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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.




Culture clash

With Stig Abell and Lucy Dallas. Lionel Shriver castigates the arrogant British for snootiness over American English; David Coward tells the story of Simon Leys, "the man who did for Mao" and who called Sartre a "windbag"; and Kate Bingham reads her poem "This hair".


Empathy: for better, for worse

Are we hard-wired to feel other people’s pain? And if so, is it necessarily a good thing? Andrew Scull has reviewed three new books on empathy and joins us to tell us more; Charles Dickens's love of all things theatrical – in life as in art – is no secret. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst considers fifty years' worth of Dickens adaptations for the stage (and film) Books The Empathy Instinct by Peter Bazalgette Against Empathy: The case for rational compassion by Paul Bloom The Invention of...


The New Elizabethans

Who are the most exciting novelists from the British Isles currently working? In a spirit of mischief, the TLS asked 200 notable names in the publishing industry (editors, agents, publishers and writers) to nominate those at the top of their literary game. The critic Alex Clark and TLS fiction editor Toby Lichtig join us in the studio to pick through the results


Hyper-liberalism and the 6,000th TLS

The political philosopher John Gray discusses the failures of liberalism; as the TLS publishes its 6,000th issue, Ruth Scurr delves into the back issues to explore how the paper has changed, and how it reflects literary culture more broadly; the TLS's poetry editor Alan Jenkins reads two of his favourite poems from the past century: D. J. Enright 's "The Laughing Hyena, by Hokusai" and "In Your Mind" by Carol Ann Duffy


Everyone's a winner – a bonus episode

Literary prizes come in more shapes and sizes than ever before: we have prizes that echo the Man Booker, and prizes that set out not to be the Man Booker; we have prizes for first novels, second novels, crime novels that don’t feature violence against women, and, more satirically, a prize for “bad sex in fiction”. Why do we need so many? Do we need them at all? And how do prizes work not only for writers but for those people who do all the reading (and sometimes arguing): the judges? The...


On the consciousness of cows

Science reporter Jennie Erin Smith joins us to discuss our desire, or evolutionary compulsion, to delve into the minds of other animals, from cows and penguins to the dismally misunderstood hyena; the TLS's George Berridge shares new insights into the work of Cormac McCarthy and the various (failed) attempts at adapting his novels; much has been said about how literary blogs killed off 'proper', print criticism. Jennifer Howard explains why the picture is far more complicated, and...


Ada Lovelace: tech prophet or trophy wife?

Miranda Seymour reveals the peculiar circumstances surrounding the marriage of Lord Byron's daughter and his super-fan, William King; just how seriously should we be taking the Virtual Reality revolution? Tom Rachman cautiously probes the frontier of what is possible; Death Row attorney Clive Stafford Smith shares the story of Billy Neal Moore, a tale of murder, hope and Mother Theresa; and finally, before the winner of the Republic of Consciousness Prize for small presses is revealed, the...


Writers and their mothers

Dale Salwak, the editor of a new collection of essays, tell us why he wanted to probe this most complicated of relationships, while Judy Carver, the daughter of William Golding – he of Lord of the Flies – sheds light on her father’s difficult relationship with his mother; Charlotte Shane introduces us to Marjorie Hillis, who, in the 1930s, taught American women how to "live alone and like it"; finally, TLS editor Catharine Morris considers the difficult genesis of Latvian literature


Jewishness: seriously funny

David Baddiel – comedian and, as per his Twitter profile, Jew – joins us to discuss whether Jewishness is inherently funny; as Italians prepare to elect their next prime minister (an unenviable choice between undesirables and impossibles), Tim Parks – author, translator, and resident of Italy – talks us through the excessively complicated mess that is Italy


Prickly, profound Isaac Newton

Just how odd was Isaac Newton? Quite, it turns out, because as well as being one of history’s greatest mathematicians, he was also an alchemist and a millenarian, happily wallowing in conspiracy theories – Oliver Moody joins us to tell us more; did the Cold War ever end? Not as straightforward a question as you might think – the historian David Motadel considers a controversial new book


Fiona Mozley and Lisa McInerney – at Hay Festival, Cartagena

This special episode – a live recording of an event at Hay Festival, in Cartagena, Colombia, earlier this year – features a discussion with two novelists: Fiona Mozley, whose Booker-shortlisted novel Elmet caused a stir last year, and Lisa McInerney, an Irish writer described by the TLS as “busily combining the traditions of hardcore Irish crime writing with fast-talking foul-mouthed wit and gentle good humour”.


Can things only get better?

The "ape bumfodder" of one man (Philip Larkin) is another man's treasure – Susan Irvine makes the case for the relevance of Old English literature in the modern world (and leaves us with a beautiful reading of "The Husband's Message", a poem told from the perspective of a wooden staff...); the Whiggish idea of constant societal improvement has, as its most high-profile advocate, Steven Pinker, whose 'The Better Angels of our Nature' caused a stir in 2011. Now he's back with 'Enlightenment...


Mothers of #MeToo

Stig Abell and Thea Lenarduzzi are joined in the studio by political commentator Zoe Williams to discuss the future of Corbynism, Brexit, Lexit, and British politics more broadly; and, to mark the 100th anniversary of British women’s suffrage, Emelyne Godfrey sheds light on the mosaic of approaches that led, eventually, to something worth celebrating in all its complexity


Gregory Norminton, an interview

TLS editor Michael Caines meets Gregory Norminton, the author of a collection of aphorisms, two translations of classic French books for children, two collections of short stories and four novels – including, most recently, The Devil’s Highway – that range across history, from the medieval period up to that far more horrific time known as the early 1990s


The 'real' Jane Eyre

Stig Abell and Thea Lenarduzzi are joined by Kathryn Hughes, to discuss whether and where Charlotte Brontë meets Jane Eyre; Katharine Craik looks back on Shakespeare's mysterious, and 'weirdly memorable', sonnets; Kate Brown on the social-media-fuelled Ukrainian uprising of 2013, the David-and-Goliath battle that followed, and the view from 2018


Having a nice day

With Stig Abell and Lucy Dallas. We are joined by Maren Meinhard to discuss the unrequited love, and painful experiments on frogs, of Prussian polymath Alexander von Humboldt; Ruth Scurr assesses the literary legacy of Julian Barnes; and Joyce Chaplin reveals the seething malevolence beneath American "niceness".


Language lolz

Stig Abell and Thea Lenarduzzi are joined in the studio by Daisy Dunn to discuss the history of the written word (yes, all of it), from the Chinese invention of paper in 100 BC to the advent of a new BuzzFeed-y style guide; What was Stalin's real purpose? Lewis Siegelbaum considers Stalin's middle years in light of a new instalment of Stephen Kotkin’s epic biography.


Was Jesus a Buddhist? Well, no...

Stig Abell and Thea Lenarduzzi are joined in the studio by Marcel Theroux to discuss why a mysterious nineteenth-century Russian writer-explorer may have forged a tale about Jesus in India; the Palestinian writer Linah Alsaafin considers the (f)utility of writing about Israeli occupation, via recent efforts including Kingdom of Olives and Ash, edited by Michael Chabon and Avelet Waldman; Francesca Happé tells us what it means to be 'on the autism spectrum' and how gender affects diagnosis.


The Problem We All Still Live With

With Stig Abell and Lucy Dallas. We are joined by Patricia Williams, to discuss how black girls are silenced, marginalised and abused within American society, an ongoing tragedy with its origins in slavery. Katherine Lewis, the winner of the inaugural TLS/Mick Imlah Poetry Prize, then comes on to read her prize-winning poem, "Memory of An Ocean".


Highlights from 2017

A special end-of-year edition of the podcast, with highlights, including: Sudhir Hazareesingh came on thew show back in March, ahead of the French election, to share his thoughts on Emmanuel Macron, the underdog philosopher-politician soon to become President; before Weinstein and #metoo, Charlotte Shane drew our attention to problems and divisions in feminism, and called for responsible, serious literature to take things forward; Clive Stafford-Smith, liberal lawyer and campaigner against...


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