Farrow’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein and other accused perpetrators of sexual assault helped opened the floodgates of the #MeToo movement. In his new book, “Catch and Kill,” and in “The Black Cube Chronicles” published on newyorker.com, Farrow details the measures that were taken against him and against some of the accusers who went on the record. These included hiring a private spy firm staffed by ex-Mossad officers. Speaking with David Remnick, Farrow lays out a connection between accusations against Harvey Weinstein and NBC’s Matt Lauer. And he interviewed a private investigator named Igor Ostrovskiy who was assigned to spy on him—until he had a crisis of conscience.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a lot of fights on her hands. After she led the Democrats to victory in the 2018 midterm elections, her legislative agenda hit a number of roadblocks, including the Republican-controlled Senate. But it is Pelosi’s confrontations with Donald Trump that will go down in history. Through numerous scandals, Pelosi resisted pressure to move to impeach the President, frustrating many members of her party and leading some on the left to question her leadership. “There was plenty the President had done, evidenced in the Mueller report and other things, that were impeachable offenses,” she tells Jane Mayer. “For me, timing is everything. I said, ‘When we get more facts, when the truth has more clarity, we will be ready. We will be ready.’ ” While she has come around on impeachment, Pelosi still hews toward the center of the Party and resists some proposals from the progressive left, such as Medicare for All. “November matters,” Pelosi likes to tell colleagues running in the primaries. “What works in Michigan . . . [like] economic security for America’s working families—that works in San Francisco. What works in San Francisco might not work in Michigan. So let’s go with the Michigan plan, because that’s where we have to win the Electoral College.”
Pelosi, who has been in Congress for more than thirty years, has led the House Democrats since 2003. She spoke with the staff writer Jane Mayer in a live interview at The New Yorker Festival, on October 12th.
The months of protests in Hong Kong may be the biggest political crisis facing Chinese leadership since the Tiananmen Square massacre a generation ago. What began as objections to a proposed extradition law has morphed into a broad-based protest movement. “There was just this rising panic that Hong Kong was becoming just like another mainland city, utterly under the thumb of the Party,” says Jiayang Fan, who recently returned from Hong Kong. In Beijing, Evan Osnos spoke to officials during their celebration of the Chinese Communist Party’s seventieth year in power. He found that the leadership is feeling more secure than it did in 1989, when tanks mowed down student protesters. “I think the more likely scenario,” Osnos tells David Remnick, “is that China will keep up the pressure and gradually use its sheer weight and persistence to try to grind down the resistance of protestors.” And, from the archives, reflections from Richard Nixon on the fallout from Tiananmen Square.
David Remnick asks five New Yorker contributors about the nascent impeachment proceedings against the President. Susan Glasser, the magazine’s Washington correspondent, notes that Republicans have attacked the inquiry but have not exactly defended the substance of Trump’s phone call to Zelensky. Joshua Yaffa, who has been reporting from Kiev, notes Ukraine’s disappointment in the conduct of the American President; Jane Mayer describes how an impeachment scenario in the era of Fox News could play out very differently than it did in the age of Richard Nixon; Jelani Cobb reflects on the likelihood of violence; and Jill Lepore argues that, regardless of the outcome, impeachment is the only constitutional response to Donald Trump’s actions. “This is the Presidential equivalent of shooting someone on Fifth Avenue,” she tells Remnick.
Senator Cory Booker burst onto the national scene about a decade ago, after serving as the mayor of the notoriously impoverished and dangerous city of Newark, New Jersey. To get that job, Booker challenged an entrenched establishment. “My political training comes from the roughest of rough campaigns,” he tells David Remnick. “You just won’t think it’s America, the kind of stuff we had to go up against. And it [was] such a great way to learn [that campaigning] has to be retail—grassroots. And so much of this, in those early primary states, is about that.”
Booker spoke with Remnick about growing up black in a largely white area of New Jersey, where his parents had to fight to be able to buy a home; about his long relationship with the Kushner family, which started back when Jared Kushner’s father, Charles, was a leading Democratic donor; and why he’s proud to collaborate with even his direst political opponents on issues such as criminal-justice reform. “Donald Trump signed my bill,” Booker states. “I worked with him and his White House to pass a bill that liberated thousands of black people from prison” by retroactively reducing unjustly high sentences related to crack cocaine. “Tell that liberated person that Cory Booker should not deal with somebody that he fundamentally disagrees with.”
Note: In this interview, Senator Booker asserts, “We now have more African-Americans in this country under criminal supervision than all the slaves in 1850.” The historical accuracy of this comparison has been challenged. More accurately, the number of African-American men under criminal supervision today has been compared to the number of African-American men enslaved in 1850.
It was just seven years ago that Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Today the drug is legal in eleven states and counting, with polls showing that sixty per cent of Americans support its legalization. How did that happen so fast? This episode of The New Yorker Radio Hour looks at the end of reefer madness—and the early days of corporate cannabis. Bruce Barcott talks about the politics and the public-health aspects of legalization; Jelani Cobb looks at how legalization tries to undo the decades of harm that marijuana prohibition has done to communities of color; Sue Halpern drives around Vermont, where weed is the new zucchini; and Jia Tolentino shares the joy of watching David Attenborough under the influence.
Alabama Shakes started out playing covers at local gigs but quickly found a unique personal voice rooted in rock and soul. The band came to national attention, found a wide and devoted public, and soon earned four Grammys, for the album “Sound and Color.” But after that record, their second, Brittany Howard—who sings, plays guitar, and writes songs for the group—announced that she was putting Alabama Shakes on hiatus, to work on a solo album. “We sat and we talked about it for several hours; we sat in a circle,” she recalls. “At the end of the conversation, everybody was, like, ‘O.K., we understand. We get it.’ They gave me their blessing to go on and find what I needed to find or create what I needed to create.” Howard gathered a different group of musicians, including the keyboard superstar Robert Glasper, to back her up on a solo album, called “Jamie.” It’s named after Howard’s late sister, but it’s very much about the singer herself—her passions, her concerns, and her upbringing, in Athens, Alabama. Is this, David Remnick asks, the end of Alabama Shakes? “I don’t know,” Howard says, after a pause. “Wherever creativity leads my ship, I can’t force it. That’s the thing. Once I start forcing it, it’s not going to be no good, anyway.”
An exodus is under way in the House of Representatives: not even halfway into the congressional term, fifteen Republicans have announced that they will not run in 2020. One of the exiting members is Will Hurd, a former C.I.A. officer who was elected in 2014. His district in Texas includes nearly a third of the state’s border with Mexico. Although he is reluctant to criticize the G.O.P. directly, Hurd tells the Washington correspondent Susan B. Glasser that he thinks the President’s border policy is ineffective: a wall isn’t the answer, Border Patrol is underfunded relative to the area it covers, and the technology in use for border security is both out of date and overly complicated, “requiring a Ph.D. in computer science to operate,” he says. “I wish I could pass a piece of legislation,” Hurd tells Glasser, “that says you can’t talk about the border unless you’ve been down to the border a few times.” Hurd’s departure is particularly significant because he is—for the sixteen months he has left to serve—the only African-American in the House Republican caucus, and he worries that the President’s negative rhetoric toward people of color is contributing to a demographic shift that’s turning Texas from deep red to purple. “When you have statements the equivalent of, ‘go back to Africa,’ ” Hurd notes, “that is not helpful.” Plus, two leading environmental writers, Bill McKibben and Elizabeth Kolbert, wonder if the new sense of urgency around climate change is coming too late.
Vjeran Tomic has been stealing since he was a small child, when he used a ladder to break into a library in his home town, in Bosnia. After moving to Paris, he graduated to lucrative apartment burglaries, living off the jewels he took and often doing time in prison. He became known in the French press as Spider-Man, and he began to steal art. Tomic has a grand sense of his calling as a burglar; he considers it his destiny and has described his robberies as acts of imagination. He eventually carried a truly epic heist: a break-in at the Musée d’Art Moderne, in Paris, in which he left with seventy million dollars’ worth of paintings. But selling these masterpieces proved harder than stealing them, and that’s where Spider-Man’s troubles began. The contributor Jake Halpern tells Vjeran Tomic’s story; excerpts from Tomic’s letters from prison are read by the actor Jean Brassard.
The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, talks with Salman Rushdie about “Quichotte,” his apocalyptic quest novel. A few years ago, when the four hundredth anniversary of “Don Quixote” was being celebrated, Rushdie reread Cervantes’s book and found himself newly engaged by a much improved translation. He immediately began thinking of writing his own story about a “silly old fool,” like Quixote, who becomes obsessed with an unattainable woman and undertakes a quest to win her love. This character became Quichotte (named for the French opera loosely based on “Don Quixote”), who is seeking the love of—or, as she sees it, stalking—a popular talk-show host. As Quichotte journeys to find her, he encounters the truths of contemporary America: the opioid epidemic, white supremacy, the fallout from the War on Terror, and more. “I’ve always really liked the risky thing of writing very close up against the present moment,” Rushdie tells Treisman. “If you do it wrong, it’s a catastrophe. If you do it right, with luck, you somehow capture a moment.” At the same time, the novel gives full rein to Rushdie’s fantastical streak—at one point, for instance, Quichotte comes across a New Jersey town where people turn into mastodons. Treisman talks with the author about the influence of science fiction on his imagination, and about his personal connection to the tragedy of opioids. Rushdie’s much younger sister died from the consequences of addiction, and the book is centrally concerned with siblings trying to reconnect after separation.
Mischele Lewis learned that her fiancé was a con man and a convicted pedophile. By lying about who he was, did he violate her consent, and commit assault? Lewis’s story raises a larger question: What is consent, and how do we give it? It’s currently the standard by which the law regulates sexual behavior, but the continuing prevalence of harassment and assault has led many college campuses to adopt more stringent standards. At the core of many new rules is the principle of affirmative consent: that sexual partners must verbally and explicitly express their acceptance of each and every sexual overture. The problem is that few of us use affirmative consent—even many of its advocates find it cumbersome in practice. Alondra Nelson, a professor of sociology and the president of the Social Science Research Council, explores this shifting of sexual norms with The New Yorker’s Joshua Rothman. They spoke with the legal scholars Jeannie Suk Gersen and Jacob Gersen, and with the facilitator of cuddle parties, who compares her nonsexual events to “going to the gym for consent.” Plus, an interview with a climate striker. Inspired by Greta Thunberg, fourteen-year-old Alexandria Villaseñor spends her Fridays outside the United Nations, demanding action on climate change. But the risk of “eco-grief” is high, she tells the reporter Carolyn Kormann.
Marianne Williamson, the self-help author associated with the New Age movement, has never held political office. But the race for the Presidency, she thinks, is less a battle of politics than a battle of souls. In her appearance in the July Democratic debates, she said that President Donald Trump is bringing up a “dark psychic force.” “The worst aspects of human character have been harnessed for political purposes,” she tells David Remnick. Williamson sees herself as a kind of spiritual counter to Trump, reshaping our moral trajectory. And she does have policies, which include repealing the 2017 tax cut and an ambitious plan for slavery reparations, and also tapping some surprising people for her Cabinet. Campaigning on her credentials hasn’t been easy: she’s had to debunk some myths and clarify some statements. She is not an anti-vaxxer, she insists—she apologizes for her earlier remarks on the subject—or a medical skeptic. “I’m Jewish,” she says, “I go to the doctor.” She does not, she says, even have a crystal in her home. “I know this sounds naïve,” she complains, but “I didn’t think the left was so mean. I didn’t think the left lied like this.”
Kate Walbert reads her story from the September 2, 2019, issue of the magazine. Walbert's novels include "Our Kind," "A Short History of Women," and "His Favorites." A new story collection, "She Was Like That," will be published in October.
Jia Tolentino writes for The New Yorker about an extremely wide range of topics, but a central concern is what it has meant to her to have grown up alongside the Internet. In her new, best-selling collection of essays, “Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion,” she traces how the digital world has evolved and shaped our minds. Tolentino tells Remnick that, in the early, freer days of the Web, the Internet felt like “a neighborhood you could walk through, and just go into these houses decorated with all of these things you’d never seen before—and then you could leave.” Tolentino remains a very popular and influential figure online, but she has concerns about how the digital world has developed. Now that profit-seeking social-media giants dominate the landscape, there is fierce competition for our attention spans and the constant demand for people to perform their identities, all of which she finds “corrosive.” For Tolentino, writing—which takes “uncertainty and agony and work and devotion, and sustained attention”—is an antidote to that corrosion, and almost a kind of spiritual practice. “The fact of having time to think about something in private before it becomes public still feels like a real miracle to me.”Plus, David Remnick talks with two of the creators—one Israeli, one Palestinian—of HBO’s “Our Boys.” The ten-part series examines the forces that led to a crime that was shocking even by the standards of a country that is used to terror: the torture and murder of a Palestinian teen-ager, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, by Israeli right-wing extremists. “Our Boys” is a brutally truthful depiction of the effects of hate crime.
The winner of twenty Grand Slam titles and the top-ranked men’s player for three hundred and ten weeks, Roger Federer remains a dominant force in tennis. On the eve of playing in his nineteenth U.S. Open, Federer spoke with David Remnick about how he got over the hot temper and predilection for throwing racquets that he showed early in his career. At the advanced age of thirty-eight—and as a father of young children—Federer explains what he’s had to give up in order to keep playing professionally. But he doesn’t plan to retire a day before he has to. “I think it's nice to keep on playing, and really squeeze the last drop of lemon out of it,” he tells Remnick, “and not leave the game of tennis thinking, Oh, I should have stayed longer.” Plus, the staff writer Hua Hsu on the singular career of a Chinese vocalist with global ambitions.
Derren Brown wants you to know that he is not a magician. The term he prefers to use is “psychological illusionist,” and his acts mix psychology, misdirection, and showmanship. When he performs, he’s explicit about engaging with audiences’ minds and beliefs. “If you’re an audience member, the most interesting process is you,” he tells Adam Green, at the New Yorker Festival. Like most of the best mentalists in recent decades, Brown is open about the fact that his one big trick is his ability to manipulate a roomful of people.
Brown’s show “Secret” opens on Broadway in early September.
Maggie Gyllenhaal’s first starring role was in the 2002 movie “Secretary,” a distriburbing romantic comedy about a troubled woman in a sadomasochistic relationship with her boss. Since then, Gyllenhaal has continued to push the boundaries of how sex is depicted on screen as an executive producer and star of “The Deuce,” HBO’s drama about the beginnings of the porn industry. In a conversation with The New Yorker’s Lauren Collins, Gyllenhaal talks about her character, Candy, who leaves street prostitution to perform in porn, and eventually makes her way into directing. Since the show premiered, the #MeToo movement has shed light on how women are asked to compromise themselves, not only in sex work but in entertainment, at almost every walk of life. “Many women have been asked to compromise themselves and have done it,” she tells Collins, admitting that she has moments of thinking, “Oh my god. How did I laugh at that joke or stay in that meeting or put that shirt on?” Gyllenhaal also talks about adapting for film a novel by Elena Ferrante, who gave her the rights—on condition that Gyllenhaal herself direct it.
The third and final season of “The Deuce” begins in September, 2019.
Ian Frazier, who has chronicled American life for The New Yorker for more than forty years, travelled to a house in Fort Collins, Colorado, where three roommates build, fly, and race drones. Jordan Temkin, Zachry Thayer, and Travis McIntyre are three of perhaps only fifty professional drone racers in the world, piloting the tiny devices through complex courses at upward of eighty miles an hour. Drones have had an enormous impact on military strategy, and the commercial applications seem limitless, but, for these pilots, drones exist in the strange overlap between pure adrenaline and big money that defines pro sports.
Nanfu Wang grew up under China’s one-child policy and never questioned it. “You don’t know that it’s something initiated and implemented by the authority,” she tells The New Yorker’s Jiayang Fan. “It’s a normal part of everything. Just like water exists, or air.” But when Wang became pregnant she started to understand the magnitude of the law—and the suffering behind it. Wang’s documentary, “One Child Nation,” explores the effects of one of the largest social experiments in history. She uncovers stories of confusion and trauma, in Chinese society and within her own family. After Wang’s uncle had a daughter, his family forced him to abandon her at a local market so that he and his wife could try for a son. “He stood there, across the street, watching to see if somebody would come and take the baby,” Wang tells Fan. “He wanted to bring her home, but his mom threatened to commit suicide. . . . He felt so torn. There was no right decision.”
Toni Morrison read The New York Times with pencil in hand. An editor by trade, Morrison never stopped noting errors in the paper. In 2015, during a conversation with The New Yorker’s Hilton Als, Morrison noted that the stories she cared about were once absent from the news. Now they’re present, but distorted. “The language is manipulated and strangled in such a way that you get the message,” she noted wryly. “I know there is a difference between the received story… and what is actually going on.” Morrison, who died on Monday, was the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature and one of the most beloved writers of the 21st century. In a wide-ranging interview with Als, Morrison discusses her last novel, God Help The Child, writing in a modern setting, and her relationship to her father, whom she says was complicated man and bluntly calls a “racist.” When she was older, she learned that he had wittnessed the lynching of two of his neighbors. “I think that’s why he thought white people… were incorrigible,” she explains to Als. “They were doomed.”
Language Advisory: At around 34 minutes into the interview, Hilton Als quotes a line from Toni Morrison’s book “Jazz” that contains the n-word. We feel it is important to leave the word uncensored as it is an accurate depiction of the language Morrison used in her description of black life in America. However, it may not be suitable for younger listeners.
In January, The New Yorker’s Ben Taub travelled to Mauritania to meet with Mohamedou Salahi. An electrical engineer who had lived in Germany, Salahi was detained at Guantánamo Bay for fifteen years and tortured, despite the fact that he was not a terrorist. But one of the key pieces of evidence was that Salahi’s cousin, known as Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, was a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda—a member of the group’s governing Shura Council and a spiritual adviser to Osama bin Laden, who had drafted bin Laden’s infamous fatwa against the United States. While Salahi endured torture at Guantánamo, Abu Hafs was never captured or detained by the United States. When Ben Taub met Abu Hafs at a wedding of Mauritanian élites, he wondered how this man had gone free while his cousin had suffered so much. Abu Hafs agreed to an interview, but it quickly took a turn that Ben didn’t expect.
When Mohamedou Salahi arrived at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, in August of 2002, he was hopeful. He knew why he had been detained: he had crossed paths with Al Qaeda operatives, and his cousin had once called him from Osama bin Laden’s phone. But Salahi was no terrorist—he held no extremist views—and had no information of any plots. He trusted the American system of justice and thought the authorities would realize their mistake before long.
He was wrong.
Salahi spent fifteen years at Guantánamo, where he was subjected to some of the worst excesses of America’s war on terror; Donald Rumsfeld personally signed off on the orders for his torture. And, under torture, Salahi confessed to everything—even though he had done nothing. “If they would have wanted him to confess to being on the grassy knoll for the J.F.K. assassination, I’m sure we could have got him to confess to that, too,” Mark Fallon, who led an investigation unit at Guantánamo, said.
Ben Taub reported Mohamedou Salahi’s story for The New Yorker and tried to understand what had gone wrong in the fight against Al Qaeda. Salahi met Ben in Mauritania, because, when the U.S. released him, it was under the condition that Mauritania would withhold his passport. He would like to go abroad—he needs medical treatment, and he hopes to live in a democracy. But, for an innocent victim of Guantánamo, being released isn’t the same as being free.
The cultural critic Doreen St. Félix goes to Madame Tussauds with Justin Kuritzkes, the début author of the novel “Famous People,” to talk about the nature of celebrity. Jia Tolentino heads for the children’s section of a bookstore with Rivka Galchen to compare notes on the kids’ books that still inspire them. And Jelani Cobb recommends three recent works of history that shed light on our current moment.
Tana French was an actor in her thirties when she sat down to write about a mystery that took the lives of two children, which became the global blockbuster “In the Woods.” With her subsequent books about the Dublin Murder Squad, French became known as “the queen of Irish crime fiction”—despite having been born in the United States. French’s latest book, “The Witch Elm,” departs from her line of police procedurals: the narrator is a civilian, a happy-go-lucky young man named Toby whose life is turned upside down when he is attacked during a burglary. Although the book involves a murder, “The core story arc is not the murder and the solution,” French tells Alexandra Schwartz. “The core story arc is Toby going from this golden boy [with] his happy life to somebody who’s had that shattered. . . . Where will this crisis take him?” Though known as a literary mystery writer, French acknowledges that some of her fans have found the plot frustrating. “If you’re coming to this book expecting a straight-up crime novel . . . you are going to be a hundred pages in [asking], ‘Where’s my murder?’ ”
Fahamu Pecou has shown work in museums all over the country and appeared on television shows like “Empire” and “black-ish.” The men the artist depicts tend to strike exaggerated poses, with sagging bluejeans and a cascade of colorful boxer shorts. Pecou gained notoriety in Atlanta, for a poster campaign bearing the legend “Fahamu Pecou Is the Shit.” The New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb notes that Pecou “has the ability to deal with themes that relate primarily to black male identity in the U.S.,” including stereotypes and police violence, “while injecting a very subversive element of humor.” Cobb went to Atlanta to meet with Pecou and spoke with him about the influence of African tradition on his life and work.
Some people have always believed that the moon landing was a government hoax, and, in the age of the Internet, that conspiracy theory continues to thrive. Andrew Marantz explores the value of skepticism, and the point at which disbelief leads to a totalitarian breakdown. We went to the archives for three real-time accounts of what it was like to watch the moon landing on television.
In 2014, Tom Hanks—the star of “Apollo 13,” among many other accomplishments—wrote a short story about going to the moon. But his was not a dramatic story of NASA heroes facing grave danger. Hanks told the tale of a very twenty-first century mission, executed D.I.Y. style, with four misfits in a space capsule run off an iPad and held together with duct tape. The story, “Alan Bean Plus Four,” was published in The New Yorker in 2014. Hanks originally read the story for the New Yorker’s Writer’s Voice podcast.
“I can remember, even four months after [“Call Me Maybe” ’s] release, being claimed in the press as a one-hit wonder,” Carly Rae Jepsen says. “Isn’t it too soon to decide that? Give me a chance!” The Canadian singer and songwriter was by no means a one-hit wonder, and her talent for crafting earworm pop songs about love in all its forms won her a legion of fans and the devotion of many critics, including The New Yorker’s Amanda Petrusich. In 2017, while Jepsen was working on her fourth album, “Dedicated”—which was released in May, 2019—Jepsen sat down at the New Yorker Festival with Petrusich, to talk about her creative process. She had already written eighty songs for the record, she estimated. “If you wanted, I could write you a song right now, but it might not be good. I never run out of ideas, and I never stop enjoying doing it.” With her collaborator and guitarist Tavish Crowe, Jepsen performed an acoustic version of her hit “I Really Like You” live.
It’s hard to recall a newly elected freshman representative to Congress who has made a bigger impact than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Her primary victory for New York’s Fourteenth District seat—as a young woman of color beating out a long-established white male incumbent—was big news, and Ocasio-Cortez has been generating headlines almost daily ever since. Practically the day she took her seat in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez became the hero of the left wing of the Democrats and a favored villain of Fox News and the right. She battled Nancy Pelosi to make the Green New Deal a priority, and has been involved with a movement to launch primary challenges against centrist or right-leaning Democrats. Like Bernie Sanders, she embraces the label of democratic socialism and supports free college education for all Americans. She has called for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She joined David Remnick in the New Yorker Radio Hour studio on July 5th, just after her trip to the border to examine migrant-detention facilities. Remnick and Ocasio-Cortez spoke about why she courted controversy by referring to some facilities as “concentration camps”; why she thinks the Department of Homeland Security is irredeemable; and whether Joe Biden is qualified to be President, given his comments about colleagues who supported forms of segregation. “Issues of race and gender are not extra-credit points in being a good Democrat,” she says. “They are a core part of the ... competencies that a President needs. . . . Where are you on understanding the people that live in this country?”
As he set about adapting “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the stage, Aaron Sorkin found himself troubled by its protagonist, the small-town lawyer Atticus Finch. Harper Lee’s Finch, he thought, is tolerant to a fault—understanding rather than condemning the violent racism of many of his neighbors. Sorkin also felt that Lee’s two black characters, the maid Calpurnia and the falsely accused Tom Robinson, lacked a real voice. “I imagine that, in 1960, using African-American characters as atmosphere is the kind of thing that would go unnoticed by white people,” he tells David Remnick. “In 2018, it doesn’t go unnoticed, and it’s wrong, and it’s also a wasted opportunity.” Sorkin’s changes in his adaptation led to a lawsuit from Harper Lee’s literary executor, who had placed specific conditions on the faithfulness of his script. In Sorkin’s view, the criticisms of the executor, Tonja Carter, were tantamount to racism, in that they reinforced the lack of agency of black people in the South in the nineteen-thirties. (Carter declined to comment on Sorkin’s remarks, and the lawsuit was settled before the play was produced.) Sorkin says that, of his own volition, he cut some of his new lines that hinted too broadly toward the current Presidency. But Atticus Finch’s realization—that the people in his community whom he thought he knew best were people he never really knew at all—mirrors the experience of many Americans since 2016. Plus, Ocean Vuong, the author of the best-selling autobiographical novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” visits the food court at a largely Asian mall in Queens that reminds him of home.
Tracy K. Smith was named Poet Laureate, in 2017, right after the most divisive election of our time. She could have spent her two-year appointment writing and enjoying a nice office in the Library of Congress, but she felt poetry might be able to help mend some of the divisions that the election had highlighted. Her plan was this: to put together a collection of poems from living poets, called “American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time,” that she felt were in some way relevant to our moment, and to hit the road—visiting community centers, senior centers, prisons, and colleges. While serving as Poet Laureate, Smith estimates that she travelled one or two nights every week, reading poems written by herself and others, and discussing them with groups of people. “It was exhausting, and exhilarating, and it was probably the best thing I could have done as an American,” she told The New Yorker’s poetry editor, Kevin Young.
Valeria Luiselli first travelled to the U.S.–Mexico border in 2014, when the current immigration crisis began to heat up. Under the Trump Presidency, the border has become the dead center of American politics, and Luiselli returned with the radio producer Pejk Malinovski. Luiselli is a Mexican writer living in New York, and the author of “Lost Children Archive” and other books. She wrote in The New Yorker about Wild West reënactments, in which actors stage scenes like a gunfight at O.K. Corral. In Tombstone, Arizona, and Shakespeare, New Mexico, she finds a very particular view of Western history that elides the U.S.’s long and complicated relationship with Mexico, which once owned this region. She finds that historical reënactments feed a notion of the border region as a lawless frontier requiring vigilantes to defend American interests.
For decades, critical praise for a TV show was that it was “not like TV,” but more like a novel or a movie. That ingrained hierarchy always bugged Emily Nussbaum, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for her criticism in The New Yorker. She has been compared to Pauline Kael, but Nussbaum—acknowledging the compliment—is quick to point out that she has never written about movies, nor has she wanted to. She was inspired to be a TV critic by “Television Without Pity,” a blog site of passionate, informed fans arguing constantly. In her new book, “I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way through the TV Revolution,” Nussbaum argues that the success of serious antihero dramas like “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad” has led many to devalue mainstays of TV, like comedies and even soap operas. It’s time to stop comparing TV to anything else, she tells David Remnick.
The New Yorker contributor Jenna Krajeski recently met with a woman who calls herself Esperanza. In her home country, Esperanza was coerced and threatened into prostitution, and later was trafficked into the United States, where she was subjected to appalling conditions. Esperanza eventually obtained legal help, and applied for something called a T visa. The T visa contains unusual provisions that recognize the unique circumstances of human-trafficking victims in seeking legal status. It has also been a crucial tool to obtaining victims’ coöperation in prosecuting traffickers. The Trump Administration claims to want to fight the problem of human trafficking, but Krajeski notes that its policies have done the opposite: T-visa applicants can now be deported if their applications are rejected. This dramatic change in policy sharply reduced the number of applications from victims seeking help. “If what [the Administration] cares about is putting traffickers in prison, which is what they say they care about, their prosecutions are going down and will go down further,” Martina Vandenberg, the president of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, says. “Trafficking victims under the circumstances can’t actually coöperate.”
After a U.S. drone was allegedly shot down by Iran last week, relations between Tehran and Washington are again approaching a low point; on Thursday, President Trump ordered and then called off an air strike. The situation has been deteriorating since the beginning of the Trump era, with the Administration actively supporting Saudi Arabia as a regional competitor to Iran, and the President withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The New Yorker staff writer Dexter Filkins says that Iran’s initial strategy was to wait the Trump Presidency out. That calculus has changed as more hawkish advisors, like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, who are intent on imposing harsh sanctions on Iran, have joined the Administration. The result has been a series of tit-for-tat exchanges between the two countries, which could ultimately lead to a larger conflict. “If things got out of control in that region, that would be, Iraq, to Iran, to Afghanistan,” Filkins said. “I can't imagine where that would end, or how it would end." Kelefa Sanneh shares three music picks with David Remnick: artists who deliver all the emotional joys of pop music, but aren’t extremely popular.
Robert Caro is a historical biographer unlike anyone else writing today, with the Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, and other honors to prove it. But to call his books biographies seems to miss the mark: they’re so rich in detail, so accurate, and at the same time so broad in scope, that they’re more like epics of American history. David Remnick sat down with Caro at the McCarter Theater, in Princeton, New Jersey, on the occasion of the publication of “Working,” a volume of Caro’s speeches and other writings. They covered Caro’s early years as a newspaper reporter, his determination to tackle a project—the rise to power of Robert Moses—that no one had accomplished, and finally his chronicle of the life of Lyndon Johnson. Caro has completed four volumes on Johnson, with a fifth, covering the Presidency, in the works. Remnick asks about Caro’s singular method of interviewing in depth, and Caro describes his interview with Sam Houston Johnson, the president’s brother, which Caro conducted at the National Park Service’s Lyndon B Johnson Boyhood Home historic site. “I took him into the dining room,” Caro recalls, and told Johnson to sit where he had sat as a child. “I didn’t sit where he could see me . . . . I sat behind him. So I said, ‘Now tell about these terrible arguments your father used to have with Lyndon at the table.’ At first it was very slow going, you’d have to keep prompting him. But finally he was just shouting it out: ‘Lyndon you’re a failure, you’ll always be a failure. And what are you, you’re a bus inspector!’ And I felt he was back in the moment. So I said, ‘Now Sam Houston, I want you to tell me again those wonderful stories you told me before, that everybody tells about Lyndon Johnson.’ And there was this long pause. And then he says, ‘I can’t.’ And I said, ‘Why not?’ And he says, ‘Because they never happened.’ And without me saying another word, he starts to tell the story of Lyndon Johnson, which is a very different story of a very ruthless young man.”
Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (which owns Google), and Facebook—known in the tech world as the Big Four—are among the largest and most profitable companies in the world, and they’ve been accustomed to the laxest of oversight from Washington. But the climate may have shifted in a significant way. The Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, and the House Judiciary Committee are all investigating different aspects of the Big Four; Elizabeth Warren has made breaking up these companies a cornerstone of her Presidential campaign. Sue Halpern, a New Yorker contributor, sounds a cautious note about these developments. Current antitrust law doesn’t well fit the nature of these businesses, and breaking up the companies will not necessarily solve underlying issues, like the lack of privacy law. In a twist, Halpern says, the Big Four and now asking the federal government for more regulation—because, she explains to David Remnick, the companies’ lobbyists can sway Washington more easily than they can influence state governments like California, which just passed a rigorous data-privacy law similar to the European Union’s. “They’re being called to account, they have to do something,” she notes, “but they want to direct the conversation so that, ultimately, they still win.” Plus, we contemplate the dire prospect of Houston without air conditioning. Bryan Washington, a Houston native and a celebrated young fiction writer, introduces non-natives to a cherished local institution: the open-air bar and community space called an ice house.
Masha Gessen co-hosts this episode of the New Yorker Radio Hour, guiding David Remnick through the fifty years of civil-rights gains for L.G.B.T.Q. people. From drag queens reading to children at the library to a popular gay Presidential candidate, we’ll look at how the movement for L.G.B.T.Q. rights has changed our culture and our laws. The actress and comedian Lea DeLaria takes us through five decades of queer history in five minutes. Gessen talks with a Stonewall historian named Martin Duberman about whether the movement has become too conservative, and, later, she visits with a gay asylum seeker who recently fled Russia’s state security agency.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this program misidentified the location of the 2016 Pulse night-club shooting.
Ava DuVernay doesn’t like using the term Central Park Five—a moniker created by the press in the aftermath of the notorious and brutal assault of a twenty-eight-year-old woman, Trisha Meili. “They’re not the Central Park Five,” she tells the New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb. “They’re Korey, Yusef, Antron, Kevin, and Raymond.” They were five teens who were coerced into confessing to a terrible crime by police determined to find a culprit. It was a time when “the police, the district attorney, the prosecutors [wanted] to get a ‘win’ on the board,” DuVernay thinks, “because there were so many losses, so much going wrong.” Cobb wrote in The New Yorker that “The reaction to Meili’s assault came as the nadir of a two-decade-long spiral of racial animosity driven by a fear of crime,” noting that, in that same week, brutal attacks on women of color failed to generate any headlines or perceptible outrage. The story has returned to public consciousness in recent years because of its role in launching Donald Trump’s political career. One of Trump’s first political acts, in 1989, was to take out a newspaper ad calling for the execution of the boys, and he stuck by his view even after they were exonerated. DuVernay’s goal was to tell the story of those five boys and the men they became.
“When They See Us” was released on Netflix on May 31st.
The #MeToo movement of recent years started in the entertainment industry, with revelations about moguls such as Harvey Weinstein and CBS’s Les Moonves, and, since 2017, television writers have been grappling with how to address sexual harassment for a modern audience. Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker’s television critic, examined the issue in a recent essay. Some of the shows she thinks are doing the best job are actually comedies, from the strange animated series “Tuca and Bertie” to the deeply cynical “Veep.” “Maybe there’s been a hesitation to deal with this head-on in drama,” she tells David Remnick, “because drama does, to some extent, at least, require sincerity, and sincerity can be uncomfortable in talking about trauma and assault.” One of Nussbaum’s favorites from this “deluge” of plotlines comes on the show “High Maintenance,” where, instead of some appalling revelation of misconduct, we watch a character reassessing a seemingly minor incident with fresh eyes. “He’s clearly thought about this in a post-MeToo way, as ‘Is this the shitty thing that I did that traumatized a woman that I know? . . . How do I take responsibility for it?’ ” Plus, Ruth Franklin on the late poet Mary Oliver, whose spirituality, love of nature, and unusual directness made her one of the most beloved poets of our time.
The idea of reparations—real compensation made to the descendants of slaves or the victims of legalized discrimination—has gained traction since the publication, in 2014, of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s influential article “The Case for Reparations,” which appeared in The Atlantic. But even among proponents of the concept, the ideas about what reparations would mean vary wildly. Questions linger about the intended recipients. Should only descendants of people enslaved on American soil (rather than the Caribbean or elsewhere in the diaspora) be eligible? That is the contention of people using the hashtag ADOS, or American Descendants of Slavery, which has become controversial. How important is genealogical proof to making a claim, given that slavery often did not leave good records? What about Americans who may have had an enslaved ancestor, but have not personally identified as African-American?
Alondra Nelson, a professor of sociology at Columbia University and president of the Social Science Research Council, talked with two prominent scholars who have addressed the issue: Darrick Hamilton, the executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, and William A. Darity, the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Then Nelson sat down with The New Yorker’s Joshua Rothman to explain the challenges faced.
Late in the Civil War, the Union general William T. Sherman confiscated four hundred thousand acres of land from Confederate planters and ordered it redistributed, in forty-acre lots, to formerly enslaved people—a promise revoked by President Andrew Johnson almost as soon as it was made. More than a hundred and fifty years later, the debate on what America owes to the descendants of slaves, or to people robbed by the legal discrimination that followed, still rages. David Remnick talks with Ta-Nehisi Coates and Susan B. Glasser about how reparations has become a major focus in the 2020 Democratic primary contest. And we’ll visit Georgetown University, where students have chosen to take reparations upon themselves.
Despite winning a Grammy for her song “Passionate Kisses,” which was performed by Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lucinda Williams spent many years overlooked by the music industry: she was too country for rock, too rock for country. In 1998, American music caught up to her, and her album “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” broke through. The staff writer Ariel Levy sat down with Williams at the New Yorker Festival, in 2012, to talk about God, Flannery O’Connor, and the musician’s path through the industry. Williams topped it all of with a live performance.
James Taylor’s songs are so familiar that they seem to have always existed. Onstage at the New Yorker Festival, in 2010, Taylor peeled back some of his influences—the Beatles, Bach, show tunes, and Antônio Carlos Jobim—and played a few of his hits, even giving the staff writer Adam Gopnik a quick lesson.
Few Americans dispute the centrality of the Constitution as a statement of our country’s goals; it is as though holy. But what the Constitution actually means to any two people may differ widely, and those differences are dramatized in a new play, on Broadway, called “What the Constitution Means to Me.” It’s essentially a one-person show written and performed by Heidi Schreck (profiled in The New Yorker by Michael Schulman), and it’s her first play to reach Broadway. The performer reflects on her personal history as a high-school debate champion, when she was rewarded for upholding an officially sanctioned view of American politics that she has come to realize is a distortion. Both the play and Schreck’s performance have been nominated for Tony Awards; it’s a hit, and it’s a cultural flashpoint in an era when the phrase “constitutional crisis” is invoked almost weekly. Dorothy Wickenden spoke with Heidi Schreck. Plus, SoundCloud rap—once a marginal, willfully weird genre for amateurs—has lately created some of the biggest hits in hip-hop.
After years of languishing far down the list of voters’ priorities, climate change has moved to the top of many voters’ concerns, according to a new CNN poll. Now Presidential candidates are competing to establish themselves as leaders on the issue, and children are making headlines for striking from school over the issue. Bill McKibben, whose book “The End of Nature” brought the idea of global warming to public consciousness thirty years ago, tells David Remnick that the accumulation of weather catastrophes—droughts, wildfires, floods—may have finally made an impact. “You watch as a California city literally called Paradise literally turns into hell inside half an hour,” McKibben reflects. “Once people have seen pictures like that, it’s no wonder we begin to see a real uptick in the response.” McKibben joined the New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert in a conversation about the U.N.’s new report on biodiversity. It finds that a million species could become extinct within a few decades and that human life itself may be imperilled. Although the political tide could be turning, both worry that it is too late. “The problem with climate change is that it’s a timed test,” McKibben notes. “If you don’t solve it fast, then you don’t solve it. No one’s got a plan for refreezing the Arctic once it’s melted. . . . We’re not playing for stopping climate change. We’re playing—maybe—for being able to slow it down to the point where it doesn’t make civilizations impossible.” And Karen Russell, whose books are inspired by her native Florida, finds a new sense of enchantment after relocating to the Oregon coast, where the big trees are like characters out of Jim Henson.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand been fierce on the issue of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the military and government; as a champion of the MeToo movement, she was among the first Democrats to call for Senator Al Franken to step down. Some in the Party, she has claimed, are still angry with her over it, and have withheld donating to her campaign. Gillibrand tells David Remnick that her experience as a female politician will be a strength if she were to face Trump in the general election. “My first two opponents were in a 2-to-1 Republican district, who demeaned me, and name-called me, and tried to dismiss me. And not only did it make my candidacy relevant, but it made it got a lot of people deeply offended, and they wanted to know who I was and why I was running.” Trump’s “Achilles heel,” she says, “is a mother with young children who’s running on issues that . . . families care about. His kryptonite is a woman who stands up for what she believes in and doesn’t back down.”
Plus, a visit to “Interfaith Alley” at New York’s Kennedy Airport with the comedian Pete Holmes, who lost his evangelical faith but not his passion for the way religions give life meaning.
By the standards of any musician, Rhiannon Giddens has a twisting and complex path. Trained as an operatic soprano at the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory, Giddens fell almost by chance into the study of American folk music. Alongside two like-minded musicians, she formed the Carolina Chocolate Drops, in which she plays banjo and sings. The group is focussed on reviving the nearly forgotten repertoire of black Southern string bands, but the audience for acoustic music remains largely white. Giddens tells David Remnick she was heartbroken that her largest black audience was at a prison concert. “The gatekeepers of black culture are not interested in what I’m doing,” she says. “This is a complaint I’ve heard from many, many people of color who do music that’s not considered black—hip-hop, R&B.” Her view of black music is more expansive: “There’s been black people singing opera and writing classical music forever.” As a solo artist, Giddens is moving increasingly far afield from African-American or American music; her new album, “There Is No Other,” recorded in Dublin in collaboration with the musician Francesco Turrisi, explores folk styles from the Middle East, Europe, and Brazil, as well as early America. She and Turrisi perform “Wayfaring Stranger,” the ancient ballad “Little Margaret,” and the tarantella “Pizzica di San Vito.”
In the field of memory care, there is a fierce debate around the question of honesty. Lying can, under certain circumstances, alleviate or avert distress in patients who are suffering from memory loss. But, on principle, many providers, patients, and family members don’t like the idea of deceiving patients who are in such a vulnerable position. Some care homes have strict no-lying policies.
But the New Yorker staff writer Larissa McFarquhar recently spent some time at a different kind of assisted-living facility that takes the opposite approach—The facility is one of only a few of its kind in the United States." The Lantern, in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, is home to about forty patients who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The care staff at the Lantern are taught that, in some cases, lying to patients is kinder than telling them the truth. McFarquhar talks with Andrea Paratto, who helps train the Lantern’s staff. In a previous job, at a facility where lying to patients was against the rules, she had to remind a ninety-year-old woman that her mother was long dead. “She just started crying,” she tells McFarquhar. “I stopped right then and there and said I’m never doing that again. I cannot put somebody through that ever again.”
Some people argue that lying to patients undermines their dignity. But when it comes to patients struggling with dementia, McFarquhar says, there are other factors to consider. “Maybe something else should be the goal—I don’t know. Happiness? Autonomy? Or living your life as you want to, insofar as that’s possible.”
In a crowded Democratic field, the candidate Julián Castro is eager to stand out. One way he’s tried to do that is by taking on the issue of immigration—a favorite topic of President Donald Trump, and one that’s important to his base. In a wide-ranging conversation with the New Yorker editor David Remnick, Castro lays out his plan. And Taylor Mac, a performance artist and playwright who made a name for himself in New York City’s downtown theater scene, makes the leap to Broadway.
The Green New Deal is coming to the table during the one of the most divisive periods Washington has ever seen. Two advocates of the environmental plan—a young activist championing the cause, and a veteran of climate politics in Washington—consider what it would take to actually pass such legislation. And The New Yorker’s Patty Marx learns firsthand that conducting an orchestra can’t be mastered overnight.
Last March, Wayne LaPierre sent a fund-raising letter to his members—an urgent plea for money. LaPierre described an attack on the Second Amendment that is unprecedented in the history of the country. But, in reality, what is endangering the N.R.A. isn’t constitutional law; it’s destructive business relationships that have damaged the organization financially, and have put it in legal jeopardy.
Searching through N.R.A. tax forms, charity records, contracts, and internal communications, the reporter Mike Spies discovered that “a small group of N.R.A executives, contractors, and venders have extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget, enriching themselves in the process.” While the organization is quick to lay blame on its political opponents, Spies says, it’s its questionable financial practices that have weakened it from the inside.
Central to the story of the N.R.A’s financial problems is an Oklahoma-based P.R. firm called Ackerman McQueen. Ack-Mac didn’t just write press releases: for decades, it has steered the N.R.A.’s imaging on all platforms, and its executives routinely took positions within the N.R.A. In 2017, the N.R.A. paid Ackerman and affiliates almost forty-one million dollars, which totalled about twelve per cent of the N.R.A.’s total expenses that year. Ostensibly just a contractor, Ackerman influenced N.R.A. decision-making from inside, and the for-profit company seems to have used the nonprofit company as a vast source of funds to enrich itself.
Spies interviewed Aaron Davis, who worked in the N.R.A.’s fund-raising operation for a decade. “I think there is an inherent conflict of interest,” Davis says. “And it just doesn’t seem like N.R.A. leadership is all that concerned about this.”
(After this interview took place, the N.R.A. sued Ackerman McQueen, claiming that the contractor had hidden important documentation from it that detailed the business relationships.)
Christine Baranski was a successful theatre actor who would never stoop to do television in the old days. But when she got the pilot script for “Cybill,” and had two daughters to put through school, she took the role of Marianne, the tough-talking best friend of Cybill Shepherd’s character. “Who goes to Hollywood at forty-two and becomes an overnight star?” Baranski asks the critic Emily Nussbaum. What made her such a sensation? “No one had seen that woman on American television” before, she notes, of her character, a badass with a Martini and an attitude. “Sex and the City” came later. Playing strong women seems to come naturally to Baranski; since 2009, she’s portrayed the capable, elegant Diane Lockhart, in “The Good Wife” and then “The Good Fight.” She talked with Nussbaum in a live conversation at the 2018 New Yorker Festival. Plus, Amanda Petrusich talks with the musician Kurt Vile, who performs his song “Pretty Pimpin” live.
Masha Gessen and Keith Gessen have, taken together, written more than a dozen books and a thousand articles. Keith Gessen is a founder of n+1, an influential literary journal; Masha has written for major newspapers and journals as well as, since 2014, The New Yorker. Their parents emigrated from the Soviet Union in its latter days. Keith has spent most of his life in America, but Masha, who is older, returned to Russia as an adult and worked there as a reporter. In a conversation at the 2018 New Yorker Festival, the siblings discussed their different perspectives on the U.S.-Russia relationship. All through the Mueller investigation, Masha warned people not to expect a smoking gun to prove collusion between Putin and Trump, and then, somehow, this fierce critic of Putin was branded an apologist for his regime. Masha’s most recent book is “The Future Is History”; Keith’s is a novel, called “A Terrible Country.”
Most of us have biases and prejudices we don’t acknowledge—or aren’t even aware of. Admitting those biases is a baseline of political “wokeness.” But measuring and proving bias, and showing how it works, is another matter. Jennifer Eberhardt is a social psychologist at Stanford University who studies these issues through neuroimaging and other experiments. Bias, in her view, is not merely a learned phenomenon but one that involves neurological patterns that are “tuned” by cultural experience. And it may operate most prominently in situations where people have the least time for reflection. Eberhardt says that intervening on a policy level to reduce the consequences of bias involves slowing down decision-making in critical situations such as policing. She spoke with David Remnick about her new book, “Biased.” Plus, Briana Younger, a music editor at The New Yorker, visits with the bassist and producer who helped make Kendrick Lamar’s album “To Pimp a Butterfly.” He goes by Thundercat.
During an exit interview with President Barack Obama in November, 2016, just weeks after the election, David Remnick asked who would be the leaders of the Democratic Party and the contenders to oppose Trump in 2020. Obama mentioned people like Kamala Harris, of California, and Tim Kaine, of Virginia, along with a very surprising figure: Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who was only thirty-five at the time. In recent weeks, Buttigieg has been raising his profile dramatically, and raising money at a surprising clip, considering that he lacks the national profile of a senator or a governor. In a huge field of candidates, the mayor stands out. He’s a Navy veteran, and was born and raised in South Bend, so he brings heartland credibility to his campaign. But he’s also the youngest candidate in the field, and the first openly gay person with a real shot at the nomination. Buttigieg had not yet come out when he took office and when he joined the Navy Reserves, but deployment in Afghanistan changed his perspective. “I realized I couldn’t go on like that forever. . . . Something about that really clarified my awareness of the extent to which you only get to live one life and be one person,” Buttigieg tells Remnick. “Part of it was the exposure to danger,” he notes, but there was more to it: “I began to feel a little bit humiliated about the idea that my life could come to an end and I could be a visible public official and a grown man and a homeowner and have no idea what it was like to be in love.”
Patrick Radden Keefe has reported on the Sackler family and their control of Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. Among the sources for his article “Empire of Pain” was a whistle-blower named Steven May, a former sales rep who joined Purdue during the heyday of OxyContin. In an interview for the New Yorker Radio Hour, May details how the company flooded the market with a powerful painkiller that it deceptively touted as being nearly as safe as Tylenol. Plus, two beloved cartoonists—Roz Chast and Liana Finck—talk shop.
The Mueller investigation has been a two-year obsession for nearly everyone who cares about politics in America. For one side, the special counsel was a bête noire, a leader of a witch hunt; for the other, Mueller was a deus ex machina who would end the political disruptions of Trumpism. But the report received by Attorney General William Barr was highly ambivalent, neither indicting nor exonerating the President, and leaving to the A.G. to decide the crucial question of obstruction of justice.
To weigh the consequences of the Mueller report, David Remnick sat down with the staff writers Masha Gessen and Susan Glasser. “Any other political figure of course would be glad that an investigation like this is over, and would want to move on as quickly as possible,” Glasser notes. “True to form, [Trump] is already talking about various vindictive moves, and ‘investigating the investigators.’ . . . It’s a strategy compatible with his overall approach of appealing to his supporters, and maximum divisiveness.”
Since the minute that British citizens voted, in a 2016 referendum, to leave the European Union, confusion and disorganization has consumed the U.K. Three years later, little has changed: confusion and disorganization may carry the U.K. over the cliff of a no-deal Brexit with devastating economic consequences.
While we can’t predict what will happen on the deadline of March 29th, we continue to learn about what brought the U.K. to this precarious position. Like the 2016 presidential election in the U.S., the campaign for Brexit employed divisive social media campaigns, mysterious sources of financing, Cambridge Analytica, and questionable meetings with Russians. At the center of it was a man named Arron Banks, an insurance magnate who is happy to take credit for his efforts to promote Brexit by whatever means necessary. Ed Caesar has reported on Banks’s outsized role in the referendum, and found that Banks is had been under investigation in Britain and in South Africa, where he has business interests in diamonds, as well as a person of interest in the Mueller investigation. Caesar spoke with David Remnick about the shady past and the uncertain future of Brexit.
Plus, a visit with Roomful of Teeth, the Grammy-winning vocal octet that’s building a unique repertoire and redefining classical singing for the future.
Emilia Clarke was an unknown young actor when she landed the part of Daenerys, of the House of Targaryen, on a show called “Game of Thrones.” After an eventful first season—capped by her walk into a funeral pyre and rebirth as the Mother of Dragons—Clarke’s future looked bright. But after filming wrapped, Clarke faced a crisis more frightening than anything on the show: a life-threatening stroke called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. In the aftermath of an emergency surgery, she experienced verbal aphasia and was unable to say her name. “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced,” she told David Remnick. “It wasn’t that I didn’t think I was going to make it, it was that I wasn’t prepared to make it.” She feared that the impairment was permanent and would end her life as an actor. “It was in that moment I asked them to just let me die.” Clarke was still recovering from the aftermath of the stroke and the surgery when she began doing a press tour—lying down between appearances and sipping from a morphine bottle, and keeping the crisis a secret. “No one knows who the hell I am,” she recalls thinking. “I was a young girl who was given a huge opportunity. I did not for any reason want to give anyone a reason to think I was anything other than capable of fulfilling the duties they had given me. And I didn’t know what the show was at that moment. All I knew was I had a job.”
Emilia Clarke wrote about her experience for the first time in an essay for newyorker.com.
Silicon Valley has a reputation for being a place where young geniuses are too busy disrupting the world to buy clothes; jeans and a hoodie generally qualify as business attire. But that is changing, the New Yorker fashion correspondent Rachel Syme notes. Tech moguls have become more conscious of appearances, and a distinctive look—based on optimized, streamlined garments, like trendy Allbirds sneakers—is emerging. Tech moguls have become more conscious of appearances, for better or worse; Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of Theranos, raised hundreds of millions of dollars partly on the image she cultivated with a turtleneck à la Steve Jobs. Syme spoke with the professional stylist Victoria Hitchcock, who runs a thriving practice in Silicon Valley showing the powerful how to project “powerful” for the digital age—without looking like a bunch of bankers. Plus, Helen Rosner talks with Niki Nakayama, one of Los Angeles’s top chefs, about setting up a kitchen that is hospitable to women, and about the impossibility of creating authentically Japanese cuisine in America.
In 2012, two young activists from the National Immigrant Youth Alliance went on an undercover mission to infiltrate the Broward Transitional Center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Florida. NIYA had been contacted by the son of a man named Claudio Rojas, who was taken from his home by immigration agents and brought to Broward. NIYA has been compared to ACT UP; its members try to force confrontations with authorities over immigration policy. The two activists, who are themselves undocumented, pretended to be newly arrived, confused immigrants who spoke little English. They got themselves arrested by somewhat perplexed Border Patrol agents.
The story of those activists is told in a new film called “The Infiltrators,” which recently showed at the Sundance Festival and South by Southwest. It is a kind of quasi-documentary, the directors Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera tell David Remnick; because they were not able to film inside the ICE facility, they staged a reënactment of the events inside a decommissioned mental hospital. Rojas, who had been released from detention after staging a hunger strike, advised the production for verisimilitude. But after the movie’s release, Rojas was suddenly re-detained during a routine check-in with ICE, which he attended with his lawyer. “For eight years I presented myself for supervision visits,” Rojas tells The New Yorker’s Camila Osorio, speaking on the phone from detention. “Why didn’t they detain me before? . . . I am completely sure that this is a reprisal against me, that they want to deport me no matter what.”
Pete O’Neal was a street hustler and small-time pimp who gave up crime to fight oppression, founding the Kansas City chapter of the Black Panther Party. Charlotte Hill was a high-school student who gave up a college scholarship to join the Panthers and do community service. Their love affair seemed charmed. But, after O’Neal was convicted, in 1970, on a firearms charge that he considered trumped up, he jumped bail and the couple fled the United States. Since then, O’Neal has never been able to return. After spending time in Sweden and then Algeria, the couple moved to Tanzania, where President Julius Nyerere was welcoming people of the African diaspora to join in the nation-building that followed decolonization. In a village called Imbasseni, not far from Mount Kilimanjaro, Pete and Charlotte O’Neal resumed the community service that had brought them together as Panthers. They founded the United African Alliance Community Center, a combination children’s home, school, library, and Y.M.C.A.—work that they might never have been able to accomplish in their home country. As well documented as the nineteen-sixties were, the staff writer Jelani Cobb notes, the stories of radicals forced into exile are hardly known. The producer KalaLea reports from Tanzania. (Part 2 of a two-part story.)
Tshidi Matale, Kiva, and L. D. Brown contributed music for this story.
Pete O’Neal was a street hustler and small-time pimp who gave up crime to struggle against oppression, founding the Kansas City chapter of the Black Panther Party. Charlotte Hill was a high-school student who gave up a college scholarship to join the Panthers and do community service. Their love affair seemed like a charmed one. But the Black Panthers became targets of intimidation and disruption by the F.B.I. and other law enforcement, and a climate of paranoia set in. After Pete was convicted on a firearms charge that he considered trumped up, he jumped bail, and he and Charlotte fled the United State with false passports. Since 1970, Pete has never been able to return. Living in Africa, they began to think about how to resume the work they had commenced as Black Panthers. As well documented as the nineteen-sixties were, the staff writer Jelani Cobb notes, the story of radicals forced into exile is hardly known. The producer KalaLea reported from Tanzania, with additional reporting by Andrea Tudhope in Kansas City. (Part 1 of a two-part story.)
Tshidi Matale, Kiva, and L. D. Brown contributed music for this story.
Donald Trump has made no secret of his great admiration for Fox News -- which he praises by tweet nearly constantly -- and his disdain for other, “fake news” outlets that he regards as “enemies of the people.” But the closeness of the relationship between Fox News and the White House is unprecedented in modern times, Jane Mayer tells David Remnick. In a recent article, Mayer, a staff writer since 1995, analyzes a symbiotic relationship that boosts both Trump’s poll numbers and Rupert Murdoch’s bottom line. “I was trying to figure out who sets the tune that everybody plays during the course of the day. If the news on Fox is all about some kind of caravan of immigrants supposedly invading America, whose idea is that? It turns out that it is this continual feedback loop,” Mayer says. She pays particular attention to the role of Bill Shine, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications and a former Fox News executive, who has helped create a revolving door where those who create the Administration’s political messaging and those who broadcast it regularly trade places. Jane also discovered that Shine was linked to the intimidation of employees who were sexually harassed at Fox News.
The former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld is launching what looks like a political suicide mission. He recently announced an exploratory committee to challenge Trump in the primary. He sees a pathway to victory that runs through his neighboring state of New Hampshire, to other blue-leaning states where Republican voters might be open to a moderate candidate for the nomination. He says that some “billionaires” will back his long-shot bid, and he’s betting that the damage from investigations may end Trump’s charmed political life. Plus, Evan Osnos on the news from Washington this week, and Rachel Syme with three fashion tips for David Remnick.
Committed during a period filled with bombings, killings, and disappearances, the murder of Jean McConville remains one of the most infamous unsolved crimes of the Troubles. The writer Patrick Radden Keefe may have discovered who killed her. Plus, the costume designer Ruth E. Carter, best known for her work on the movie “Black Panther,” talks about her decades-long career. And The New Yorker presents the second year of the Brody Awards.
With the election to the House of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, following up on the surprising Presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, socialism is on the rise, after a long decline in America. But the Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore says there is a great deal of ambiguity about what socialism even means. Americans have always danced around the term, and the actual policies advanced under the banner of socialism may look very similar to liberalism, or social democracy, or even the historical movement known as “good government.” Sanders declared that the hero of his brand of socialism is Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who insisted that he was not a socialist. Lepore tells David Remnick, “The way our politics works is to discredit not the idea or the policy but the label.” Plus, the actor Richard E. Grant has just been nominated for his first Oscar, for “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” after thirty-plus years in the movies. And, as an Oscar nominee, he finally got Barbra Streisand, his all-time idol, to reply to a fan letter he sent her nearly fifty years ago.
When depictions of Virginia politicians in blackface surfaced this month, the New Yorker contributor Teju Cole was unsurprised. “A white man of a certain age in the U.S.,” he reflects, “is found to have done something racist in his past; well, yes.” As a photographer and photo critic, he is acutely aware that a photograph captures the thinnest sliver of time, half a second or much less. So any photograph of a man in blackface—or in any other offensive image—always indicates that “there’s a lot more where that came from.” And Valeria Luiselli, a writer born in Mexico, struggles to depict the experiences of children arriving alone at the southern border, in circumstances unimaginably different from her own border crossings as the daughter of a diplomat.
Conversations about gun reform are often galvanized by catastrophic mass shootings. But gun violence mostly unfolds as a matter of awful routine: domestic-partner homicides, suicides, and shootings between people who know each other are everyday occurrences. “All this [talk of] legislation, that doesn’t mean anything for us,” Lupe Cruz says, in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. “Most of the guns in this community are stolen. This is the real world.”
A onetime gang member, Cruz mediated disputes informally for years before being recruited by an organization called Cure Violence. Their trained mediators, or “interrupters,” will show up after shootings or at funerals, and talk down the people who are likely to retaliate. Cruz now leads Cure Violence projects in Latin America and elsewhere. But she still mediates in her old neighborhood, where the stakes are very high: if her intervention doesn’t work, someone she knows may get shot—maybe right in front of her, which is what happened in November. She is getting tired and would like to “pass on the torch,” she tells the reporter Caroline Lester. But they need her in Little Village.
This week, the House held hearings on gun violence, the first in eight years. In the 2018 elections, gun-reform groups outspent the N.R.A.—which appears to be in financial trouble. After years of greatly expanded gun rights, is the tide turning on gun reform? In this special episode, David Remnick talks with Lucy McBath, who ran for Congress as a gun reformer and won in the conservative district once represented by Newt Gingrich. We’ll hear from the reporter Mike Spies, the criminal-justice professor April Zeoli, the Navy veteran Will Mackin, and the gun-violence survivor Sarah Engle.
When the cast of the film “The Hobbit” was first announced, Marlon James was dismayed—though hardly surprised—by how white it was. A long-standing complaint of black fans of fantasy is that authors can imagine dwarves and elves and orcs, but not black characters. “I got so tired of this whole question of inclusion, and the backlash against asking to be included,” James tells the staff writer Jia Tolentino, “that I said, ‘I’m going to make my own damn universe.’ ” That was one origin point of James’s “Dark Star” trilogy, which he describes as “an African ‘Game of Thrones.’ ” The first book, which is about to be published, is called “Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” and it centers on the search for a missing boy by a disparate cast of characters. Another origin point for him was the TV show “The Affair”; James borrowed the structural device of a story related by multiple characters whose perspectives don’t quite add up. James talks about writing fantasy from a Caribbean perspective, where “magical realism” may not seem so magical. Plus, a successful C.E.O. says that activist investors’ quest for one quick stock bump after another is wrecking companies and eroding American competitiveness.
Washington is abuzz with rumors that the Mueller report is coming soon, and both sides are trying to strategize their next move. The reporter Adam Davidson summarizes the broad strokes of what we know so far, and Susan B. Glasser and Jeffrey Toobin debate what impact it will have on the partisan war in Washington.
When police showed up to question John Thompson, he was worried that it was because he had sold drugs to an undercover cop. When he realized they were investigating a murder, he could only laugh: “Shit, for real? Murder?”Thompson was insistent on his innocence, but New Orleans prosecutors wanted a conviction for a high-profile murder, and they were not scrupulous about how they got it. Thompson quickly found himself on death row. Eighteen years later, just weeks before Thompson was due to be executed, his lawyers discovered that a prosecutor had hidden exculpatory evidence from the defense. Thompson had been set up. This was a violation of the Brady Rule, established by the Supreme Court, in 1963, to ensure fair trials. Ultimately, he was exonerated of both crimes, but his attempts to get a settlement from the district attorney’s office—compensation for his time in prison—were thwarted. Though an appeals court had upheld a fourteen-million-dollar settlement, the Supreme Court reversed the decision, declining to punish the D.A. for violating the Court's own ruling.
Thompson’s case revealed fundamental imbalances that undermine the very notion of a fair trial. Under the Brady Rule, prosecutors must share with the defense any evidence that could be favorable to the defendant. But there is essentially no practical enforcement of this rule. In most states, prosecutors are the ones who hold the evidence and choose what to share, and disclosing exculpatory evidence makes their cases harder to win. We have absolutely no idea how many criminal trials are flawed by these violations.The staff writer Andrew Marantz, his wife, Sarah Lustbader, of the Fair Punishment Project, and the producer Katherine Wells reported on John Thompson’s story and its implications. They spoke with the late John Thompson (who died in 2017), with his lawyers, and with Harry Connick, Sr., the retired New Orleans D.A. who, despite having tried very hard to have Thompson killed, remains unrepentant.
This episode contains explicit language and may not be suitable for children.
Jason Rezaian was born in California to an Iranian father and an American mother. After a failed effort to enter the Persian rug trade, he moved to Tehran to be a reporter, and was working for the Washington Post when he was arrested by Iranian authorities. Rezaian was held at the notorious Evin Prison, and was interrogated for more than five hundred days. He was a pawn in an intrigue within the government: he believes his arrest, as an American journalist, was an attempt by hard-liners to interfere with the ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and other countries. Rezaian’s memoir of that time is called “Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out.” He spoke with David Remnick about his experiences on January 22, 2019, at “Live from NYPL ,” the New York Public Library’s premier conversation series.
For some years, Denise Ho was one of the most popular singers in Asia. A Hong Kong native, she performed the style known as Cantopop in mainland China and in foreign countries with Chinese émigré populations. But, as Ho told the staff writer Jiayang Fan, she began to have qualms about the often-saccharine content of the genre. “Is that all? Is that all I can do with my songs, my career—just for personal wealth, and all that?” She was one of the first stars in China to come out as a lesbian, which the government took in stride; but, when she took part in political demonstrations in Hong Kong, she was arrested on television and detained. Authorities began to cancel her concerts, and to block access to her work on the Internet in China. Her endorsements followed suit. “I expected to be banned from China, but I wasn’t expecting the government to react to it in such a way,” she says. “The main goal is to silence everyone—especially the younger generations—with fear.” Now Denise Ho is trying to rebuild her career as something unfamiliar in China: an underground protest singer. Plus: Kai-Fu Lee on China’s tech sector and the challenge it poses to Silicon Valley; and the longtime staff writer Calvin Trillin, who puts his happy marriage onstage in a new play, “About Alice.” “This play certainly would have failed Drama 101 . . . But you have to write about what you know.”
For decades, it’s been an open secret that R. Kelly has allegedly kept young women trapped in abusive relationships through psychological manipulation, fear, and intimidation. His domestic situation has been compared to a sex cult. He was acquitted of child-pornography charges even though a video that appears to show him with a fourteen-year-old girl was circulated around the country. It was described only as the “R. Kelly sex tape.” Why has it taken so long for the reckonings of the #MeToo movement to catch up to him? Lifetime just aired “Surviving R. Kelly,” a six-part documentary by the producer dream hampton that airs the full breadth of the accusations against Kelly. (He continues to deny all charges of illegal behavior.) One young woman featured in the documentary left a relationship with Kelly, whom she met when she was a teen-age supporter outside the Chicago courtroom where he was being tried. “He was cruising eleventh graders on that trial,” hampton tells the New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb. “I mean, the hubris!”
Cobb and hampton discuss the complicated dynamics of accusing R. Kelly. “It’s a deep shame black women have, handing over black men to this system we know to be unjust and that targets them,” she says. “At the same time, black women are black people, and we too are targeted . . . . Most sexual-violence survivors don’t find justice in this system, regardless of race.”
Update: After our program went to air, RCA Records dropped R. Kelly from its roster.
Vjeran Tomic has been stealing since he was a small child, when he used a ladder to break into a library in his home town, in Bosnia. After moving to Paris, he graduated to lucrative apartment burglaries, living off the jewels he took and often doing time in prison. He became known in the French press as Spider-Man, and he began to steal art. Tomic has a grand sense of his calling as a burglar; he considers it his destiny and has described his robberies as acts of imagination. He eventually carried a truly epic heist: a break-in at the Musée d’Art Moderne, in Paris, in which he left with seventy million dollars’ worth of paintings. But selling these masterpieces proved harder than stealing them, and that’s where Spider-Man’s troubles began. The contributor Jake Halpern tells Vjeran Tomic’s story; excerpts from Tomic’s letters from prison are read by the actor Jean Brassard.
The staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe has reported on “The Apprentice” and its impact on Donald Trump—on how America saw Trump, and how Trump saw himself. Keefe spoke with Jonathon Braun, who was a supervising producer on “The Apprentice,” about how the show’s team reshaped Trump’s image, and how the news media are doing that same work for him now that he is President. Dan Kaufman, the author of “The Fall of Wisconsin,” explains how a deal to bring manufacturing jobs to an industrial town in Wisconsin became a boondoggle of national proportions. And Terrance Hayes, the author of “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin,” reads a poem for the New Year.
Boots Riley’s directorial début, “Sorry to Bother You,” blends a dark strain of comedy with a sci-fi vision of capitalism run amok. The film’s hero, Cassius Green, is a telemarketer who rises quickly in the ranks—eventually becoming a “power caller”—after he learns to use a “white voice” on the phone, mimicking the way white people are supposed to speak. As sharp as the film is on issues of race and identity, “Sorry to Bother You” ultimately takes capitalism, and the way it exploits labor, as its target. “There were a lot of things about capitalism that were forgiven by big media companies while Obama was in office,” Riley tells The New Yorker’s Doreen St. Félix in a live interview at the New Yorker Festival. “Things that we had said we were against under Bush.” “Sorry to Bother You” is, in part, a response to that loss of focus. Riley, who is forty-seven, got his start as a rapper; for many years, he led the political hip-hop band the Coup. He traces his interest in art as activism to an incident from 1989, when police officers in San Francisco beat two children and their mother in front of a housing project. Neighbors began protesting, spilling out onto the street and chanting lyrics from Public Enemy's “Fight the Power.” “It made me see what place music could have,” Riley tells St. Félix. “I knew, This is what I had to do.”
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.” Since coming out as transgender publicly, Mock has emerged as a leading advocate for trans people; she is the author of a best-selling memoir and the first trans woman of color to be hired as a writer for a TV series, Ryan Murphy’s FX series “Pose.” Plus: MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, the youngest prime-time host for a major cable-news channel, on the psychic toll of covering the news in Donald Trump’s America.
The novelist and short-story writer Philip Roth died in May at the age of eighty-five. In novels like “Portnoy’s Complaint,” “The Human Stain,” and “American Pastoral,” Roth anatomized postwar American life—particularly the lives of Jewish people in the Northeast. And in works like “The Ghost Writer” and “The Plot Against America,” he speculated on how the shadow of authoritarianism might fall over the United States. The breadth and depth of Roth’s work kept him a vital literary figure throughout the second half of the twentieth century, and established him among the most respected writers of fiction in American history. David Remnick speaks with Roth’s official biographer, Blake Bailey, about Roth’s life and career. Judith Thurman, Claudia Roth Pierpont, and Lisa Halliday discuss the portrayals of women in Roth’s work and the accusations of misogyny that he has faced. And, finally, we hear an interview with the author, from 2003, when he sat down with David Remnick for the BBC. Plus: the actor Liev Schreiber reads excerpts from Roth’s fiction.
This episode originally aired on July 20, 2018.
Kirk Douglas, the guitarist for the Roots, plays anything and everything as part of the “Tonight Show” band, so David Remnick put him to the test on some holiday classics. Roz Chast rings a bell to collect pennies for a good cause: saving the globe from destruction by asteroid. And a religion scholar who just translated the New Testament from the original Greek explains why we’ve been getting the book wrong all these years.
The New Yorker staff writers Jia Tolentino, Doreen St. Félix, and Alexandra Schwartz all cover the culture beat from different angles. They talk with David Remnick about the emblematic pop-culture phenomena of 2018 that tell us where we were this year: how “Queer Eye” tried to fix masculinity, and how that spoke to women in the #MeToo era; whether “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” will mark a turning point in the representation of nonwhite people in film; and how, as Tolentino says, “A Star Is Born” was r“arguably the only event of the year that brought America together.”
In December of 2015, a video appeared on the Internet that stunned surfers worldwide. Titled “Kelly’s Wave,” it showed Kelly Slater—arguably the best pro surfer in history—unveiling a secret project he had been working on for more than a decade. With the help of engineers and designers, Slater had perfected the first artificial wave, created by machine in a pool, that could rival the best waves found in the ocean. “One could spend years and years surfing in the ocean,” notes staff writer William Finnegan, himself a lifelong surfer, “and never get a wave as good as what some people are getting here today. Ever.”
Finnegan went to visit the Kelly Slater Wave Company’s Surf Ranch—a facility in California’s Central Valley, far from the coast—to observe a competition and test the wave for himself. Up until now, surfing was defined by its lack of predictability: chasing waves around the world and dealing with disappointment when they do not appear has been integral to the life of a surfer. But with a mechanically produced, infinitely repeatable, world-class wave, surfing can become like any other sport. The professional World Surf League, which has bought a controlling interest in Slater’s company, sees a bright future.
But Finnegan wonders what it means to take surfing out of nature. Will kids master riding artificial waves without even learning to swim in the ocean? Finnegan spoke with Kelly Slater, Stephanie Gilmore (the Australian seven-time world champion), and Matt Warshaw (the closest thing surfing has to an official historian). Warshaw, like Finnegan, is skeptical about the advent of mechanical waves. Yet he admits that, when he had the chance to ride it, he didn’t ever want to stop. “It reminded me of 1986,” Warshaw recalls. “The drugs have run out, you already hate yourself—how do we get more?”
William Finnegan’s article “Kelly Slater’s Shock Wave” appeared this month in The New Yorker.
As he set about adapting “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the stage—the play opened this week on Broadway—Aaron Sorkin first wrote a version that he says was very much like the novel, but “with stage directions.” As he delved into the character of Atticus Finch, though, he found himself troubled. The small-town lawyer is tolerant, but too tolerant, tolerant of everything, including the violent racism of many of his neighbors—which he attempts to understand rather than condemn. And Sorkin felt that Lee’s two black characters, the maid Calpurnia and the falsely accused Tom Robinson, had no real voice in the book. “I imagine that, in 1960, using African-American characters as atmosphere is the kind of thing that would go unnoticed by white people,” he tells David Remnick. “In 2018, it doesn’t go unnoticed, and it’s wrong, and it’s also a wasted opportunity.”
Sorkin’s changes in his adaptation led to a lawsuit from Harper Lee’s literary executor, who had approved him as the playwright but placed specific conditions on the faithfulness of his script. In Sorkin’s view, the criticisms of the executor, Tonja Carter, were tantamount to racism. He thinks they reinforced the lack of voice and agency of black people in the South in the nineteen-thirties. (Carter declined to comment on Sorkin’s remarks.) The two sides eventually reached a settlement, in May, and the play proceeded to production. Sorkin says that, of his own volition, he cut some of his lines that hinted too broadly at the political realities of America under Donald Trump. But Atticus Finch’s realization—that the people in his community whom he thought he knew best, he never really knew at all—mirrors the experience of many Americans since 2016.
Plus, a Minnesota senator on running as a Democrat in the age of Trump.
For the past twenty-five years, since she was a young teen-ager, the singer Robyn has been on the cutting edge of pop music. Her sound is sparse and complex, influenced by electro and dance music while preserving the catchiness of pop. After a brief stint with Max Martin early in her career, Robyn has avoided the big hit-making producers who put their stamp on an artist. Instead she’s produced, written, and performed all her own work, becoming a kind of oxymoron: an indie pop star.
“Body Talk,” Robyn’s previous album, came out in 2010, and, for many of the years that followed, Robyn has been out of the public eye. Following a breakup and a close friend’s death, she slipped into a depression serious enough that she had trouble getting out of bed and leaving her house. She eventually started recording again and recently released an album called “Honey.” (The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino wrote,“the force of her conviction continues to hold together what often seems impossible, musically or otherwise: maximum sadness, felt as the bedrock of absolute joy.”) Robyn, who lives in her native Sweden, spoke with David Remnick about the many years of difficulties that went into making “Honey.”
Plus, the pop-music critic Amanda Petrusich picks three favorites for 2018, and the fight director B. H. Barry gives a lesson in brutal mayhem with music.
One of the hot trends in the food world is one of the oldest: fermentation. No longer just for beer and sauerkraut, fermentation—which Helen Rosner calls “bacteria engaging with your food”—is the subject of cookbooks, and the specialty of destination restaurants like Noma, in Copenhagen, which has been called the world’s best restaurant for several years. René Redzepi, the chef at Noma, and David Zilber, the director of its fermentation lab, visited Rosner’s home kitchen to give her a lesson. A couple of weeks later, after the microbes had done their work, she brought some highly unusual fermented snacks to share with David Remnick. Plus, Dexter Filkins traces the rise to power of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Long before the international furor over the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi—back when bin Salman was still being hailed as a reformer—Filkins says that he eliminated political opponents, cracked down on the press, extorted other wealthy royals, and arrested human-rights activists.
In the November midterm elections, Stacey Abrams, a gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, arrived at her polling place to cast a vote for herself, only to have a poll worker claim that she had already filed for an absentee ballot. Carol Anderson’s book “One Person, No Vote” explores how measures designed to purge voters rolls or limit voting have targeted Democratic and particularly minority voters. Anderson sees voter-identification laws and a wide range of bureaucratic snafus as successors to the more blatantly racist measures that existed before the Voting Rights Act; she describes the resurgence of voter suppression as an expression of white rage. “It is not what we think of in terms of Charlottesville and the tiki torches,” she tells David Remnick. “It's the kind of methodical, systematic, bureaucratic power that undermines African-Americans’ advances." White Americans, she says, see themselves as trapped in a kind of “zero sum” situation, in which all advances for people of color must come at whites’ expense. Plus, the staff writer Jon Lee Anderson journeys up the Madre de Dios River in the Peruvian Amazon to observe as the Mashco Piro—one of the few remaining uncontacted indigenous tribes—begin a fraught, possibly fatal engagement with the outside world.
Appearing at the New Yorker Festival, in conversation with Michael Schulman , Bridget Everett brought her dog onstage. It was unconventional, but no more so than anything else she does. Vulgar, badly behaved, and entirely comfortable with herself, Everett’s persona as a cabaret performer whips audiences into a frenzy at the legendary Joe’s Pub, in New York. That cult following led to parts on the television shows “Inside Amy Schumer”, “Lady Dynamite,” and “Girls,” and in the movie “Trainwreck.” But Everett found a new depth in last year’s “Patti Cake$,” as the barfly mother of the movie’s title character, who is a young, overweight white woman aspiring to be a rapper. Everett’s character, Barb, is a failed singer who mocks her daughter’s musical career. “I get the urge to want to tear somebody down even when you love them, because you don’t want them to slip away, or you don’t want them to have something you never had,” she said. “If I was still in Kansas and I wasn’t singing, and I wasn’t doing what I want to do, that’s exactly who I would be. And I would be that drunk and I would be at that bar, hopefully not with those nails, but I would be that person.”
*This episode contains explicit language.
As a young boy, Jim Carrey got in trouble for staring in the mirror. He didn’t do it because he was vain; he was practicing the comic skills that made him one of the great impressionists of our time, a man whose face seems to be made of some pliable alien material. Yet that malleable face is as capable of portraying deep and complex emotion as it is of making us laugh. As a result, Carrey’s career has been one reinvention after another. These days, he’s been lighting up Twitter as a political cartoonist—his way of drawing Donald Trump is particularly grotesque—and starring in the television series “Kidding.” He plays a children’s entertainer, in the mold of Mr. Rogers, who is struggling with the death of his own son. Carrey sat down with Colin Stokes at the New Yorker Festival in October, 2018. He spoke about his reverence for Fred Rogers and the inspiration he takes from Eastern philosophy. “I don’t exist,” Carrey says. “There’s no separation between you and me at all . . . I know I’m sounding really crazy right now, but it’s really true.”
Last year, the Mexican government finally agreed to extradite the notorious drug kingpin El Chapo to the U.S. Born Joaquín Guzmán Loera, he was once ranked by Forbes as one of the most powerful people in the world. His trial began in New York, on November 5th, and Guzmán faces seventeen counts related to drugs and firearms; prosecutors have said that they will also tie him to more than thirty murders. The government’s star witnesses against the notoriously elusive drug lord are identical twins from Chicago, Pedro and Margarito Flores. While still in their twenties, the Flores brothers became major drug traffickers, importing enormous quantities of drugs from the Sinaloa cartel. They avoided violence and feuds with rivals, but eventually got caught in the middle of a cartel war. It was a dangerous position, and the only way out was to seek government protection. The Flores brothers flipped; they began working secretly for prosecutors—recording their business calls with Guzmán and others—in exchange for leniency in their own trials. Tom Shakeshaft, the former Assistant U.S. Attorney who flipped them, tells The New Yorker’s Patrick Radden Keefe how it all went down.
More than two years after British voters approved a measure to withdraw their nation from the European Union—a gigantic undertaking with no roadmap of any sort —Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled a plan: essentially, that the U.K. would remain in the European customs union, participating in trade with the E.U. and remaining subject to its trade policies, but exit the political process of the E.U. The deal was seen by some as the worst of both worlds, and several cabinet ministers resigned; May could well lose a no-confidence vote in the immediate future. David Remnick talks with the London-based staff writers Sam Knight and Rebecca Mead about the ongoing challenges of Brexit. And the staff writer Adam Gopnik, who’s been preparing Thanksgiving dinner for decades, considers the zen of cooking a turkey.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act injected almost nine hundred billion dollars into the U.S. economy to help the nation recover from the 2008 financial crisis. Ninety billion dollars went to clean energy, with the intention of jump-starting a new “green economy” to replace aging fossil-fuel technologies. Instead, the bill may have done the opposite. Low interest rates, which made borrowing easier, encouraged a flood of financing for the young fracking industry, which used novel chemical techniques to extract gas and oil. Fracking boomed, and made the U.S. the leading producer of oil and gas by some estimates. The financial journalist Bethany McLean and the investor and hedge-fund manager Jim Chanos tell The New Yorker’s Eliza Griswold that something in the fracking math doesn’t add up. If interest rates rise, reducing the flow of cheap capital, they believe that the industry will collapse.
Then, the former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson tells Adam Davidson what went wrong in Obama’s policy. Subsidies for specific industries, like solar, can’t change the market significantly enough, Paulson says. In his view—one shared by a growing consensus of economists—we need to correctly assess the costs of carbon emissions to society, and charge those costs to the emissions’ producers: a carbon tax. Then, with a more level playing field, the market can pick the best source of energy.
Ten years after the financial crash of 2008, the economy is humming along, with steady growth and rising employment. Yet that crisis continues to shape our world, particularly through the rise of right-wing populism and the ever-worsening climate crisis. Jill Lepore, Adam Davidson, and George Packer talk with David Remnick about how we got here. Two Florida real-estate experts explain why short-term thinking rules the day, and the former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson explains why he has embraced the idea of imposing a carbon tax.
Harry Shearer is known for doing many characters, including Mr. Burns and others from “The Simpsons,” but the most famous is Derek Smalls, the saturnine, epically muttonchopped bassist in the movie “This Is Spinal Tap.” Almost thirty-five years after the release of Rob Reiner’s mockumentary about a struggling metal band, Shearer has given Smalls a new lease on life. Although the character is fictional, the new solo album, “Smalls Change: Meditations Upon Ageing,” is real. Smalls tells The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz that he produced the record with support from the British Fund for Ageing Rockers, and it contains songs about a toupee (which belongs to Satan) and erectile dysfunction. (You have to give the dysfunctional part, Smalls says, “a good, stern talking-to.”) And they discuss what is clearly a sore subject: the fact that Spinal Tap was never inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Plus, a New Yorker editor picks three favorites for a new parent.
Jonathan Blitzer spent a week in Mexico with the so-called caravan—a group of about five thousand migrants, most of them from Honduras, who are making a dangerous journey on foot to the U.S. border. Donald Trump, who has described the caravan as “invaders” who might include terrorists and criminals, is using the issue to galvanize Republicans for the midterms. The reality, which Blitzer describes to David Remnick, is remarkably different: exhausted people walking thirty miles a day in sandals and Crocs, sleeping largely in the open, and wholly dependent on townspeople along their route and a few aid groups for food and water. They travel in a group for protection from kidnappers, criminals, and the notoriously severe Mexican immigration authorities. They know little about how their trek has been politicized in the U.S. Those who make it to the U.S. border will likely be greeted by an overwhelming show of American force, but, for these migrants, almost any uncertainty is better than the certain poverty and violence of their home country. Plus, a group of progressive women in rural Texas has been organizing in secret, but some of them are ready to speak out.
Janelle Monáe is an unlikely pop star. Her music is rooted in soul and R. & B., but also in pop, punk, and New Wave; her early releases were science-fiction concept albums, influenced by Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and modern Afrofuturism, set far in the future, and starring herself as an android. She didn’t follow the Zeitgeist—she made her own Zeitgeist. Then, after gaining recognition as a major figure in pop, Monáe made an impressive acting début as one of the leads of “Hidden Figures,” and appeared in the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight.” Monáe sat down with David Remnick to talk about her latest album, “Dirty Computer.” Despite the title, it’s not at all science fiction. For the first time, she’s dealing frankly with the issues that she’s facing—and that our country is facing—right now. Plus, the staff writer Judith Thurman hits the streets of multiethnic Queens with a linguist who speaks so many languages that he’s lost count. Luis Miguel Rojas-Berscia says the trick is to be fearless, and shameless, about engaging strangers in conversation. “You have to get rid of that inhibition,” he says, “if you want to speak a language.”
The actor Daniel Radcliffe is on Broadway in a new play called “The Lifespan of a Fact”—perhaps the first-ever work of theatre in which a fact checker is a starring role. Radcliffe’s character is obsessive about his work, and he becomes locked in combat with a writer whose methods are unorthodox. To get a taste of what fact-checking is really like, Radcliffe got lessons from Peter Canby and Parker Henry of The New Yorker, and then had to check a short piece himself: a review of a Mexican restaurant. Fact and opinion, he quickly learned, are not as easily separated as a layman might think. And in Pennsylvania, the reporter Eliza Griswold follows the route of a pipeline that carries fracking by-products through the back yards of some unhappy voters who think both parties are to blame.
When the acting Attorney General Sally Yates wouldn’t defend the so-called Muslim travel ban, she was promptly sacked—“before it was fashionable to be fired” in the Trump Administration, Jeffrey Toobin says. Yates, who served in the Justice Department during the Bush and Obama Administrations, talks with Toobin at the 2018 New Yorker Festival, about the impact of Trump on her career and on American politics. The singer Kelela reinvents R. & B. with influences from jazz to trip-hop and electronica, and she performs a live set at the festival accompanied by the producer and d.j. Loric Sih.