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Critics at Large | The New Yorker

The New Yorker

Critics at Large is a weekly culture podcast from The New Yorker. Every Thursday, the staff writers Vinson Cunningham, Naomi Fry, and Alexandra Schwartz discuss current obsessions, classic texts they’re revisiting with fresh eyes, and trends that are emerging across books, television, film, and more. The show runs the gamut of the arts and pop culture, with lively, surprising conversations about everything from Salman Rushdie to “The Real Housewives.” Through rigorous analysis and behind-the-scenes insights into The New Yorker’s reporting, the magazine’s critics help listeners make sense of our moment—and how we got here.

Condé Nast 2023

Critics at Large is a weekly culture podcast from The New Yorker. Every Thursday, the staff writers Vinson Cunningham, Naomi Fry, and Alexandra Schwartz discuss current obsessions, classic texts they’re revisiting with fresh eyes, and trends that are emerging across books, television, film, and more. The show runs the gamut of the arts and pop culture, with lively, surprising conversations about everything from Salman Rushdie to “The Real Housewives.” Through rigorous analysis and behind-the-scenes insights into The New Yorker’s reporting, the magazine’s critics help listeners make sense of our moment—and how we got here.

Condé Nast 2023

The Painful Pleasure of “Wretched Love”

Thumbnail for "The Painful Pleasure of “Wretched Love”".
February 8, 202445min 52sec

As much as contemporary audiences relish a happily ever after, some of the greatest romances of all time are ones that have turned out badly. In this episode of Critics at Large, the staff writers Vinson Cunningham, Naomi Fry, and Alexandra Schwartz consider stories of “wretched love”—love that’s star-crossed, unfulfilled, or somehow doomed by the taboos of the day. First, they react to listeners’ favorite examples, from Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” to “The Notebook” to the Joni Mitchell song “The Last Time I Saw Richard.” Then, the hosts discuss their own picks: the poet Frank Bidart’s collection “Desire”; James Baldwin’s novel “Giovanni’s Room”; and “A Girl’s Story,” by the Nobel Prize-winner Annie Ernaux. Why do we—and centuries’ worth of artists—gravitate toward tales of thwarted desire? Perhaps it’s because these moments unlock something that stays with us long after the sting of heartbreak has faded. “When you widen the lens, life goes on,” Schwartz says. Nevertheless, “there is a need for all of us to return to that moment because that was part of what made you who you were.”

Read, watch, and listen with the critics:

Annie Ernaux Turns Memory Into Art,” by Alexandra Schwartz (The New Yorker)

Anna Karenina,” by Leo Tolstoy

Conversations with Friends,” by Sally Rooney

Desire,” by Frank Bidart

“Eugene Onegin” (1879)

Giovanni’s Room,” by James Baldwin

A Girl’s Story,” by Annie Ernaux

Sense and Sensibility,” by Jane Austen

“Sense and Sensibility” (1995)

Sylvia,” by Leonard Michaels

Joni Mitchell’s “The Last Time I Saw Richard”

“The Notebook” (2004)

Wuthering Heights,” by Emily Brontë

“Wuthering Heights” (1939)

Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights

New episodes drop every Thursday. Follow Critics at Large wherever you get your podcasts.