Month: January 2009

De profundis

Philip Hoare Leviathan coverI’ve begun producing a podcast for Blackwell Bookshop Online, which you can find here.

In the first podcast, I talk to Philip Hoare about his book on the whale, Leviathan (so I suppose in a sense a literal podcast).

The book, which was one of my favourite non-fiction titles of 2008, explores both the author’s own response to the whale (including swimming with them) and that of science and literature.

It contains many fascinating pages on Melville, Moby Dick and the whaling industry; indeed, it presents a compelling case for seeing nineteenth-century American as being built on whaling.

It also sounds a profound warning note for the fate of the whale and their marine environment; ironically, it turns out that commercial whaling was not the most damaging thing we could do to whales. Philip’s pages on whale society, culture and longevity are deeply sobering. His book is highly recommended.

I’ll post links to other titles included in the first podcast here shortly.

Greece in flames

Athens riots December 2008Click here to listen to the podcast I recorded earlier this month for Le Monde diplomatique with Valia Kaimaki of the Eleftherotypia newspaper.

In it we talk about the mass uprising of Greece’s youth following the death on 6 December of Athenian teenager Alexis Grigoropoulos at the hands of the Greek police. As she explains, the boy’s death ignited the flames, but there was already a great deal of combustible material available.

You will find Valia’s article from this month’s edition of Le Monde diplomatique here.

(Image © Vasiliki Varvaki)

21. In Pushkin’s library

“Pushkin died romantically, famously in a duel in 1837. He’s often thought of as the founding father of modern Russian literature, which makes him sound rather dusty and old-fashioned, but in fact he’s a great innovator and experimenter…”

Repin: Yevgeny Onegin

“His career is very important in the history of Russian letters because he is perhaps the first writer who tries to make his career as a professional man of letters… Unfortunately for him he was an inveterate gambler who dug himself into a financial hole.” Read More

20. “Grub first, ethics later”

Raymond Tallis: Hunger coverThe first Podularity podcast of 2009 is an interview with polymath Raymond Tallis about his most recent book, Hunger, which appears in the Art of Living series from Acumen Publishing.

The Times has described Tallis as “the Lennox Lewis of the intellectual world – a formidable heavyweight” and, as you might expect from such a wide-ranging thinker, his essay on hunger goes beyond the satisfaction of our physiological desires to look at a whole range of human appetites and desires. Read More

For those of you who haven’t given up drinking for January…

Is this bottle corked? coverHere’s a link to the Faber podcast I did just before Christmas with Kathleen Burk and Michael Bywater about their book, Is this Bottle Corked?, in which they explore the “secret life of wine”.

Listen to it and not only will you discover how to tell with confidence when a bottle is corked, you’ll also discover why elephants may be capable of making booze but are unlikely ever to aspire to the status of a grand cru.

In fact, the stories Kathy and Michael come up with are so entertaining, they could be just what you need to help you through January, even if you’ve forsworn drink…