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LRB Readings

Listen to LRB essays and reviews in full, either read by the author or produced by our audio partner, Audm.

Fiction and the Age of Lies

Colin Burrow, 9 February 2020

Colin Burrow, read by the author

9 February 2020 · 1hr 08mins

Colin Burrow ranges from Homer to Ian McEwan in his search for the truth about the relationship between lies and fiction, in this LRB Winter Lecture.

Richard Holbrooke

Samuel Moyn, 27 January 2020

27 January 2020 · 23mins

Richard​ Holbrooke is the only American diplomat since the Vietnam War to have become a full-throttle celebrity, as likely to appear in the tabloids clutching a woman as putting forward a policy proposal in Foreign Affairs.

Autopsy of an Election

James Butler, 27 January 2020

27 January 2020 · 34mins

Despite abundant evidence from around the world, many people still find it hard to accept that flagrant lying is no longer a disqualification in public life, and that it might in fact be an attraction.

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler, 13 January 2020

13 January 2020 · 35mins

I get the sense that Jia Tolentino must feel overwhelming pity for ugly women, if she has ever met one.

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner, 13 January 2020

13 January 2020 · 26mins

Who are these women who work as surrogates, where do they do it, and how and why? What does it mean for sex and gender, race and genetics, nations and borders, binary sexuation, the existence and structure of the family itself?

Mescaline

Emily Witt, 22 December 2019

22 December 2019 · 25mins

‘No mind-altering substance has been described more thoroughly and from such a variety of perspectives,’ Mike Jay writes in his new history, Mescaline.

Thatcher Undone

David Runciman, 22 December 2019

22 December 2019 · 38mins

Her vision of Britain as a Singapore off the coast of Europe no longer has to be hidden. Some, indeed, hope it will soon become official government policy. Yet anyone who wants to see the coming Johnson administration as continuity Thatcherism should bear in mind that what is being channelled today is not Thatcher’s own record in office, but her views after she stepped down, which were different and much more uncompromising.

A Key to Brando

David Thomson, 25 November 2019

25 November 2019 · 26mins

It’s a regret that no one ever found a way to harness his wild comic impulse. He was taken so seriously. He became a Hollywood actor, without ever trusting that system, or forgiving it for his weakness in succumbing to its temptations.

After al-Baghdadi

Patrick Cockburn, 19 November 2019

19 November 2019 · 27mins

For much of this year, chaos seemed to be on the way out, as normal life gradually returned to former battle zones in both Syria and Iraq – unpropitious conditions for IS. But in October the situation changed.

The Party Paradox

Jonathan Parry, 19 November 2019

19 November 2019 · 31mins

It is the unheroic imperfection of the party system that makes it invaluable and normally invulnerable to anti­democratic demands for something purer and more disciplined.

Hitler in the Head

Christopher Clark, 7 November 2019

7 November 2019 · 25mins

Whether Hitler gets into our minds, or we mislay something of our own inside his, it’s clear that this strange and hateful man, who has been dead for 74 years, is still messing with our heads.

Updike Redux

Patricia Lockwood, 10 October 2019

10 October 2019 · 46mins

When he is in flight you are glad to be alive. When he comes down wrong – which is often – you feel the sickening turn of an ankle, a real nausea.

Chinese Cyber-Sovereignty

John Lanchester, 10 October 2019

10 October 2019 · 41mins

China is about to become something new: an AI-powered techno-totalitarian state. The project aims to form not only a new kind of state but a new kind of human being, one who has fully internalised the demands of the state and the completeness of its surveillance and control.

Parliament and the People

Blair Worden, 26 September 2019

26 September 2019 · 27mins

It is the short-term incitements to ‘radicalism’ that the author brings to life. One essential component of its appeal was the hold on public affection of the institution of Parliament, a word that, as Cavaliers ruefully conceded, ‘carried armies in it’.