacy, when others focussed their platforms elsewhere. The nation's cities face a budgetary crisis, the COVID crisis, a crisis of confidence in policing, and more. Adams doesn't seem fazed. “We need to be very honest that our city is dysfunctional. And it always has been for a large number of New Yorkers,” he told David Remnick. “I could take you throughout the city where the conditions have remained the same through mayor after mayor. What I must do is stop the dysfunctionality of a city that has normalized being dysfunctional.” Remnick spoke with Adams on July 21, 2021.
Shabana Basij-Rasikh is the co-founder of Afghanistan's only all-girls boarding school, and she is anxiously waiting to see if the Taliban—which brutally opposes the education of girls and women—will make inroads in Kabul. “I was speaking with a young woman,” Basij-Rasikh told the staff writer Sue Halpern, “and she said, ‘Yes, sure, the Taliban will kill more of us. The Taliban will kill a lot more of us. But they will never, ever rule over us.' ” Plus, the food-and-drink writer Helen Rosner prepares three summer cocktails to toast a reopening world: a Cynar spritz; a Michelada made with nonalcoholic Upside Dawn Golden Ale; and a classic piña colada, complete with umbrella.
Marcia Chatelain, a historian at Georgetown, recently won the Pulitzer Prize for History for her book “Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America.” Chatelain looks at how McDonald's leveraged the social upheaval of the nineteen-sixties to gain a permanent foothold in Black communities across the country. McDonald's strategically positioned franchise ownership as an economic goal for Black entrepreneurs. Black franchisees, she notes, have navigated the economic promise and the pitfalls of that corporate relationship, while the wages for fast-food workers, who are disproportionately Black and Latino, have remained notoriously low.
The U.S. economy seems to be showing real signs of life, and lots of people are finally returning to the labor force—eight hundred and fifty thousand in the month of June alone. At the same time, job resignations are at a record high, and many workers are changing careers. With work life at top of mind, we asked three writers to tell us about the most memorable jobs they've had in the past. Gillian Flynn, the author of novels including “Sharp Objects” and “Gone Girl,” remembers having to wear a frozen-yogurt costume as a teen-ager. Akhil Sharma talks about lying his way into a lucrative gig as a banker, spinning stories that played into ethnic stereotypes, before becoming the author of books such as “Family Life” and “An Obedient Father.” Plus, the cartoonist Alison Bechdel shares how she rewarded herself after her shortest job ever. This story originally aired on August 25, 2017.
In the winter of 2007, a songwriter by the name of Justin Vernon returned to the Wisconsin woods, not far from where he grew up. Just a few months later, he emerged with “For Emma, Forever Ago”—his first album produced under the name Bon Iver. Since then, Vernon and various bandmates have released three more records, won two Grammys, and collaborated with Kanye West, becoming one of the most celebrated bands in indie music. The music critic Amanda Petrusich spoke with Vernon at The New Yorker Festival, alongside his bandmates Brad Cook and Chris Messina. They discuss using made-up words as lyrics; Vernon's deep, deep love of “Northern Exposure”; and how a group like Bon Iver engages with current events in today's toxic political climate. Bon Iver performed “U (Man Like),” “Marion,” and “RABi”; Vernon was accompanied by Sean Carey, Jenn Wasner, and Mike Lewis. This story originally aired November 29, 2019
Janet Mock first heard the word “māhū,” a Native Hawaiian word for people who exist outside the male-female binary, when she was twelve. She had just moved back to Oahu, where she was born, from Texas, and, by that point, Mock knew that the gender she presented as didn't feel right. “I don't like to say the word ‘trapped,' ” Mock tells The New Yorker's Hilton Als. “But I was feeling very, very tightly contained in my body.” Eventually, Mock left Hawaii for New York, where she worked as an editor for People magazine. “[Everyone was] bigger and louder and smarter and bolder than me,” she tells Als. “So, in that sense, I could kind of blend in.” After working at People for five years, she came out publicly as trans; since then, she has emerged as a leading voice on trans issues. She's written two books, produced a documentary, and signed a deal with Netflix. In 2018, she became the first trans woman of color to be hired as a writer on a TV series—Ryan Murphy's FX series “Pose,” which just concluded its final season. This story originally aired January 4, 2019
Britney Spears has been one of the world's most prominent pop stars since her début, in the late nineteen-nineties. But, since 2008, she's been under a court-ordered conservatorship—a form of legal guardianship—which has restricted nearly all aspects of her life. Details about the arrangement have been kept out of public view, all while Spears has continued to turn out records and perform lucrative shows, earning millions of dollars for those around her. But the pop star is now directly confronting the people and structures that have ruled her life for the past decade. In recent court testimony, Spears openly detailed her experience under the conservatorship for the first time. She demanded her liberty and expressed her anger, profound sadness, and frustration. She even alleged that her conservatorship, which is led by her father, prevented her from getting an IUD removed from her body, which the family denies. The staff writers Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino have investigated how Spears wound up in this situation, in the article “Britney Spears's Conservatorship Nightmare.” They speak with David Remnick about Spears's life under relentless public scrutiny, her cultural significance, and the thorny legal problems posed by conservatorships. “Conservatorships essentially deem someone incapacitated,” Tolentino says. “And from that point, because they do remove your rights by necessity, they sort of foreclose the possibility of proving or gaining capacity to anyone under it.”
Across the country, COVID-19 vaccines are becoming available for teen-agers. But most states still require parental consent for minors to receive the shot. David Remnick spoke with a teen-ager who asked that we call him Aaron Williams. He is desperate to be vaccinated, but his parents are skeptical. “We waited three months, and, during the span of that time, they started going through all sorts of conspiracy rabbit holes,” reading fabrications about mRNA vaccines' changing the recipient's genetic code, he said. “They pushed it back to six months, to a year, to two years, until they just said, ‘You're never getting the vaccine.' ” Misinformation continues to pose a public-health risk around the world, but for this family the stakes are also personal. “I'm missing out on friends' gatherings and other things at school,” Williams told Remnick. “But they're saying that I'm hurting them because I'm causing stress.” Plus, Naomi Fry on a turning point for reality TV. As “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” comes to a close after almost a decade and a half, Fry talks with David Remnick about “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” “90 Day Fiancé,” and other shows that look at real social issues in unique, dramatic ways.
In the years leading up to the horrific Tulsa massacre of 1921, the Greenwood district was a thriving Black metropolis, a city within a city. Buoyed by money from Oklahoma's oil boom, it was home to the original Cotton Club and to one of the first Black-owned daily newspapers in the United States, the Tulsa Star. The Star's founder and editor was A. J. Smitherman, a lawyer and the Alabama-born son of a coal miner. He addressed his eloquence and his ire at local nuisances like prostitution and gambling halls, as well as the gravest injustices of American life. The Radio Hour's KalaLea is the host of “Blindspot: Tulsa Burning.” She looks in this story at how Smitherman documented Greenwood at its height, and how he tried to prevent its destruction. “Blind Spot: Tulsa Burning” is a six-part podcast co-produced by the History Channel and WNYC Studios, in collaboration with KOSU and Focus Black Oklahoma. The team includes Caroline Lester, Alana Casanova-Burgess, Joe Plourde, Emily Mann, Jenny Lawton, Emily Botein, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Bracken Klar, Rachel Hubbard, Anakwa Dwamena, Jami Floyd, and Cheryl Devall. The music is by Hannis Brown, Am're Ford, Isaac Jones, and Chad Taylor. The executive producers at the History Channel are Eli Lehrer and Jessie Katz. Raven Majia Williams is a consulting producer. Special thanks to Herb Boyd, Kelly Gillespie, Shelley Miller, Jodi-Ann Malarbe, Jennifer Lazo, Andrew Golis, Celia Muller, and Andy Lanset. Maurice Jones was the voice of A. J. Smitherman. Additional voices: Terrance McKnight, Dar es Salaam Riser, Javana Mundy, John Biewen, Jack Fowler, Tangina Stone, Emani Johnston, Danny Wolohan, and Jay Allison.
In 2013, David Remnick published a profile of Naftali Bennett. He wrote that Bennett was something new in Israeli politics, a man who would “build a sturdy electoral bridge between the religious and the secular, the hilltop outposts of the West Bank and the start-up suburbs.” Though religiously observant, Bennett was cosmopolitan: fluent on Facebook, and as quick to quote Seinfeld as he was the Talmud. He had been a leader of the settler movement, and, although he lived in a modern house in a well-to-do Tel Aviv suburb, there was no ambiguity about Bennett's hard-line stance on the Palestinian question. He disdained the peace process of an earlier time. “I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state,” he told Remnick. “No more illusions.” Bennett has now unseated his former boss, Benjamin Netanyahu, as Prime Minister of Israeli. Remnick spoke with two writers in the region about this political upheaval. Raja Shehadeh, who is based in Ramallah, says that the changing of the guard will mean little on the West Bank, where the recent bloody conflict was a propaganda victory for Hamas. Ruth Margalit, who is based in Tel Aviv, says that, while the peace movement seems all but dead, the changing of a political epoch, and the presence of the first Arab-Israeli party ever represented in the Knesset, has to be seen as an opportunity for change.
The largest Protestant denomination in America is in crisis over the group's reluctance to acknowledge systemic racism; our reporter talks with the Reverend Dwight McKissic, who considered himself a loyalist but may have reached a breaking point. Plus, our producer looks at the GameStop squeeze of last winter and tries to figure out the motives of the small investors on r/WallStreetBets. Are they out for vengeance on the Man? Are they after lulz? Or are they just trying to make a buck?
It's easy to see why the director Jon M. Chu was adamant that the release of “In the Heights” wait until this summer, when more people could see it in theatres: it's big, it's colorful, the dance sequences are complex—it's a spectacle in the best sense of the term. “In the Heights,” based on Lin-Manuel Miranda's hit stage musical, is a love letter to the largely Latino community in Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan. The characters are dreaming big and wrestling with what happens when those dreams start to pull them away from the neighborhood. For Chu, who directed the enormous hit “Crazy Rich Asians,” directing the film was a risk—it's said that Miranda teased him by writing “Don't fuck this up” on his copy of the script. As an Asian-American from California, Chu “was already one step removed from this neighborhood,” he tells David Remnick. “How do you make sure you don't miss a detail? The director is probably the only person on set who can stop everything and say, ‘Let's discuss this.' . . . That's what made me nervous, making sure I was always present to hear those things.”
Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax have both been playing Beethoven's Cello Sonata No. 3 in A Major for over forty years. But it took a global pandemic for the two of them to fully understand it. “This is such open, hopeful music,” Ax said. But when Beethoven dedicated the original piece to a friend, he signed the manuscript, “amid tears and sorrow.” Beethoven, Ma and Ax reflected, finished the sonata during a tumultuous period in which Napoleon was at war with Austria and the composer was losing his hearing. “I thought this was a good piece for this moment,” Ma told The New Yorker's music critic Alex Ross. “Because people are suffering, and we do think that music can give comfort.” The musicians spoke to Ross and performed from an empty concert hall as part of the New Yorker Festival. The segment originally aired November 13, 2020.
The staff writer Patricia Marx checks out the new vaccinated sections at New York’s Major League Baseball parks. The author and activist Sarah Schulman talks with David Remnick about her new book on the early years of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. The group’s radical tactics forced changes in government policy and transformed how America saw gay people and AIDS patients.
We look back on the year since the murder of George Floyd galvanized the nation. David Remnick talks with Vanita Gupta, the No. 3 official in the Justice Department, who is charged with delivering on President Biden’s bold promises to address racial injustice. A Minneapolis activist explains why it is so hard to abolish the police. Plus, Hilton Als on why America finally rose up against long-standing abuses of Black people.
Spike Lee is one of the most passionate and committed fans of the New York Knicks—not to mention one of the most celebrated filmmakers of our time. Underdogs for many years, the Knicks are enjoying a renaissance, and Lee is in his glory. David Remnick and Vinson Cunningham called Lee to talk about a life of fandom, the politics of activism in the N.B.A. and the N.F.L., and Lee’s multipart documentary about life in New York since September 11th, which will be released to mark the twentieth anniversary of the attacks.
By many accounts, American schools are as segregated today as they were in the nineteen-sixties, in the years after Brown v. Board of Education. WNYC’s podcast “The United States of Anxiety” chronicled the efforts of one small school district, Sausalito Marin City Schools, in California, to desegregate. Fifty years after parents and educators there first attempted integration, the state’s attorney general found that the district “knowingly and intentionally” maintained a segregated system, violating the equal-protection clause of the Constitution. The district’s older public school, which served mostly Black and Latino students, was underfunded and suffered neglect; a well-appointed new charter school, meanwhile, enrolled virtually all the white children in the district. The reporter Marianne McCune explored how one community overcame decades of distrust to finally integrate.
The Tulsa massacre of 1921 was a coördinated assault on and destruction of the thriving Black community known as Greenwood, Black Wall Street, or Little Africa. Even today, the death toll remains unknown. In fact, for generations, most people—including many Tulsans—did not know about the massacre at all. This year marks its hundredth anniversary, and it is being commemorated with documentaries, official events in Tulsa, and one very unusual rap album: “Fire in Little Africa,” which comes out in May on Motown Records. It features about forty rappers, and thirty other singers, musicians, and producers who tell the story of Greenwood at its height—and of their dreams of a revitalized Black Tulsa. The freelance producer Taylor Hosking explains the creation of the album to The New Yorker’s Vinson Cunningham.
When a very long year of doing business from home—in sweatshirts and pajamas and slippers—is over, how much effort will people be willing to expend on dressing for the office? Richard Thompson Ford, a law professor and the author of “Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History,” tackles that question along with the New Yorker editor Henry Finder. Clothing, he says, has mostly been used to maintain social hierarchies, but it has also occasionally helped to overthrow them. Dressing up, he says, can be a form of transgression: historically, in Black communities, refined dress has been used to demand dignity and resist white supremacy. Plus, the celebrated critic Als on the work of Alice Neel, who painted her neighbors, friends, and colleagues in a multicultural New York.
After a year of battling COVID-19, parts of the United States are celebrating a gradual turn toward normalcy, but the pandemic isn’t over—and it may never be over, exactly. Atul Gawande tells David Remnick that a hard core of vaccine resisters, along with reservoirs of the virus in domestic animals, may make herd immunity elusive. Rather, he says, the correct goal is to bring the impact of COVID-19 down to that of something like the flu. Meanwhile, India is now overwhelmed by a devastating death toll, reported at around four thousand per day but likely much higher. Siddhartha Mukherjee, who reported on the pandemic in developing nations, says that commitments from the West such as extra doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will barely scratch the surface. A national mobilization will be required to even begin to flatten the curve.
Thomas McGuane reads his story 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.
“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, Dorothy Wickenden, 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.”
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. Gideon Lewis-Kraus reports on how this change came about. The journalist Leslie Kean, who published a bombshell story 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 “How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously” 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.
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.
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 Jelani Cobb 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.”
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?
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.