Of stones, bones, and wolf-dogs

pat shipmanIn Pat Shipman’s recent book, The Invaders (Harvard University Press, 2015), she argues that our last close relative, the Neanderthals, were driven to extinction not solely by climate change – though that played its part – but by the incursion of an invasive species: homo sapiens. We modern humans – the invaders of Pat’s title – completely changed the ecosystem when we arrived in Eurasia between 45 and 50 thousand years ago and made life much tougher for our Neanderthal cousins. One of our critical advantages, Shipman believes, may have been that we domesticated the wolf as a hunting companion much earlier than previously thought, as early as 32,000 years ago.Pat Shipman Invaders quote

Continue Reading · 8 April, 2015 · anthropology, natural history, podcasts

From the archive: Kat Banyard on The Equality Illusion

Here’s a ten-minute video interview I did with Kat Banyard four years ago about her book, The Equality Illusion: The Truth about Women and Men Today. I’ve just watched it again and am reminded of how powerfully eloquent she is:

Kat Banyard introduces The Equality Illusion from George Miller on Vimeo.

Continue Reading · 31 March, 2015 · history and politics, video

Congratulations to Akhil Sharma

Akhil Sharma Family Life pb coverLast week Indian-American novelist Akhil Sharma won the Folio Prize for his novel Family Life. I met Akhil when he visited London last spring to talk about his eagerly awaited second book. Akhil was born in New Delhi and migrated to the US in the late seventies. Having initially pursued a career in investment banking, he came to prominence as a writer in 2001 with his first acclaimed novel, An Obedient Father, which won that year’s Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award (available from Faber). Akhil Sharma was named as one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists in 2007, so expectations around his second novel were considerable, but the process of writing that book was for Akhil a long and painful one – as you’ll hear in this interview, he likens the many drafts the book went through to a war of attrition. It’s testament to Akhil’s skill that the reader is unaware of those years of labour, as she races through the story of Ajay Mishra who, like his creator, came to America aged eight, and like his creator had a brother who was left permanently brain-damaged by a terrible swimming pool accident, which changed the lives of everyone in the family beyond recognition. It’s a story of immigration and of illness, yes, but perhaps most of all, as the title puts it with disarming simplicity, a story of family life, warts and all, told with humour, warmth, and a complete absence of sentimentality. This novel comes with a reputation of having been a dozen years in the making, so my first question for Akhil was about the transition from those years at his desk to at last going out into the world to talk about it.

Continue Reading · 30 March, 2015 · literature, podcasts
Anna Karenina Bartlett OUP

Anna Karenina revisited

“The text of Anna Karenina is like a Persian carpet of intricate symmetrical design, whose workmanship can only be appreciated by seeing the reverse side.” Rosamund Bartlett I had the pleasure of chairing Rosamund Bartlett‘s event at the Oxford Literary Festival yesterday afternoon in which she talked about Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, and the experience of […]

Continue Reading · 28 March, 2015 · literature, podcasts
stanford world without apes

Craig Stanford on Planet without Apes

“Evolutionary success is not a birthright nor is it a guarantor of survival in perpetuity. Natural selection wrought the living ape species, and like all animals their time on Earth is limited by changing environments, the emergence of competing species, predators, and the like. Some species cope well in a variety of environments. Such generalists […]

Continue Reading · 18 March, 2015 · podcasts, science and philosophy

The Philosopher in the Kitchen: 2. Stewardship & einkorn bread

Here’s the second of the series of short films I made with Julian Baggini one hot afternoon last summer. In this one he tackles the vexed question of food and stewardship:   Julian Baggini: The Philosopher in the Kitchen – 2. Stewardship: Einkorn bread from George Miller on Vimeo.

Continue Reading · 16 March, 2015 · food and drink, video

Julian Baggini: The Philosopher in the Kitchen – 1. Practical Wisdom and hummus

Here is the first of four short films I made with Julian Baggini last summer and released last month to coincide with the paperback edition of his book, The Virtues of the Table. In this first film he asks: Do we really need to follow recipes?   Julian Baggini: The Philosopher in the Kitchen – […]

Continue Reading · 16 February, 2015 · food and drink, science and philosophy, video
Graham Farmelo Churchill’s Bomb

Graham Farmelo on Churchill’s Bomb

I thought this might be an appropriate time to re-post my interview with Graham Farmelo from December 2013 about Winston Churchill’s interest in science and in particular nuclear weapons. Click on the player above to listen to the interview. Here’s what I said about the book in my introduction: I first became aware of Graham’s […]

Continue Reading · 31 January, 2015 · history and politics, podcasts, science and philosophy

David Harsent on his T.S. Eliot Prize-winning collection, Fire Songs

One of the most enjoyable interviews I recorded last year was with poet David Harsent. I’ve long been an admirer of David’s work; since I first encountered in the early 1990s, in fact, when David was on the long-departed Oxford Poets list and I was the junior editor, whose duties were mainly putting things in […]

Continue Reading · 28 January, 2015 · podcasts, poetry

In tribute to P.D. James

Here, in tribute to P.D. James, who died last week, is my interview with her from 2011 in which she looks back over her career.

Continue Reading · 4 December, 2014 · crime fiction, podcasts

Atul Gawande on The Checklist Manifesto

To coincide with his giving this year’s Reith Lectures, I thought I would re-release this interview with Atul Gawande from 2011, in which I spoke to him about The Checklist Manifesto and how something as simple as a checklist could have dramatic, positive benefits in healthcare. “We have people at the frontline who have great […]

Continue Reading · 30 November, 2014 · history and politics, medicine, podcasts

Rafael Barajas on Mexico in crisis

In the December edition of Le Monde diplomatique, Rafael Barajas and fellow journalist Pedro Miguel have written about Mexico’s current state of crisis after the disappearance of 43 students from a rural teacher training college in September. It appears that they were handed over by the police to organized criminals who subsequently killed them. If […]

Continue Reading · 30 November, 2014 · history and politics, podcasts