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Freedom, Books, Flowers & the Moon

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A weekly culture and ideas podcast brought to you by the Times Literary Supplement.

A weekly culture and ideas podcast brought to you by the Times Literary Supplement.
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A weekly culture and ideas podcast brought to you by the Times Literary Supplement.




Ode to the orca

Lucy Atkins charts our changing relationship with Orcinus orca, from "demon dolphin" to cuddly icon; Ruth Scurr on the lives and unlikely friendship of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn Books Orca: How we came to know and love the ocean’s greatest predator by Jason M. Colby John Evelyn: A life of domesticity by John Dixon Hunt The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn by Margaret Willes


Who on earth was William Gilbert?

Michael Caines on the little-known romantic William Gilbert, a “man of fine genius” (according to William Wordsworth) who had “unfortunately received a few rays of supernatural light through a crack in his upper story”; Daniel Beer tells the tale of the Gulag at Solovki, a converted monastery known as “the Paris of the Northern concentration camps”, a place of brutality but also of resistant culture and ideas; finally, Laurence Scott considers the cultural history of shoeshining, from...


Our problem with cows

Forty years since the controversial Spanish constitution of 1978, Rupert Shortt, Hispanic editor at the TLS, discusses the painful evolution of democracy in Spain; Siobhan Magee considers our problematic relationship with farmed animals, namely dairy cows, and crops, such as palm oil; Dwight Garner, a literary critic at the New York Times, offers glimpses into his commonplace book, in which four decades of favourite quotations converse with each other Books The Cow with Ear Tag #1389 by...


The best books of 2018

A handful of TLS editors gather for the yearly process of picking through contributors' Books of the Year selections, and nominate their own books to remember; Serhii Plokhy, the winner of this year's Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction for 'Chernobyl: The history of a nuclear catastrophe', speaks to the TLS's History editor David Horspool Selected books The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey Charles de Gaulle: A certain idea of France by Julian Jackson Normal People by Sally...


Is it accurate to call Donald Trump a fascist?

Mary Beard joins us to answer the question: Is it accurate to call Donald Trump a fascist?, while the TLS's fiction and politics editor Toby Lichtig discusses how the President is presented, in books and on film; and Julia Bell looks back on her Oxford entrance interview - with no fondness - and wonders: "Was it a trap or a test?" Books Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis Nobody hates Trump more than Trump by David Shields


WW1: Remembering / forgetting

To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, the TLS's History editor David Horspool talks us through books, exhibitions and events that commemorate cataclysmic slaughter and scars that endure to this day; it’s easy to think of privacy invasion as a peculiarly modern phenomenon, but it has its own history dating back to the American Civil War – Sarah Igo tells us more; finally, the food writer Bee Wilson discusses two new cookbooks that capture a “fresh mood of experiment in the...


Remembering Peterloo

As Mike Leigh's film of the Peterloo massacre of 1819 is released, Clare Pettitt revisits the history; Marina Benjamin offers a personal and literary account of the threshold between sleep and wakefulness; following the publication of a second volume of Sylvia Plath's letters, Hannah Sullivan looks for fresh insights into the poet's work, life and death; finally, Sam Riviere reads his new poem, "Sushi Tuesday" Works discussed Peterloo, directed by Mike Leigh Insomnia by Marina...


BONUS: Must read – must buy?

Are authors, reviewers and publicists wasting their time on book coverage? The contemporary conversation about books and ideas goes way beyond traditional features and interviews. Book groups, academic seminars, Amazon user reviews, Goodreads, the press, radio, podcasts, and sometimes even TV: the form, tone and quality of coverage has infinite variety. But how much does any of it help the books business – if it can be measured at all? Do authors, reviewers, and publicists feel their efforts...


1844, remember the date...

Elaine Showalter on a history of obscenity and censorship and the largely futile efforts of a US Postal Inspector; Ladee Hubbard on five years of Black Lives Matter and the myth of an egalitarian, post-racial America; Kassia St Clair on women, weaving and the rewriting of history Books Lust on Trial: Censorship and the rise of obscenity in the age of Anthony Comstock by Amy Werbel The Fire This Time: A new generation speaks about race, edited by Jesmyn Ward My Brother Moochie: Regaining...


Ever-enigmatic Leonardo da Vinci

Keith Miller joins us to discuss everybody's favourite Renaissance man; the TLS's Fiction editor Toby Lichtig meets Anna Burns, the winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize for her novel Milkman; this year's Nobel Prize for Literature, meanwhile, remains suspended following charges of serious sexual misconduct and cronyism – Richard Orange reports on the mess that has engulfed the Swedish Academy Books Living with Leonardo: Fifty years of sanity and insanity in the art world and beyond by...


An Odyssey for everyone

Mary Beard reflects on the peculiarities of Homer's best-loved, many-sided epic; Neel Mukherjee on the scandalous survival of the Indian caste system; following the recent party conferences, James O'Brien offers a wry overview of Britain's political mess Books: The Measure of Homer: The ancient reception of the Iliad and the Odyssey by Richard Hunter Ants Among Elephants: An untouchable family and the making of modern India by Sujatha Gidla How To Be Right ... in a World Gone Wrong by...


Radical Cheltenham and a poem from Paul Muldoon

Michael Caines joins us to discuss female liberation in genteel Cheltenham; we look ahead to an Odyssey extravaganza, with Ted Hodgkinson from the Southbank centre; Paul Muldoon brings a salutary note of optimism to US politics and history with his new poem "With Joseph Brant in Canajoharie" Books Votes for Women: Cheltenham and the Cotswolds by Sue Jones The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson Selected Poems 1968-2014 by Paul Muldoon


Diarmaid MacCulloch on Thomas Cromwell

In this bonus episode, the TLS's History editor David Horspool discusses Thomas Cromwell with Diarmaid MacCulloch, the author of a new, definitive biography.


Mexico's great disgrace

Lorna Scott Fox joins us to discuss the fiftieth anniversary of Mexico's Tlatelolco of 1968, a travesty still shrouded in obfuscation; the TLS's History editor David Horspool discusses Thomas Cromwell with Diarmaid MacCulloch, the author of a new, definitive biography; and finally, Rozalind Dineen offers a round-up of interesting new podcasts Books and podcasts discussed México 68: The students, the President and the CIA by Sergio Aguayo Thomas Cromwell: A Life by Diarmaid MacCulloch The...


Henry James in LA

Philip Horne and Frances Wilson join us to discuss Henry James, the not-always masterly Master who gave us novels as apparently divergent as Washington Square, with its clear, tight prose, The Ambassadors (prone to accidents of publication) and The Golden Bowl, which spills pleasures of an altogether more sinuous nature; plus, details of a little-known trip James took to California, which – unexpectedly, perhaps –“completely bowled” him over Books Generous Mistakes: Incidents of error in...


On booze and art

Roz Dineen on the time-stained image of the artist-addict, The Recovering by Leslie Jamison, and whether “stories about getting better [can] ever be as compelling as stories about falling apart"; "David Foster Wallace would send me letters and I wouldn’t answer them. He would send works in progress with forlorn notes. 'You’re under no obligation to read or to pretend you’ve read the enclosed,' he wrote on one piece. I didn’t." – David Streitfeld recalls being David Foster Wallace's "worst...


Philip Larkin, beyond the grave

Andrew Motion discusses the life, work and curious afterlife of his friend and "subject" Philip Larkin; Imogen Russell Williams has written an essay on diversity (or the lack of it) in children's books and offers some recommendations; Zoe Williams gives her verdict on the very British political tradition that is Prime Minister’s Questions Books Philip Larkin: A writer's life by Andrew Motion (1993; reissued September 2018) The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo Square by Mac Barnett and Jon...


Too smart for our own good

Carl Miller, the author of The Death of the Gods, which deals with how power works and who holds it in the digital age, sheds light on how algorithms, originally devised as simple problem-solving devices, have become so complicated that no one, not even their creators, can control them; Kristen Roupenian points out the problem with an “unfailingly enthusiastic” compendium of twentieth-century female intellectuals (including Dorothy Parker and Joan Didion): who is left out and why?;...


Same old gags

In the course of his long literary career, Samuel Johnson reviewed only one novel. Who was it by? None other than the "preposterously confident” Charlotte Lennox, a force in eighteenth-century prose and a model for Jane Austen – Min Wild tells us more; What happens if you ask a literary critic to watch top-grossing (pun intended) Hollywood comedies from the past three decades? Robert Douglas-Fairhurst explains how comedy reflects broader culture and anxieties; How are women treated in film...


Turn on, tune in, drop out?

Are we entering a new age for LSD, full of medical potential? Can it shed its heavily tie-dyed cultural baggage? And who has written the finest prose about psychedelics? Toby Lichtig joins us to discuss; Eri Hotta (re)introduces us to Natsume Sōseki, "the greatest novelist of modern Japan"; Kate Chisholm considers the chequered history of Virago, founded in 1973 as a "feminist press", plus 40 years of Modern Classics, a series conceived to challenge the established male dominated literary...