Profiles, storytelling and insightful conversations, hosted by David Remnick.
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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.
A Master Class with David Grann
David Grann is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of two nonfiction books that topped the best-seller list this summer: “The Wager” and “Killers of the Flower Moon,” from 2017, which Martin Scorsese has adapted into a film opening in October. Grann is among the most lauded nonfiction writers at The New Yorker; David Remnick says that “his urge to find unique stories and tell them with rigor and style is rare to the vanishing point.” Grann talks with Remnick about his beginnings as a writer, and about his almost obsessive research and writing process. “The trick is how can you tell a true story using these literary techniques and remain completely factually based,” Grann says. “What I realized as I did this more is that you are an excavator. You aren’t imagining the story—you are excavating the story.” Grann recounts travelling in rough seas to the desolate site of the eighteenth-century shipwreck at the heart of “The Wager,” his most recent book, so that he could convey the sailors’ despair more accurately. That book is also being made into a film by Scorcese. “It’s a learning curve because I’ve never been in the world of Hollywood,” Grann says. “You’re a historical resource. … Once they asked me, ‘What was the lighting in the room?’ I thought about it for a long time. That’s something I would not need to know, writing a book.” But Grann is glad to be in the hands of an expert, and keep his distance from the process. “I’m not actually interested in making a film,” he admits. “I’m really interested in these stories, and so I love that somebody else with their own vision and intellect is going to draw on these stories and add to our understanding of whatever this work is.”
Alone and on Foot in Antarctica
Henry Worsley was a husband, father, and an officer of an élite British commando unit; also a tapestry weaver, amateur boxer, photographer, and collector of rare books, maps, and fossils. But his true obsession was exploration. Worsley revered the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton and he had led a 2009 expedition to the South Pole. But Worsley planned an even greater challenge. At fifty-five, he set out to trek alone to ski from one side of the Antarctic continent to the other, hauling more than three hundred pounds of gear and posting an audio diary by satellite phone. The New Yorker staff writer David Grann wrote about Worsley’s quest, and spoke with his widow, Joanna Worsley, about the painful choice she made to support her husband in a mortally dangerous endeavor.
This segment originally aired March 2, 2018.